Saturday, April 30, 2016

Academicians as Professional Writers

When I was a medical student,  I wondered who decides to go into academia. I knew academicians did research and also worked as clinicians.  Since then,  I've spent a year at NIH,  spent two years as  a post doc when I was switching between urology and radiology and spent over 300 hrs in the last four years of my radiology residency doing clinical research to come to realize that successfical academicians are really very effective professional writers.  

I first learned about this idea in Thomas Ogden's book, Research Proposal: A Guide to Success on how to write grants (thanks to my great colleague, Fabien Scalzo, who shared it with me).

My understanding is that publications are equal to currency in the academic world. So if manuscripts are currency,  how do academicians get rich?  I've learned through trial and error that there are certain things that work and some things that did not work as well for me.  

  • Science is a team effort. 

    • The best science happens with a diverse team from a technical,  medical,  and if lucky,  a strategic (business) background. 

  • Scientific writing is a skill that can be learned. 

    • It's a skill that can be learned. The backbone of a paper is to describe how your study is similar and different from published studies and then, try to re-conciliate those two.

  • Harness your optimal time and develop a habit.  

    • One of my faculty friends told me he wakes up at 6 am and write for an hour or two.  As a result, I have slept earlier at  nights in attempt to follow his advise. Well rested mind can increase your chances of getting writing done.  

  • Prepare to write

    • In the book Mindset: The Psychology of Success, Dweck argues that one has to prep your mind in advance if you want to increase your chance of success. She suggests putting a strategy in place, and steps to achieve the outcome.  I try to set at least one weekend out of the month for writing; I sit at the same place every time, my desk in my office. Then, I go through the process. Here is my blog on My approach to writing

  • Funding

    • In my other blog on Ikigai "Purpose of Being", one of the fundamental component of reaching a state of satisfaction from our work is to be paid for doing what you love. Finding funding source for clinical research is the Achilles heels of academics. It's also the toughest job. People who can successfully learn how to secure funding often do the best.  

  • Track your progress

    • Keep a log to measure how much time you spend doing research. It can be informative to see how our time is spent. 

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