Part of what makes LML special is the atmosphere of open discourse that has developed here. Communicating our work, we find, is inseparable from doing that work in the first place.
Written articles are a major communication tool for almost any scientist — careers are judged on written articles, and the really good ones survive their authors. It is surprising, then, how rarely we sit down and explicitly work on our written communication skills. Sounds like something where LML can make a difference, and indeed books like Stephen King’s “On writing”, Strunk and White’s classic “The elements of style”, and Orwells “Politics and the English language” are much loved by the LML Fellows.
This is something to share with our community. For the second year running, LML’s summer school has included a one-day scientific writing workshop, put together by Write About Science. The workshop was developed and led by LML External Fellow Mark Buchanan and Justin Mullins. Both Mark and Justin have extensive experience in scientific journal editing, and other forms of writing — from blogging to popular science books.
Write About Science has been active since 2009, working with institutions including the University of Cambridge and the Max Plank Society. The workshops focus on the structure of good writing, from sentences and paragraphs to abstracts and entire papers. It aims to change the way participants think about planning, writing and editing scientific papers. Much of what we intuitively perceive as clear writing employs — knowingly or not — a small set of powerful techniques. Luckily, these can be distilled, and scientific writing is more learnable than it may at first appear.
A big thank you to Mark and Justin!
“It was an enjoyable day. The summer school students were enthusiastic and asked lots of questions. Science students rarely get any real training in writing skills, and I think it’s useful for them to see how a few simple principles can make their writing more effective, and also take quite a lot of pain out of the process.”
Mark Buchanan, LML External Fellow