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Concept: Writing


We surveyed 113 astronomers and 82 psychologists active in applying for federally funded research on their grant-writing history between January, 2009 and November, 2012. We collected demographic data, effort levels, success rates, and perceived non-financial benefits from writing grant proposals. We find that the average proposal takes 116 PI hours and 55 CI hours to write; although time spent writing was not related to whether the grant was funded. Effort did translate into success, however, as academics who wrote more grants received more funding. Participants indicated modest non-monetary benefits from grant writing, with psychologists reporting a somewhat greater benefit overall than astronomers. These perceptions of non-financial benefits were unrelated to how many grants investigators applied for, the number of grants they received, or the amount of time they devoted to writing their proposals. We also explored the number of years an investigator can afford to apply unsuccessfully for research grants and our analyses suggest that funding rates below approximately 20%, commensurate with current NIH and NSF funding, are likely to drive at least half of the active researchers away from federally funded research. We conclude with recommendations and suggestions for individual investigators and for department heads.

Concepts: Research, Writing, Writing system, Finance, Creative writing, Fundraising, Funding, Research funding


The Voynich manuscript has remained so far as a mystery for linguists and cryptologists. While the text written on medieval parchment -using an unknown script system- shows basic statistical patterns that bear resemblance to those from real languages, there are features that suggested to some researches that the manuscript was a forgery intended as a hoax. Here we analyse the long-range structure of the manuscript using methods from information theory. We show that the Voynich manuscript presents a complex organization in the distribution of words that is compatible with those found in real language sequences. We are also able to extract some of the most significant semantic word-networks in the text. These results together with some previously known statistical features of the Voynich manuscript, give support to the presence of a genuine message inside the book.

Concepts: Mathematics, Linguistics, Language, Writing, Constructed language, Asemic writing, Voynich manuscript, False document


The increasing prevalence of social media means that we often encounter written language characterized by both stylistic variation and outright errors. How does the personality of the reader modulate reactions to non-standard text? Experimental participants read ‘email responses’ to an ad for a housemate that either contained no errors or had been altered to include either typos (e.g., teh) or homophonous grammar errors (grammos, e.g., to/too, it’s/its). Participants completed a 10-item evaluation scale for each message, which measured their impressions of the writer. In addition participants completed a Big Five personality assessment and answered demographic and language attitude questions. Both typos and grammos had a negative impact on the evaluation scale. This negative impact was not modulated by age, education, electronic communication frequency, or pleasure reading time. In contrast, personality traits did modulate assessments, and did so in distinct ways for grammos and typos.

Concepts: Evaluation, Personality psychology, Assessment, Educational psychology, Writing, Modulation, Communication, Big Five personality traits


A graphical abstract (GA) represents a piece of artwork that is intended to summarize the main findings of an article for readers at a single glance. Many publishers currently encourage authors to supplement their articles with GAs, in the hope that such a convenient visual summary will facilitate readers with a clearer outline of papers that are of interest and will result in improved overall visibility of the respective publication. To test this assumption, we statistically compared publications with or without GA published in Molecules between March 2014 and March 2015 with regard to several output parameters reflecting visibility. Contrary to our expectations, manuscripts published without GA performed significantly better in terms of PDF downloads, abstract views, and total citations than manuscripts with GA. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical study on the effectiveness of GA for attracting attention to scientific publications.

Concepts: Scientific method, Academic publishing, Science, Empirical, Writing, Publishing, Publication, Desktop publishing


Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students' capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers' tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

Concepts: Present, Writing, Laptop, Note, Promissory note


Like the sequence of words in written language, comic book page layouts direct images into a deliberate reading sequence. Conventional wisdom would expect that comic panels follow the order of text: left-to-right and down - a “Z-path” - though several layouts can violate this order, such as Gestalt groupings of panels that deny a Z-path of reading. To examine how layouts pressure readers to choose pathways deviating from the Z-path, we presented participants with comic pages empty of content, and asked them to number the panels in the order they would read them. Participants frequently used strategies departing from both the traditional Z-path and Gestalt groupings. These preferences reveal a system of constraints that organizes panels into hierarchic constituents, guiding readers through comic page layouts.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Language, Writing, Comic strip, Comics, Graphic novel, The Beano


