Aug 142014

Recently a postdoc in the lab asked me whether it is worth joining the editorial board of a new open source journal and whether this will be considered favorably during his later faculty job search.

There has been a wave of new open source journals. Frankly, with the large number of journals making paper open 6 months after publication, the requirement of NIH to put all NIH-funded publications into PubMed Central, as well as the large number of existing good open source journals, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from a scientific point of view to start new open source journals. Unless we work on a new field (like bioinformatics 15 years ago or nanotechnology 10 years ago), don’t we have enough places to publish good science already?

Many good journals don’t ask their faculty editors to handle peer reviews, instead they have well-trained scientists as full time editors to handle the logistics. These journals consult their faculty editors on topics to cover for a special issue, writing special reviews or giving expert-opinions in interviews, or helping a paper decision where reviewers could not reach consensus. I understand that depends on the field, this may not be financially possible for some good journals, but I believe this is a much better use of faculty expertise and time.

Having been on several faculty recruitment and promotion committees, and written promotion evaluation letters for many colleagues, I would say that being on journal editorial board is useful, but only if the journal is reputable. Instead of being on the editorial board of low profile journals, postdocs and junior faculty can probably benefit more from having experience reviewing papers for high profile journals. Since “high profile” might mean differently for different people / fields, I would say only serve on editorial board of a journal if you often read papers from that journal.

Aug 022014

Recently I encountered a number of students from China using my signatures. When visiting students asked me to write letters for visiting invitations, apartment rental, or bank application, I often asked the students to draft the letter so I can put it on my letterhead with my signature. When the students send me the drafted letter, to my surprise a number of times the word document had my electronic signature. I asked the students where they got my signature, they answered that they cropped the signature from a previous pdf I sent them before and pasted on the word document.

Students probably don’t understand that it is a very serious problem to reuse other people’s signature without prior permission from the signature owner every time a signature is used. This kinda violates the honor code, and is considered similarly as cheating in exams, fabricating data in papers, or stealing other people’s credit cards. People who crop other people’s signature to use in one letter will be always under the suspicion for fabricating reference letters later. I would like to seriously warn students against ever doing this.