We're a little crazy, about science!

New paper update

Okay, since we’re starting to wrap up the latest paper, I need to give it a nickname. I think we’ll just call it, “dual paper” since I can’t think of anything better and that is secret enough for me. Eventually I’m just going to have to start using letters of the alphabet if this keeps up. So what is dual paper you may ask? Well…

Obviously I can’t give that away, as usual. But I’m excited about it! The science was cool, the project was interesting, and the paper is mostly written. That’s great news for me since it’s my paper, yep another first author paper in the works for me. So before we get into it, let’s just recap real quick my paper count. So far for this year I have two first author and one second author paper to my name. I also have a second author paper in review, at least two first author papers I’m working on (aside from dual paper) and probably a bunch of other things I’m forgetting. Oh actually, there’s a book chapter out there somewhere being typeset that I’m an author on that should be published… one day? It’s been a bit (like years, with an s), but it’s coming, so that’s cool.

So this paper. It’s been a bit of a challenge to get this one done, but I’ve been on the project from the start and the idea is an interesting one. There are a lot of clinical applications that this would be good for and we are hoping that will be the case. It’s not in a clinical population, but the same principles should apply. That’s about as much as I can say about it for now.

Since figures seem to be a big thing I like talking about, I guess I could discuss that a bit more. More often than not, figures seem to be a big challenge for a paper. In my opinion anyway, once the data is collected the figures are the hardest part because you need to communicate something incredibly difficult in a way that would make sense to others and as I found out with the last paper I published (this one), even if the figures make sense to you, they could still confuse others.

I don’t know what it is about hospital-PI and the lab he runs, but every time we publish something it’s about four studies crammed into one paper, which makes sharing the data difficult. We need some way to showcase a LOT of data in a really simple way. Three dimensional figures (in a publication anyway) are out of the question because they are difficult to interpret. Thus we get stuck working in two dimensions with data that can be multi-dimensional.

For example data could rely on a physical horizontal location, vertical location, but also have a amplitude and frequency spectrum associated with the data. Then there’s, on occasion, a time component to worry about. For those counting that’s five dimensional data and even if we use a video we get four dimensions maximum. That poses an interesting problem when we’re forced to work in a two dimensional space. On occasion we can “squeeze” in a third dimension using color, but that still leaves two dimensions unaccounted for. See the problem?

Alternatively maybe we don’t have that many dimensions to our data, but we just have a ton of different measures. This was a problem I faced with a paper we published last year and I ended up using a non-traditional (for our field anyway) way to display the data (this paper), figures 3, 5, and 7 are chord diagrams and they get used a lot in biology and other fields (from what I’ve seen anyway), but not in neuroscience fields typically.

We actually got comments from the reviewers about the format and they suggested switching to box and whisker plots instead. We included the traditional plots as supplementary materials going in because we expected this comment. There were 24 different plots to show the same data that we show in the figure between those three figures, so there was no real way to shrink the plots to a size that could be used in a paper without it being unreadable.

This paper has somewhat similar struggles despite being what hospital-PI suggested as “more straightforward.” It’s not so much that we’re dealing with high dimensional data, it’s just that there’s a LOT of data we need to display to make our case in the paper and we’re limited to the journal requirements for the length of the paper, so we need to be careful how we show the data without overtaking the whole paper with figures. I’ve come up with some good ways to show the data that are more “traditional” than the previous papers, but there’s still a bit of work to do between now and when we submit.

Since we have the paper mostly written, we will be sending it to our co-authors. They will probably have their own thoughts and feelings about the writing and how we show the data. I’m hopeful that it won’t be too much of an issue, but from what hospital-PI tells me, they are particular, so I’m not getting my hopes up too much.

This will be the fifth paper I’m an author on this year, so that’s exciting for me. The last year I had two papers, but the previous year I had zero, the year before that I had one conference paper, so big improvement for me. I did promise it was going to be a big year for me though, so I hope that I can keep the momentum going. I’ve got exciting things on the horizon, I just don’t know if I can get them done by the end of the year!

I guess you’ll just have to stick around to find out…

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