The Third Annual Academics with Cats Awards!

Meeeeow! The Third Academics with Cats Awards launches today!

cat logo

How to enter

Tweet your finest cat pics (preferably with an amusing caption) to #AcademicsWithCats. We’ll collate them and our expert panel will shortlist the best.

Entries close Wednesday 30 November.

CATegories

We’ll automatically put your cat pics into the appropriate category, feel free to get creative:

  • Academics and their Cats
  • Writing
  • Outreach
  • Teaching
  • Bonus: Academics without Cats! By popular demand, we’ll pick a non-feline furry friend to represent the academics sans chat!

Dates

  • Friday 18 November: Launch!
  • Wednesday 30 November: Entries close
  • Monday 5 December: Voting opens
  • Sunday 11 December: Voting closes
  • 12-16 December: Winner announcements

The shortlisting panel

The shortlist will be diligently put together by the following panel of experts.

Chris BrookeChris Brooke
@chrisbrooke
Chris is a Lecturer at Cambridge and co-winner in the first Academics with Cats Awards.

Deborah Fisher
@DrDeborahFisher
Deborah is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University and co-winner of the first Academics with Cats Awards.
Nadine MullerNadine Muller
@Nadine_Muller
Nadine is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature, a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, and an academic with both cats and dogs.
Cristina RiguttoCristina Rigutto
@cristinarigutto
Cristina is an avid golfer, Sci Comm expert, and tweeter.

Camera 360Glen Wright
@AcademiaObscura
Glen is the founder of Academia Obscura. A catless academic, he started #AcademicsWithCats to fill the void.

Academics with Cats Awards 2015 – WINNERS!

1. Best in Show - KirstyLiddiard1

AWCA Winner - @KirstyLiddiard1

 

2. Academics - MikeLNewell

MikeLNewell

 

12. Photography - Paul_Sagar

Paul_Sagar

 

4. Research - andydlbm

andydlbm

 

6. Writing - KirstyLiddiard1

 

8. Teaching - aggguilfordchem

aggguilfordchem

 

10. Assistant - MsHarrietGray

MsHarrietGray

 

3. Academics - dieterhochuli

dieterhochuli

 

5. Research - KatieLBridger

KatieLBridger

 

7. Writing - RuthMostern

RuthMostern

 

 

9. Teaching - andydlbm

andydlbm

 

11. Assistant - TudorWench

TudorWench

 

 

Many thanks to all the other entries that were shortlisted:

ColetteInTheLab

NevilleMorley

KirstyLiddiard1

MercedesRosello

TheShrewUntamed

dannifromdublin

laderafrutal

MarieLouiseLu

PhDgirlSA

AMLTaylor66

ColditzJB

EmodConsumption

SciTania

aimee_e27

BodenZoe

Dannifromdublin

ThrallofYoki

 

And once again a huge thanks to the fantastic expert panel that shortlisted the entries this year:

Chris BrookeChris Brooke
@chrisbrooke
Chris is a Lecturer at Cambridge and co-winner in the first Academics with Cats Awards.

Deborah Fisher
@DrDeborahFisher
Deborah is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University and co-winner of the first Academics with Cats Awards.
Nadine MullerNadine Muller
@Nadine_Muller
Nadine is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature, a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, and an academic with both cats and dogs.
Cristina RiguttoCristina Rigutto
@cristinarigutto
Cristina is an avid golfer, Sci Comm expert, and tweeter. Her cat tweets @academichashcat.

Camera 360Glen Wright
@AcademiaObscura
Glen is the founder of Academia Obscura. A catless academic, he started #AcademicsWithCats to fill the void.

The Second Annual Academics with Cats Awards!

You asked for it, and here it is! The Second Academics with Cats Awards launches today!

cat logo

How to enter

Simple! Check out the categories below and tweet your finest cat pics (with caption) to #AcademicsWithCats. We’ll collate them and our expert panel will shortlist the best. Public voting will open on 25 November 2015.

CATegories

This year there are 5 categories. Get creative!

  • Academics and their Cats: you and your feline friend
  • Writing
  • Outreach
  • Impact
  • Teaching

Prizes

Best in Show
Your cat will receive a professorship certificate, mortar board, and collar tag, and will become the Mice Chancellor of Academia Obscura (@MiceChancellor). Your cat will also be entered into the Academic Cats Hall of Fame. You will receive a signed copy of the forthcoming Academia Obscura book.

Category Winners
Your cat will feature in a series of demotivational academic posters (if they so wish!). You will receive a signed copy of the forthcoming Academia Obscura book.

