It is not easy being a research advisor if you are a nice guy. As an advisor, it is my responsibility to say “No” when I feel that a certain course of action will be counterproductive to my students. I also need to be brutally honest in research matters, and I have found useful to outline some “guidelines” for my graduate students, not because of the good ones, but just in case that I come across a “not-so-good” or even an “evil” one…
Here’s the thing: As I have said elsewhere, the scientific world will not take pity on anyone when they make a mistake. Scientists are NOTORIOUS nitpickers, and will gladly, happily, and with gusto call you on your mistakes. I am no exception, but in the case of my own guys I am especially tough because inevitably, somebody will find a mistake in anything that they write and from my side, I want to spare my own students from that by catching these mistakes first, to the best of my ability. In other words, it’s better that I point out a mistake than allow them to be embarrassed in public, by keeping it “in the family” if you will. It is a little like being a good parent; the “kids” may not like what I have to say but whatever I say is in good faith and for their benefit.
Incidentally, I am not immune to mistakes; I can make mistakes like the best of them! I have been caught on mistakes in my writings and have been humbled by the experience, but I have also learned a lot from each instance.
I am painfully aware that many students do not like it when I “go nuts” while proofreading. And do you know what? I do not care one bit because it is in their best interest, period. I have been called a “nitpicker” (a medal of honor in my book), “righteous” (I am not sure what they meant then) and I have been called even worse names (and I always know what they say about me. Somebody always tells me, which amuses me to no end… The only thing in this universe faster than light is gossip. Never forget that!).
A former thesis student of mine (one of the very best ones, by the way) coined what I think is a wonderful term: “Paganization“. This is what happens when an advanced student gives me a paper or thesis to look at. The Paganization procedure takes place when I get my “evil red pen” and proceed to proofread; no prisoners taken. After the document is “Paganized” there is frequently as much amount of red ink as of black ink. I then give the document back to its author and go through as many interactions as required to make it ready to tell the world about the wonderful research from my laboratory (:-D)…
Incidentally, it is worth mentioning that the procedure has no religious / spiritual implications; it is merely a wordplay derived from my last name.
I am not sure how to conclude the post, so I will just show you a picture of myself with my evil red pen…
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