Workshop on Scientific Writing and Statistical Literacy
8 January - 03 February in Berlin, Germany.
During the stay in Berlin we had an opportunity to attend workshop organized by Science Craft: Scientific Writing and Statistical Literacy. The meetings were well organized despite the fact that they lasted 8 hours every day we had optimal time for breaks, which let us stay focus throughout the whole course. We also got manuals that help us follow all the information. Moreover both parts of the workshop were carried in very nice and stress-free atmosphere.
The first two days we focused on scientific writing. At first Brian Cusack focused on explaining to us how important are choosing the proper words, the structure of the sentence or building paragraphs. I think this part of the course showed us that we really need to carefully build the text to make it as comprehensible for others as possible. Afterwards we focused on individual parts of scientific papers (introduction, material and methods, discussion, abstract, title) and discussed what information should they contain. In the meantime, we had time to practice the acquired knowledge using chosen publications and our own abstracts. At the end, Brian gave us lots of tips on writing and handed out his comments on our abstracts that we sent to him before the course started.
The statistical literacy course was definitely more demanding. However, since the beginning of the meeting it was clear to me that Rick Scavetti wants to help us understand statistics rather than learn how to do the calculus. I liked this approach, because it differed from my previous experience when it comes to studying statistics. We followed many examples and after the introductory and theoretical part we also had opportunity to test our understanding of what we were taught.
Although the courses were long, we still managed to find energy to spend some time together in the evenings on integration and sightseeing. We attended very nice dinner with both Brian and Rick, took part in the organized tour around Berlin as well as did some sightseeing on our own.
In general, I consider the courses very useful when it comes to both acquiring new knowledge as well as broadening the information I have already had. Besides, the time spent with other REMIX fellows is always valuable both on personal and scientific levels.
During the last week of January, I attended transferable skills workshops on Scientific Writing and Statistical Literacy. These workshops took part in Berlin, Germany. The first one focused on good practice in scientific writing. It provided guidelines about the structure of a scientific paper and suggestions about the proper choice of words and sentences in order to present our research clearly. The Statistical Literacy course provided a good introduction into statistical concepts used in biological research. Examples of topics covered in this workshop include descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing and linear regression. Main focus was on understanding what individual terms used by statisticians mean, rather than a guide when to use which statistical test.
I found both of these workshops very useful and I believe that the skills I gained will be a valuable asset in my future studies as well as career in research. Being able to present results of my research in a way understandable to scientific and general public is a necessary skill for every successful researcher. I am happy to be given the opportunity to attend a high quality Scientific Writing workshop this early in my career. Current research relies more and more on production of large amounts of data. After attending the Statistical Literacy workshop, I feel more confident reading the sections of papers that describe data analysis. I also gained knowledge of what is necessary to keep in mind when planning an experiment in order to produce data that are valid and can be used to draw conclusions. Overall, I had a very positive impression from both of these workshops.
I had a wonderful time in Berlin and I am grateful for this opportunity.
First of all, the course was great. I liked the teachers. They were open, patient, they gave us funny examples and they were friendly. In five days I learned a lot. The course manuals are very useful as well. I am more confident with writing and statistics now. I am not an expert, but at least these two skills do not seem so impossible to achieve anymore.
The best thing about the course, in my opinion, was that emphasis was put on understanding and not on learning by heart. The questions that we received and the homework were not meant to assess us, but to help us. After the quiz the teachers would discuss with us the correct answer and explain why it is correct. Especially in the statistics course, it was very important that the teacher adapted the course to our level of knowledge and did not give us more information than we could understand. He preferred to skip a part of the course, but to be sure that we have understood the other part, than to keep giving us information that we couldn’t assimilate anymore. He provided us with the course manual and made sure that we have enough understanding to go through it and build more on the basis we have achieved.
The course was not stressful and personally, I am glad we did not have to pass an exam, because in this way I could take time to understand, I could focus better and I enjoyed what I learned.
Second, I was very happy to see again the other Marie Curie fellows, whom have become my friends. We laughed together, made fun, exchange opinions, learned words in others’ languages, visited Berlin and encouraged each other. Occasionally, helped each other find things that we have lost, shared a laptop, a statistic formula or a drink. This course was a great opportunity for us to bond with each other. I feel better knowing that in ten years from now on, I will have some good scientist friends somewhere in the world on whom I can count on. Because we are still at the beginning, we are still learning, but I could see how my friends grew up in five days and I am sure that each one of them will be a good scientist one day.
