BJKS Podcast

74. Moin Syed: Glorious PNAS, editing a journal, and masterful procrastination

August 11, 2023
74. Moin Syed: Glorious PNAS, editing a journal, and masterful procrastination
BJKS Podcast
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BJKS Podcast
74. Moin Syed: Glorious PNAS, editing a journal, and masterful procrastination
Aug 11, 2023

Moin Syed is a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, where he studies identity and personality development. Our conversation focuses on his work in meta-science, especially the role of journals and editors in the scientific process.

BJKS Podcast is a podcast about neuroscience, psychology, and anything vaguely related, hosted by Benjamin James Kuper-Smith.

Support the show:

0:00:00: The silliness of prestige journals (especially PNAS)
0:18:45: Deep description are necessary for science and theory
0:29:43: Where should I submit my paper?
0:35:51: Why would one want to be an editor at a journal?
0:55:27: Cover letters
1:03:44: Should I sign my peer reviews?
1:13:03: A book/paper Moin thinks more people should read
1:19:23: Something Moin wishes he'd learnt earlier
1:29:22: Moin's advice to PhD students/postdocs

Podcast links

Moin's links

Ben's links

For Moin's blog posts on prestige journals, being an editor, etc. see link above for his Substack/blog
Gelman on Himmicanes:
Episodes w/ Chris Chambers ( and Mary-Elizabeth Sutherland (

Bem (1987). Writing the empirical journal article. The compleat academic: A practical guide for the beginning social scientist.
Cooper (1987). Conceptualizing research on adolescent development in the family: Four root metaphors. Journal of Adolescent Research.
Crüwell, ... (2023). What’s in a badge? A computational reproducibility investigation... Psychological Science.
DeYoung (2015). Cybernetic big five theory. Journal of research in personality.
Dougherty & Horne (2022). Citation counts and journal impact factors do not capture ... Royal Society Open Science.
Forestier, ... (2022). From ego depletion to self-control fatigue: A review of criticisms along with new perspectives for the investigation and replication of a multicomponent phenomenon. Motivation Science.
Hagger, ... (2016). A multilab preregistered replication of the ego-depletion effect. Perspectives on Psychological Science.
Jung, ... (2014). Female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Palminteri (2023, February 26). How to prepare a rebuttal letter: Some advice from a scientist, reviewer and editor.
Pepper (1942). World hypotheses: A study in evidence. Univ of California Press.
Rozin (2001). Social psychology and science: Some lessons from Solomon Asch. Personality and Social Psychology Review.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Moin Syed is a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, where he studies identity and personality development. Our conversation focuses on his work in meta-science, especially the role of journals and editors in the scientific process.

BJKS Podcast is a podcast about neuroscience, psychology, and anything vaguely related, hosted by Benjamin James Kuper-Smith.

Support the show:

0:00:00: The silliness of prestige journals (especially PNAS)
0:18:45: Deep description are necessary for science and theory
0:29:43: Where should I submit my paper?
0:35:51: Why would one want to be an editor at a journal?
0:55:27: Cover letters
1:03:44: Should I sign my peer reviews?
1:13:03: A book/paper Moin thinks more people should read
1:19:23: Something Moin wishes he'd learnt earlier
1:29:22: Moin's advice to PhD students/postdocs

Podcast links

Moin's links

Ben's links

For Moin's blog posts on prestige journals, being an editor, etc. see link above for his Substack/blog
Gelman on Himmicanes:
Episodes w/ Chris Chambers ( and Mary-Elizabeth Sutherland (

Bem (1987). Writing the empirical journal article. The compleat academic: A practical guide for the beginning social scientist.
Cooper (1987). Conceptualizing research on adolescent development in the family: Four root metaphors. Journal of Adolescent Research.
Crüwell, ... (2023). What’s in a badge? A computational reproducibility investigation... Psychological Science.
DeYoung (2015). Cybernetic big five theory. Journal of research in personality.
Dougherty & Horne (2022). Citation counts and journal impact factors do not capture ... Royal Society Open Science.
Forestier, ... (2022). From ego depletion to self-control fatigue: A review of criticisms along with new perspectives for the investigation and replication of a multicomponent phenomenon. Motivation Science.
Hagger, ... (2016). A multilab preregistered replication of the ego-depletion effect. Perspectives on Psychological Science.
Jung, ... (2014). Female hurricanes are deadlier than male hurricanes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Palminteri (2023, February 26). How to prepare a rebuttal letter: Some advice from a scientist, reviewer and editor.
Pepper (1942). World hypotheses: A study in evidence. Univ of California Press.
Rozin (2001). Social psychology and science: Some lessons from Solomon Asch. Personality and Social Psychology Review.

[This is an automated transcript with many errors]

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: [00:00:00] I guess we can, uh, start with, we can get straight into it and start with, with the first question, which is, what's your favorite journal and why Is it PNAS? 

Moin Syed: Oh man. What's my favorite journal? Okay. I didn't expect you to ask, ask the question that way. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: No, you don't have to answer. What's your favorite journal? This is just a start to basically, uh, introduce your CK what, whatever it's called, newsletter, article, um, about why PNAS is not a good journal. 

Moin Syed: I mean, PNAS is is that is the type of journal that every time I see a paper being widely disseminated and I, and I groan at it, I see that it's in that journal. Right. It's not something I, I don't get table of contents alerts for that journal. I don't regularly read that journal. So it's only when someone brings a paper to my attention that I know anything about that, and it's always just the most. 

Either the, the most ridiculous [00:01:00] kind of thing or, um, something that, I don't know, there's something really irritating about the kind of work that's published in that journal. And, and I think historically, um, you know, it's the what has been published in that journal for psychology has changed over time. 

It used to be like the really kind of splashy, outlandish social psychology kind of papers, um, that have not fared well during the replication crisis. So like the, the famous Himmicanes, um, article for example, was published, um, in that article.  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: So, which one not that actually doesn't have 


Moin Syed: Himmicanes? If you're, uh, a regular reader of Andrew Gelman's blog, um, he often makes reference to Hemic Kanes. 

So this was a, a paper, I don't remember. It was published sometime in the two thousands, um, that suggested that hurricanes that were named after women. People responded differently to hurricanes named after women versus ones that were named after men because they perceived them to be less serious. Um, so there was, they were less likely to evacuate [00:02:00] and take security precau precautions. 

Um, if it was named hurricane, um, Julia versus named Hurricane John, that was the, the base of the paper. And you know, on its face that. Is pretty implausible. You know, it's unlikely that that's actually going to be true. And then as soon as you look at the actual details of the article, you can see that it's just clearly, plainly, statistically methodologically, deeply flawed. 

And so that, that, that paper's kind of become a poster child, I think for the problems with, with P N S P N A S or Ps as some people like to call it, um, which makes people uncomfortable. But it really fits well because it's that, you know, people say they have p n s envy, um, fits well with the f Floridian penis Envy, which one of my favorite phrases is Physics Envy, which is also related to that. 

You know, that in psychology and related sciences, we have this, this deep feeling of scientism that we want to be treated very seriously. We want to believe that we're doing serious rigorous science. And so what we do a lot [00:03:00] of times is we sort of play that role, we act up that role. So we hide behind our statistics and we hide behind some aspects of our methodology. 

And we, we, um, We like to claim that we're isolating specific, unique causal processes, you know, all in this attempt to get, um, greater recognition and validation from other scientists, from funders, from the society and so on. And well, that's a whole other topic we can, we can discuss, but the kind of content that you see in P N E S is, is related to that and the journal itself. 

Why that journal? I mean that the journal isn't unique really in publishing that kind of work, right. That kind of stuff shows up in, in, in all journals. But one of the particularly irritating parts of P N A S is the contributed track that they have. So members of the National Academy of Sciences can submit a certain number of articles per year directly to the journal and they get to choose their own reviewers, um, for those articles. 

Right, which. [00:04:00] Is obviously not the way it typically works and ev whenever people find out that this is the case, their mind is just blown. Um, for fortunately, they do indicate this on the article whether it was a direct submission or contributed. And so you can, you can see this, I think the, the most recent data we have is from 2013, maybe it was, I can't remember now exactly, it's in, it's in the blog post, but indicated that like over 90% of these contributed submissions are accepted. 

So basically it's a free publication outlet for the elite within the sciences in a journal that's considered to be extremely prestigious. And oddly, they stopped publishing their, um, the percentage acceptance rates on the contributed track. I think, uh, realizing that that was probably not such a great idea, but those datas do still live on from, from many years ago. 

But I think for me, P N E S is really, it's not even about the journal per se, it's more of like an idea, right? It's, it's the idea of the prestige or Vanity Journal as we like to say, that what's, what's more important is that the work [00:05:00] is in that journal versus what the work is per se. Right? That the value is truly, that it's in that outlet regardless of whatever the actual value of scientific merit of the work is. 

That's sort of secondary to the fact that it's in P N E S, that it's in science, that it's in nature, right? These, that's why they're vanity journals. They, they make us look good. They lead to material rewards. Um, I think it, it really just embodies all that is wrong with our scientific process and publishing system that we have today. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I guess, yeah, P N A S is special in the sense that they do have this, the, what, what's it called? The track called again, I've forgotten now. Contributed track. Yeah. Yeah. I mean I, I've seen some, I mean, as you said, like it's kind of almost endearing that they actually write it on the paper when it's so, as you said, like, you know, editor is that person and submitted by this person, and then it's also like last author of that paper, but, oh yeah, as you, I mean, as you said, obviously the problem is much larger than just this one journal. 


Moin Syed: Yeah, absolutely. It's, I don't, I I both do [00:06:00] mean and don't mean to pick on that particular 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, by the way, is, do you know whether there's any, I mean, I remember before I even started my masters, I heard about how ridiculous that was. Uh, do you know whether there's any attempt or like either they trying to change that or they just gonna continue with, uh, 

Moin Syed: I haven't heard anything about that. Um, I. I think that the National Academy of Sciences thinks it's perfectly reasonable to allow their member, you know, their members are supposedly the elite, you know, within the science and though, so they've earned the right to be able to publish in the journal that's associated with the society. 

And on one hand I think that that's reasonable. Right? So I think if you think about the role of journals as associated with scholarly societies, um, I kind of understand that there could be a closer relationship there that if you're a part of this society, you have special access to this journal. I don't have a problem with that general idea, but I have a problem when we have this prestige [00:07:00] hierarchy of journals where being able to publish in that journal. 

