Response to Reviewers

"Le Pouce" au Pompidou #pompidou #César_Baldaccini

It is human nature to feel uncomfortable receiving critics. So it is normal to feel uncomfortable receiving unexpected response from reviewers to a manuscript. However, it is more important to remind that reviewers are busy researchers who agree to spend time and effort to critic the work in their hand. And almost all of them do it for free.

The right attitude of the authors is to receive critics of reviewers with humility and gratitude. If the critics are done in a cordial and professional manner, the authors need to respond also in a professional manner, agreeing when the reviewers’ points are the right critics and arguing when the authors think that their points of view worth being reconsidered.

Time to time, there are lazy reviewers who gratuitously critic without presenting any arguments and without showing no alternatives/suggestions. It is then fair to respond, in an cordial manner, that laziness plays no part in the reviewing process. If one accepts to review, she/he agrees to be professional. And in such a case, it is extremely important to make clear to editors the poor quality of the comments.

Social distancing in Santa Barbara, California

Californian sunset

It has been a strange time, an experience of a lifetime. Two months into the lock-down, some people are still trying to make sense of it, while it is totally clear for some others. Kids living in Isla Vista are following well the social distancing guideline, there is no outbreak in this community which makes life easier because people can go out running and enjoying the weather. As for Santa Barbara County as a whole, the situation is also under control, it is still possible to visit the mountain and go hiking. Flowers are beautifully blooming in these sunny spring days.

Californian flower II

Until the lock-down, I hadn’t had a break for a while, and hadn’t had time to think. The lock-down period has provided a good rest to refresh the mind for new research ideas. But most importantly, as I believe that our time is wonderful to be alive, technology-wise, so, first, try to be alive.

Advice to a prospective PhD student (in Vietnamese)

Biology-Materials interface

Anh thấy có thể nhìn việc nghiên cứu vật lý theo hai kiểu một là phát hiện (discover), hai là phát minh (invent). Anh thấy thì phần lớn những gì có thể phát hiện ra được để dùng trong cuộc sống này đã hòm hòm, phương trình sóng của Maxwell, thuyết lượng tử và thuyết tương đối đã được hoàn tất từ lâu. Ngay cả những phát hiện gần đây thì phần lớn là phát hiện ra hiện tượng mới, rồi dùng những lý thuyết cũ để giải thích, với các điều kiện biên và các hệ phương trình khác nhau.

[..] Thế kỉ này, và thế hệ của anh em mình, anh nghĩ là thế hệ của các phát minh. Tên thường gọi là công nghệ. Tạo ra một cái chưa hoàn toàn có là một điều anh thấy rất hứng thú, từ lâu rồi. […] Làm về công nghệ vật liệu thì cần nhiều tay chân, thí nghiệm nhiều vì thỉnh thoảng phải thử sai; nhưng cũng cần nền vững và […] cần đến toán. Nhưng mục tiêu luôn là phát minh ra cái gì đó mới, và là người đầu tiên làm được việc đấy. Không chỉ là đi tìm vật liệu mới, mà còn là đi tìm các cách làm mới, hoặc đi tìm những ứng dụng mới.[…] Nếu em muốn phát hiện hiện tượng mới, thì anh thấy khoa sinh học, hoặc công nghệ sinh (bio-engineering) cũng là một ngày rất thú vị. Vấn đề của sinh là hệ thống phức tạp, không thể đi từ first principal như vật lý, nên phải quan sát nhiều. Hiện nay và sau đây vài năm có cuộc cách mạng lớn về y sinh (bio-medical) đơn cử như tất cả các loại implant sẽ thay bằng vật liệu mềm. […]

[…] Thế càng không phải sợ sự lạc hậu[…] Thật ra cái gì cũng học được. Bây giờ chắc chỉ cần 2, 3 năm tập trung là được gọi là chuyên sâu rồi (expert). Xét ra, cuộc đời làm việc 40 năm, chỉ 3, 4 năm formation thì cũng chưa đáng mấy.

Cafe đen đá and souvenirs of Tsukuba

Japan charm

Drinking a cafe đen đá in a hot autumn day of Santa Barbara brought me nice souvenirs of the sweet taste of a cool canned coffee from a vending machine in NIMS, Japan, summer 2011. It was there in NIMS that I converted into a “pratiquant du café”. I used to see anh Nam and Jesse drinking their coffee after lunch. Anh Nam, a Viet-kieu, always drunk his black coffee with ice, ‘a very Vietnamese habit’ he told me.

Tsukuba trip for me was an incredible experience. I went there just right after the big Earth quake of 2011 and the terrible Fukushima incident. Tsukuba is not very far from Fukushima. My trip was delayed by a month because of the incident, and when I arrived, a lot of foreigners had already repatriated. One notable exception is a small group of English who did not care much about the risk of staying, and who joked that the British government did not care about them anyway. The fact that I still went to Tsukuba in spite of the fear of a second Chernobyl , made me a bit special among my friends back in Paris and my family in Vietnam, but not at all among the people in the city. It is funny how local people live normally through an event seemingly so dreadful from outside, as if the magnitude of the shock increases exponentially with the travel distance away from the news. I had another chance to experience this phenomenon with the bombing of Boston in 2013, but that would be for another post.

Japanese kids

Japanese people, at least the ones I had chance to meet, are the most gentle and the most humble among all human beings I have met so far. This statement would cause disagreement even from some of my Japanese friends. I, however, stands on my conclusion. I was just incredibly lucky maybe, but our perception of life comes from our experience, and once an idea is forged, it is very difficult to change.

In Japan, I learnt that my first name was equivalent to a Matsu, and I was in a same office with a part-time partly-retired researcher named Matsui. Therefore, I already felt at home. My supervisor was the most hard working person I had ever known at this point, he worked in the weekdays in Tsukuba and slept in the weekend in Yokohama, as far as I recalled. Apparently in Japan, subordinates were supposed to leave office after their boss, or they would not be well regarded, I wonder how badly they thought about me during the whole time I was there.

In Japan, I also met a nice family of anh Chung, a big brother, from whom I learnt the importance of having a strong foundation at home, with a happy and loving family. I was still in the world-traveling mode, still in the search for the purpose of life, still in the search for the feeling of being fulfilled, and his family was a great example of what I was looking for. At least, I knew that the state of fulfillment existed out there.

Nature Frame

The cafe đen đá in this afternoon, for me has the same effect of a madeleine for Proust. Life is an adventure, and all you need is love.