Sunday, September 29, 2013

MIT Alberta?

Late last week, the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education for the Government of Alberta announced the members of a panel whose task is organizing a new “Institute for applied research and commercialization”, an institute that the government believes will be crucial for diversifying the Albertan economy.  The panel consists of 10 international experts, all of whom are experienced in similar agencies across the globe as well as with the Albertan context, according to a story in the Edmonton Journal.  The panel is chaired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Dr. Daniel Roos, who is their Japan Steel Industry Professor of Engineering Systems and Civil and Environmental Engineering.  According to the Edmonton Journal, for the past 18 months Dr. Roos has been involved with the University of Alberta on a related issue, and has written a report.  Thus the committee is, according to the Minister, expected to hit the ground running and will deliver a set of recommendations about how to proceed with the new institute in a matter of weeks.

Dr. Roos’ experience with “similar agencies across the globe” comes from his being director of the MIT Portugal Program.  According to its website, MIT Portugal “is an international collaboration seeking to demonstrate that an investment in science, technology and higher education can have a positive, lasting impact on the economy by addressing key societal issues through quality education and research in the emerging field of engineering systems.”  It is probably much too early to do so – the organizing panel hasn’t even met – but I thought that I would take a while browsing through the MIT Portugal website to see a glimmer of what might be on the horizon here in Alberta.

MIT Portugal, focused exclusively on engineering, involves four entities: the government of Portugal, seven Portuguese universities and 14 Portuguese research centers, industry, and MIT.  MIT Portugal targets four areas that are viewed as keys to economic development and societal impact: sustainable energy systems, transportation systems, bio-engineering systems and advanced manufacturing.  It began in October 2006; “government funding to MIT and partner Portuguese institutions supports this unique collaboration.”  I have been unable to find on the MIT Portugal website any mention of how much government funding is involved, how much industry funding is involved, and the like.  There are a number of attractive publications about its research activities.

MIT Portugal only offers three kinds of graduate degrees:  PhDs, Master’s, and Executive Master’s.  It is not involved in undergraduate training.  It views as one of its key accomplishments is “developing highly skilled human resources in the scientific and technological community in Portugal.”  On more than one page of its website one can find numbers related to how many graduate students have been trained since MIT Portugal’s creation. Financial numbers, however, are not easily found on the website.  Dollar values related to MIT Portugal’s expenditures, or to the economic impact of its research, or to industry contributions to its programs, do not appear to be publicly available.  Perhaps someone else will have better luck searching for them than I did.

One wonders if MIT Portugal will provide a model for the new Albertan institute.  If so, we would expect that it would have these general properties: it would use existing infrastructure (current Albertan universities and labs), it would add a new administrative component (to organize its courses, degrees, etc.), it would focus on a small number of areas predicted to be high reward, and it would only train graduate students.  Of course, it would also require specialized government funding (e.g. grant support to foster research in targeted areas).  Would it also require funding to obtain external expertise as leverage to diversify the provincial economy?  Is MIT Alberta on the horzion?  Presumably we will have a much better idea of the structure and costs of this new institute, and how its funding will affect the funding of other postsecondary schools in Alberta, in a matter of weeks after the new panel presents its recommendations.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Writing and the Dictionary of Cognitive Science

Disseminating knowledge is one of the most important elements of my job.  One of the most effective means of disseminating knowledge is writing about what one has discovered, and publishing this writing as a journal article or as a book.

Writing, however, is an activity that requires a great deal of practice.  There are times when one cannot write during a research project – for instance, when a project is just starting or is ongoing, and you do not have any results to write about!  How do you keep your writing habits sharp in such lean times?

I try to keep in the writing habit by taking on projects that permit me to write when the need arises, but which can be left alone when other kinds of writing projects are put on the ‘front burner’.  One of my most important tools for maintaining my writing habit is the University Of Alberta Dictionary Of Cognitive Science.  It is a perfect writing project, because it can be left dormant for long periods of time.  When the need arises, it is easy to extend, because you simply find terms that can be defined, and which do not currently have a definition on the site.
This Dictionary of Cognitive Science is simply that: a web resource that provides brief descriptions of terms that are related to cognitive science in one way or another.  Most descriptions in this dictionary talk about a term in a paragraph or two, and provide a handful of references.  The Dictionary is organized alphabetically, and is also searchable.  It currently has entries for 373 terms, beginning with ‘abecedarium’ and ending with ‘z-lens’.  Since June 12, 2012 I have been tweeting links to its entries, in random order, every weekday as a ‘cognitive science word of the day’, or #cogsci #wotd.  I will have exhausted this list sometime by the end of 2013, and will have to add more definitions to continue this practice!

