Monday, December 14, 2015

Science with a sense of humor

I’m writing a peer-reviewed article right now. I can almost guarantee it’s something pretty much none of you will be interested in (it is not about dogs or foxes, but about genomics technology), but when it’s out I’ll do my best to blog about it in a way that makes it seem exciting. We’re at the review stage: reviewers give us a bunch of comments, we make the changes to the article, then we write a letter back to the reviewers. The letter is supposed to say things like “Thank you so much for your insightful comments. We made all the changes you suggested!”

One reviewer comment pointed out that at one point in the article, I had referred to humans as a model species. Now, model species are normally species that we use as models for humans. The best examples are laboratory rodents: we study rats in the hopes that what is true for rats is true for humans. The rats are a model species.

The reviewer commented “Are humans really a model species?” At which point my boss basically put her head in her hands and was embarrassed that we hadn’t noticed this stupid gaffe we’d made.

In my first draft of the reply letter to the reviewers, I replied to the question about whether humans are a model species: “They are to this veterinarian!” I, of course, love to read human research in the hope that what is true for humans is true for dogs. (But I made the change in the manuscript.)

I pointed this out to my boss and said, “Did you like my veterinarian joke?”

She: “Yes.”

Me: “Is it OK to have jokes in letters to reviewers?”

She: “No.”


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