Third, from a personal point of view, I could fulfil a childhood dream. Since I was a kid, I was passionate about ancient history and especially ancient Egypt. I had a poster with the bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti at home in Bucharest. With the occasion of this course, I could go to the antiquities museum and see the bust with my own eyes. I could also see other artefacts that I had previously known from documentaries and that I recognized now in the museum. It was a very beautiful feeling.
I also went to Pergamon museum and saw the reconstruction if Ishtar’s gate. I could almost touch the lessons of history from my fifth grade. I attach a photo below:
In conclusion, I came back from Berlin with batteries charged, knowledge achieved and looking forward for the next courses, so I can learn more.
by Vivek Singh
The workshop, which had two components, one focusing on scientific writing followed by a second course on statistics was extremely useful. The instructors were able to convey abstract concepts in a very nice manner. Both the courses were well structured and systematically went from basics to relatively advanced concepts giving plenty of examples on the way. Exercises were regularly given to make sure that we applied what we learnt and understood the concepts better. The classes had sufficient number of intervals for lunch and tea and it never got too tiring.
The course content was very much aligned with what we required to know as biology research students. I was able to appreciate scientific literature in a new light understanding not only the science but also the manner in which it is written. As for statistics, I can now better understand the logic behind the statistics we use, as before it was a black box for me to find out a set of values which I didn't understand fully but needed only for presenting and publishing data. The study material provided to us was great and I can always use it to revise what I learnt in the course.
Apart from the workshop itself, the experience was great. The instructors were friendly and fun to interact with. We went out for a dinner with the instructors and later for a city tour through the beautiful streets of berlin with Rick. It was a memorable experience and I am looking forward to the next workshop on data analysis.
by Xin Li
It was not my first-time trip to berlin, but still I had wonderful experience with the REMIX fellows. The workshop consisted two sections, namely the scientific writing and the statistical literacy. Along with the knowledge we learned, we were all Berliners during this one-week workshop and it’s full of happiness and memory.
Firstly, Brian gave us the two-day lecture about scientific writing with all kinds of theoretical and practical information. There were a lot of interaction in the class and he gave us personal advice. He made me realized that even a native speaker has his disadvantages in scientific writing. He encouraged us to focus on the writing skills during our daily life, besides understanding the scientific content. Additionally, before the workshop, Brian asked us to send him an abstract we wrote currently. Some sentences from our abstracts were used as examples in the class. This gave us clearer insight into the strategies he introduced. At last, he corrected our abstracts in detail and it’s impressive. Brian has a good sense of humor and I really enjoyed the seminars.
Then, the statistical literacy was taught by Rick. In fact, I expected to gain knowledge on data process and analysis strategies, which are largely in need in my daily research. However, this statistical course was more about the principles and fundamentals. Rick reminded me the basics of the statists and explained every detail in a very understandable way. He is a nice guy and I enjoyed the seminars as well.
The REMIX fellows travelled together for the sightseeing in Berlin was another important part of this week. On Tuesday evening, we went to the East-side Gallery as a remember of the history. The other day, we followed a tour to discover and explore the local area in Kreuzberg. Also, on Friday evening we visited the Bundestag and the Brandenburger Tor. I like Berlin, what I like more is to be together with the REMIX fellows in Berlin.
I would like to thank the Marie Curie Actions consortium and the REMIX management office.
On the last week of January we attended the scientific writing and statistic literacy workshop as a part of the transferable skills training from the REMIX network. During this week, we worked on how to improve our writing skills and to refresh and deep into the basics of statistics applied to research. It is very important to work on these skills as communication and dissemination of science allow us to show society and the rest of researchers which implications our work has and what or results mean. In the same way, a good knowledge of statistics is needed to analyse our results and it is a vital area to work in independently of the research area.
After each day session, we also had the opportunity to visit Berlin city centre and its most important landmarks, such as the Bundestag, the Brandenburger Tor or the Berlin Wall. We also had the chance to try the best of the german cuisine and brewery. And of course, we also had the chance to comment on our different projects and to reinforce the relationships and collaborations between fellows.
by Alisa Potter
I found both workshops very well designed. The fact that they are focused on the biology science helped me to learn more efficiently. I'm very glad I had the opportunity to join them.
Scientific writing workshop with Brian Cusack provided me with fresh insights about academic writing, including the importance of taking into account the audience you are writing for, being concise and clear describing your science, choosing neutral words instead of praising. Brian also provided us with a great book containing lists of words and phrases, as well as instructions how to organize a paper according to the IMRaD scheme, and general tips and rules. Hopefully, my next article will be more clear and well written owing of this workshop.
