Sunday, June 21, 2015

The 5 most rewarding papers I have ever written

Last week I wrote about the five most difficult papers I have ever written or had a hard time publishing. So today I am writing about the five "easiest"/rewarding papers I have written. I should be quick to point out that I am not talking here about short notes or small synonymy papers but rather about papers that somehow seem to flow easy, or the writing process was a breeze, or the end result was very rewarding... just read below.

Papers are in chronological orders.

1. Chatzimanolis, S., M. S. Engel, and A. Trichas. 2002. Taxonomic changes for the Aegean species of the Mediterranean darkling beetle genus Dendarus (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 75(4): 259–267.

I still remember with glee the writing process for this paper. I had several new taxa of Dendarus to describe and several subspecies to raise to the species level before submitting the phylogeny paper and I was really not sure how to proceed [this was my first "new species" paper]. I was sitting in my office around 11am and Michael Engel stopped by to say hi. I told him that I was lost and he was like, "well, let's do this". We were writing for about 8 hours straight, we went for dinner, and then came back and finish the paper! To this day, this was one the best writing days ever. As a side note, Michael would often abandon his day plans to help students whenever needed.

2. Chatzimanolis, S. 2005. Phylogeny of the neotropical rove beetle genus Nordus (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) with a special reference to the evolution of coloration and secondary sexual characters. Systematic Entomology 30: 267–280.

I was expecting this paper to have a hard time in review. Not sure why - and don't get me wrong, I think this is a pretty good paper. I just wasn't expecting to hear back from the editor within nine (9!) days after I submitted the paper telling me that both reviewed had positive things to say about it. I think nine days is still the fastest (positive) response time I had from a journal and that beats all the ones claiming fast response times (e.g. Zootaxa, Zonkeys, Biodiversity Data Journal and PeerJ). I don't remember much about writing  this paper but it was part of my PhD thesis, so it was written over a period of a couple of years.

3. Chatzimanolis, S., and J. S. Ashe. 2005. Revision and phylogeny of the neotropical genus Philothalpus (=Eugastus Sharp and Allostenopsis Bernhauer) (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Xanthopygina). Insect Systematics and Evolution 36: 63–119.

I really miss Steve and I really miss writing papers with him. Steve passed away in 2005 and for a couple of years I have been trying to write a blog post about him, but it is still very hard to do so. Steve was my major professor and (by his request) he did not take automatic authorship in my PhD papers. The few papers we coauthored together are the ones we really worked together. And boy, Steve and I had an awesome co-author relationship: we divided and conquer, splitting the manuscript tasks and we produced (amazing, if I may) papers fast and efficiently. In this paper we described 17 or so new species of Philothalpus  and the paper took just a few months to complete (I am not including here the prep work to figure out the new species).

4. Chatzimanolis, S. 2012. Zackfalinus, a new genus of Xanthopygina (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Staphylinini) with description of 20 new species. Annals of the Carnegie Museum 80(4): 261-308. 

This was not an easy paper to write (20 new species) but it was a very rewarding experience: publishing color photographs for every single species and really taking the time to illustrate/photograph every single important character. Also, I think this paper more than any other (and for reasons that I do not really understand) established me as an expert in Xanthopygina among my fellow rove beetle systematists. Now, the paper took a year plus from the time it was submitted to publication, but that's not really important here.

5. Chatzimanolis, S. 2014. Darwin's legacy to rove beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae): a new genus and a new species including materials collected on the Beagle's voyage. Zookeys 379: 29-41.

I have written before here and here about how I ended up describing a taxon collected by Darwin. The paper was really straightforward to write (a simple new genus and new species description) with a bit of sauce (what other rove beetles had been collected by Darwin) but it got a lot of media attention (a summary of media mentions is given here). Still, that's not the reason why this paper is here. It's here because I ended up chatting via email with David Sedaris about it (the species epithet is in his honor) and that was enough to make my day/year/decade.

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