Runners-up
You will receive a free ebook version of the forthcoming Academia Obscura book.

Dates

  • Tuesday 3 November: Launch!
  • Friday 20 November: Entries close
  • 20-25 November: Shortlisting
  • 25 November: Voting opens
  • 15 December: Voting closes
  • 16-18 December: Winner announcements

The shortlisting panel

The shortlist will be diligently put together by the following panel of experts.

Chris BrookeChris Brooke
@chrisbrooke
Chris is a Lecturer at Cambridge and co-winner in the first Academics with Cats Awards.

Deborah Fisher
@DrDeborahFisher
Deborah is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University and co-winner of the first Academics with Cats Awards.
Nadine MullerNadine Muller
@Nadine_Muller
Nadine is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature, a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, and an academic with both cats and dogs.
Cristina RiguttoCristina Rigutto
@cristinarigutto
Cristina is an avid golfer, Sci Comm expert, and tweeter. Her cat tweets @academichashcat.

Camera 360Glen Wright
@AcademiaObscura
Glen is the founder of Academia Obscura. A catless academic, he started #AcademicsWithCats to fill the void.

11 Essential Hashtags for Academics

Academic twitterJust over a year ago I began tweeting as @AcademiaObscura, and in that time I have converted from a twitter sceptic to a fervent advocate. Twitter, and other social media tools, can be invaluable for connecting with others in your field, disseminating your work, and keeping up-to-date with the latest research and news. Indeed, once you are past the hump, Twitter becomes useful for all sorts of things. If you are new to Twitter I highly recommend the Thesis Whisperer’s explanation here (scroll down a little to the using twitter section) and LSE’s guide.

Hashtags are a great way to follow specific discussions, and a number have become staples of the academic twittersphere (side note: I use Tweetdeck to follow numerous hashtags simultaneously – intro here). This list is an attempt to introduce the essentials. Special thanks to Raul Pacheco-Vega, whose extremely useful post provided the basis and inspiration for this.

1. #PhDchat
The hashtag for all things PhD, PhDchat is a staple of academic Twitter, having been initially started all the way back in December 2009 by Nasima Riazat (@NSRiazat). A great place to discuss your research progress, get tips and tricks, share experiences etc. Structured sessions are also hosted:

  • UK/Europe: Wednesday nights, 7.30pm-8.30pm GMT (hosted by Nasima herself)
  • Australia: usually the first Wednesday each month, 7pm-8pm Sydney time (hosted by Inger Mewburn – @thesiswhisperer)

More: There is a satisfyingly geeky analysis of the #PhDchat community here.

2. #ECRchat/#AdjunctChat
As above, but specifically for ‘Early Career Researchers’ (ECR) and adjuncts.

3. #AltAc/#PostAc/#WithAPhD
A trio of useful hashtags for those trying to find alternative academic paths, get out of academia altogether, or figure out what to do with a PhD. Jennifer Polk (@FromPhDToLife) is your go-to person on all of these!

600_3663352324. #shutupandwrite
‘Shut Up and Write’, aside from being a great mantra in general, is the name for informal writing groups convened the world over. I guarantee that attending such a group will be the best decision you ever make in terms of writing productivity. But if there isn’t a group near you (and you don’t have the inclination to start one) you can join one virtually through twitter! They take place on the 1st & 3rd Tuesday each month (#suwtues):

5. #AcWri
AcWri, short for ‘academic writing’ is a great place to find helpful tips, motivational tidbits, and articles about the writing process itself.

6. #ICanHazPdf
Have you ever gone to download that crucial paper you need only to find that it is behind a paywall? If your institutional subscriptions don’t cover what you are looking for, simply tweet the details of the paper along with the hashtag and an email address. Usually someone will come through with the paper pretty quickly. Don’t forget to delete your tweet after!

More: Check out some interesting analysis of #ICanHazPdf here and here, and critical discussions here and here.

7. #ScholarSunday
There is a tradition on Twitter of doing #FollowFriday (or #ff) for short – sending a tweet with a few names of people you recommend to others. Raul Pacheco-Vega created Scholar Sunday to go a step further, calling on academics to share not only who they recommend, but also why.

More: discussion from the hashtags creator.

8. #AcaDowntime
Amongst all the writing, teaching, and general stress of academic life, it is more important than ever to set aside for rest and relaxation. #AcaDowntime calls for academics to share what fun things they are up to on their weekends and in their free time. Hopefully we can foster a culture of work-life balance and encourage us all to take time for ourselves.

