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Eloquent Science

A Practical Guide to Becoming a Better Writer, Speaker, and Atmospheric Scientist
David M. Schultz
Copyright: 2009
ISBN: 9781878220912
List Price: $45.00
Member Price: $30.00
Student Price: $30.00

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Title information

Pages: 440
Language: English
Publisher: American Meteorlogical Society
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What started out as a communications workshop tailored for undergraduate and graduate students in atmospheric sciences evolved into a book that will benefit scientists at any stage in their careers. Eloquent Science draws on Schultz's experience as a journal editor and prolific writer, the insights of his colleagues, and the best advice from hundreds of sources. This must-have communications guide is loaded with tips for writing and reviewing scientific journal articles and creating and delivering scientific presentations. The result is the ultimate reference for undergraduate and graduate students as well as researchers in the atmospheric sciences and intersecting disciplines. Every student, teacher, and science department should have a copy.





Foreword by Professor Kerry Emanuel, MIT

How to Use This Book

Introduction: An Incoherent Truth


Part I: Writing and Publishing Scientific Research Papers

Chapter 1. The Process of Publishing Scientific Papers

Chapter 2. Should You Publish Your Paper? Questions to Ask Before You Begin Writing

Chapter 3. Writing an Effective Title

Chapter 4. The Structure of a Scientific Paper

Chapter 5. The Motivation to Write

Chapter 6. Brainstorm, Outline, and First Draft

Chapter 7. Accessible Scientific Writing

Chapter 8. Constructing Effective Paragraphs

Chapter 9. Constructing Effective Sentences

Chapter 10. Using Effective Words and Phrases

Chapter 11. Figures, Tables, and Equations

Chapter 12. Citations and References

Chapter 13. Editing and Finishing Up

Chapter 14. Authorship and Its Responsibilites

Chapter 15. Scientific Ethics and Misconduct

Chapter 16. Guidance for English as a Second Language Authors and Their Coauthors

Chapter 17. Page Proofs, Publication, and Life Thereafter

Chapter 18. Methods and Approaches to Writing for the Atmospheric Sciences


Part II: Participating in Peer Review

Chapter 19. Editors and Peer Review

Chapter 20. Writing a Review

Chapter 21. Responding to Reviews


Part III: Preparing and Delivering Scientific Presentations

Chapter 22. How Scientific Meetings Work

Chapter 23. The Abstract and Extended Abstract

Chapter 24. Accessible Oral Presentations

Chapter 25. Constructing Effective Oral Presentations

Chapter 26. Delivering Compelling Oral Presentations

Chapter 27. Potent Poster Presentations

Chapter 28. Challenges to Delivering Your Presentations


Part IV: Communicating Throughout Your Career

Chapter 29. Communication in the Workplace

Chapter 30. Communication with the Public Media

Chapter 31. Furthering Your Journey


Part V: Appendices

A. Commas, Hyphens, and Dashes

B. Commonly Misused Scientific Words and Expressions



Further Reading






David M. Schultz

David M. Schultz is a professor of experimental meteorology at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Finland, and a reader at The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. Born in Pittsburgh, he received his B.S. degree from M.I.T., his M.S. degree from the University of Washington, and his Ph.D. from the University at Albany, State University of New York. From 1996 to 2006, he worked for the NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma. In 2001, he won the American Meteorological Society Editor’s Award for Monthly Weather Review “for providing extremely thorough, timely, and constructive evaluations of a large number of manuscripts over a diverse range of topics, and for special assistance to the editors in evaluating controversial issues.” Presently, he is chief editor for Monthly Weather Review, cofounder and assistant editor for the Electronic Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology, associate editor for Atmospheric Science Letters, and sits on the editorial board of Geophysica. He has published more than 75 articles on topics in synoptic- and mesoscale meteorology, forecasting, cloud and precipitation microphysics, and scientific publishing. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma; Helsinki, Finland; and York, England, with his wife, Yvette, and their dog, Tesla.

Review of Eloquent Science


Scientists often enter their respective fields to escape grammar and sentence structure, and soon discover that there is much more writing to come. In Eloquent Science, Schultz (experimental meteorology, Univ. of Helsinki, Finland) gathers the tools he has accumulated over his own career as a researcher, editor, and teacher, and methodically addresses the rules and processes for all arenas of scientific communication. He initially focuses on journal publication, from issues as large as deciding where to submit a manuscript, to details as small as strategies for combating writer's block. Later chapters provide guidelines for editing, peer reviewing, and delivering oral and poster presentations. Schultz finishes by stressing the importance of clear and appropriate communication throughout one's career. This book is essential for the graduate student presenting results at a conference, the early career scientist struggling with his or her first publication submission, and the seasoned scientist writing a constructive review as a manuscript editor. The book's full title will unfortunately stave off non - meteorologists, but the work is perfect for becoming a better communicator in any scientific discipline. Every scientific professional would profit from this eloquent and well-structured reference. Summing Up : Highly recommended. Graduate students and above. -- D. L. Jacobs, Rider University


Progress in Physical Geography

For reasons that will become clear to you, I am mentally drafting this book review whilst sitting in the audience at a major international science conference. I should be watching the presentation, but the speaker lost my attention long ago. He has crammed so many figures onto each slide that I cannot see which quantities are being plotted on which axes and with which colour scales. He eventually issues the obligatory apology “to those at the back” who cannot see clearly, but I am sitting near the front! The audience sigh wearily, our expectations lowered after being subjected to a whole week (nay, a whole career!) of such treatment.

