First Anniversary

A year ago today Occam’s Typewriter made its debut on the blogosphere and I published my first post at the new home of Reciprocal Space. It’s been a good twelve months. OT has established itself as a home thoughtful and lively writing with a great range of different voices.

I have relished the new-found freedom of being on a network that may be in orbit around science but is not rigidly tied to it. The new platform has brought a larger and broader readership, and encouraged me to widen my range of topics. My thanks to everyone who stopped by to read — and my special gratitude to all the commenters. Really. It’s the conversation that makes all the difference.

There have been some truly excellent discussions here in the past year. I think particularly of the ones triggered by posts on science funding, communication and publishing and those on maths, plagiarism and — an old favourite of mine — Bono.

Over the year, I have reported on the encouraging progress on libel reform, a campaign that hopefully will come to fruition in 2012.

And who could forget my relentless promotion of that movie? Ahem.

My publishing rate may have dropped off a tad in the past few months, in large part because of new responsibilities at work, but the appetite is undiminished. I have been spurred on again this week by the news that my post on James Joule has been selected for Open Laboratory 2011, an anthology of some of the best science writing on blogs from the past year (congrats also to OT Irregular Richard Wintle, whose posts on genome sequencing have also been included). This makes it four years in a row for me — an achievement of which I am inordinately and indecorously proud. Apologies.

Structure Paper 2011

On the same day that I found out about the Open Lab selection, I was also proud to see the publication in Structure of the latest paper from my group which reported the determination of the first crystal structure of the polypyrimidine tract binding protein. I started this project seventeen years ago. Seventeen. I guess I should try to tell that story some time soon…

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21 Responses to First Anniversary

  1. Congratulations on all counts, Stephen! And I’d love to hear the story of your 17-year saga….but hey, isn’t 17 years about the average time it takes anyone to get their papers published these days?

    • Stephen says:

      Thanks Jenny – publication of the paper was, on this occasion, relatively smooth (we submitted in July). It is the experimental trail that was so tortuous and protracted.

  2. cromercrox says:

    watercress sandwiches all round, I say.

  3. stephenemoss says:

    Stephen – always enjoy your blogs, and those of all the other OT regulars. I don’t know who set up OT, but congratulations on the first birthday, and if I ever find myself with more to say then perhaps I would abandon my seldom used NN blog and (if OT will have me) try my hand here.

    • Stephen says:

      Cheers Stephen. As you’ve seen below, Richard is the brains behind the operation. The rest of us are here for decoration mostly. He’s a good organiser but the beatings do get a bit much sometimes.

      Still sure you want to try out? 😉

  4. Grant says:

    It’s the conversation that makes all the difference.

    I agree – it’s the reason I come around here myself.

    I started this project seventeen years ago.

    Seventeen years is a long time coming! Great to see you got there. If I had access to Structure I’d even give it a squiz. (Otago Uni. stopped getting Structure quite a few years ago to my pity. It’s a journal I liked & structures, esp. protein-DNA interactions always interest me – no-one asks me to work on them here but I still try read what I can find time for in case I can see something to pitch a grant application at.)

    Speaking of old projects, and (idle) conversation, I have some old ideas I’d love to revisit if I was ever fortunate enough to find the funding to so. Don’t we all? 🙂 I keep hoping to try do one in my own time – one of the advantages of being a computational biologist is once I have a computer and network access, I don’t need much more than more than free time to try explore something, provided my income is covered. Of course, finding free time as you get older is another matter…!

    While I’m writing – my current travel plans have me in London July 8-10th or thereabouts. If the opportunity arose, it’d be fun to meet some of you. (The dates are bound to move between now and then depending on what lab/company visit opportunities, catching up with people I know from my days in Cambridge, etc., crop up.)

    • Stephen says:

      Many thanks for all your contributions over the past year Grant. With regards to the paper, we did have a few results along the way, using NMR and Small-angle X-ray scattering (similar to the sort of thing rpg does in his living room). But a crystal structure was the original goal and it was sweet to finally realise it.

      Sure hope to see you in London next summer!

  5. Heather says:

    Rightly proud. Congratulations! I wish I kept up better, but I admire your own stick-with-it-ness, and perhaps it will even inspire me in year 2 once more. Thank you so much for all you give the community, Stephen.

    @Grant: highly recommended at the Museum Tavern; second time I’ve been with bloggers in the last 4 years, easy to find, and atmospheric. I personally doubt I’ll be back to London so soon, but it’s lovely to see the autochtonous (or assimilated) personalities with whom one has interacted so much.

  6. All your posts are a great pleasure to read, Stephen, but Joule’s Jewel is a particularly wonderful and beautifully written post. I must somehow have missed it first time around, have been meaning to get to it since I saw it had been picked for Open Lab 2011, but haven’t had the chance. So I’m glad you made it easy by mentioning the post here. I started highlighting bits (starting with ‘the human story of how concepts developed can make them more accessible’) that were especially well-phrased, insightful, or should be taken on board by others, both in and out of science, but stopped as the list got too long. There is one part, though, that many other practising scientists could well do with reading and taking on board:

    ‘There is nothing terribly sophisticated about the experiment but the wonder of it is in the heroic care Joule took to control and correct his measurements.’

    Lack of proper controls is a relatively common reason why manuscripts submitted for publication are returned to authors. Sometimes dismissive reasons come back to explain why they’re not needed, along with inventive suggestions for ‘working around’ not having done them – bottom line is always ‘just do the controls’. Reading the lengths Joule went to with his controls would be a great education!

    Happy 1st OT Birthday!

  7. rpg says:

    @Stephen Moss—that would be me, then!

    • stephenemoss says:

      In that case, congratulations again! OT is the only blogging centre (can I call it that?) that I check every day.

  8. rpg says:

    Thank you! That’s quite an honour.

  9. ricardipus says:

    Stephen – I’m a bit late, but congrats on OpenLab (again!). I knew you were in last year’s, but four in a row? That’s some testament to quality blogging writing.

    When I left my PhD lab in early 1997, there were useful, unpublished data from 12 years earlier. Some of us kept encouraging the boss to write them up. As far as I know, she never did. As for me… well, I just edited and posted on Flickr a couple of photographs I took in the late 1970’s (126 format Instamatic, in case anyone’s wondering). So 17 years seems quite reasonable* to me.

    *with very small values for “quite”

    • Stephen says:

      Ooh – which ones? Don’t think I have any photos that are that old, though I did have a black and white camera when I was a boy, which would have been early 70s. Probably none of them were worth keeping since I wasn’t much of a photographer and I suspect the camera was very, very cheap.

  10. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Wow, four years in a row – congratulations, Stephen!

    Keep up the great work on the blog. Your involvement in the libel reform issue this year (along with Jenny and co’s successes with Science is Vital) has inspired me to get more politically involved myself, so thank you for that and for all the great posts!

  11. Stephen says:

    Thank you Cath – look forward to hearing more about your political machinations… 😉

  12. steffi suhr says:

    The Joule post really was great – even I read (and much enjoyed) it, as little as I picked up on this past year. Congrats Stephen!

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