April News from JAWWS
Highlight: A paper showing the importance of writing quality in economics papers
My JAWWS activities in the past month have been mostly private. There’s one big piece of content that I have been working on and that I hope to release soon.
In March I applied for funding from the Future Fund, but didn’t get it; my application was a last minute long shot anyway. The result is that the project is still at financial ground zero, and I will have to spend more time on unrelated activities to earn a living. It would be nice to be able to spend on people especially, either as part of a contest, through bounties for written pieces, or as employees/cofounders, but I’m a long way from there yet.
As always, if you are involved in science publishing, or if you care about readability in science, I want to talk to you! I also have a standing offer to help you make your scientific paper more readable. Leave a comment below, send an email at email@example.com, or send me a DM on Twitter.
1. A post reviewing a recent paper on the importance of language quality in economics papers:
2. I’m moving all JAWWS content on Substack
This means that subscribers will receive posts more often, as I write them. I may or may not continue with monthly posts like this one. I feel that this is the right move to allow the mailing list to grow and incentivize me to write more. The main website will remain up, but won’t have a list of posts anymore.
A reminder that this newsletter has paid subscriptions turned on but only as a way to provide support — for the foreseeable future, no content will be restricted at all.
3. A thread by me on whether it’s worth keeping going
Thanks to the few people on Twitter who help me see more clearly.
Thoughts on: Finding a Niche
Is JAWWS too general? Paul Graham has warned in How to Get Startup Ideas that something mildly interesting to a large group of people is far less likely to succeed than something that’s exciting for a few specific people. (Thanks to patrick on Twitter for pointing this out.) With a goal of improving scientific writing across the board, JAWWS could make things slightly better for everyone, but won’t drastically improve anyone’s life. That’s a problem.
What could be JAWWS’s niche? Some ideas:
Focus on a single field of science (at least at first). For example, New Science is restricted to the life sciences, at least for now.
Focus on a certain kind of reader, such as science students, established scientists, journalists, or non-researchers who need to read papers. I’m a bit afraid that this would just lead to more science “popularization” that exists in parallel with true science communication between scientists. There’s already plenty of that.
Find and focus on scientists who really care about writing quality. But are they really a niche? How do I find them?
In this section I post links to useful content I come across. The best content may end up on the Resources page of the website.
From The Guardian: Should we get rid of the scientific paper? Argues in favor of more interactive scientific artifacts such as mini-websites and notebooks with embedded code.
The mystery of great scientists’ annus mirabilis. You probably already saw this, it got very viral in the last few days.
Relatedly, a thread from Anton Troynikov on the academic monoculture. See also a relevant blog post on the organization of science.
Marc Andreessen @pmarcaOn great scientists and their miracle years. Side note, I believe none of the work of Einstein, Newton, Copernicus, Darwin, von Nuemann, or Gauss was peer reviewed. Has the method of science regressed? @dwarkesh_sp https://t.co/FaYn2XxGqT
Also in response to the annus mirabilis post, the always excellent and contrarian Roger’s Bacon on “progress porn” and writing blog posts instead of doing real science work:
“Just write some more progress porn, maybe something about how we can improve science by changing the way we fund it. Or maybe write something about how changing incentives can save science (or how new incentives will not save science), people love that shit.”
Again, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, subscribe to this newsletter (it’s a good indicator of growing interest), or share this post or the JAWWS website!