The Dictionary of Cognitive Science began as a class writing project.  Students in a graduate course on cognitive science wrote a handful of definitions, and I posted these definitions on a website that was being delivered by a lab SPARCstation.  One of my former graduate students, David Medler, wrote some routines for searching and posting on this website; David and I even published an account of this as a pedagogical activity (Dawson & Medler, 1999).  The current version is maintained as an Adobe Dreamweaver site on my office desk machine, and is served out on a new Linux box that is housed in my basement lab.

The Dictionary started as a class writing exercise, but it soon took on a life of its own.  It turned out that a lot of people were connecting to it.  As a result, I began to feel a responsibility to grow it, and to clean up entries in it that I felt were substandard.  I started this phase of the project in 2009.  In addition to editing existing entries, I added new entries related to material being moulded into a book on LEGO robots and embodied cognitive science (Dawson, Dupuis, & Wilson, 2010).  After another hiatus, another set of terms were added while I was writing my current book on the foundations of cognitive science (Dawson, 2013).

While the Dictionary of Cognitive Science exists as an internet resource, its control structure is a narrow plywood bookshelf that is slowly being filled with hundreds of index cards.  This physical instantiation of the Dictionary stands in my office, as shown in the image below.  The writing process proceeds as follows:  First, I scan through the Dictionary, looking for terms related to my current work that have no entries, or looking for terms that need to be revised.  For each term that I could create or revise, I write the term on an index card.  Second, I take a handful of these cards home, and spend a while writing an electronic version of a definition for each.  Third, I create a page for each new term in Dreamweaver, and update the required links in the website that permit the new definitions to be indexed.  At this time I stamp a ‘completed’ date on the index card of each definition that has been created.  I then upload the updated Dictionary to the server, and am ready to post the new entries on Twitter, one day at a time.  With every post, I stamp a ‘posted’ date on the index card, and then place the card on its alphabetized shelf in my office.

As the fall term comes to an end, I will have run out of current Dictionary entries.  Fortunately, I am working on a couple of new projects (relating neural networks to Bayes theorem, and a book about interpreting the internal structure of neural networks trained on musical tasks), which will serve as a source of (needed) new material for the Dictionary of Cognitive Science.  I am stocked up on index cards, and ready to write new definitions to keep the rust off my writing while I collect new data on these new projects.

·         Dawson, M. R. W. (2013). Mind, Body, World: Foundations of Cognitive Science. Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.
·         Dawson, M.R.W., Dupuis, B., & Wilson, M. (2010). From Bricks to Brains: The Embodied Cognitive Science of LEGO Robots. Athabasca University Press, Edmonton.
·         Dawson, M. R. W., & Medler, D. A. (1999). The Dictionary of Cognitive Science: One approach to teaching students how to create their own WWW instructional materials. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 5, 65-78.



Monday, September 23, 2013

The State Of The University

Last Thursday, University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera delivered a state of the university address, her first since the provincial government surprisingly cut university funding in its spring budget.  She called for the university community to be open to change.  She outlined a four point action plan for dealing with the university’s current challenges: academic transformation; a balanced, sustainable and flexible funding model; efficient administration; and a university culture change.

This plan aims to weather the current financial storm with a particular goal in mind: “to preserve and enhance the University of Alberta’s core mission of delivering excellence in teaching, research, and service supported by sustainable, balanced financial models.”  The President’s vision, supported by Doug Goss, chairman of the board of governors, remains making the University of Alberta one of the world’s great public universities.  In answer to one question from the audience, Samarasekera noted that “we cannot cut our way to greatness.”

The speech stimulated both an article and an editorial in the Edmonton Journal. The editorial viewed the speech as a skillful handling of the diverse pressures that Samarasekera faces. The article described the speech as “upbeat” and a restatement of the goal of making the University of Alberta a “top-tier school.”  Some who watched the speech ‘live tweeted’ fragments of it; these typically were quotes about maintaining or enhancing the university’s excellence.  This message certainly resonated with the university community.

