This week, a small group of scientists from the University of Canberra have gathered at Kioloa, on the coast of NSW, to mount a collective assault on writers' block, to put their heads down and write that paper. Some good science, some good fun, and some good outcomes.
Science is not complete until the results are published. Not until then do the results contribute to the body of contemporary knowledge, becoming widely available for scrutiny, criticism and testing by the scientific community. Too much research goes unpublished, in theses and reports that languish as single copies on a library shelf.
For some, the process of converting their findings to a form that can be accessed by their peers comes easily, and is the most enjoyable aspect of research. For others, it is simply hard yakka, and motivation diminished once the outcome of the research is known.
Those of us who find it difficult to write scientific papers have no difficulty whatsoever in constructing artificial barriers to progress (writer's block), in finding excuses (I'm so busy, I have time for the research, but writing gets put on the back burner), or engaging in displacement behaviour (learning to use a graphics package to create a figure that would have taken minutes to do by hand).
This retreat brings together a small group of people, each with a paper ready to write, for a collective assault on the barriers to productive writing. By bringing together the experienced with the less experienced in a staged process leading to publication, it will allow sharing of approaches to and views on what makes a good publication and how to bring it about. Like attending the gym, group participation will help to enhance motivation and commitment.
And then there are the joys of sitting around the fire pit in the middle of the Austral winter sipping on a German toddy, listening to great music and roasting marshmellows.