Then leads to some other outcome, positive outcomes, then it becomes a problem, right? If we didn't have this prestige hierarchy, then it wouldn't matter so much. But because we do, and P N E S is towards the top of that hierarchy, that means that members who, the individuals who have special access to that journal can use that to advance not only their careers, but careers of those, um, who they wanna promote, their students, their friends, whatever it is. 

And so it makes the, the unequal system just even more so, so that, that's where it's a problem, right? 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: like in a sense, I mean, like I've, I've, uh, I've seen it with one person who worked in the lab of someone who, if you look at their publication record, is, I didn't need to, it's quite clear that this person is a member of the National Academy of Science. 'cause half of their papers aren't p a s or something like that. 

And, um, you, 

Moin Syed: you get two submissions a year or something like that, 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah, and I think, but it's, I, I guess it's kind of the criticism. They also then that, because it's a [00:08:00] supposedly prestigious journal, the people have an additional incentive to be working in that lab because, you know, you have a fairly high chance of getting into top journal, even if the science isn't that great. 

Moin Syed: Yeah, I mean the, the opening anecdote that I, um, reported in the blog post was that kind of situation where it was, um, I don't think it was, well, so even if it's not a direct or a, sorry, a contributed submission, if you're a member of N A S and you're submitting even through the direct process to P N A S, I have no data on this, but I'm gonna speculate. 

You have a reasonably good chance of being, of getting your work published. And that was a situation with, um, the article that I was referencing, um, in the opening anecdote. And in that one, it was a pre-registered study, and that's where I looked as everyone should actually looked at the pre-registration, which unfortunately not enough folks do. 

And I, I know that a not, not enough people do, because often when I'm reviewing. Articles that indicate that they're pre-registered. I'm the only one, only reviewer who references the [00:09:00] preregistration. And especially if it's not actually accessible, I will mention that and no other reviewers mention that. 

So anyway, you should always look at the preregistration and it was really shocking to see what was pre-registered and what was actually reported in the paper. And they really, there was almost no resemblance between the two, so there was just complete deviation from the preregistration, which is fine if you're transparent about it, right? 

You need to disclose that. And it wasn't disclosed at all, and it was indicated. This is a preregistered study, which for some people, you know, gives it extra weight or extra value or extra credibility, which it shouldn't. And when you look under the hood, you see that this is just a big hot mess. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, that's, I think it's the best combination mentioning in the abstract that is preregistered and then, uh, just like not sticking to it at all. Yeah. 

Moin Syed: Yeah, there's all kinds of this pre-registration hacking that goes on. You know, I'm a huge proponent of pre-registration, but, um, you know, it has been misused quite a bit and it's the, it, it doesn't, [00:10:00] it doesn't give you. Credibility automatically. Right? Just because it's pre-registered, that doesn't mean anything. 

You have to actually, the whole point of pre-registration is that other people us can actually go in and take a look and see, you know, what did you specify ahead of time and how did you deviate? And do I, do I do I interpret those deviations as credible, and that's something that just individual readers or assessors have to determine. 

But it's the fact that we can actually make those assessments. Um, not that preregistration is a stamp of approval or a stamp of quality or anything like that, which is unfortunately literally what is happening because of badges. Right. Literal, literally a stamp of approval.  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. Yeah.  

Moin Syed: Uh, you know, I've never been a fan of badges for that reason. 

Same with open data. You probably heard some of these stories with open data badges,  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: There was a study about it, right? That that. 

Moin Syed: Yeah. As in psych science led by, um, Sophia Reau about that, that a lot of the open data are not actually open and that were published in psych science. I think it was like half of the data were available. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. [00:11:00] Um, by the way, do you, as, as you said, like the, the argument is broader than P N E S and more about vanity journals or the idea that certain journals are more prestigious than others. Isn't there Samaritan that, I mean, I feel like usually it says, I don't know. I mean, like part of me does think like if you see a paper in nature, there's a chance it might be better than one assigned reports, for example, or 

Moin Syed: Okay, so on what basis do you think it might be, like, why? Why do you think a paper in nature might be better than a paper 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: mean, one thing is that, um, one reason is that the authors themself, I think most people would only submit something to nature if they really think this is their best work. Would be my assumption. Maybe there's exceptions, but I think most people wouldn't just submit anything. They're just like, oh, let's see. 


Moin Syed: Okay, so how do you define best work 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: whatever you think 

Moin Syed: now? Now I'm the interviewer, Ben. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Um, it's, [00:12:00] this is to some extent, a little bit naive, but I think it's what most, what people would think is the kind of the most exciting stuff they did. The thing that really makes 'em think the most, that maybe this is obviously the problem, the most surprising also, um, 

Moin Syed: you're getting there now. Exactly. So it's the prob what I mean, what what I was trying to get at by asking the question, what do you mean by best work is that we define best work based on the pattern of findings, right? It's based on the results. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: to some 


Moin Syed: for, nature is the results. What matters for P N E S is the results. 

If you have an outstandingly design study that's one of the most rigorous studies out there and you have spectacularly null results, you're gonna have a really tough time publishing that paper in nature. Right. I know you talked to Chris Chambers, so you know about registered reports, right? I mean, this is the whole issue with registered reports is shifting the reward from. 

The nature of the findings to the [00:13:00] quality of the conceptualization and design. And as you said, I think I, I do, I agree with you that I think the prestige journals and not just these upper echelon vanity ones like Nature Science, P N E S, but also whatever the top journals are in your subfield. So, you know, I'm, uh, developmental psychologist, um, primarily, and so, you know, there's journal child Development, there's journal developmental psychology, and I'm also, I work in personality psychology. 

There's the journal Journal Personality and Social Psychology. Right? These are top journals in the sub fields. These have the same kind of problem. They do tend to publish what are interesting or thought provoking studies, right? It's interesting work that tends to be the case. Um, it's just that it often is not the most methodologically rigorous work. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: That's one thing that I would think that, I think like maybe this is just me, um, from a kind of idealistic perspective, but I also feel like I wouldn't submit something to nature if I wasn't very sure it was true. 

Moin Syed: Yeah. [00:14:00] I mean, I'm, I'm glad that you think that for you. Yeah, that's great. I also feel like I would hopefully do that. Right. But I think we know, we know from plenty of metas scientific work that, I mean, we don't know what individuals are thinking, right? We don't know. I, you know, I, I try to stay away from getting into people's internal motivations because I don't have access to that information. 

But we know that people, the work that people are submitting to those top journals is not the highest quality work. I mean, this is the thing. So there, there's basically, there's two ways in which we know generally what it means for a journal to be good or top journal. One of course is impact factor. 

That's used heavily throughout the field. There's so many studies now on empirical correlates of impact factor, and they all indicate either no association or a negative association, right? So impact factor itself is not an indicator of study quality. And part of the problem is [00:15:00] that's a journal level metric that gets applied at the article level, which it was never intended to do, right? 

So any given article within a journal has really no relation to that overall impact factor. So that's one problem is that we, so one way we know what's a prestigious journal is impact factor. The other way we know is because people tell us, right? They say we're socialized into it. This is, these are good journals, these are less good journals, this one's better than that, right? 

Those are the indicators for how we, how we know what a good journal is. And I think there's really, that's also obviously going to be extremely flawed. You know, it's just based on personal judgments and ideas and biases and also, you know, these things have changed over time. So it's received knowledge and a flawed metric is how we determine what the prestige hierarchy is, rather than it based on what the actual quality of the article itself is. 

Right. We don't use that information. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Oh, you have to actually read the 


Moin Syed: impact factor is based on citation. Yeah. Read the paper,  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: [00:16:00] That's work. I'm not gonna do that. 

Moin Syed: I mean, yeah, it's work, but that's how you know, you know, is this a good paper? Read the paper. That's how you know whether or not it's a good paper. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: So what does it, does it tell you anything If you see that some, like let's say you see someone has, you know, published in the supposedly prestigious journal and someone hasn't, does it tell you anything other than that? They're good at that particular game? 

Moin Syed: Not on its own. If I only  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. If you just have that, like you just do a publication list. 

Moin Syed: It tells me that they know something about how to play the game. Yep. And it tells me that information. The other thing it tells me, and this is what I, what I actually 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Also, they're trying to play the 

game. That's another thing.  

Moin Syed: they're trying to play the game. Yeah. I mean, part, there's so much randomness in it. 

You could have someone with a paper in nature and someone with a paper in Cortex, for example. And the Cortex paper, they probably submitted to Nature First, but it was rejected. That process of review itself is quite random. Um, [00:17:00] and based on a lot of factors that are far outside. The quality of the paper itself depends on who your action editor is. 

It depends on who your reviewers are. It depends on the authorship team and, and whether you're a willing and able to provide a rebuttal or an appeal to a rejection decision. I mean, there's all these other factors that kind of go on. It's hard to say, but, um, I, I do think. It tells. So impact factor for me sort of tracks with what I consider, um, like the breadth of the audience that you're interested in. 

And that should be who should be interested in your paper. So the idea is of if you're publishing in in nature, that means that that paper should be broadly of interest to a wide variety of scientists. You know, at least within, you know, most psych, if it's a psychology paper, most psychologists should probably be interested in it in some way if it's being published in nature. 

However, um, there's a journal in my extreme [00:18:00] subfield called Identity, very specific. It's about identity development. If I'm publishing in there, you know, a cognitive neuroscience scientist is probably not gonna be so interested in that paper. Right. It's a niche audience. It's for a narrow audience, right? 

So I think Impact Factor does track a little bit with audience about how many people are generally going to be interested in this topic. And so if I see people publishing a lot in these top journals, that tells me that they, they see their work as being broadly of interest to folks and that others are seeing that also. 

Um, it doesn't tell me about the quality of the work, but it tells me about sort of, yeah, how, how relevant it is or how many, how many people it is relevant. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: It actually kind of matches quite well with what, um, Mary Elizabeth Sutherland said when I interviewed her for the podcast. So she's senior editor of Behavioral Science at Nature and she, I asked her what the difference was between Nature, nature Communications and Scientific Reports [00:19:00] and to. I mean, this is like more than a year ago, but to briefly paraphrase it, hopefully correctly, is that nature, yeah, as you said, is supposed to appeal to many different people. 

And I think she also said that they also usually want an explanation for an effect that they have, whereas for example, in nature communications, if you just have a cool effect, that might be enough. But for nature, you kind of wanna go a step beyond and actually explain why this thing 

Moin Syed: This is the physics envy that we, we want to see explanations, we want causal explanations for, even for phenomenon we don't fully understand. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: But isn't that just a general goal of any knowledge inquiry? 