Other recent developments also affirm higher administration’s goals concerning university excellence.  For instance, less than a week before the state of the university address, President Samarasekera announced the Peter Lougheed Leadership Initiative in cooperation with the Banff Centre. It intends to be “one of the pre-eminent leadership development programs in the world.”  This initiative is currently in the planning stages, and may eventually involve a building with residences.  A fundraising goal of $60 million has already been set.

As part of her state of the university address, President Samarasekera drew inspiration from the history of the construction of the Arts Building in which she presented her speech.  The first president of the university, Henry Marshall Tory, intended it to be the first major teaching building on campus.  The sod turning ceremony for the Arts Building was held in 1909.  After the foundation was poured, planning conflicts and vagaries of provincial funding led to a halt in construction.  Samarasekera noted that “it all added up to a hole in the middle of campus that collected water each spring for four years.”  Funding and support was not secured until 1913, leading to continued construction – but construction halted again, before a roof was added to the building, when funding ran out.  Tory apparently convinced the contractors to complete the building and to be paid for their efforts later.  “And thus the building was finally completed and from that point onward became the heart of campus.”

What is the moral of the history of the Arts Building?  For our current president, “this building and its story reminds me that persistence and resilience are as hardwired into the U of A’s culture as excellence and ambition.”  Towards the end of her speech, she again cited Henry Marshall Tory’s persistence and resilience, which he demonstrated were fundamental to the creation of excellence.

This is certainly an upbeat message, and one worthy of taking to heart.  However, Tory taught us other lessons as well.

For instance, the halt in construction of the Arts Building did not mean that other buildings were not being created on the new university’s campus.  Alberta College South (now St. Stephen’s College) and Athabasca Hall were both in existence when the university moved from temporary quarters to its current location in 1911.  University growth at this time led to an expansion of Athabasca Hall and the planning of Assiniboia Hall, whose construction was completed in 1912 – three years before the Arts Building was opened.

In other words, the hole in the ground collecting water for four years also symbolized Tory’s willingness to patiently delay some plans while working to meet other basic needs of the university. (By 1912 Athabasca Hall had had its dining hall and kitchen enlarged.  This was done to meet the demands of 80 additional residents.)

As difficult budgetary decisions are made in the coming weeks at the University of Alberta, it is certainly important to be inspired by Tory’s persistence and resilience.  However, it may be just as important to keep in mind his patient practicality.  What university needs must be met in the short term?  What worthy goals may have to be delayed while the university faces its current challenges?  Hopefully answers to questions like these will emerge soon from the many discussions initiated on campus since the provincial budget was delivered last March.


Saturday, September 07, 2013

Rameau’s Ukulele

When I was growing up, I spent a fair amount of time ‘noodling’ on a banjo ukulele, one of my father’s many musical instruments.  I taught myself some rudimentary chord progressions, but didn’t advance much further.

A couple of years ago, succumbing to a certain degree of sentimentality, I had a growing urge to take up the ukulele once again.  My wife was kind enough to give me a concert ukulele for my birthday (a Samich UK-50), and my noodling resumed.  This time around, grounded in a great deal more musical theory and practice than in my youth, and with a growing interest in the cognitive science of music, my ukulele skills have advanced much further than was the case in the past.  I have discovered barre chords, and have been able to use them to explore a variety of progressions that we have stumbled on via our explorations of jazz using neural networks.  It probably hasn’t hurt that my hands are bigger now too!

Over the past few days, I have found another use for my ukulele: as a cognitive scaffold for exploring the mathematics of musical sound.  In August, I read Hermann von Helmholtz’ 19th century classic On The Sensations Of Tone, which covered a great deal of material on musical intervals and chords.  Often, when Helmholtz discusses such topics, he refers the reader to the 18th century work on harmony by Jean-Philippe Rameau.  A couple of days ago I acquired a translation of Rameau’s 1722 important Treatise On Harmony – and found myself working my way through early parts of this book with my ukulele in hand.

Rameau begins with some core ideas that date back to Pythagorean studies of music.  First, a taught string of a given length, when plucked, generates a tone of a specific pitch.  Second, if one shortens the length of this string, holding other string properties constant, the generated pitch is higher.

