Sunday, 18 November 2012

The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Researchers

Hi rats,

Today's post is about self-improvement.

Do you have the feeling of being undercited? You don’t get invited to important conferences? And what about your group’s funds? Are your students so hungry that you fear for your life at lunch time?

Well, say good-bye to all that!! Because, after years of intense study, I have identified the 12 key features that can transform you from a moderately-talented library rat into a venerated Master Splinter of Scientific Discovery. 

So far, hundreds of researchers have benefited from “The road to QIP”, my 12-step program for scientific excellence. Read the following testimonials:

“I used to think that my mathematical derivations were wrong. But after reading “The road to QIP”, I gained the necessary confidence I needed to disseminate my results. Now I have a published book, and the whole academic world comments regularly on my work. Thank you, Schroedinger’s rat!”. --Joy Christian
“The road to QIP? All roads lead to QIP!”. --Fernando Brandao
""The road to QIP" reflects the genius of its creator. A successful scientist with highly cited publications, the rat immediately strikes as a very charismatic, handsome and even athletic individual (he runs ten kilometres every morning!). “Sometimes it is difficult to make my active life-style compatible with taking care of seven adopted kids. But, alas, seeing the smiles on their faces when I play for them one of my numerous piano concerts makes everything worth it”, he told me while we were savouring a cup of green tea that he himself cultivates in the back garden of his seven-acre Victorian mansion. Devoted researcher and bestselling novelist during the day, at night the rat patrols the streets of Bristol as Ratman, fighting crime and evil with the aid of his assistant, the amazing Guinea Boy. The rat is three metres tall! He can fly and time-travel!! He can create Life!!![...]". --Michal Navackowsky (a.k.a. Heisenberg's Racoon)

Ufff! That bullet was close, Guinea Boy! Luckily I could escape flying... Eh!? What are you still doing here!? Scroll down, read “The Road to QIP” and become part of the legend!

Yours truly,

Schroedinger’s rat


12 tips for a successful career in Quantum Information Science.

1) Define concepts which are easy to grasp and give them catchy names, like “quantum dynamite”, “entropic saxophone” and “Waikiki phase transition”.

Hint: try to use the word “topological”, it makes everything sound more sophisticated. E.g.:

A: Where are you?

B: In the toilet, trying to crap a torus. I‘m doing “topological crapping”.

A: Oh! How sophisticated!

2) Don’t invent anything new.

New topics are difficult to sell, both in journals and in conferences. In contrast, and absurd as it may sound, a valid motivation for working on old topics is that someone else has worked on the problem before. Examples: the Peres conjecture, mutually unbiased bases, almost every single topic in pure mathematics.

3) Don’t waste too much time with reviewing work.

If the paper you have to referee is long, follow these steps:
           a) Keep the paper for six months.
           b) Summarize the abstract of the paper in two lines and conclude your report with: "unfortunately, the topic is not of general interest”.

Bonus tip: most editors find admissible to reject pioneering work on the grounds that “nobody is currently working on this line”. As before, you can establish this via a diagonal reading of the paper’s abstract. You’re welcome. 

4) Demand citations to your work in every article that you referee.

Especially if they’re completely unrelated to the article! And don’t forget to list as well a couple of random papers in order to conceal your identity.

5) Have an English/American name.

A significant percentage of the QI community cannot pronounce/remember/cite non-anglo-saxon names. Ideally, your name should be outstanding, but familiar and easy to spell. E.g.: John Entanglement, Alice Steering, Toby Qubit. Sorry, no. Forget the last one.

6) Cite all your previous papers in each new article.

That way, your h-index will be half your total number of papers. Use this template: “[bizarre research topic] has generated a lot of interest lately, see [all your papers]”.

7) Be diplomatic with referees.

Referee report: “I'm willing to bet that the main result is known, although I could not find any references to prove it”*.

Response: “We thank the referee for his insightful comments... now we understand why referees are anonymous".

*Real referee report.

8) Hype your titles.

That way, you will get more people to read your stuff. Furthermore, you may even bypass the editors of famous journals! Have a look at the following examples:

The Uncertainty Principle Determines the Non-locality of Quantum MechanicsOperator norms bound steering functionals
Security bounds for Continuous Variables Quantum Key Distribution
Our bounds are secure as long as certain results proven for finite dimensions miraculously extend to the continuous case

Local Realism of Macroscopic Correlations
All quantum systems exhibit a strong form of macroscopic locality, although we can't say “macroscopic locality”, because then it would be patent that our idea isn't that original in the first place and we couldn’t publish in, say, Nature Physics*
*And, despite that foolproof plan, they didn’t manage to publish in Nature Physics! How fortunate for Nature Physics, because the paper is flawed.**
**I know, I know, this is not a hype… but it is equally fastidious!

9) Apply for grants, even if you're enjoying a comfortable postdoc and don’t actually need the money.

In any case, you’ll need to apply in the future. And funding agencies are much more prone to give grants to people who have already been awarded grants in the past, thereby following the principle: “if all funding agencies jumped off a bridge…”.

10) In conference photos and dinners, stand next to the big guys.

