Monday, August 11, 2014


A good way to speed up the writing of scientific publications is the use of boilerplate.  People have mixed feelings about this practice.  When I was doing plasma physics boilerplate might include:

1. a diagram of the experimental machine
2. a table of typical operating parameters/conditions
3. a paragraph or two describing the device and its operation
4. a paragraph or two describing the plasma diagnostics used

These would change from one publication to the next only if the device or values really did change or if one could in some way improve the boilerplate.

I have had one or two people criticize this practice as somehow "cheating."  I disagree completely.  If one can refer to an earlier paper to present such information fine, dispense with the boilerplate.  But to the extent that a given publication is to be selfcontained then boilerplate may actually serve as quality control.  (Again, so long as it is kept current.)

Most plasma fusion work will at least have a diagram of the machine and a paragraph describing it.  The cost of such machines is so high that they and their descriptions will not be changing from one paper to the next.

If, for some reason, one were to do the same experiment over and over but with a different fill gas, lets say, each publication might then be much like the one before it.  I know of people who do spectroscopic work (not plasma physics) where this has been common.

I've known a number of scientists who would create a talk/presentation by selecting slides from a collection they had assembled (supplemented by any new results recently obtained).
It is not cheating to work smart.

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