Fretted instruments like the ukulele are founded upon this basic principle.  A ukulele is an instrument whose four strings are typically tuned to the musical notes G, C, E, and A, where the C is middle C and the A is the first A above middle C – that is the A associated with a frequency of 440 hz, called concert pitch.

Consider the A string, which is the bottom-most string in the figure below.  Once the ukulele is properly tuned, if one plucks this string, one hears concert pitch.  One can change the pitch of this string by pressing down on one of the ukulele frets, which results in the string becoming shorter.  For instance, if you press down on the ukulele’s second fret and pluck this string, the result is hearing a note a full tone higher than A, B.  Pressing down on the fourth fret produces a note two full tones higher than A, C#.  Pressing down on the twelfth fret produces a tone an octave higher than A, represented as A’ (or A 880).  The first figure below indicates the sequence frets to press to play the succession of notes in the A major scale using this one ukulele string, beginning with the open string (i.e. plucking the string without holding it down anywhere).


Rameau’s theory begins by considering different ways in which the length of a set string (like the A string of the ukulele) could be divided into segments of equal length.  Consider the figure below.  The full string, labeled ‘1’ in the figure, has length AB.  The simplest way to divide it into two segments is to find its midpoint (C in the string labeled 2).  The line segment AC is exactly half the length of line segment AB, as is the line segment CB.  The figure shows how the original string can be divided into three equal segments (line 3) as well as into four equal segments (line 4).

 As noted above, changing the length of a musical string changes its pitch.  For instance, a string of length AC in the figure above is half the length of string AB.  If the former is plucked, it will generate a pitch a full octave higher than is generated by plucking the latter.

This claim of Rameau’s is essentially a citation of a Pythagorean discovery, and not surprisingly it can be easily confirmed with the ukulele.  I measured the length of the A string on my ukulele, which (rounding to decimal places) was 37.47 cm from saddle to nut (see the figure above).  To generate A’ an octave higher, I require a string that is half this length, or 18.73 cm.  I measured this distance up from the saddle of my ukulele, and found that it took me exactly to its 12th fret.  As shown in the first figure above, one produces A’ by pressing the A string down on this fret.

Rameau goes on to consider strings of lengths in between AB and AC.  For instance, what if one plucked a string that was average in length between these two?

Interestingly, the result of doing this depends on how one defines ‘average’.  One approach is to take the arithmetic mean of the lengths AB and AC.  This is equal to (AB + AC)/2 = (37.47 + 18.73)/2 = 28.10 cm.  If one measures this distance along the A string from the ukulele’s saddle, the endpoint is at the ukulele’s fifth fret.  Pressing this fret down and plucking the string produces the note D (see the first figure).  This is the fourth note of the A major scale, and is five semitones above A (a musical interval of a perfect fourth).

Mathematically, all of this makes sense.  The Pythagoreans observed that the length ratio between a string that produced one pitch and a string that produced a pitch a perfect fourth higher was 4:3.  Note that 28.10 = ¾ * 37.47.  That is, if a string of length AB produces the note A, then a string of length ¾  AB produces the note D a perfect fourth higher.  In the line diagrams given earlier, the segment AH in the line labeled ‘4’ (i.e. the line divided into four equal segments) has a length of ¾  AB.  Thus the line segment AH is the arithmetic mean of AB, and is associated with a tone that is a perfect fourth higher than the tone associated with a string of length AB.

A second approach to defining ‘average’ is to compute the harmonic mean, which is a measure of central tendency that is less familiar than the arithmetic mean, and is used to compute averages for sets of numbers that have a few outliers.  The harmonic mean of two numbers x and y is (2xy)/(x+y).

What happens if we compute the harmonic mean of the two lengths AB and AC?  Using the equation for the harmonic mean given above, we compute (2 * 37.47 * 18.73)/(37.47 + 18.73) = 24.98.  That is, a string with a length of 24.98 cm is the harmonic mean of the lengths of AB and AC.  Note that this value is substantially smaller than the arithmetic mean calculated earlier.  Indeed, if we measure this distance from the ukulele’s saddle, we reach the seventh fret, not the fifth fret!  Earlier, the first figure demonstrated that by pressing the seventh fret of the A string we produce the note E, which is a perfect fifth above A (or seven semitones).