Moin Syed: It's one. It's one step. So it's one part of it, and certainly it's a, it's a crucial part of the scientific process to understand explanations and causal explanations. But a preliminary step is to have deep descriptions, right? To really understand the phenomenon that we're trying to explain associations between or origins of or whatever. 

And we really devalue that work quite a bit. You can [00:20:00] find anyone who's submitted a decent number of papers for publication probably has had at least one rejection because the paper was too descriptive or only descriptive or merely descriptive. Right? It's basically what you were just saying, right? If it's a more descriptive paper, it goes in scientific reports. 

But deep description is really necessary for us to be able to have strong explanations, right? We need to do more of that descriptive work. And one of the big problems that we see throughout, um, psychology, especially in the area of social personality, individual differences, um, cultural, developmental, there's just not enough of that strong description, measurement, development, um, really those, those building blocks, those initial components that you have to have in order to build strong explanations. 

If you can't describe your constructs, then your explanations are essentially meaningless, right? And I always reference, um, the work on ego depletion and social [00:21:00] psychology as sort of the classic example of this, right? So ego depletion, without getting too much into it, I don't know how familiar you're with it. 

Some, some listeners would 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I mean, I think the, yeah, sorry. 

Okay. I mean, I guess my, my brief summary of what I remember is, is that it was pretty big deal that this, this idea that the more decisions you make, the less, um, capable you are of, uh, using, uh, um, what's the word? Like, um, of controlling yourself, that kind of thing. Right. 

Moin Syed: Yeah, it's like the idea of self-control is a limited resource, right? So if you have to, if you've to exert self-control, too much self-control in one context, then it affects  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yes. And then I think I read the book about that. That came out at some point. I can't remember. Um, and then I think a few years later, lots of papers came out saying this doesn't replicate. And I think the initial authors might have gone back and forth on this a little bit, but 

Moin Syed: Yeah, there was a big exchange in the mid 2010s around this. I mean, what it's not even really, doesn't even matter what it, what the effect was per se. Right? That's not really the point. The [00:22:00] point is there were hundreds of studies supported by a meta-analysis suggesting that there was a reliable and robust and, you know, very strong, important effect of ego depletion. 

That this is something that cannot be ignored. And then there was a bit of back and forth of re analyses. I mean, it turns out there was huge publication bias that was leading to this inflated effect, other meta-analysis suggesting that there, there was no effect whatsoever. Registered reports and registered replication reports, uh, multi lab studies, all suggesting that there's basically no effect. 

Um, but the point is it was never really clear what exactly ego depletion was in the first place. Right. That, that was the big issue. There was never a lot of strong, rigorous, descriptive, observational work on what do we mean by ego depletion? What are its dimensions? How do we measure it? Um, all these different aspects we're just skipped over. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: [00:23:00] So can you, can we maybe use Yeah. This as an example? Like what was missing for you? Like, um, I mean, again, I'm not super familiar with this, but I, I didn't, okay. I was a bit surprised by that because I thought like it was a relatively straightforward Yeah. You, you make decisions where you have to use willpower and the more you do that, the less you can do it. 

Uh, so what, what's kind of missing from that, from the individual aspects you just mentioned? 

Moin Syed: Um, well, there's a, there's a number of different, you can break down sort of each components in the cycle. There's this great paper by, um, okay, I blanked on the name,  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Uh, you can just send, uh, send 'em to me afterwards. I'll put, I always put the descriptions, uh, papers and that kinda stuff in the, in the description. 

Moin Syed: I can actually find it real quick too, since you can edit this out. Um, okay. So as a, as an example of the descriptive work that was not being done, uh, or really had been skipped over with the ego depletion work, um, can be seen in this great article by CY four Steer, might be mispronouncing the name, um, but it's a really nice paper breaking down ego depletion as a psychological construct and all the different [00:24:00] dimensions that you need to be thinking about. 

So you can, and then how to measure each of those dimensions. So when we think about. First of all, they said, let's reframe ego depletion, because that's sort of a, it's a vague term. Um, also has roots in psychoanalytic theory that turns some people off. Um, they use the word ego, although personally I'm fine with that. 

So they said, well, let's called self-control fatigue, because that's a more clear description of what we're actually talking about. And if we start thinking about what self-control fatigue is, we break it down into different components of the capacity for self-control, um, including our attentional resources, um, our willingness to engage, like our motivational components, right? 

There's just different aspects to it that we can break down and that we actually have to measure all of these. Individually to truly understand this process of self-control fatigue. We can't just have people crossing out the letter r from a paragraph and say, this is now our self-control task. That's measuring ego depletion, which is essentially what was being done in a lot of that past research. 

So I was [00:25:00] using, um, to, to say it more succinctly, there were a number of unvalidated tasks that were supposedly tapping into the psychological construct of ego depletion. But we didn't even know because the, the construct was not well-defined. It was not even clear that this measure was tapping into any aspects of that construct. 

So an example of where I think they, this has been done really well to give another example, is in personality trait research. So there's been extensive work on the personality trait hierarchy. Most people are familiar with the big five traits, but you, the big five traits just sit at one level, the hierarchy. 

You can go higher, you can go lower, you know, you can broader traits or more specific traits. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: What's an even broader construct than just five? 

Moin Syed: Yeah, there's, they're the meta traits and there, there are different ways of thinking about these, but within the five factor framework, the meta traits of plasticity and stability, um, so stability is the shared variance of conscientiousness, agreeableness, and low neuroticism and plasticity is the shared vari [00:26:00] variance of openness and extroversion. 

So generally, do you have kind of a, a more dynamic exploration oriented personality, which is plasticity or are you more about stable, reliable environments, more control oriented, that stability? So that's sort of the big two meta traits. Um, and then you have the five, and you can break the five into 10. 

You can bring the 10 down into some unknown level, uh, number of. Facets and the facets can be broken down into what are called nuances, right? So there's all these different components, and this is, we know about this and let's say this isn't completely settled, right? There's still a lot of debate about the different, the way the factors organize themselves and whatnot. 

But this is all descriptive work. Trying to understand the associations between a large number of traits by conducting a number of studies, looking at the core inter correlations of the traits, um, how they're organized. You can see this also with the high top, um, hierarchical taxonomy as psychopathology, uh, model that's trying to do this as an alternative to, um, the D ss m [00:27:00] to try to be, uh, to take a more dimensional approach and understand how different symptoms are clustered and organized in a broader conceptual space. 

This is fundamental descriptive work that we really need to be doing if we want to be able to have strong explanations. If we want to be able to actually use our psychological knowledge and apply it in real world settings, we need to have a strong understanding of it. And this is just something that we haven't done historically. 

And going back to this whole, where this whole tirade came from, it's very difficult to publish, traditionally difficult to publish this kind of work in top journals. I think it's getting easier, but it's still, it's not what, um, most journals are looking to publish. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, so in that sense, the, the papers that come out in high impact journals are often less descriptive, almost. I mean, all those. 

Moin Syed: Yeah, no, that, I mean, there's no question about that. I think, and they're, they're very clear about that. And, and I don't, that's [00:28:00] not necessarily a problem because they're clear about, again, journals should have their own scope and their remit, otherwise, what's the point of having journals? Right. Each journal have its own area of focus and the top journals want to publish work that Advances Theory provides, provides novel insights. 

That's great. We should have journals that do that. The problem is that there's a hierarchy, right? That's the core problem. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. It also, it also seems to me that if taking naive view and saying that this is kind of done and not gamed as much, et cetera, let's say that is the case, then it seems to me also that it's more a description of the field you are in, how advanced that is, how far you are towards having actual explanations rather than field still needing to figure out like what is the basic thing we're actually describing. 

So it's almost, yeah, more about the field than the actual individual piece of research. 

Moin Syed: Yeah. And I wish it was more descriptive of where the field actually was versus where it wants to be or thinks it  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah, I owe that even now. 

Moin Syed: [00:29:00] Again, I kind kinda keep saying this over and over again, but I think to me this is like a huge, this is a, a major issue and is actually one of the root causes of the replication crisis. 

And a lot of the problems, um, that we see is this desire to be. A serious, rigorous science. Right? It's the insecurity that psychology has about its status and its reliability that causes us to engage in behaviors that are maladaptive. And so we want to, we want, we want to believe that we're advancing theory and providing explanations and that we're moving towards predictions and that we can intervene and all these kinds of things. 

But then we just have, so we haven't done that foundational, observational and descriptive work. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. Um, slightly more practical question, how do you determine where to submit a paper? Do you, do you, have you, do you still submit a P n Ss, do you or any of the 

other journals?  

Moin Syed: I've never submitted anything to be, I don't think they'd ever wanna publish every, anything that 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: You mean they have an auto reply to your email [00:30:00] address or, 

Moin Syed: Yeah. Right. Just, I should just start sending everything there. It's. Eventually I have to take something right. Just harass them by sending all my work there. Uh, I would do that if the, uh, journal portal submission process wasn't such an absolute nightmare. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I've never tried. 

Moin Syed: Um, I'm, I haven't tried there. I mean,  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Oh, any, of them. Okay.  

Moin Syed: I've never experienced any one that isn't a total nightmare, I guess. Yeah, there's a couple. Some of the newer, um, open Act, diamond open access ones are a little 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I better say, I mean you, one of the articles we will probably get you later appeared in collaborative psychology where I also had a paper just accepted. I thought that was pretty smooth or 

things considered.  

Moin Syed: wonderful journey. Yeah. Easy to submit. A really nice process. Uh, collabora has a, emerged as one of my favorite outlets. Yeah. So how do I determine where to submit? Well, it depends on what type of work it is. So if, if it's a sole authored paper, Just me wrote something. I [00:31:00] actually, I don't think I've submitted such a thing to a journal in a really long time. 

I basically just post those as preprints and let them live there. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Because you're a tenured professor or 

Moin Syed: yeah, I mean, I'm tenured, fully promoted. I have nowhere, I have nothing left.  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: to gain from,  

Moin Syed: there's really no, I mean, yeah, I get, you know, maybe I'll get a, if I publish in what are perceived as top journals, maybe my annual merit pay will be a half a percent higher. 

You know, so there's really not, not a lot of motivation for me to be able to do it, uh, or to do it. And for me, um, having work available as a pre-print is not so different from it being published in a journal. It's still out there. People are accessing it, people are reading it, people cite it. People email me about the, the paper. 

You know, what, what is the benefit of me going through the review process? Um, my general feeling about the review process, by the way, as a author and as an a longtime editor, is that. Review, you know, general reviews generally [00:32:00] improve a paper a little bit, but not so much that I think the process is really worth it. 

