Journals are not generally the first place one looks for good reads* that deal with the cultural aspects of doing science, but thanks to the emergence of high quality open access** (OA) journals in recent years, the situation has changed dramatically. The Ten Simple Rules series from PLoS Computational Biology is just awesome – all graduate students irrespective of discipline should find the articles highly useful.
Let’s start with Ten Simple Rules for Building and Maintaining a Scientific Reputation by Bourne & Barbour. This article provides much needed orientation for new academics who are just getting to know the challenges waiting for them at the academic landscape. For new graduate students, the Ten Simple Rules for Graduate Students by Gu & Bourne gives a morale boost, and reminds them why they chose this path. I expect that standards of communicating scientific results for graduate students should improve after reading Ten Simple Rules for a Good Poster Presentation and Ten Simple Rules for Making Good Oral Presentations.
Finally, this journal also has a great section on bioinformatics education that discusses curriculum issues and provides tutorial style articles to new methods. Reading journals has never been this fun!
* The American Statistician also has columns that deal with general aspects of graduate student life and also tutorials, but the focus is on statistics majors. It requires subscription for easy access.
** The author pays for publication and then the article becomes free to the world. Depending on the journal, this could cost somewhere between USD 500 to USD 5000 (USD 2250 for PLoS Computational Biology). This contrasts with traditional publishing where the publisher retains copyright of the article and charges readers for access. There have been some controversies surrounding OA journals because of concerns that the quality of papers may degenerate because the publishers would be tempted to accept as many papers as possible. However, I think the BMC and PLoS publishers have mostly avoided this problem because of their success in convincing leading scholars of their respective fields to sit on the editorial board. Other OA publishers have floundered because they didn’t.