Congratulations to Emmas!

28 07 2018

‘Little Emma’ (Emma Nip) had her paper on chickadee body masses accepted at last – something she submitted at about the time she joined the lab, only to discover that The Canadian Field Naturalist is the world’s slowest journal. Congratulations to her on her first paper, and her persistence and patience!

Meanwhile me and ‘Big Emma’ (Emma Mellor) also finally had our Zoo Biology paper accepted, again after more than a year. Obviously this is great news, but the message below had us in something of a panic…

Screenshot 2018-07-28 14.52.52

… because the fine details of phylogenetic comparative methods are not especially easy, and in all honesty this paper was never actually refereed by an expert.  So, we were now rushing to get input and a critical eye cast on the most technical sections.  Hafiz Maharali (who was on Miranda’s committee) and Innes Cuthill (who’s on Emma’s) were both great – speedy, helpful and to the point. We also spotted a possible error in “A Primer on Phylogenetic Least Squares“, which we’d cited handsomely, and scurried to edit the manuscript around that too so that we didn’t parrot it and then make one of our own figures look wrong.  In the end we had to ask the Zoo Biology production folks to pull our proofs and let us submit as fairly overhauled new Word doc.  I’ve never done anything remotely like this before, but they were very good about it. So, a big thank-you to Vinoth in New Delhi, and a big sigh of relief from us.

Ready to film!

10 06 2018

Here are 16 cameras, meticulously set up by the fabulous Aileen, and cobbled together from a handful I had already, five borrowed from Lee, and 8 bought for Andrea’s primate project.

We’re replicating a small study Emma and Aimee did at the very start of their programmes, to see if the presence of people watching mice alters their behaviour. This is an essential step for validating live scoring, and yet no-one had ever done it before (not least as it’s super dull, labour-intensive work). Our last attempt got rejected for being under-powered (reasonably enough, I have to admit), so this is us getting ready to wade back in and do it all again.


3 06 2018

Getting proofs back can be a mixed experience: usually exciting, but sometimes a cause of tonne of unnerving work trying to explain how to unmangle painfully-screwed up tables (AABS’s speciality). Happily Animal Behaviour falls firmly into the former camp, not least because they have a dedicated style editor, Kris Bruner. So it was a joy to read Andrea’s new proofs today!

Screenshot 2018-06-03 10.41.16

A good day for papers

8 04 2018

At long last the magnificent Emma and I resubmitted our Zoo Biology MS. We took an insane 11 months to revise it; the comments came in just before we each took turns to be really busy, we had to totally rejig the explanation of why control for phylogeny, and we also having had a really unpleasant referee (one who called me a liar: that’s a first) which demoralised the hell out of us. But we think it’s pretty good now.

Screenshot 2018-04-08 09.24.17

And Mike and I had a paper accepted by Physiology & Behaviour! This is my first ever publication in that journal, and it has a decent impact factor so I’m pleased.

Screenshot 2018-04-08 09.35.14


We hate your paper, but we’ll probably accept it

11 01 2018

Two papers from the lab came back from journals in the last month, both with fairly harsh editors’ letters.  “Thus, I must reject your manuscript”, intoned the one from Animal Behaviour, while “The reviewers raised some major concerns” tutted the one from Physiology and Behaviour

Yet both allowed re-submission, and in both cases the referees’ comments were easy to address (sensible, helpful, and mainly stylistic).  This type of presentation of ‘minor revisions’ as ‘major revisions’ or even rejection seems increasingly common. And it’s disheartening for possibly judgement-biased students, who dwell on the critical wording of the letter rather than the often-quite-easy tasks set within it (Andrea was convinced this was one for our anti-CVs!).  But really, in the end it’ll be good news for us I think.

First paper of the year!

10 01 2018


An experiment I was involved in as one of Michelle Hunniford’s committee members is now in press! The aim was to see if hens’ preferences for different nesting surfaces could be outweighed by whether or not the area was enclosed (a known preference), in a kind of titration. But the hens did not understand what we were trying to do. For a start they didn’t have stable surface preferences: their favourite surface varied according to whether nests were open or closed – very strange. Then when formerly unenclosed laying areas became enclosed or vice versa, they just followed the enclosure: it over-rode everything in a fairly simple way.

Screenshot 2018-01-09 22.24.59

The whole publication process happened in record-quick time too.

Screenshot 2018-01-09 22.22.34

Play paper published with no-one getting hurt

22 12 2017

The curse seems to be over, and the paper I think came out well in the end.

Screenshot 2017-12-22 08.45.56