I think, you know, we already know that the review process isn't great for catching errors and mistakes, right? It does, it doesn't serve that function. It might do that sometimes, right? Happens once in a while. Um, I don't know that I've ever had a pap a review as an author, so, you know, including like all the rejections and everything, I don't know. 

I've submitted hundreds of papers, right? I don't think I've ever had a reviewer, editor or reviewers that caught a mistake or an error or a fatal flaw in the way the data were analyzed, and I don't, I'm not saying that that's not a humble brag, right? It's not. It's not because. Wow, I'm such a kick-ass analyst. 

You know? Or quality control is so high, it's not right. Um, 'cause I think it's, it's been the case also as an editor. I've also, I don't think I've ever had a case where reviewers caught some kind of fatal [00:33:00] error that was critical for the interpretation of the results. I think that that's just not something that happens a lot in the review process. 

Generally what the review process does is help make a slightly tighter, more coherent paper. Right. So it's a little bit more well written usually. Although often there's some weird aspects duct tape to the side because you have to please a reviewer. Right. But generally speaking, I feel like, you know, papers are improved a little bit. 

So anyway, so if I'm doing work myself, I don't really feel the need to submit it to journals. I don't do that very much. If it's my student led work, I leave it up to them and we talk about it and I say, look, I. I'm trying to, if I'm publishing, publishing anything, I'm trying to either just put it as a pre-print or to prioritize open access journals, preferably diamond open access, but journals like collab that have, you know, journals that match my values. 

So journals like collab, they do have an article processing charge. They're not diamond open access, but they whole structure and approach fits with my values. [00:34:00] So I just sort of, I talk with, you know, my students or collaborators and say, you know, what are your values? What do you want to do? You know, what are the pros and cons of going traditional versus open access? 

And we sort of work it out from there. And then within that, then we think about, okay, well what, what is the appropriate audience for this work? And so that determines, you know, which journal we go to. The other determining factor, again, not for me, but for students and collaborators that I work with, is how they wanna position themselves. 

Most people encounter them in terms of their cv. Especially if they're applying for positions. And so, you know, they have a paper persona essentially, and reviewers, evaluators will look at the CV and see where has this person published as a way of determining what their professional identity is. So I try to talk to, to, to folks about, well, how do you want to be seen by others? 

Right? If you want people to see you as a personality psychologist, then you better publish in some personality journals. Doesn't mean everything has to be [00:35:00] there in personality journals, but, you know, I, I've advised students in the counseling psychology PhD program and the personality PhD program, and, but I'm a developmentalist myself. 

So I had one student who was in the personality program, but she really took a more developmental approach. So even though her PhD is in personality, she wanted to be. More of a developmentalist. So she was publishing more of her work in developmentally oriented journals that allowed her to get a developmental position when the time came. 

If she had been publishing in personality journals instead, it would've been really difficult for her to get a position in developmental because she would've been read as a personality psychologist, not as a developmental psychologist. So I try to have those kind of strategic discussions, um, uh, with people too, to try to figure out what makes sense for this kind of paper. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I see. Um, do, I'm just curious, just because you mentioned that slight hesitancy about the peer review process, um, and you had a, [00:36:00] uh, you had this, I think this was also on your CK that I saw at this, um, article called stickers from an, from being an editor or something like that. And I'm just curious, are you still, do you still do that? 

If so, why? Kind of, what's the Yeah. It, it's, it seems like you're not 

Moin Syed: I still serve as 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. That kind of thing. Yeah. It seems, or do you still do peer review, like all that kind of stuff? Like, um, I'm not entirely sure what the answer's gonna be to that now. 

Moin Syed: Okay. So, um, I am not currently an editor, but that's because, um, I had been doing it continuously for 10 years and I was ready for a break. I actually still work as a, what's called a recommender, um, for peer community and registered reports, um, which is a really exciting publishing initiative. We can talk more about that if you want to. 


Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah, for, I also briefly had the last 10 minutes or so with Chris Chambers, we talked about it. 

Moin Syed: okay. I'm sure. Yeah, he's the architect behind that. Uh, it's really, really neat initiative. But anyway, yeah, I just finished after being an [00:37:00] editor for 10 years, but the reason why I wanted to be an editor going back, I mean, this is, as a PhD student, I saw very clearly how much power and control editors have and. 

In most systems, most structural systems of any context you wanna talk about, there's a lot of distance between sort of everyday participants and those who have control. So it often is difficult for any in given individual to actually reach the top of the structure where they can make real impactful structural changes. 

Journal editing is one case where that distance is actually very small. It's relatively, relatively easy to become a journal editor because not that many people want to do it, right? So if you want, if you want to do it, it's a, it's a lot of work for not a lot of pay. Typically, most journals don't [00:38:00] give you a whole lot of money. 

Um, but it's a lot of work and most people just don't wanna do it. So it's not the kind of thing that they're interested in. But if you want to do it, it's not so difficult to position yourself to be able to do it. So as a PhD student, I saw a couple editors in developmental psychology, um, take control of journals. 

They became editors of journals and changed policies in a certain way. At that time, you know, I was trained to be a cultural developmental psychologist who's doing mixed methods research, and it's still true at this time, but especially then, um, it was very difficult to publish work with ethnic minorities and cultural psychology in the top developmental journals. 

It was very difficult to publish mixed methods or qualitative research in the top developmental journals. So these people, um, took over as Jeff Barnett and Cynthia Garcia. Cole took over these, a couple journals and they changed the policies. They said, you know what? We're welcoming this kind of work. And it really was just a matter of them becoming the editor and setting new policy. 

And I thought I [00:39:00] saw, okay, this is clearly how we can change the system, is by becoming an editor. Because everything that we do is based on what the journals will accept. Right. If nature all of a sudden said, okay, we're into qualitative research, you know, we'll publish, we wanna publish primarily qualitative research. 

People will start submitting qualitative stu people will start doing that work. People will start submitting those studies. Right. We respond to what the journals 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, I mean the best example is probably gonna be registered reports, right? Which nature's doing now. So that's going, that's a huge boost for that all. 

Moin Syed: Absolutely. Absolutely. So I saw that quite clearly. And, um, you know, I have someone who's kind of disillusioned with or had problems, at least with the scientific process from the very beginning of when I started. And so I thought, okay, this is something that I want to do. So I, I didn't, some people want to become editors because they want the power to lord over others, right? 

They want to be gatekeepers, they want to control the [00:40:00] system and, but keep it as it is. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: That's you. 

Moin Syed: I wanted to become, that's what most people are doing, right? I wanted to become an editor so that I could change the system. I. Um, and make reforms to improve our scientific process. And initially that was largely in terms of being more friendly and welcoming to diversity related research and diversity of methods. 

So qualitative and mixed methods work. But around that same time is when the replication crisis and open science movements started making waves. And so I saw, okay, well here's another place where editors can do a tremendous amount of work. Right? So, you know, you can, it depends on the journals, depends. So if it's a society sponsored journal, change is a lot more difficult because there'll be a publications committee that oversees decisions at the journal. 

But if it's a freestanding journal that's just published by, you know, Wiley or Sage or one of the big publishers, it's relatively easy to make changes to policy. They [00:41:00] don't care that much, as long as it's not, um, you know, gonna greatly decrease the number of submissions. But regardless, um, you know, the change that we've seen around pre-registration, data sharing register reports, that's all editor driven, right? 

It's up to individual editors to really initiate and make those changes. A lot of that, the why the editors make the changes is because of folks like Chris Chambers and others who lobby them and say, Hey, you should make these changes, right? So they're not all just doing it because they want to. And I've done a lot of that work too, um, which mostly fails by the way. 

Um, most are not interested in doing it. But as an editor myself, I was able to make those changes, right? So I can change that structure and get people to then engage in more rigorous open science, diversity related work, diversity of methods, create opportunities for people to publish that work. So between editing, being the head editor of a journal of [00:42:00] journals and editing special issues and. 

Consult. So the other thing, so the other related to that is because I have so much editorial experience, then other people actually listen to me. Right. If you don't have any editorial experience and you're saying, Hey, you should do registered reports,  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: What do you know?  

Moin Syed: you know, it's hard. Yeah, right. Exactly. But not only do I know about it, but I've initiated it or helped initiate it at five different journals, I think at this point. 

Right. So that really helps and gives some credibility to be able to make some change. So I see editing clearly as not a way to preserve the existing system of peer review and of gatekeeping and all of that, but as a way to actually make positive changes in the field and others. Chris has done this extensively. 

Samin Visier has, you know, done this at multiple journals. Um, you know, there are a number of these kind of quote activist editors who are, who are trying to make positive changes and all in the name of trying to open things up for folks, [00:43:00] right. To try to make. Science much more open, inclusive, and rigorous all at the same time. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: And was it kind of, was it worth it for you? Like the effort? Like in terms of like, did it w were you, I don't know, did you get as much done as you'd hoped to or was it kind of really slightly, um, yeah, at the end you're like, damn, I managed to get rich reports in after like five years of annoying people or, yeah. 

Moin Syed: I think it's, I think it was worth it. I mean, yeah, I think it was worth it. I think, you know, I was editing journal. My, the initial journal I was editing was Emerging Adulthood, which is a middling journal in developmental psychology. Right. I was able to initiate registered reports there. I then became editor, infant and Child Development, another middling journal, but I was able to fully make that like a, Open science friendly journal. 

Because of that though, then I was asked to lead the special section at child development, a top journal in the field focused on [00:44:00] introducing registered reports. Um, I was also then asked to consult for developmental psychology when Car Preez Edgar became editor to start initiate register reports there. 

Right? So by using, doing some of that grunt work for journals that people maybe didn't care about as much as I was saying earlier, provided some, some credibility and some experience to be able to make changes at these journals that actually have impacts on people's careers, right? So in developmental psychology in that subfield, if you have articles in child development and developmental psychology, that's really, really helpful for being able to get faculty positions right. 

And now both those journals are going to be accepting or are accepting registered reports. So I feel like, and you know, I'm not gonna claim full responsibility for that, but I played a pretty key role in making that happen. And so I feel like that's worth it. The other thing I'll say about editing and why it's worth it, because most days it really sucks, right? 

When you see your editorial queue, like you're like, [00:45:00] you're just way behind and you don't want to deal with these papers and authors are emailing you, wondering where their decision is reasonably regular basis. You get really nice emails from authors after a paper is accepted and they say, thank you for such a positive experience. 