For decades autism has been defined as a triad of deficits in social interaction, communication, and imaginative play. Though there is now broad acknowledgment of the neurological basis of autism, there is little attention paid to the contribution of such neurological differences to a person’s development and functioning. Communication, relationship, and participation require neurological systems to coordinate and synchronize the organization and regulation of sensory information and movement. Developmental differences in these abilities are likely to result in differences in the way a person behaves and expresses intention and meaning. The present paper shares our emerging awareness that people may struggle with difficulties that are not immediately evident to an outsider. This paper explores the symptoms of sensory and movement differences and the possible implications for autistic people. It provides a review of the history and literature that describes the neurological basis for many of the socalled behavioral differences that people experience. The paper emphasizes the importance of our acknowledgment that a social interpretation of differences in behavior, relationship, and communication can lead us far away from the lived experience of individuals with the autism label and those who support them. We suggest alternative ways to address the challenges faced by people with autism.

Concepts: Psychology, Person, Sociology, Autism, Writing, Asperger syndrome, Behavior, Social relation


The last few years have seen the proliferation of measures that quantify the scientific output of researchers. Yet, most of these measures focus on productivity, thus fostering the “publish or perish” paradigm. This article proposes a measure that aims at quantifying the impact of research de-emphasizing productivity, thus providing scientists an alternative, conceivably fairer, evaluation of their work. The measure builds from a published manuscript, the literature’s most basic building block. The impact of an article is defined as the number of lead authors that have been influenced by it. Thus, the measure aims at quantifying the manuscript’s reach, putting emphasis on scientists rather than on raw citations. The measure is then extrapolated to researchers and institutions.

Concepts: Scientific method, Academic publishing, Science, Research, Writing, Literature, Publishing, Latin


Manual curation of data from the biomedical literature is a rate-limiting factor for many expert curated databases. Despite the continuing advances in biomedical text mining and the pressing needs of biocurators for better tools, few existing text-mining tools have been successfully integrated into production literature curation systems such as those used by the expert curated databases. To close this gap and better understand all aspects of literature curation, we invited submissions of written descriptions of curation workflows from expert curated databases for the BioCreative 2012 Workshop Track II. We received seven qualified contributions, primarily from model organism databases. Based on these descriptions, we identified commonalities and differences across the workflows, the common ontologies and controlled vocabularies used and the current and desired uses of text mining for biocuration. Compared to a survey done in 2009, our 2012 results show that many more databases are now using text mining in parts of their curation workflows. In addition, the workshop participants identified text-mining aids for finding gene names and symbols (gene indexing), prioritization of documents for curation (document triage) and ontology concept assignment as those most desired by the biocurators. Database URL:

Concepts: Bioinformatics, Biology, Ontology, Controlled vocabulary, Writing, Data mining, Existence


We have developed a pen and writing tablet for use by subjects during fMRI scanning. The pen consists of two jacketed, multi-mode optical fibers routed to the tip of a hollowed-out ball-point pen. The pen has been further modified by addition of a plastic plate to maintain a perpendicular pen-tablet orientation. The tablet is simply a non-metallic frame holding a paper print of continuously varying color gradients. The optical fibers are routed out of the MRI bore to a light-tight box in an adjacent control room. Within the box, light from a high intensity LED is coupled into one of the fibers, while the other fiber abuts a color sensor. Light from the LED exits the pen tip, illuminating a small spot on the tablet, and the resulting reflected light is routed to the color sensor. Given a lookup table of position for each color on the tablet, the coordinates of the pen on the tablet may be displayed and digitized in real-time. While simple and inexpensive, the system achieves sufficient resolution to grade writing tasks testing dysgraphic and dyslexic phenomena.

Concepts: Light, Refraction, Optical fiber, Writing, Dyslexia, Learning disability, Pen, Dysgraphia