The making of a publication, or: How to combine train travel and get things done

· by Ilja van Meerveld, Jan Seibert · in Research, Sustainability

A train ride from Switzerland to the UK and back: behind-the-scenes insights into how our manuscript finally prepared for the stage.

We were recently asked to write a commentary on the value of citizen science to monitor the impacts of climate change on water. We gladly (and naïvely) accepted this invitation because – after all the years with the CrowdWater project – the topic is close to our scientific hearts. However, finding time to write the commentary was more difficult. Months passed with little happening, other than our conscience making us feel guilty about the lack of progress. This would probably have continued if there had not been a trip to the Catchment Science Summer School at the University of Birmingham, where we were both teaching.  

University of Birmingham in the evening light.

A short story written on a long train ride

We decided to travel by train for environmental reasons, but actually, this was a great decision to get things done as well. The making of our commentary ‘Bridge over changing waters – citizen science to monitor the impacts of climate change on water’ is a very short story. On the way to Birmingham, we used some of the time in the TGV to Paris and the Eurostar train to London to brainstorm and discuss the topic. Passing places like Dijon, the city of the famous hydrologist Henry Darcy, certainly contributed to our inspiration.

We arrived in Birmingham with a good storyline, but the filming – sorry, writing – had to wait until the return journey. Strengthened by a breakfast in London and lunch in Paris, we arrived in Zurich in the evening with an almost ready manuscript.

Because there are a few other unfinished papers on our to-do lists, we should probably go on another train ride soon. Admittedly, writing a longer paper will require a longer trip than the one to Birmingham, or more likely multiple trips. However, for now our take home message is that the slightly longer time for more sustainable modes of travel is exactly what we need to get important things done.

Deleted scenes references

The editor asked us to reduce the number of references to strictly 15, so two have been deleted:

Johnson, J. and Ali, A. E.: Skating on thin ice? An interrogation of Canada’s melting pastime, World Leis. J., 59, 259–271,, 2017.
Lorrey, A. M., Pearce, P. R., Allan, R., Wilkinson, C., Woolley, J. M., Judd, E., Mackay, S., Rawhat, S., Slivinski, L., Wilkinson, S., Hawkins, E., Quesnel, P., and Compo, G. P.: Meteorological data rescue: Citizen science lessons learned from Southern Weather Discovery, 3, 100495,, 2022.

The actual result of our train ride

Seibert J, van Meerveld HJ (2022) Bridge over changing waters – Citizen science for detecting the impacts of climate change on water. PLOS Clim 1(11): e0000088.

We hope you will enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed discussing and writing it!

Ilja van Meerveld, Jan Seibert

Images: Flickr / Slices of Light (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), University of Birmingham, Jan Seibert

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