And so it is that, instead of concentrating on the speaker’s ground-breaking research findings, I am wishing that more scientists would follow the advice given in David Schultz’s excellent new book. The book is a comprehensive guide to writing and publishing scientific research papers, participating in peer review, preparing and delivering scientific presentations, and communicating throughout one’s career. In short, it is a practical guide to just about everything a working scientist needs to know about effective communication. Junior researchers, mainly postgraduate and postdoctoral, are the intended readership. However, I believe that many senior academics would also pick up useful tips — or at least learn whether what they have been doing all along is acceptable.

The chapters are short – around ten pages each, on average – and self-contained. Therefore, readers may dip into and out of particular chapters of interest, if they prefer not to read the whole book sequentially. Perspectives other than the author’s are provided in ‘Ask the Experts’ columns, with many eminently qualified contributors. The book concludes with two useful appendices (the first on commas, hyphens, and dashes; the second on commonly misused scientific words and expressions) and an extensive list of material for further reading. A Web site accompanying the book (http://eloquentscience.com) contains a blog that the author updates regularly (and without which I would not have known to capitalize the first letter of ‘Web’ in this sentence).

One reason the book is such a delight to read is that it is peppered throughout with colourful and entertaining quotes. For example, “sacred cows make the best hamburger” (attributed to Mark Twain) reminds us that the best papers are often those that contradict accepted theories. The rule that speculation should be done sparingly at the end of a paper is reinforced by a comparison with dessert: “If you eat all your dinner, then you are entitled to a little dessert, but you cannot rely on dessert for the entire meal” (attributed to Fred Sanders). The “hit-by-the-bus moment” is when the preparation of a manuscript is sufficiently advanced that, if the lead author were hit by a bus on the way home, the paper could still be submitted and published with a posthumous tribute. The advice for reviewing submitted manuscripts is that “authors are more likely to listen to your meaty negative criticisms if they are sandwiched in between warm positive supportive bread”. Finally, the fact that “consumers know Frosted Flakes because of Tony the Tiger, not because of the ingredients list” reminds us to be selective about which details we choose to highlight when designing conference posters.

Books rarely add new words to their readers’ vocabularies, but this book is an exception. For example, I learnt that cryptomnesia is the proper word for inadvertent plagiarism; that the ‘royal’ use of ‘we’ in speaking of oneself is called a nosism; that the minimum quantum of publishable knowledge is called the publon; and that conference abstracts submitted about work that has not yet been started are called fabstracts (presumably a contraction of fabricated abstracts). I also learnt many good tips that I will apply to my own work. For example, use sans serif fonts in figures and slides, because they are more legible than serif fonts when re-scaled, photocopied, or viewed from afar. Also, focus on sentence structures when proof-reading a familiar manuscript by reading it backwards, sentence by sentence. Finally, draft the abstract of a manuscript by going through the text and grabbing all the important sentences, before re-wording them into a coherent narrative.

No book is entirely free from minor errors, and no book review is complete without a list of them. First, despite advice to “always define abbreviations and acronyms on first use”, ESL is first encountered on page 96 but is defined as ‘English as a Second Language’ only on page 191. Second, in the text accompanying Figure 19.1, the manuscript numbers do not correspond to those used in the figure. Third, the Froude number discussed in Appendix B strictly should be called the gravitational Froude number, for the avoidance of ambiguity with the rotational Froude number. Finally, ‘that’, and not ‘who’, is used throughout the book as the human-referring relative pronoun. To my eyes and ears, ‘the type of writer that carefully constructs the manuscript’ would be better as ‘the type of writer who carefully constructs the manuscript’, because the relative clause is modifying ‘the writer’, who is human. This is a minor quibble, and use of ‘that’ as the human-referring relative pronoun appears to be more acceptable in American English than in British English.

There is one piece of advice that I might add to the chapter on scientific ethics and misconduct. As Editor of Geophysical Research Letters, I see an increasing number of authors suggesting as reviewers the names of people who have already informally reviewed the manuscript before submission. This practice is, in my view, a mild form of misconduct, because the intention is to subversively bias the reviewing procedure to the author’s advantage. Fortunately, invited reviewers usually declare their conflict and decline the review. What is also perhaps missing is a chapter specifically on writing grant proposals, although much of the advice that would be pertinent is covered elsewhere in the book.

In summary, I highly recommend this book. The author is well qualified, being both an experienced leader of communications workshops and an award-winning journal editor. The writing is clear (as you would expect for a book on effective communication!) and the treatment is comprehensive. Few researchers in the atmospheric sciences and intersecting disciplines would not benefit from the advice. I imagine that anyone who has ever squinted their way through a long conference session would agree.

Dr Paul Williams Royal Society Research Fellow Department of Meteorology University of Reading Earley Gate Reading RG6 6BB UK