More: I asked academics what they do in their ‘free’ time. Here’s what they said. Also read “The Workaholic and Academia: in defense of #AcaDowntime

9. Whatever is used in your field
There are many subject-specific hashtags: #twitterstorians, #realtimechem, #TrilobyteTuesday#archaeology#gistribe#runology (for the study of runes, not running)… Poke around a bit and you are bound to find something to take your fancy!

(Just for fun)

10. #AcademicsWithCats Are you an academic? Do you have a cat? Then this hashtag is for you. All the cute cats and kittens you could ever need, often in academic settings.  

More: A day in the life of an academic, with cats; The first annual Academics with Cats Awards.

11. #AcademicsWithBeer If you don’t have a cat but you do love beer, this one’s for you! We have Elena Milani (@biomug) to thank for this recent edition.

More: Read the call to arms (The King’s Arms, that is).

Did I miss anything? What are your favorites? Please post a comment or tweet me @AcademiaObscura. Happy tweeting!

Academic Easter Eggs

You’d expect the likes of Google to be hiding Easter Eggs in their pages, originating as they do in old school video games (just search ‘do a barrel roll’), but you might not think the practice would catch on in the stuffy ranks of academia. Though not exactly widespread, academics have been known to amuse themselves by discreetly burying little jokes in their journal papers.

The most obvious are the cringeworthy paper titles we’re all familiar with: plays on words, remixed film titles, awful Dad jokes. There is even a study examining whether such titles affect citation numbers. I particularly approve of the five Swedish scientists that have been sneaking Bob Dylan lyrics into paper titles for the past 15 years, having made a bet to see who can reference Bobby D the most before retirement. This is how a paper on intestinal gasses got the title, ‘Nitric oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind’.

By far the most fertile ground for academic Easter Eggs is on the first page of journal articles, hidden in plain sight in author lists and acknowledgements. ‘Muammar “Dirty Old Man” Gaddafi’ has contributed to a paper through his “inspirational level of lived coherence”, while Italian pornstar Rocco Siffredi provides “constant support” for research on cystic fibrosis (he’s all heart). Some researchers get divine inspiration from famed cargo cult deity John Frum, while others credit the heavy metal band Slayer for their academic output.

gadaffi gaddafi 2

Sometimes certain language skills are required to decipher the jokes. Italian speakers noticing Stronzo Bestiale on a paper would likely raise an eyebrow (it means “total asshole”), while speakers of Catalan would realize that Visca el Barça is a football chant, not an author. When one journal decided to provide for transliteration of author names, they probably didn’t expect that 韦小宝 would be writing for them: he is a well-known character in Chinese stories, being a prodigal son of a prostitute and a demi-Emperor with 8 wives.

Polly Higgins and her co-author/dog

Polly Matzinger and her co-author/dog

Then there’s cats. If #AcademicsWithCats has taught us anything, it is that academics, like everyone else on the internet, have a bewildering love of cats. It is no surprise then to find that one academic cat, F.D.C. Willard, is the sole author of a paper on high temperature physics. Written in French, no less. Elsewhere in the animal kingdom, Nobel Prize winner Andre Geim co-authored a paper with his hamster, and Galadriel Mirkwood, immunobiology expert, is actually a dog.

Perhaps it should be graduate students that carry the torch in this emerging field, given that they are not (yet) concerned with tenure and the like. The sadly defunct website PhD Challenge aimed to capitalize on this by encouraging students to slip a silly phrase into a published paper. The insertion of “I smoke crackrocks” into a paper whose methodology involved receiving phone calls from all-comers in the wee small hours of the morning seems a bit like cheating, but I like the idea nonetheless. One step down from grad students and the possibilities are endless – one of my favorites is an essay, which deftly weaves the infamous lyrics of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up into its first page (an internet phenomenon known as ‘Rickrolling’, for the uninitiated).

A plague on your house!

A plague on your house!

I personally love this small injection of humor into the dusty barrenness of academic literature, but you’d be well advised to proceed with caution. Polly Matzinger’s tenure committee saw the funny side of including a dog as an author, noting that the dog had likely contributed more than many other so-called co-authors. But naming cancer-causing genes after Sonic the Hedgehog, publicly calling out a reviewer for their “useless and very mean comments”, or wishing a plague on the house of a research body that refused to fund your research may not be such a good idea.

If you are going to slip in an Easter Egg or two, it is probably best to hide it well or make sure it is understood by only a select few (experts on Chinese literature or fans of heavy metal, for example). Happy Easter!

Seen an academic Easter Egg? Tweet me @AcademiaObscura.

