We're a little crazy, about science!

The last paper

Kind of a misnomer since this is definitely not THE last paper, but it’s paper four of four. The fourth paper in my roadblock of papers where things were coming in, but for whatever reason nothing was moving forward. Now with two of the four published and one in review again after a request for edits, I’m assuming it will be accepted (sooooon!). That leaves me with exactly one paper left and there are finally updates.

If we want to be technical in chronological order we had robot paper, this paper (BRAIN paper), seizure detection paper, and movement preparation in the spinal cord paper. Had this been in any other order robot paper probably wouldn’t have worn on me the way it did. The last two papers went smoothly, progress was steady, and they were both published without too much of an incident. Unfortunately, BRAIN paper had to come right after robot paper.

While I blame robot paper for my feeling that I made a wrong choice in becoming a researcher or that I wasn’t good enough, BRAIN paper really helped drive that point home. The synthesis that led to robot paper occurred roughly when I started my PhD. I quickly had an idea, not “big idea,” that was recent, but something I started calling my super secret technique was born.

Since I wanted to involve the spinal cord and I just happened to meet hospital-PI right as he was setting up his lab at the hospital I now work with him at, school-PI proposed a collaboration. Weeks after the work had started, COVID hit, toilet paper was in short supply (still don’t understand that one), and research ground to a halt. That wasn’t the problem with BRAIN paper though, the problem came once I had the dataset, this just delayed the issue and frankly that was stressful all on it’s own.

Over a year ago now (I think, time has no real meaning anymore), I finalized collecting the dataset for this project. That was the easy part. The analysis was the hard part and the issues with the dataset made it even harder. It was a tough dataset to work with, I was asked to do analyses I had no idea how to do, and I had no clear goal for the project. Nothing I was doing made sense and presentation after presentation on the work fell flat (how to fail a presentation).

Between the constant failures and the robot paper, I was in a dark place for a long time. Somehow I managed to push forward though and eventually BRAIN paper clicked. I did some really cool things, taught myself a lot of new techniques, even invented a few myself. I won awards (my talk for example), and school-PI was genuinely impressed with my progress. He called it exponential, I prefer to think I floundered until I got lucky, but whatever the case I now had a paper to write.

This proved to be detrimental as well. School-PI reviewed everything and was happy with the paper, but school-PI is more comfortable with speculating the causes of things we found. I specifically wrote that paper with school-PI in mind. That’s probably why hospital-PI had such a problem with it. Some of the findings didn’t make sense, so he wanted to exclude them and the speculation on the findings.

Removing the speculation was no issue, I pulled that out and both school and hospital-PI were happy. The issue was more fundamental. There was an issue with the analysis I had done and some of the results were called into question. The problem is the result was fundamental to the data, removing it would essentially invalidate the rest of the paper.

This argument has been ongoing since the middle of last year, so we’ve been on hold for quite some time. However, we’ve finally come to an agreement about what we’re showing. Which means I get to dust off the paper and make the remaining edits that were requested and once we finalize the paper we can finally submit it and I will be able to close this chapter of my story once and for all.

While I still need to make the edits and make sure both PI’s are happy, this is great news for me and it’s one of the last hurdles to getting this paper done and out there. In the future I hope I can focus on just a single paper at a time, juggling so many was hard, frustrating, and I don’t wish that on anyone.


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