Co-author vineyards, part II: Jing Jo

A beautiful box and a promising amber color of the beverage.

A beautiful box and a promising amber color of the beverage.

By Jonas Waldenström

Some time ago, I started a curiosity-driven beverage voyage. But instead of sampling all the fine wines of a particular district in France, I am on the lookout for drinks with co-author names. The first item on the list was indeed a French wine, but in this second episode it is time to look to the east, rather than south. Today it is Jing Jo – a strong spirit from China that share part of its name with my fantastic postdoc Jo Chapman!

Everyone agrees that Jo is a gem; a smart, witty and hard-working evolutionary ecologist, born in Kiwi land and schooled in Oxford. In her project she is exploring the secret world of the innate immune system in ducks! A true scientific journey full of what’s, how’s and why’s. Given Jo’s qualities, I hoped that the spirit Jing Jo would be an equally nice beverage. And it started promising! The cardboard box that held the bottle was deep red, decorated with golden Chinese letters, and perfected with a profound slogan:

Coloured by the admired wolfberries, brewed with fresh spring water from Mufu mountain in the region of Huang Shi. Bringing the sweet and the bitter into the essence of traditional healing herbs and spices. Offering the one taste of earth meeting the sky – the Yin and Yang with every sip.

Seriously: the Yin and Yang with every sip! That has to be greatness in a soluble form! And look how happy they are in the commercial – just like us in our journal clubs!

There is just one problem. Actually a big problem. It tasted foul! Like a cross between Jägermeister, Brandy and Fernet Branca. The ‘Yin and Yang with every sip’ turned out to be a schizophrenic blend of semi-bitter and semi-sweet that made my tongue hurt.

In order to get a second opinion I brought the bottle to a lab meeting. And here are the reactions. I quote:

“ldldld”

“schlknwwwimph”

“mmm, tastes like cognac”

“gagagag-aaaahhhhrg”

Of those that survived the testing, four (including the real Jo) answered that the taste was bad/foul/revolting; three said it was OK (but declined the offer of a refill), and one person said it was pretty good (actually the best Chinese strong spirit he had ever had).

With time even surströmming tastes good

With time even surströmming tastes good

I tried it myself again, and have to admit it was slightly better the second time around (now just mildly revolting and yet strangely appealing). Perhaps with enough time and practice an acquired taste would evolve? After all, a lot of things – cigarettes, surströmming, snus and coffee, for example – are rough at start, but great with time.

Anyway, the drink and the postdoc did not match at all in spirits. But, rumor tells me there is a Chapman wine in Australia, so hopefully we could return with a more suitable beverage in a future edition of co-author vineyards.

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Co-author vineyards, part I

Some of the authors of a recent LHC Higgs' boson paper. I stress PART of the author list...

Some of the authors of a recent LHC Higgs’ boson paper. I stress PART of the author list…

By Jonas Waldenström

Science is done in teams these days. The success of the lonely genius is less than the collected wits of a team of dedicated, but more mundane scientists. I was about to write ‘the more the merrier’, but success is likely more of an asymptotic curve, or a quadratic function, than a linear regression. Single-authored papers are rare, at least in my disease biology corner of academia. Therefore, with time, your crew of past and present co-authors will grow into an entangled web. Admittedly, the size of the party can touch upon the hilarious – for instance the human genome paper had >2,900 authors, and the recent Higg’s Boson paper a staggering 3,171 authors.

So who do we write papers with? We like to think it is because of academic brilliance (your own, and that of your co-authors), but in reality it is a combination of things, including chance, geography, habit, and perhaps most importantly because you like your friends. Regrettably, at a structural level, it may also depend on your gender.

I would like to introduce another criterion: co-author vineyards! Akin to ‘dance your PhD‘ we should ask whether or not we could ‘drink our research paper‘!

My first (and so far only) example is Vladimir Grosbois from CIRAD, Montpellier, France. Not only is he a great colleague and friend, his surname is also (him unknowingly) part of the brand of a very nice French wine: Famille Amirault Grosbois, Les Caillotes, 2012. I drank this Cabernet franc wine last weekend, and I really recommend it. A structured and elegant red wine, which according to the professionals “is a young wine with tones of black currants, plums, violets, mint and fresh herbs.” In Sweden you can buy it for 99 kr in well-stocked Systembolaget stores.

As Dr Grosbois (the researcher) is an epidemiologist, expert in capture-mark-recapture analyses, I think I need to drink-and-redrink this wine too! And I need to find out whether my other co-authors are drinkable. Or, if not, approaching new research collaborators based on their vineyard surnames! And in all fairness, I am willing to extend this to beer, whiskey and other beverages too!

Cheers!

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