Announcing: worklog-tools, for automating tedious CV activities

There are a lot of annoyances surrounding academic CV’s. Making a document that looks nice, for one. Maintaining different versions of the same information — short and full CV’s, PDF and HTML formats. Remembering how you’ve categorized your talks and publications so that you know where to file the latest one.

For me, one of the great frustrations has been that a CV is full of useful information, but that information is locked up in a format that’s impossible to do anything useful with — besides generate a CV. I’d like to collect citation statistics for my publications, and my CV contains the needed list of references, but I can’t pull them out for automatic processing. Likewise for things like previously-awarded NSF grants (hypothetically …) and lists of collaborators in the past N years. Some of these things are just interesting to know, and others are needed by agencies and employers.

Well, problem solved. Enter worklog-tools.

Based on the issues I’ve mentioned above, I feel like it’s pretty clear what you want to do: log CV-type activities — your academic output — in some kind of simple data format, and populate some kind of LaTeX template with information from the log. While we’re at it, there’s no need to restrict ourselves to LaTeX — we can also fill in an HTML template for slick, web- native versions of the same information.

I’ve actually gone and done this. There are a lot of ways you could implement things, but here’s what I do:

Two components of this system are data — the log files and the templates. One component is software — the glue that derives things and fills in the templates. The worklog- tools are that software. They come with example data so you can see how they work in practice.

As is often the case, most of the work in this project involved making the system less complicated. I also spent a lot of time documenting the final design. Finally, I also worked to put together some LaTeX templates that I think are quite nice — you can judge the results for yourself.

Is any of this relevant to you? Yes! I sincerely think this system is straightforward enough that normal people would want to use it. A tiny bit of Python hacking is needed for certain kinds of changes, but the code is very simple. I think my templates are pretty nice — and I’m happy for people to use them. (If nothing else, you might learn some nice LaTeX tricks.) Finally, I think the value-add of being able to do things like collect citation statistics is pretty nice — and of course, you can build on this system to do whatever “career analytics” you want. For instance, I log all of my submitted proposals, so I can compute success rates, total time allocated, and so on.

The README on GitHub has many more details, including instructions about how to get started if you want to give it a try. I hope you enjoy!

By the way: INI format is highly underrated as a simple data format. It’s almost as underrated as XML is overrated.

By the way #2: Of course, nothing in this system makes it specific to CV’s — with different templates and log files, you can insert structured data into any kind of document.

By the way #3: Patches and pull requests are welcome! There are a zillion features that could be added.

By the way #4: A lot of this work was probably motivated by the fact that my name isn’t very ADS-able — a search for P Williams pulls in way too many hits, and though I can’t get a search for exactly PKG Williams to work, I have a fair number of publications without the middle initials.