I, you know, I'm really excited about this paper. You know, it means so much to me. And those little bits, right? They just are enough to keep you going. Getting that positive feedback. You say, okay, sometimes I'm actually doing some good, which can offset the angry emails that you get from the, from the desk reject or the 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Have you ever gotten a thank you letter from, or email from someone who you, you rejected? 

Moin Syed: Oh yeah, 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. So it's not just people who are like, thank you, you helped my career, but it's actually 

Moin Syed: no, I think if when it's a helpful rejection, so I think, uh, authors really appreciate fast and informative rejections. So, you know, some psychological science is a good example of this. I don't know if they still do this. I haven't submitted anything there in a long time, [00:46:00] but I submitted a paper there many years ago and it was dust rejected with absolutely no reason whatsoever. 

Provided it was just, we get many submissions and we can only submit, send some of these out for review. Yours wasn't one of them, just no information, which is, Uh, totally inappropriate and unacceptable to give no information whatsoever. And so, you know, I make sure whenever I'm desk rejecting any articles that I give a clear reason and suggestion for what they should be doing, you know, to improve the paper or, you know, what needs, why, why I'm rejecting it. 

And so people appreciate that. So I try to do it fast and try to be informative, right? So doing it within a couple days, if possible, um, versus couple months. Um, I mean, I, I, as an author, I appreciate it too. My fastest ever desk rejection was two hours, which is actually too fast, right? Because you, you just went through the process of navigating the submission portal and you're like, [00:47:00] celebrate, you know, we try to celebrate submissions in my research group, right? 

And then it comes right back. But you know, you're not wasting any 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I mean that's, that's one thing, I dunno maybe to, I dunno how much I can say about this, but to defense like science a little bit because, um, we have something under review there right now. They, it was quite quick actually. They were very, I mean, this was 

positive then, but they were fast and thought well done. 

But, but yeah. 


Moin Syed: No, they're definitely fast. I mean, people, this is the other thing is, um, I mean, journal submissions are so weird. A lot of folks, and certainly we've done, we've done this in the past, we choose journals sometimes because we know they have fast rejection  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah,  

Moin Syed: You know, it's like, we'll send it there because it'll be rejected within a week, and so 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah. Rather than sitting 

around for three months and then, yeah, exactly. Um, so, um, just going back again to the, the, the. Post you had about secrets from being an editor. There was one thing there that really surprised me, um, and I was just curious like what kind of the motivation behind it was, because it was a bit of a throwaway line in there.[00:48:00]  

So the comment is basically you said, um, don't wait for people to ask you to be part of an editorial board. You should email them and ask them to be part of the editorial board. And my initial reaction was, wait, why would I wanna be that? Why would I wanna do that? And, but again, I'm a PhD student still, right? 

So I guess I have less experience. And, um, yeah, so, so what is an editorial board for, and why would I want to be part of one or under which 


Moin Syed: great. Okay, great questions. Um, so what an editorial board is for, depends on the journal a little bit. The way it works just to give ABR brief. Overview. 'cause terms can vary based on sub-discipline. Most journals have three kind of tiers of structure. There's an editor in chief, and sometimes it could be a co-editor, editor situation, so it could be two or three people. 

Those are the people who check in the manuscripts initially, do the first screen decide whether to desk, reject, or send it out for review, right? They're the ones who set policy. There are people in charge. Then there's [00:49:00] a set of asso, usually called associate editors, sometimes called action editors or handling editors. 

They're the ones who actually read the article and then assign reviewers and then make the decision. And sometimes the editors in chief are also the serve in that role as well. And then below that you have the editorial board. And those are folks who typically have committed to doing a certain number of reviews each year for the journal. 

And it could be they've committed to between two and 12. Reviews. Some journals rely extensively on their editorial board and some journals you might be on the board for years and never receive a request. Um, so the experience of being on an editorial board varies quite a bit, but the idea is that in exchange for, you know, you have your name on the journal masthead, you can put it as a line on your cv. 

It means that you are, you're less likely to decline an invitation to [00:50:00] review. You might still decline, but you're less likely to, and that you're going to be invited more often, right? So you're committing to some amount. So when you're invited, usually the editor will say, here's how many reviews on average you should expect to complete. 

Um, so that's kind of what an editorial board member usually is. Why would you want to do it? Um, I guess I can think of three reasons. One is if you have interests, as I was talking about before, if you have interest in becoming an editor, like an editor in chief or an associate editor, that's kind of an initial step towards that. 

So when I was, because I, I knew that I wanted to become an editor in my first few years post PhD, I accepted every invitation to join an editorial board that I received. I also accepted pretty much every review request that I received, right? I was just reviewing, reviewing, reviewing. At one point, I think I was on seven editorial boards. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. 

Moin Syed: So I was reviewing all the time because I wanted to [00:51:00] gain that experience and that credibility to then be able to get an associate editor position where I was making decisions on papers, which would then allow me to become an editor, right? So if you want to get more involved in the editorial process, especially, you know, if you're interested, like I was talking about, if you're interested in making changes to the system, then becoming an editorial board member is a first step towards that process. 

So that's one reason you might do it. A second reason is, um, depending on what kind of position you have at your institution, it might be expected that you would do it or it might look good. So in my position, I'm in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota. Um, our criteria, our main criterion for tenure is that we're supposed to be leaders in the field. 

Right. That's what we're supposed to be. Whatever that means, whatever that looks like, we're supposed to be leaders in the field. One of the ways that, that you establish this is that you're being recognized by your peers in some way. [00:52:00] And one form of recognition is being invited to join editorial boards. 

So being on an editorial board is something that's kind of expected. It's, it looks good, it was referenced to my annual review materials when I was untenured faculty. You know, things like that. So it has a kind of career, um, contributions  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: So it's a kind of relatively low level badge of honor. 

Is that a okay.  

Moin Syed: exactly. Exactly. It could be a lot of work. Like I said, some journals really lean heavily on their boards. Um, I was on one board where I think I might've reviewed 10 to 12 a in a year just for that journal. So that, that's quite a lot. Um, more typical is like three or four. And then I guess the third reason I'd say some people just really enjoy it. They like doing manuscript reviews. I mean, I kind of, I have a love-hate relationship with it. I enjoy it on one level. Um, you know, it always kind of drags in the back of my back of my mind that I have to get it done. But in the end, I do like doing it. So I [00:53:00] think that's another reason why, but, but usually it's because of some career reason, right? 

So either because you wanna become an editor or because it looks good for your department, which I know varies quite a bit, some departments don't care about it at all. Um, in which case, yeah, you don't get, it's just kind of free service in that  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. No, but I'm, I'm, uh, it's funny, I thought I knew what an editorial award was, uh, but then your description was quite different from my expectation. I thought, 

Moin Syed: What, so what 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: well, more like editorial in the sense that you are selecting the reviewers or that kind of thing. I didn't realize. It just means you are a preferred reviewer. 

Moin Syed: Correct. Yeah. So usually it's the, again, the terminology could vary a little bit if from field to field, but yeah, that's, that's at the associate editor level where you're selecting reviewers, editorial board, you're, you're just a preferred reviewer. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. Well that, yeah, also changed my question quite a bit, but I was still glad I asked it. Yeah, 

Moin Syed: And I should say some journals, um, I know this for a fact, um, intentionally put people on their editorial boards to make their journal appear more prestigious and they never ask [00:54:00] them to review. So they're just there as a courtesy, right? So it gives, I mean that's one, it gives signals to, to potential authors about what the prestige of this journal is, what the interest and focus is. 

If you see all these, you know, really big name people on the editorial board, then you think, oh, this must be a really good journal. Whereas if you look at a board list and you don't recognize a single name on there, 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah. Yeah. 

Moin Syed: you know, as a, this the prestige game again. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, I, I admit I have, I've had that too, where I looked at something, I was like, I dunno, any, like, who are these people? And not even necessarily prestige, but just like, it doesn't, the, the, the journal means less to you if you don't need, you know, because it, it gives you less of an idea of what the, what they're doing. 


Moin Syed: Yeah, I mean, it's audience too. It's, it's sometimes you, I mean we've submitted papers, especially earlier in my career, we would submit journals sometimes based on the board. 'cause we're like, okay, this, especially with the O associate editors, we say, okay, almost certainly this person will be our associate editor. 

And in fact, that's something you can request [00:55:00] in your cover letter. You can say, so-and-so would likely be a good fit to be an associate editor. You know, you can steer that process a little bit there. You know, there's no guarantee that they'll follow that, but you can, can always try. Um, and then you can, of course suggest reviewers and so you can suggest specific board members. 

So if you know there's somebody on a, on a board who you think would be a good reviewer, not just because you think they'd be a. Easy reviewer, but they're a suitable person. Right. You can, you can use that to your advantage. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Hmm. Um, yeah, I wanted to ask a little bit about cover letters because um, that's something I discussed or I asked Mary Elizabeth Sutherland also about, 'cause I feel like this is one of the things that. How important it's, I don't know, but it's probably one of the things that you encounter the least before you actually end up doing papers and then you mainly encounter your own. 

Um, so I think, I don't think I'd ever read a, uh, cover letter until I had to write one. Um, 

Moin Syed: you wouldn't, yeah. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah, it's just not 

something [00:56:00] you see. But, um, yeah. So maybe, um, you also had a, a section about that in, in your blog post. Um, maybe first, what's the difference between a new submission and a revision cover letter? 

Because I didn't really know about that distinction until I read 

Moin Syed: Okay. Yeah, that's a, that's a major distinction. So for a cover letter, for a new submission, the only thing you, you need to know about that is that it completely depends on the discipline, on the journal, on what that cover letter should include. It can range from being completely trivial nonsense that gets thrown away and no one even looks at it to being critical for your manuscript to be considered. 

And so you should really consult the journal homepage and see what it says about the cover letter, or ask people who are familiar with the journal about what the role of the cover letter is. So it, it varies a lot. So it's very difficult to give any general recommendations about [00:57:00] that because it varies so much in most areas of psychology. 

The cover letter isn't relevant at all for the initial submission. It's basically, here's the paper, these are my co-authors. We followed ethical procedures. Have a great, great time. Enjoy it. Uh, here it is basically. Um, but for some, for the vanity journals, and this might have come up in your discussion, um, previously, and for some other disciplines, you actually have to sell the paper. 

You have to convince the editor, here's why this is a good fit for your journal. Here's why this, um, study is important. Here's why these findings are meaningful. Here's who will care about this work. It really has to be a sales pitch for the paper so that those are hugely different forms of new submission cover letters. 