Academics with Cats Awards: the results are in!

winnersannounce

Over 1000 people voted in the First Annual Academics with Cats Awards and the results are in!

We will be announcing the winners and runners up from Friday 16 January 2015 – one category will be announced daily, culminating in the grand finale, Cats and their Academics on Friday 23 January 2015.

In case you have already forgotten their furry little faces, you can see all the nominees here.

Winners will be announced as follows:

  • Friday 16 January: Cats with Computers
  • Saturday 17 January: Cats with Books
  • Sunday 18 January: Cats with Papers
  • Monday 19 January: Unhelpful Office Buddies
  • Tuesday 20 January: Special Mentions
  • Wednesday 21 January: Scholarly Cats
  • Thursday 22 January: Best Photography
  • Friday 23 January: Cats and Their Academics

The winners will be announced first via Twitter, then posted below.

female1-DrDeborahFishermale1-chrisbrooke female2-JesMHillmale2-jbardhan

photography1-petergknight

photography2-EngProfD

scholars1-EngProfD

scholars2-graveinsights

papers1-evahertzbergpapers2-Kathezinebooks1-hel_curranbooks2-GabrielleRabcomputers1-profaks

computers2-ChadMurphyUMW

A Day in the Life of an Academic (with cats)

The internet is approximately 85% cats. Lots and lots of academics have cats and they have been rushing in their hundreds to proclaim as much with the #AcademicsWithCats hashtag. So, we decided to hold the First Annual Academics with Cats Awards. Voting closed yesterday and we shall now wade through the votes, announcing the results on Friday 16 January.

To keep you amused as you await the results with baited breath, we bring you our guide to the academic life, illustrated with cats. Enjoy!

1. Wake up nice and early.

Image: @PollyDuxfield

Image: @PollyDuxfield

2. Stretch…

Image: @curiousshrink

Image: @curiousshrink

3. Have a wash…

Image: @drbron

Image: @drbron

4. Then start the day with a hearty breakfast…

@EricTSchluessel

Image: @EricTSchluessel

5. …and grab a cup of tea or coffee.

Image: @prancingpapio

6. Make sure your desk is setup nicely, ready for a morning writing session.

@heyouonline

@heyouonline

7. Get out the laptop…

@GabrielleRab

@GabrielleRab

8. …plug it in…

@C_Flurey

Image: @C_Flurey

9. …and get writing!

Image: @soliduck

Image: @soliduck

10. Always look at everything from all possible angles!

Image: @blanchefleurx

Image: @BlanchefleurX

11. Then some reading – don’t forget your library card!

librarycard2

Image: @StJohns_Library

Image: @StJohns_Library

12. Take out a pile of books

Image: @DaniAlexis

Image: @DaniAlexis

Image: @EricTSchluessel

Image: @EricTSchluessel

13. Get reading.

Image: @gyrl-trickster

Image: @gyrl-trickster

Image: @PollyDuxfield

Image: @PollyDuxfield

14. Maybe an article or two

Image: @NeuroNerd13

Image: @NeuroNerd13

15. Make sure you take good notes!

Image: @JaneEMCallaghan

Image: @JaneEMCallaghan

Image: @mujyuksel

Image: @mujyuksel

16. Feeling tired?

Image: @ProfChristensen

Image: @ProfChristensen

Image: @lstevison

Image: @lstevison

17. Take a nap…ZZzzz…

Image: @momomorczek

Image: @momomorczek

18. …and awake full of energy for the afternoon!

Image: @LouiseCreechan

Image: @LouiseCreechan

19. Catch up on your online lectures

Image: @SevinchRende

Image: @SevinchRende

20. Get on top of your admin.

Image: @qui_oui

Image: @qui_oui

21. Organise yourself.

Image: @biloquist

Image: @biloquist

22. Conference call.

Image: @SanaBau

Image: @SanaBau

23. Do some marking.

Image: @qui-oui

Image: @qui-oui

24. Tidy up your office.

Image: @pilgrimchick

Image: @pilgrimchick

25. Be sure to unwind. Play some music…

Image: @danelphick

Image: @danelphick

26. …hang out with friends…

Image: @rjgstone

Image: @rjgstone

27. …then sleep. You’ve earned it!

Image: @jbardhan

Image: @jbardhan

 

Prefer hats to cats? Click here! 