Statistics literacy workshop with Rick Scavetta was the most useful statistics course I had. At long last, it was taught by a biologist teacher for biologist students, which makes a real difference. Unravelling statistics concepts on simple examples, an explanation why you not always need statistic analysis, what is p-value and why it's not so great, impressed me a lot. I believe that now I am more capable to choose what kind of statistics I should do for my own data.
Social activities were fun. During the Urban Jungle tour we had a chance to walk around Berlin, see some unique places, and finally get the feeling of the city. Wednesday dinner with Brian and Rick was very enjoyable, we had an opportunity to discover German food and socialize by playing a statistics quiz.
End of January all REMIX fellows travelled to Berlin to take part in two workshops on Scientific Writing and Statistical Literacy. After our first meeting in Nijmegen in November I was looking forward to meeting the other fellows again and to catch up on how PhD life is going. We met in Harnack-Haus, the conference center of the Max Planck society and during the first two days we participated the workshop on Scientific Writing given by Brian Cusack. Writing is an important part of every PhD student’s project, so it is important to get training on how to write professionally. The workshop was very interactive and we were continuously practicing by writing short parts about our own research, reviewing written pieces of our REMIX colleagues and analyzing published papers. I enjoyed the course and I learned many new things which I cannot wait to use when writing my first paper.
The second part of the week was dedicated to Statistical Literacy. Even though statistics is part of our daily life we often do not fully understand the basics and thereby risk to do mistakes. But during the following three days Rick Scavetta explained to us the basics of statistics and how biologists need to use statistics for their research. I already followed a couple of statistic courses during my bachelor and master programs but never fully understood the things that were taught. Often the courses were given by mathematicians so the level was too difficult and the pace was too fast. Rick however managed to explain math in a simple way that I will be able to remember and to use to analyzing my data.
The workshops were very intensive but still we managed to enjoy Berlin! We had a lot of German food (from Schnitzel to Blutwurst and of course ‘Berlin street food’ Döner Kebap), visited the Berlin Wall and explored Kreuzberg at night. On the last evening after a good dinner on the campus of Humboldt University we visited the Bundestag and Brandenburger Tor and then finished the week with some drinks at the hotel. I am looking forward to meeting the REMIX fellows again in May!
by Dieu Hien Ho
The week of January 29, REMIX fellows attended two soft skills training courses – a course on Scientific Writing and a course on Statistical Literacy led by Dr. Brian Cusack and Dr. Rick Scavetta respectively.
We spent the first two days with Dr. Cusack and learnt how to properly write a scientific publication with respect to the target audience. We sent an abstract of our project proposal and a chosen research article prior to the course which we used as examples of written scientific texts throughout the workshop. We learnt which words and redundant phrases not to use how to build a sentence and how to build a paragraph. Dr. Cusack showed us how to structure and write individual parts of a research article and that the title and the abstract are the key to attract the reader. Also, the written language and the information should match the audience of the particular journal we want to submit in. We looked for the flaws and the highlights of the articles that we chose. At the end of the course, Dr. Cusack gave us our abstracts with his personal commentary on what we can change.
Then the Statistical Literacy course followed with Dr. Scavetta. Although everybody had different experience in statistics, Dr. Scavetta made the workshop fun and understandable for everyone while not disappointing the more experienced of us. Statistical terms and theory were explained very clearly using a simple model of Martians captured from Mars as an investigated sample. We were given exercises to calculate means, medians, variances, etc. using the statistical formulas. Dr. Scavetta also made an online tool for visualizing distributions and the confidence intervals. I appreciate the quizzes he had for us in the end of every chapter.
Compared to other statistics courses I had, Dr. Scavetta’s biological background, and thus his researcher’s point of view along with his expertise in statistics was a big advantage. It helped us to understand statistics as a useful tool for our research, not as a burden. He pointed out the most common mistakes researchers make, when they analyze the collected data.
Both of the courses were of high quality and well structured. There was a plenty of time for questions, lecturers were very friendly and willing to explain everything.
We participated in social events organized for us apart from learning new skills. On Wednesday January 31 we had a dinner for both the fellows and the lecturers. Traditional German cuisine was served. On Thursday February 1 we went on a tour called “Urban Jungle”. It was supposed to show us some valuable pieces of Berlin street art. On Friday February 2 we organized a tour to the German Bundestag ourselves.
It was a very intense week with an opportunity to learn a lot. The knowledge we gained will be very useful for our research.