And so just understanding what's expected at the journal is really important. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, maybe just to add to that, just from, from the discussion about nature, I mean, I think what she mainly said was [00:58:00] just that this is, I mean, she said like, you know, you, you should read the article and all that kind of stuff and look through it. So it's not like it's the most crucial aspect or anything, but like she, that's the one place you have to directly address the editor and kind of tell you like what you did in a why it's school. 

Not exactly, she didn't use the word cool, but like kind of, you know, it's just your, a direct correspondence. Through the person to kind of tell them why you're submitting this and, yeah. 

Moin Syed: Yeah, so you're supposed to be convincing them that this is worthwhile, right? If you're submitting, and again, you know, I don't know what journals you, you submit to, but most on everyday journals and most scientists are, are submitting to, that's not gonna be necessary. That's gonna be a huge waste of your time. 

Um, and so I would always consult with somebody who has knowledge of the journal and again, look at the journal homepage to see what is expected of the cover letter. But that's, that's usually only for certain journals or certain sub, certain disciplines. Uh, do expect that. Cover letters for revisions are completely different, and that's more, more similar [00:59:00] across disciplines and journals. 

What that should look like, and I have a separate blog post on how to respond to reviewers and how to write cover letters. I don't know if you saw that one, but there you want to give a point by point response so you'll, you know, you'll, you'll have. The associate editor will usually, in their decision letter, will provide some comments, some feedback, sometimes not, but usually some kind of comments about the paper. 

And then you'll have between two and five reviewers who provided comments. And so in that revision cover letter, you actually, you want to clearly respond to each point that was made. So usually you have the text from the reviewer, and then underneath it you say, here's how we address this, here's where you can find the changes in the manuscript, um, and so on. 

It also would include if you disagree with the reviewer's points, which you should, sometimes you shouldn't do everything that the reviewers say. The reviewers are often wrong about things or misinformed. You provide a description and an argument for why you're [01:00:00] not making the change that you're making. 

So it's a, there's a, a place to kind of make your case for, you know, thank you for this comment. Um, unfortunately we don't think this is relevant or it's outside the scope. And for these reasons, right, it's important to explain the rationale behind it. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay, so then I think I'm slightly misunderstood the, the post then is I also, um, before I forget it, um, for listeners, I also, um, there's a very useful kind of, Commentary or whatever, um, that Stefano Menter posted on site archive that I link where, um, so he's a kind of cognitive neuroscientist of reinforcement and that kinda stuff. 

Um, and uh, he also provided like a document of saying like, how to do this and, okay. So I think maybe there, there's a bit of a difference in, um, the name that we give to things, uh, because I think he, so that's what you described. I would've called a point by point response. And then he also had a cover letter kind of in addition to that, a kind of 

where he said like, just outline, like to the editor, the main things [01:01:00] you did. 

Kinda just saying like, Hey, thanks for, here's, like, these are the three big picture kind of changes we made, or something like that. And. 

Moin Syed: Yeah. Okay. So yeah, you can see the, this is journal specific and discipline specific. Sometimes something, I mean, it's driven by the, the submission portal system. So the portal system, the submission system will include one space for a cover letter and one space for a response to reviewers. And to me that just seems redundant. 

So I just do one document. The response to reviewers includes what you just described, dear editor, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The overall kind of comments, here's our general strategy, and now here's my response to reviewers. That's all in the response letter. It's just one place. And then the cover letter is more of like, here it is, you know, uh, attached to the revision, enjoy. 

But I think some people might separate that out in a separate letters. Most of this is not consequential, you know, in terms of these are small procedural details. As long as you have. A clear letter that's providing the responses to the editor and the [01:02:00] reviewers. That's what's important. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Exactly. Yeah. 

Moin Syed: And that you're not dismissive in that letter. 

That's the most important thing too. Or not the most, most important. But that's pretty important to not be dismissive 'cause you laugh, but people  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I mean, I, I was laughing because I often have the urge to be dismissive, but 

Moin Syed: Well, so I, I, I write about this in my post about how to respond reviewers, because we all do have that  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, yeah,  

Moin Syed: that the initial process, uh, when we first draft the letters is we put all that in there. You know, so the initial version of the letter is like this fucking idiot. You know, why would they think this is such a stupid thing to say? 

You sort of get those frustrations out, right? And then later you go back and you remove that and you put in your actual text of, thank you for this considerable, you know, this  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: was a great comment. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I mainly have the noise just like, ah, you're not wrong, but who cares? Um, but yeah. Uh, it's like, 


Moin Syed: not wrong, but who cares is, so you reframe that as, um, this comment is [01:03:00] outside the scope of the manuscript. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: no, I mean, I actually made it often. It's just like, yes, I, I guess I should have reported this rather than that, but like, it's basically the same number anyway. 

Uh, it's more like that kind of thing. Uh, but yeah, outside of the scope is always a good phrase that I used two days ago when, 

Moin Syed: Although I had one where I was a reviewer and they, the, the sub, the resubmission was sent back to me as a reviewer the second time. And so I saw the cover letter and almost every comment I made, the author said, thank you for this comment, but it's outside the scope. Thank you for this comment. But it's out the, it's outside. 

If you're gonna say it's outside the scope, you have to elaborate a little bit. And you don't want to use that for everything. Right.  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. Yeah. Well, yeah. Use it strategically, not 


Moin Syed: exactly. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Uh, another kind of topic that you wrote about that is, uh, Something I've seen people do, you know this or that is signing their peer review letters. Uh, you've been very vocal about saying that you do it and that others should also do it. Yeah. Can you maybe kind of talk me through the [01:04:00] process, kind of why, why do you do it and what are some count as to the common kind of points that people have, why they don't do it? 

Moin Syed: Sure. Um, there, there's a lot, there are a lot of different reasons why I do it. So this could also be a long conversation actually. I mean, I'd say the, the, the overarching framework that I draw from is one of openness and transparency. And I think there you can, you can argue for some pros and cons around openness and, and secrecy, um, and anonymity. 

But generally for me, both the positive arguments for openness outweigh any of the potential positives or the negatives associated with it. Positives associated with. Anonymity and negatives that are associated with openness. So it's kind of the general framework that I think we need to just have our discussion and our scholarly exchange more out in the open, partly because it, it makes us more accountable. 

If I'm [01:05:00] writing a review and my name is on it, I do think twice about what I'm writing, right? Because they're gonna know it's coming from me. I do some, I write a review and some, I, I go back and I reread it, and I, I look for things, is this, is it, will this be perceived as too nasty? Right? Because I don't want that. 

I'm not trying to be a jerk, right? That's never my intention. I'm often very direct, I'm a pretty direct person in scientific discourse, but I'm not trying to be mean to anybody, and I'm not trying to belittle anybody. So if your name's not on it, I think it's really, it's easier to, to worry less about that because you know it's not coming back to you. 

But I have to stand behind everything I write. Right. And my criticisms, I have to stand behind those as well. If my criticism, I could make a criticism of a paper, I could be completely wrong about it. Right? Which happens, I said earlier, right? Reviewers sometimes are totally wrong.  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I, yeah.  

Moin Syed: mistakes. Of course, they make mistakes, right? 

So I try to [01:06:00] minimize, I wanna say, am I sure about this critique? So, you know, when I go through my, when I do my reviews, my first process is just read through the paper completely, just from beginning to end. No comments. Just read through it. Um, and then I go back and read through it again and note everything that I comes to mind, just every possible whatever, right? 

Um, and some of those, those thoughts are useful and helpful, and some of those thoughts are, the author doesn't need to know those thoughts. Those are my thoughts, right? Those, those are not helpful for them. And this is not the, this is not my paper, this is  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Like, what's an example of that? Something that's kind of, yeah. 

Moin Syed: Um, I mean, I try to, I try to minimize anything that's a preference, right? So if it's my, a lot of reviewers try to impose their preferences on, on authors, and I try to avoid that at all costs. Or if it's a preference that I think is, you know, better than what the authors are doing, I make clear that this is, this is [01:07:00] stylistic or this is a preference. 

So I'll give you an example of something that I get often. Um, a frequent comment is that my writing is too colloquial, too informal for scientific writing. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: And then you say Fuck off, or, 

Moin Syed: And I say, fuck off. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I say, that's none of your business, right? Is it technically accurate? 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah. 

Moin Syed: If it's accurate, then no problem. If it's, if it's ambiguous, then okay, that's fine then, then we should fix that. 

But if it's just because I'm using some more casual language in parts, right? Just like here and there, um, it really irritates reviewers. But that, that's really not their business, right? It's not their paper. If I wanna write it that way, I'm gonna write it that way. So I think just it, signing my reviews means I'm standing behind everything that I'm saying, which includes some potential nonsense. 

So if I say that they made an analytic error, or they should analyze their data in a different way, well those are always subjective decisions, right? About how to analyze data. There's never one true method for [01:08:00] analyzing data. There's always many different options. And I might be saying something totally stupid 'cause maybe I'm not up on that method. 

So then I wanna make sure, well if I'm saying this, do I feel confident in it? Versus me just kind of bloviating about something that I have know. So I try to avoid that kind of thing. Right? I try to only be weighing in on things that I feel like I actually can, I'm, I'm confident about. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: And I'm presuming you do have comments sometimes though when you say something like, this seems off, but I'm don't know that much about it or something 

Moin Syed: Yeah. I'll try to be clear that I don't, if I don't know for sure, I'll try to be clear about that.  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah.  

Moin Syed: Another, so another reason why I do it is, um, authors engage in this really horrible guessing game about who their reviewers are, right? You're always thinking what's anonymous? Reviewers. You're thinking, oh, who was this person? 

Oh, I'm sure it's this person. It's gotta be this person. And I can tell you that we're probably wrong 95% of the time, right? We're, we're, we're not good. We, we think we know who, who, who's reviewing our [01:09:00] papers, but we don't. Because honestly, the, the, the, the reality is, is usually who, the people who are reviewing your paper, you have never heard of those people. 

You have never met those people. You don't know those people at all. They're the people who are willing to review the paper, right? They are not, you know, the big figures in the field that you think are, are looking at your stuff. So, you know, I know, I know people who have bad feelings towards others in the field because they're certain that they were negative reviewers on a paper and they can't be sure that that's the case. 

Um, anyways, so there's a lot more I can say about this, but I think I found it to be, it makes the process much more collaborative and positive. So I get Rev, I get emails directly from people thanking me for my reviews or if they have questions. So this is one issue that comes up a lot. You get reviews and you're, you're confused about a comment that somebody made. 