Again, all of this makes mathematical sense.  The Pythagoreans observed that the length ratio between a string that produced one note and another that produced a note a perfect fifth higher was 3:2.  Note that the harmonic mean that we computed, 24.98, = 2/3 * 37.47.  In other words, a string that has a length of 2/3 AB produces a tone a perfect fifth higher.  In the line diagram given earlier, the line segment AE in the line labeled ‘3’ has a length that is 2/3 AB, which is equal to the harmonic mean of AB and AC, and which produces a tone a perfect fifth higher than the tone associated with AB – a fact that was confirmed with the ukulele!

Given that the perfect fifth is generally confirmed as the most consonant of the musical intervals, it is perhaps not surprising that it is the harmonic mean of the two notes an octave apart that it stands between.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013


A number of postsecondary instructors – including myself -- will begin the new fall term by informing their students about the existence of a particular Twitter hashtag, #abpse. This blog entry provides some context for the conversation that is developing around the #abpse thread.

In the 2012 Alberta provincial election campaign, the Progressive Conservative party expressed strong support for post-secondary education.  Announcing a $650 million promise for infrastructure funding, Premier Redford said "There's no doubt that post-secondary institutions in this province, no matter where they are, are the key to our future success.”  Post-secondary institutions were expecting stable three year cycles of funding in provincial budgets, and were also expecting a 2% increase in funding in the March 2013 budget.

The March 2013 budget, however, did not fulfill these expectations.  Instead, post-secondary funding was cut by 7.3%.  Over the last few months, post-secondary institutions across the province have been suspending some programs, placing limits on student admissions, and making other difficult decisions in order to deal with this change in provincial funding.  Some predict that the situation is going to get worse.  For instance, not too many days ago the Faculties of Arts and Science at the University of Alberta indicated that they needed to achieve cuts that, when combined, totaled over $12 million, and needed to do so by April, 2014.

The #abpse thread in Twitter is an important source of information about this entire situation.  The figure below, taken today from a Topsy feed that I created, indicates that over the past month there has been an average of over 230 tweets per day that include the #abpse hashtag.  There is clearly a tremendous amount of interest in this issue on Twitter.  The sharp rise in the middle of the figure corresponds to the announcements from Arts and from Science at U of A later in August.

The #abpse thread is important for a number of reasons.  First, it is a constant source of links to news articles related to the impact of the government’s post-secondary funding decisions.  Second, it is monitored – and contributed to – by the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, Thomas Lukaszuk.  Third, it is contributed to by a wide variety of individuals – students, staff, and others – from across the province.

At times, the tone of these tweets is angry and combative, expressing (I think) the fact that these cuts are impacting individuals who are concerned about their livelihood, their program of study, or their view about the quality of post-secondary education in this province.  Many different opinions are expressed.  There are disagreements about how, and even whether, the cuts will affect students.  There are debates about the necessity of the cuts, as well as about how they should be implemented.  There are appeals to the government and to opposition parties about future policies and pleas to reverse the cuts.  There are questions about the relationship between enterprise and advanced education, as well as about the purpose of universities and university degrees. 

Students, explore Twitter’s #abpse hashtag.  Watch it, learn from it, become involved with it.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Eight Tips About Publishing Books

This past Friday marked the release of my new book, Mind, Body, World: Foundations Of Cognitive Science, published by Athabasca University Press.  The book, which is described (and – shameless plug – can be ordered) here, is my attempt to introduce cognitive science, and at the same time consider the relationships between three different schools of cognitive science: classical, connectionist, and embodied.  The book is part of Athabasca University Press’ OPEL(Open Paths to Enriched Learning) series.  This series is an attempt to reduce barriers to university access, in particular the cost of course materials.  The book is available for a very reasonable price in both paperback and e-book format, and a free pdf version of the book is also available from the publisher. Enough with the shameless plugs for the book!  I am looking forward to seeing it in its physical form, which I am hoping will be possible next week – because that is when some students might like to buy it to use as a text for my third-year “Foundations of Cognitive Science” course.

With the release of this latest work, I thought that I would celebrate by sharing what I have learned about the process of writing a book, and then getting it published.  Mind, Body, World is my sixth book; three have been published by Wiley-Blackwell, two by Athabasca University Press, and one (a really cool study of the relationship between connectionism and classical conditioning) has appeared as a monograph in Comparative Cognition & Behavior Review.  Hopefully I have learned something about the process with all of this practice!

