Thursday, December 11, 2008

Author's summary

I spent a few days visiting my alma mater last week and among the many engaging conversations I had were several with my dear friend Gregg Whitworth about incorporating research into a liberal arts undergraduate education. It's very tricky, but Gregg pointed out several aspects of the field of biology that help. Gregg mentioned that many biology papers include authors' summaries. This just sounds like an all-around great idea, and one that's easily implemented: simply add a brief summary to your publications list on your web site.

In some sense an abstract may be useful, but an author's summary could also be used to put work into broader context. Since it's not subject to the restrictions of the paper itself, it also gives authors more freedom to write whatever they like. And the benefit to students could be enormous: one of the hardest parts of breaking into a research field is understanding the larger conversation each paper participates in.

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