Well, there's not really a, an opportunity to be able to follow up with them. You can kind of speculate in the [01:10:00] return in the, in the revision letter and say, this is what I think you meant, but if not, let me know. So instead, I get emails from people saying, Hey, I just wanna follow up on this comment. You know, what do you think about this? 

Or Is this an appropriate way to handle your concern? And I'll say, yeah, sure, or No, this is actually what I meant. So it's just much more collaborative and, um, a much more positive experience. I'd say the biggest argument against that folks make is, well, I guess there are two arguments, but the main one is fear of retaliation. 

That if you review someone's paper negatively, that they will retaliate against you in some unspecified way. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Especially if it's a person with lots of influence, 

Moin Syed: Yeah. Someone with power and influence and a fragile ego gets, you know, a negative review from someone who's junior in the field that could potentially be negative, and I agree that that risk exists, but I feel like that really shouldn't be the end of the conversation. That criticism, sort of tacitly endorses that power dynamic. 

Instead, what we should do is if that's [01:11:00] happening and we know about it, we need to call it out and let people know that this asshole is engaging in this retaliatory behavior. Right. That's a different way of framing that. By having things out in the open, we know we know more clearly who is doing what to whom, 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: But I 

mean, that's probably not gonna actually work though, right? Because you're not gonna know exactly what someone's doing to someone else behind the scenes or. 

Moin Syed: Well, people always talk about knowing about retaliate, retaliation that occurs. There's always all this unspecified retaliation that people are talking about being so sure about. So I think people do know. Either they know or they're just making shit up. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. 

Moin Syed: You know, I just, I think that the, the current, I mean, it's similar to the scooping issue that exists around pre-registration and open data. 

People are worried about being scooped that other people will come in and, um, take their ideas and publish it before them. It's possible that that can happen, but the chances of it occurring are so low, right? So these very low probability occurrences [01:12:00] are, uh, probability events are be, are used as a way to pour cold water on potential reforms or practices that actually have a lot more benefits, immediate benefits. 

So if we take the cost benefit analysis approach, you know, the, the benefit is so much higher for me. Then the cost for things like signing reviews, open data, pre-registration. Not to say that they're cost free, but that the benefits greatly outweigh them. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, I mean, I was, I was just wondering now, because obviously just because an event is very low probability doesn't mean it shouldn't be taken seriously. Um, but I guess with these kind of things, it's actually probably quite difficult to actually completely tank someone's career because of a 


Moin Syed: difficult to do that. It's very difficult to do that. Yeah. Most, most folks do not have that direct of a route to be able to ruin someone else's career. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. 

Moin Syed: You know that that doesn't happen 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: So like, even if it's rare that the magnitude probably isn't that large. 


Moin Syed: correct. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: okay. So I've recently started adding some recurring [01:13:00] questions that I ask all my guests at the end of the episode. The first one is, what's a book or paper that you think more people should read? This can be, uh, just a personal favorite of yours, or maybe a hidden gem can be super famous, but it's should be read again by people. 

Yeah. Anything comes to mind. 

Moin Syed: There's a great book that I feel has not received much attention in recent years as, uh, folks have become more interested in philosophy of science and thinking about meta science and these higher order issues that are kind of governing the way that we go about our research that are sometimes and outside of our conscious awareness, right? 

So the field generally is becoming more interested in these kinds of issues. So thinking more about, you know, the different paradigms that we draw from, or ways that we reason and things like that. But one. What do we call it? One framework within this broad world of philosophy of science has not received much attention is what was laid out by Stephen Pepper [01:14:00] in 1942 in his book World Hypotheses. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Never heard of it.  

Moin Syed: of this before? You never heard of it? Yeah, I don't see anyone ever, ever mentioned this world hypotheses by Stephen Pepper. So what Pepper argued briefly is that all scientific inquiry is informed by one of four root metaphors. And actually it's not even limited to scientific inquiry. 

Pretty much all forms of inquiry can be reduced to one of four root metaphors. And these root metaphors guide the structure of the inquiry, the way we evaluate evidence, um, the way we communicate our knowledge, and so on. So there's four root metaphors. There are formalism, mechanism, organicism and contextualism. 

So formalism is the, the, I sort of draws from platonic ideas of the ideal form typologies categories, trying to organize the natural world into different structural, um, groups that [01:15:00] have internal coherent holes, right? This is formalism mechanism draws on the metaphor of the machine, so isolated processes and direct causal relations that if moving one factor leads to a direct change in another factor. 

That one should seem very familiar because it's what most of psychology and neurosciences, uh, is based 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Both of these 

actually, right?  

Moin Syed: is, what's that? 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Fism Also, both of these seem very 

Moin Syed: There's a lot of formalism. Yeah. Form. I mean, certainly you see things like the d s m personality types, you know, ideas like that are very much rooted in, in formalism, but mechanism is what really dominates, um, in psychology. 

When you think of any dag directed as a cyclic graphic or any structural equation model or regression models, I mean, they're all for really, um, built on a mechanistic root metaphor. Uh, organicism is the metaphor of the organic being. So it's for, it's focused more on dynamic interrelated complex systems. 

[01:16:00] So, uh, dynamic, dynamic systems theory, for example, um, family system, any systems theory really relies on the organic metaphor. And what's interesting about the organic metaphor relative to mechanist, the mechanistic metaphor is the evaluation of causation. Typically, so causal processes are central to mechan mechanistic inquiry because it's all about isolating distinct elements and their inters. 

Whereas Organicism essentially argues that causation, the search for causation is ultimately futile because everything is mutually interdependent and interrelated and mutually causal. That isolating any one particular causal structure will be miss specified essentially because of everything being mutually determined. 

Um, so a lot of developmental psychology is actually rooted in organic metaphors. And then finally, is contextualism, uh, and contextualism is that, uh, any observation is [01:17:00] uniquely determined. So it's a, uh, it's a product of. Essentially infinite processes that lead to some uniquely determined outcome. So this would be, you don't see this much in a lot of mainstream science, but um, you might see it in some, especially folks who are more in the contextual, or sorry, constructivist or critical theories or philosophies of science might draw on contextualism when they're really focused on trying to describe a specific person or a group of people and not trying to generalize beyond them. 

So n of one qualitative kind of work is often drawing on this contextual framework. And so these four root metaphors sort of exist. They underlie all the scientific inquiry that we do, but we don't realize it that they're there, but they actually govern a lot of our decision making, the way we design studies, the way we evaluate evidence. 

But it also makes it very difficult because the four cannot be reduced, so you can't reduce one to the other. This is the lowest level of [01:18:00] reduction, and so it becomes very difficult if you have some. Areas of research that rely heavily on formalism and some that rely heavily on mechanism, and you try to reconcile those two with one another, it's that they're essentially irreconcilable and rec irreconcilable with one another. 

So it's really interesting. Love food for thought, and I, I give credit to one of my PhD mentors, Catherine Cooper at uc, Santa Cruz, um, who introduced me to this idea. She actually wrote an article in 1987 at the Journal of Adolescent Research, which briefly summarized these and applied them to research on the family. 

So if you're not interested in reading an entire book from 1942, you could read a relatively brief article from 1987 if you want to kind of generally get to speed with the idea of root ideas, of root metaphors and how they're related to the work that we're doing. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Cool. Yep. As I said earlier, I put all the links and stuff in the references in the description. Yeah. It's funny, like, I think, I feel like of my recurring questions, the first one is usually the most popular [01:19:00] one. Everyone likes answering it and 


Moin Syed: something they're excited 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah, just something that's like there, there's the little thing that no one knows about often. 

Uh, but it's also funny to me listening to it because it's usually either something I saw coming or it's something I've never heard of. Like I have had very little in the middle. It's like, yeah, I think I've heard of that. It's, it's, yeah, it's either one or the other. Um, 

Moin Syed: it's a good question then, I think, right? 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I hope so. Uh, yeah. So the second question is, what's something you wish you learned earlier? 

This can be from your private or work life, whatever you wanna share, and maybe if possible, so kind of how you dealt with it, uh, how you figured it out, whatever. 

Moin Syed: Yeah. This is something that, uh, it's actually related to mo both my private and personal life or private and professional life, I would say, um, which I am a master procrastinator. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Congratulations. 

Moin Syed: Yes, I have been my whole life and I used to call myself a massive procrastinator, but now I call myself a master procrastinator or sometimes a functional [01:20:00] procrastinator. 

This was an important shift because I think in, in our society, but especially in the academic world, we really see procrastination as a undesirable skill, that you should get work done early, that you shouldn't, you shouldn't save things for the last minute is generally considered negative. So for all my life I saw this as a problem. 

I had a problem with procrastination and you know, at times I would try to do things to change that in some way. Um, but it was never very effective. No matter what I did, I was always saving all my work, everything I need to do for the last minute. Um, always feeling like, well, I do much better work, higher quality work under pressure. 

If I have three months to write a paper, you know it's gonna be crap. But if I, if I have a week to do it, that's gonna be my, my best work, right? That's sort of always the way I felt about things. And so then I realized at some point, because I've been doing that and I've been reasonably successful, [01:21:00] right? 

So I'm able to do work at the last minute, and that work is usually high quality. It's rewarded. And so as I, I, many years ago I started to reflect on that a little bit and I said, well, what is the problem here? Why is it a problem that I wait till the last minute? It's not a problem for me actually, because the work gets done and it's high quality, it's what people want. 

Uh, it's more a problem for other people. Other people don't like it. They don't see it as a desirable trait. So I decided to just own it and go from massive to master procrastinator. It's functional, right? This is the way I work. This is how I do things and to not apologize for it. Now, if it's the case that I wasn't meeting deadlines, or the work that I turned in last minute was shoddy or whatever, then I'd have to change things, right? 

But the fact that that's not the case means that I should just own it and not worry about other people's expectations or what they think about how work ought to be done. [01:22:00] So now I organize things where if, you know, if I have a book chapter due or a paper for a special issue, something with a deadline, which I like having deadlines, procrastinators love deadlines, right? 

So I like having a deadline. Um, I just know I don't need to worry about it until two weeks before it's due. I just remove it from my headspace rather than thinking about, oh, I really should work on this. Oh, I really should get, oh, I should do, make some progress on that. I just say, no, forget it. I'll just worry about it when I need to worry about it. 

And that has been hugely helpful for me because it reduces how many things I'm thinking about at any given time. I'm not thinking about everything I need to do in the six months, next six months. I'm just worried about what I need to do in the next couple weeks. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Two minor follow up questions on that. First is how to actually get proper deadlines, because I get. I, I was like to, I, I very much empathize, empathize, empathize with the first part of that, that I'm a master procrastinator, not so much the fact that I'm okay with it. Um, in the [01:23:00] sense that in my, in my, 

Moin Syed: a journey. Ben, you need to work on self-acceptance. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: on it. 

