Many people are fond of asking whether today's academic culture and rules would stifle or squelch Einstein's genius. I think he would do just fine, but even if not, I really think it is time to stop using him as an example. Would Einstein have written his brilliant papers if .. ? etc.
One of the most annoying Einstein comparisons is: "Einstein couldn't spell". I don't know whether he could or couldn't, and I am sure that spelling ability does not correlate absolutely with intelligence. However, whenever one of my students tries the "Einstein couldn't spell either" excuse on me, I ask them whether they think Einstein would have used a spell-checker before giving a document to his advisor. Perhaps geniuses are above spell-checking?
Maybe so, and maybe I am stifling genius left and right by expecting a basic level of technical editing before a student gives me a manuscript to read. I don't expect the content to be perfect -- that's something to work out through discussion and revision -- but it's a lot easier to revise content when the technical elements are not a mess.
In fact, I think it can be a bit of a morale boost and motivator if you make your manuscript draft 'look' like a paper early on. Maybe that makes it scarier for some people if what they've written starts to look like an official paper too soon, but I like to deal with the technical elements from the beginning.
After spending considerable time today slogging through and fixing references in a student's manuscript (long story why he isn't doing this himself), it is clear to me yet again that having a good system for references and other technical elements from the beginning really saves a lot of time (for everyone involved, genius and non-genius alike).
10 years ago