“Who’s a clever boy?” Animals in academia

Animals are all over academia, from the long suffering lab rats to levitating frogs. But one wouldn’t expect our furry and feathered friends to be appearing as authors on published peer-reviewed papers. Take, for example, this fascinating paper entitled ‘Detection of earth rotation with a diamagnetically levitating gyroscope‘. All looks quite normal, until you see that the second author is H.A.M.S. ter Tisha. I.e. A hamster named Tisha. Author one, Dr. Geim, is the only academic to win both an Ig Nobel Prize and a real Nobel Prize, and author two is his pet hamster. No explanation has been advanced for this, but Dr. Geim, responsible for the aforementioned levitating frogs, is clearly quite a character.

In a similar vein, one F.D.C. Willard has published as both a co-author and, unbelievably, as sole author, on low temperature physics. F.D.C. Willard is the ‘pen name’ of Chester, the companion of Jack H. Hetherington, an American physicist and mathematician. The story goes that a colleague of Hetherington’s reviewed a paper for him and said that all was good, except for the fact he was using a lot of the ‘royal we’, a bugbear of the targeted journal. Rather than correct his grammar, Hetherington decided to add a second author instead. Concerned that his colleagues would recognise the name, a pen name was conjured: F.D. for Felis domestics, C for Chester, and Willard after the cat that sired him. The joint paper was published in Physical Review Letters in 1973.

Shortly thereafter a visitor to (the university) asked to talk to me, and since I was unavailable asked to talk with Willard. Everyone laughed and soon the cat was out of the bag. 

When the article reprints arrived, Hetherington inked Chester’s paw and sent a few signed copies to friends, and,

after most interest had died down, one to an (at the time) unknown physicist at Grenoble. He later told me that at a meeting to decide who to invite to a conference someone said “why don’t we invite Willard, he never gets invited anywhere.” He showed the reprint and everyone agreed that it seemed to be a cat paw signature. Willard never got invited and neither did I.

A copy of the paper, signed by F.D.C. Willard himself.

A copy of the paper, signed by F.D.C. Willard himself.

Some years later, Willard had learned French and was now publishing on his own, as evidenced by his paper ‘L’hélium 3 solide : un antiferromagnétisme nucléaire’ in La Recherche. In fact the real authors were bickering about how to present the ideas in the paper, such that not one of them was willing to sign the finished product. Instead they put F.D.C. Willard as the sole author, thus cementing this cats place in academia history.

Chester, aka. F.D.C. Willard

Chester, aka. F.D.C. Willard

Willard was considered for a position at the University, and in honour of his contribution to physics, APS Journals announced this year1 that all feline-authored publications would be made open access, noting that “not since Schrödinger has there been an opportunity like this for cats in physics”.

Willard is not the only cat to have unwittingly signed another’s work. Emir Filipović from the University of Sarajevo was trawling through the Dubrovnik State Archives when he stumbled upon a medieval Italian manuscript (dated 11 March 1445) marked with four very clear cat paw prints.

Proof that cats have been walking over important stuff for at least the last 500 years.

Proof that cats have been walking over important stuff for at least the last 500 years.

If you are more of a dog person, which you should be, you may be more interested in the tale of Galadriel Mirkwood, co-author of a 1978 biology paper. You may notice that Galadriel Mirkwood is the name of an Elf in Lord of the Rings, but it is also the nickname of an Afghan Hound belonging to Polly Matzinger (quite a character herself).

Pam Galadriel mirkwood

Polly and Galadriel

While partly also a tool for grammatical convenience,2 it seems that Matzinger’s inclusion of a canine author isn’t completely without merit. While working on her well-known danger model of immunology she suddenly realised that dendritic cells behave in the same way as a sheepdog. When being considered for tenure, the canine co-author question arose. Fortunately, Matzinger’s superiors, could take a joke:3

They decided it wasn’t really fraud. It was a real dog, a frequent lab visitor, and they said it had done no less research than some other coauthors had.

Despite not including any dogs as co-authors for some time, Polly remains an avid sheepdog trainer and along with her two Border Collies, Charlie and Lily, was part of the US team at the 2005 World Sheepdog Finals.4

To finish off, I shall leave you with Rosco, the super cute PhD cat.5

Rosco the PhD cat checking out his kit.

Rosco the PhD cat checking out his kit.

  1. April 1st, of course.
  2. Anton, Ted. Bold Science: Seven Scientists Who Are Changing Our World (W.H. Freeman, New York 2000).
  3. ‘Scientific Sins’, The Scientist (May 5, 2003) http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/14715/title/Scientific-Sins/.
  4. As described in the documentary Death by Design: Where Parallel Worlds Meet (1997) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118947/.
  5. My favourite comment on that post: “seriously? you’re getting a PhD in engineering and you have time to take pictures of your cat?”.