I'm not for sure where, and my bachelor's of master, I never missed a deadline because at university it was like, if you hand this in late an hour, it's like 10% lower grade or something like that. So it was like, okay, this is actually hard deadline. Whereas in my PhD, I don't think I've really had a proper deadline. 

Moin Syed: Yeah. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Not really. I mean, maybe. Okay. Opposed to submission or something for conference where we had to submit by the deadline, but there's not really a deadline. And we tried to set some, but it was always fake deadlines. So how do you deal with not actually having that many real deadlines or, yeah. 

Moin Syed: Yeah, no, that that comes up all the time because that's an issue is there aren't a lot of deadlines in the work that we do. So one is you find deadlines, find where deadlines are, and you. Go after them. So that what that means mostly for in terms of the world of getting research done and publishing is I like to do what I call chasing special issues. 

So whenever I see a special 'cause special issue, so a special issue is when a journal [01:24:00] decides to do a collection of articles on some focus topic. And because it's a collection, it has a deadline. So often there's like a letter of intent or abstract process where you first submit that by a deadline and then they say, uh, yeah, we'd like to see a full paper. 

Or they say, no, we're not interested. And if they want the full paper, then they'll have a deadline for that. I think I have probably published more papers and special issues than the average academic because whenever I see one, I try to think, okay, great. What can we submit to this special issue? We always try to find work. 

We have something coming up right now for a special issue. Do it all the time because that creates those deadlines. I. It helps move the work along. So those, that's a, that's a great thing to do if you really need the structure and there aren't deadlines, they do exist. There's special, special issues all the time on journals. 

You could just make a career essentially chasing those around and having deadlines. So that's one. The, the other is to do what you said, which is come up with ways of creating fake [01:25:00] deadlines. And so I do this with, um, my students and my collaborators. So for my students, I sort of say, okay, let's create a deadline. 

And, um, I can be kind of a mean, scary person if I need to be. Right. They don't, my students, I'm not at all right. But if I, if I stare someone, a student in, in, directly in the eyes and say, what's the progress on that paper? Right. That makes them uncomfortable. They don't, they don't like that. Right. And I don't, that's intimidate. 

That's only after we already set up a system where they want a deadline where they, we want to enforce it. So if we say, okay, the deadline is going to be September 1st, then I'm going to ask them, Repeatedly about it, right? And they're gonna start treating it like it's real. That's what you need, the person, you need the enforcer  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. Yeah. Yeah,  

Moin Syed: Who to treat it like it's real. If they're treating it like it's fake, then you're not gonna treat it like it's real. So you need somebody who's gonna treat it real. Um, 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: but, but for you, because that only works for people working for you, not for you 

Moin Syed: Right. So as my [01:26:00] next example, no, it's been, it's, I've used it with, so my collaborator, um, uh, Kate McLean from Western Washington University, she and I have been, we just kind of constantly work on things together. Um, and she is really on top of things. She's extremely efficient. She's not a procrastinator at all. 

She always gets her work done. And so I have her essentially harass me, um, about getting things done. And it, you know, it's annoying and it, it starts making me feel bad. And so with one, uh, paper we were working on, she started making all these photoshopped images of me, you know, not getting my work done. 

And, and that was enough motivation. And she'd email 'em to me and, you know, I was like, all right, God, I need to get this. And she or she'll be stern with me to say, you know, I really need this to be done on Thursday so that I can look at it before Monday. And so I say, fine. And so having somebody provide external pressure, but it has to be real pressure. It works.  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay.  

Moin Syed: It works for me at 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Uh, the other, um, small follow up was the, whether you differentiate [01:27:00] between good and bad procrastination, because I feel like often procrastination can actually be also a process for you to work things out kind of in a slow way. Uh, but often I also feel like, I mean, to give one example from a paper that we got comments back, there were lots of comments and I, you know, it was so much, I was like, oh, no, can't be bothered, whatever. 

But it would've been better to just work through the 10 easy comments first, and then it's suddenly it's, you know, only two thirds. It looks actually thirds of the work. Uh, so that to me is an example where procrastination actually kind of hinders you from doing what you, what you want to do. Um, so yeah. 

Do you have any kind of differentiation there or, 

Moin Syed: Yeah. So I think, um, with that, I don't, I don't it, they don't usually procrastinate on medium level tasks. Right? So really easy things like responding to some email, I. Takes six months, you know? And then, uh, really difficult things obviously take a while, but I do exactly, I write about this in [01:28:00] my blog post on responding to reviewers that you set it up in a way where you first, you do all the, basically you, you put everything in yellow, right? 

Every comment in yellow, and then first you go through and do all the super easy things and then you un un yell, unhighlight, those things, right? So it's basically a process of slowly going from a very yellow, overwhelming document to one that's clean. And so by doing all those easy comments, you start, you start realizing the task isn't as overwhelming as you thought. 

And I think that that's a great strategy. Um, and certainly I, I'll do that kind of thing earlier in the process and then put off the more, um, challenging demands. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. 

Moin Syed: I think the main, the main challenge to being a functional procrastinator is life happens and there a lot, there's a lot in your life that you can't control. 

And so you might put something off and say, I'm gonna do that right before the deadline. And then, You know, who knows? Like my wife broke her ankle in the, in the, in the, in the winter. And that totally just threw everything [01:29:00] off and 'cause she needed a lot of help in the ice. And it means, I, it meant I had to have some uncomfortable moments of working more than I wanted to or at hours I didn't want to work 'cause I had to get things done. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. Because your, for example, your collaborator is so 


Moin Syed: are, yeah, that's right. That's 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: disappoint Catherine. Um, okay. Uh, last question. I mean, I guess I am finishing my PhD about to be a postdoc soon. I don't know any advice for what people in my kind of position, what we should work on, uh, what we should be thinking about. 

Moin Syed: Yeah. This is related to our earlier discussion about prestige journals, but, um, it's a broader point, which is, I. All of us early career researchers, but also more senior folks, need to be active participants in our academic socialization, active participants in our academic socialization. So much of what we learn, right, comes from authorities. 

We learn about [01:30:00] how to do science, about what the right way to do things is, and within that, there's way too much deference to authority, to traditions, to norms that are often unjustified and it perpetuates the existing structures that we're in. I mean, this is, again, can trace it back to our entire discussion was is all related to this. 

So prestige journals, replication, crisis, open science journal operations, right? It's all about normative behavior that gets socialized over time. Everyone, a lot of folks talked about how prior to the open science movement, and this is still the case in some labs, but we are socialized in our research labs essentially to P a C. 

And it was considered normal. It was fine. This is how you do things, right? Darrell Bem had the famous chapter on how to write the empirical journal article that every graduate student in my generation read. And it literally was saying, you should P hack and har, right? That's what makes [01:31:00] a good paper. So those, those are norms. 

There's a lot of these, there's a lot of examples of these kinds of norms, ways, structures, ways of doing things that we're socialized into and we just kind of accept it. And so we need to be much more active in that process. We need to question what the rationale, what is the justification? What is the scientific purpose? 

What is the functional reason why we should do things this way? We have so many arguments are just, we have always done it this way, or this is the way so and so did it. Right? That's a common justification. We use this measure because it's the most widely used in the field. Well, what if the me most widely used measure sucks? 

Right? Which is often the case. That's not a strong justification. So tradition is not a strong justification for anything that we're doing. There should be a more reasoned rationale, and I think that's true for everything that we need to question why we're doing the things we're doing. And students, early career researchers often are very good at this, but often are not [01:32:00] because of the hierarchical nature, um, of academia that we learn from these masters who know what they're talking about. 

And I think we really need to question that and be more active in the process. The other thing a little bit more positive maybe, um, is,  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: we were getting  

Moin Syed: I always try to, I know, always try to end on a positive. Um, I mean this is something that I always drill into all any students and postdocs or early career researcher researchers that I talk to, it's critical to have a life and have fun and enjoy yourself. 

You know, and, and it's absolutely, absolutely not only possible but necessary to feel like you have a separation between your work life and your personal life. That, I mean, to the degree that you want it. Some people are kind of okay with not having a strong separation. I understand that. But the more you do that where you enjoy your life and you're having fun and you're doing things for yourself, the happier you'll be in the work that you do, and honestly, the better scientists [01:33:00] that you'll be. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: That is a positive note. 

Moin Syed: I believe it. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. 

Moin Syed: I've always been, you know, even before I had a long-term partner, I didn't work on weekends. That was something I didn't do. You know, I worked during the week, took weekends off. Then that made it really easy. Once I did have a serious partner, once I did have children, it wasn't that difficult for me. 

I didn't have to modify that system. But I had clear working hours and for some people, they like working on weekends. That's fine. You know, come up with whatever schedule you want to. That's the beauty of academia is we get to do that, but part of that schedule has to be reserved time just for you to do whatever you want to. 

What I refer to as guilt-free, free time, right? Not free time where you're thinking about all the shit you're supposed to be doing, but free time where you're just doing whatever you want as guilt free, because you know that's your free time. It's not time that you work. You'll get back to whatever you need to do. 

When you go back to work. So I do some work in Sweden, a lot of work in Sweden actually, and some in Germany. And um, at least in those two countries, [01:34:00] people are much better about that than they are in the us Uh, especially in Sweden. They're very good about protecting their time, having clear work hours and distinctions between work and, and fun. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Def 

Moin Syed: we're not so 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: definitely in Ger Germany's very much a shops don't open on Sunday and often not on Saturday afternoon and yeah. Yeah. It's, it's very much 

part of the  

Moin Syed: hours here in the US 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. I mean, I, I did my bachelor's in London and then coming back to Germany, it's like, now I have to plan when I go 

shopping, I can't just go at any 

time of The day.  

Moin Syed: store on Sunday is a really extreme.  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah,  

Moin Syed: There is one store in Berlin and Sher Rottenburg, which is where I often am, am that is open on Sunday, and it's such a madhouse. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah, yeah. Okay, so take 

your time off, especially in a 

guild freeway. Yeah.  

Moin Syed: That's right.

The silliness of prestige journals (especially PNAS)
Deep description are necessary for science and theory
Where should I submit my paper?
Why would one want to be an editor at a journal?
Cover letters
Should I sign my peer reviews?
A book/paper Moin thinks more people should read
Something Moin wishes he'd learnt earlier
Moin's advice to PhD students/postdocs