The life scientific – Rediscovery

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Once again I find myself lamenting my lack of blog writing. It’s getting worse and worse. This time around it’s been a whole year since my last post! So much can happen in a year. Mine has been crammed so full that during my scant downtime I’ve barely had the energy to crawl off the sofa, let alone think cohesively enough to write.

For me, this has been a year of challenges. Somewhat surprisingly I have found myself once again living in South-West London. I never thought that I would even visit my old haunts, let alone take up permanent residency there, and yet here I am, walking the same streets and visiting the same friends. It hasn’t been the easiest of transitions and I still miss the bizarre landscapes and wonderful woods of Somerset, but at least I’m now close enough to visit on a somewhat regular basis. I wouldn’t miss the woods in springtime for anything.

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Even more surprisingly, I’ve found myself back in the world of science, only this time I’m working for one of the largest and best-known scientific publishers in the world. After working as an editor for a year, I still find myself wondering exactly how I managed to get the job. I’m pretty sure they must have been desperate …

Again, it has been a challenging transition. Just three years away from the lab has left me with some enormous gaps in my knowledge, and I’m forever impressed with just how quickly things can move on in medical research. There has been so much to learn in a short space of time, not just scientifically, but grammatically too. It’s a sad fact that those of us educated in the UK in the nineties and noughties were not taught grammar in any sort of structured way in school. Rather, we were encouraged to just go with what felt right. This had always worked well for me; that is until I started getting feedback on my work that included terms like ‘clause’ and ‘imperative’. It was at this point that I realised that, embarrassingly, the non-native English speakers in the department knew more about English grammar than most of the native speakers.

Dodgy grammar aside, this job has given me a new perspective on science and scientists and has taught me some interesting things.

Fun fact number one: conferences are more fun when you’re a PhD student. They’re much harder work when you have to live tweet from sessions, talk to strangers and spend every spare moment meeting with Professors, most of whom are old enough to be your parent, if not your grandparent.

Fact number two: even senior scientists with impressive publication records can turn in some shockingly bad pieces of writing. I guess that’s why editors exist. We’re there to bridge the gap between science and society by helping scientists to share the knowledge they have in ways that other people can understand.

Number three: it’s amazing how rapidly approaching deadlines can make the impossible possible. Suddenly, that edit that would normally take you two weeks can be done in three days.

Number four: looking young is not an asset in the world of science. This is definitely a profession in which a few grey hairs can work wonders if you want to be taken seriously.

And lastly, fun fact number five: you can never really leave the world of science behind. Once you’ve started along the path of scientific research, it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, a desire to know things will follow you for the rest of your life. Whether you are discovering something for the first time, or rediscovering something you once knew and loved, the pursuit of knowledge will always be there.

So, despite the challenges and difficulties of the past twelve months, I’ve come to realise that, surprisingly, I’m happy to be rediscovering London, happy to be rediscovering science and happy to be rediscovering the joy of writing something for myself (rather than news items for work).