That way, people will associate you over time with important personalities in the field via classical conditioning. “XXXXX? I can’t name a single result of his... but he’s good, isn’t he?”.

11) Don’t criticize anyone’s work.

Some people cannot distinguish between a bad review of a shit specific paper and a full-scale personal attack. So next time that some crackpot engages you in an unending discussion about a completely pointless topic, implement the standard QI protocol, i.e., wait politely until the end, mutter “interesting, interesting...” and nod repeatedly.

Note: if the maniac perseveres, go to the rest room ("you'll have to excuse me, I must crap a Calabi-Yau manifold") and lock yourself in until he's gone. Whatever he says, don’t open the door. DON'T OPEN THE DOOR!!!

12) Don’t write blog posts criticizing anyone’s work.

And if you do so, use a pseudonym. After the last mail I received, every time I go to sleep I check that there isn’t an author with an axe under my bed! I will expand on these matters in a future post, “The road to RIP”.


  1. I don't agree with everything you say in these posts, but please don't stop. We need more people like you to stir the pot a bit. There is soooo much bullshit out there, and it is... frowned upon... if you call a turd a turd.

  2. Hi Miguel,

    Thanks very much for a wonderful blog. I'm enjoying reading it very much. Keep up the good work!

  3. Miguel,

    your blog is awesome, please continue the great work!

  4. Miguel,

    More TRUTH please. Especially love the post on quantum discord ;)

  5. Miguel, I agree with many of the things that you have said, even though I am not qualified to comment on everything, and even though I am also guilty. I hope that something positive comes of your blog, even if only a therapeutic release of frustration.

    The excessive marketing needs to be removed from science. No one wants to use medical technologies because they are well marketed, but because they are well proven. Given the importance of fundamental science, we should all welcome some honest criticism of the way that things are run. Lord knows whether anything will ever change.

    1. Already positive because negative of negative is positive. Ha Ha

  6. A celebrated non-snarky (but biting none-the-less) essay upon this topic is Richard Hamming's You and Your Research

  7. Forget "quantum dynamite", now we have even powerful "Entanglement Tsunami". Please have a look at

  8. Have you had any revised version? I am pleased to read the next (if any) to come.

    Thank you!

  9. So now I feel compelled to place some skeletons from this year's QIP 2015 here. You can see that two of my submissions were buried alive by a particular referee who happened to misunderstand the work, trivialize it, indicate that we should cite his own, and then finally bury it alive. The papers had no chance of swimming upstream after this. I fear that the stiff competition at QIP is turning much of the refereeing process into a joke:

    ----------------------- REVIEW 1 ---------------------
    PAPER: 11
    TITLE: Strong converse for the classical capacity of optical quantum communication channels
    AUTHORS: Bhaskar Roy Bardhan, Raul Garcia-Patron, Mark Wilde and Andreas Winter

    ----------- REVIEW -----------
    This paper showed the strong converse for the classical capacity of optical quantum communication channels. Indeed, this property has been shown in the finite-dimensional case. So, the obtained results can be regarded as a generalization of an existing result. Thus, I cannot say that the obtained results are sufficiently strong for oral presentation of QIP.

    I also have a question.

    The most strong method for the strong converse for the classical capacity is applying the meta converse originally introduced by Nagaoka:

    Hiroshi Nagaoka. Strong converse theorems in quantum information theory. Proceedings of ERATO Workshop on Quantum Information Science, page 33, 2001. Also appeared in Asymptotic Theory of Quantum Statistical Inference, ed. M. Hayashi, World Scientic, 2005.

    This method can be extended to the case with the energy constraint: See Chapter 4 of the following book.

    M. Hayashi: Quantum Information: An Introduction, Springer (2006, April).

    So, it is natural to consider this method. It is better to explain the relation between the method of the submitted paper and the above method.

    ----------------------- REVIEW 1 ---------------------
    PAPER: 6
    TITLE: Strong converse bounds for quantum communication
    AUTHORS: Marco Tomamichel, Mark Wilde and Andreas Winter

    ----------- REVIEW -----------
    This paper considers the upper bound of the transmission rate of quantum state when we allow non-zero constant fidelity. I do not know whether this bound is called the strong converse bound. Usually, the strong property is called the property that the above rate coincides with the conventional capacity. This paper did not show the strong property. It shows that the above bound is bounded by the amount defined by Rains' bound. The authors employ the relation between hypothesis testing and the sending the quantum state, and apply it to the entanglement distillation. Indeed, this kind of relation has been discussed for the case of entanglement distillation in Sections 8.5 and 8.10 of the following book.

    M. Hayashi: Quantum Information: An Introduction, Springer (2006, April)

    Section 8.5 of the above book treated the relation with the relative entropy bound. Section 8.10 treated the relation with the Rains' bound.

    I think that it is not difficult to extend it to the case of transmission of the quantum state, so cannot recommend this for a talk at QIP.

  10. I think one should add another point:
    — Do not spend so much time on elaborate and thorough calculations/computations (they will be consuming your “precious” academic time); give your order-of-magnitude estimations a fancy name, and obfuscate the reader by some high-sounding buzzwords to cover the fact that you have done _nothing_ serious so far. You'll have a high chance for being published in Nature, Science, etc.