A modest proposal
I am starting a blog.
After nearly three decades of rhizobium research, my head is full of information that is hard to find by reading the literature. So Ganesh tells me, anyway, and he suggested that I should write it down. It would be hard to make a coherent narrative out of all those tangled facts, so a blog seems a better vehicle than a book. It will certainly help to clear my head and – who knows? – some readers might also find it useful.
Ganesh is my PhD student, one of that ever-changing international band who make up my research group. Without them, I would have no research to write and talk about, so they deserve a favour, and this blog is for them. Maybe they’ll get a more coherent answer here than when they stop me on the stairs.
It is also for that larger community of enthusiastic young researchers around the world, met and unmet, who incessantly email me to tell me about their research and ask me questions. They often have similar questions, so I’ll try to provide some answers.
I have always found that the rhizobium research community is very friendly, more collaborative than competitive, and over the years I have got to know a large number of experts. I hope that they will join in this conversation with comments and discussion, so that readers do not have to take just my word for it.
I am writing mainly for this rather specialist community, but many of the issues that concern us are shared by others, so anyone is welcome to eavesdrop and to contribute, too, even if you don’t know what a rhizobium is.
I will write about rhizobia. If you have read this far and don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t go away. I’ll explain in my next post. I will write about the diversity and taxonomy of rhizobia. I will probably write things that will make taxonomists cross. I will write about the genomes of rhizobia and of other bacteria, which is a very rapidly developing area of research. I will highlight some recent papers that catch my eye (including our own).
I will write about publishing papers and the journals we publish in, from my experiences as an author, a reviewer and an editor. I can’t get your papers into Nature, but maybe I can say something of interest to would-be authors.
As a reviewer, and as a professor taking tutorials with undergraduates, I read a lot of badly written prose. I’m tempted to share some of this with you, and to suggest ways in which it could be improved. I am very conscious that, as someone who has always communicated in English, I am in a privileged position in the current world of science where English is the lingua franca (an Italian phrase, of course!).
That is my manifesto (another Italian word!). Of course, so far I have promised a lot and delivered nothing of substance. Isn’t that always the way with manifestos? Next time, I promise to tell you what a rhizobium is.