Tip #1: Write a book because you feel that you need to.  Writing a book is a great deal of work, and you can spend a lot of time working on a manuscript without any immediate reward.  In short, in the ‘publish or perish’ world of academia, book writing can be a dangerous activity.  So, write a book because you have a strong need to create a more in depth manuscript, because you are both interested and committed to the project, and because you want to learn a great deal about the domain that you are going to be writing about.

Tip # 2: Write a complete draft of the book before you do anything else (like contact a prospective publisher.  With one exception, every book manuscript that I have written was in the form of a solid, complete draft before I began shopping it around to publishers.  Acquisition editors have expressed puzzlement over this policy of mind; they are willing to consider offering a book contract on the basis of a prospectus and a couple of draft chapters to be sent to reviewers.  However, I have found that complete drafts are useful for a number of reasons.

One is that publishers can be whimsical.  For instance, I knew before I started my last sabbatical that I was going to write another book – see Tip #1 – and I had a nice chat in my lab with an acquisition editor from a major publisher who was interested in it.  I told them (in violation of this tip) that I would consider sending them a prospectus and the first five chapters when I was happy with them.  Before these chapters were written, there was a change in acquisition editors, and when I was ready to send a part of the manuscript for review, they didn’t even want it!

Another is that the publication process can be fairly lengthy, because it involves one or two stages of manuscript review, creation of a document (and figures) in formats that are used by the publisher, copy editing, proofing, index creation, and the like.  While all of this is going on, you can test your completed book (Tip #2) in your course.  I did so in Fall of 2012, and used student feedback to try to make parts of the new book make more sense.  Students also found lots of copyedit issues that I was able to pass on to the publisher.

Tip #3: Write your prospectus – a brief summary of the book, its goals, its intended audience, with chapter summaries – after a full draft of the book is completed.  It is easier this way, particularly if you buy into Tip #2.  Also, I don’t write well from outlines – having a prospectus in hand does not help me much with the writing process.

Tip #4: Be patient when you shop your manuscript around.  With a complete draft of the book, as well as a prospectus, in hand you are ready to contact a publisher to determine whether they are interested in pursuing your project.  You might be told nearly immediately that they are not interested for a variety of reasons (Tip #4a: Develop a thick skin!).  If they are interested, then they will send the manuscript out for review.  This will take a while, and after this process they still might decide not to offer a contract (Tip #4a).  It can take a long while to find a publisher who is interested in bringing your manuscript to life.

Tip #5: Take reviews to heart.  If you do get a set of reviews back, take them to heart.  They are not personal attacks (usually – not true for my first book!), and by considering them objectively and constructively you can improve your manuscript.  This is particularly true if your manuscript has been rejected.  Indeed, you should not only revise your manuscript, but pass the reviews (and how you used them) on to the next publishers.  The more information a publisher has about your manuscript, the better they are able to make an informed decision about taking your project on.  Publishers are usually interested in, and thank you for, reviews that you received from other publishers that you have contacted.

Tip #6: Do not trust contracts.  Just because you have signed a contract with a publisher does not mean that they will produce your book.  True story: I signed a contract with a major publisher for my first book, and then spent six months revising it on the basis of a lengthy review that they gave me.  They even gave me a sizable advance on the manuscript.  As the revising proceeded, I sent things to them, but did not receive any replies, which puzzled me.  Eventually, they did send me a letter: telling me that the fellow who had signed me had died, that they were not going to publish the book (the contract provided an out for them), and that I needed to repay the advance.  After a year of legal hassles, I paid them back half of the advance in exchange for the rights to the book (which they maintained because of the signed contract) in order to sign a contract with a different publisher.

Tip #7: Do not accept an advance.  See Tip #6.  I have only been offered an advance once, and was foolish enough to accept it.

Tip #8: Be committed and confident.  Finding a publisher can be a challenging and frustrating and time consuming process.  I have been lucky enough to have been able to get all of my book projects ‘shipped as product’.  However, it has not always been easy.  Surviving the period of shopping a manuscript around requires that you feel strongly that the project is good and worthwhile.  This is why Tip #1 is probably the most important one in this list!

Happy writing – and publishing!