Guest post: where to eat and drink at #ESA2014

Note from Jeremy: This is a guest post from Chris Hamn, who until recently was a postdoc in the Dept. of Evolution and Ecology at UC Davis. Thanks very much to Chris for taking the time to write up his favorite Sacramento drinking and dining spots!

This is a cross post from Chris’ own blog, Pizza, Beer, and Science. Can I just say, I’m really glad to have advice on where to eat and drink at ESA from someone who named their blog “Pizza, Beer, and Science”. :-)

For more suggestions on where to eat and drink at ESA, go here.


For those of you from put of town visiting the Sacramento area for the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting here are a few of my favorite places to eat and drink with notes about the town and food culture.

Sacramento has a number of excellent local breweries. You can get excellent local beer at nearly any of the bars and restaurants downtown. The list below is a collection of places I have been to and would recommend that are either downtown near the event or are easily accessible via the light rail.

A bit about me and my tastes: I was a postdoc at UC Davis for a year and a half until recently moving to Kansas. I’ve never been one for fine dining so I won’t be of any help there, but I really like good food and good beer.

Capitol Garage – This is one of my favorite places to eat in Downtown, especially for breakfast/brunch. The Cap is the kind of place where most of the staff have a lot of tattoos but the food and drinks are amazing. They have a full bar and lots of local craft beer that really compliment their excellent menu. They have lots of things that foodies (for veg, vegan and carnivores) will enjoy. I should add that I have never had a bad meal here. The staff is friendly and keeps the coffee coming but sometimes they are not the fastest. They accept on-line reservation through their website and the OpenTable app.

Pourhouse – Another place to grab a delicious beer and sandwich. Pub style fair, nothing fancy but everything is tasty.

Zia’s – An Italian style deli that is a great place to get a sandwich during lunch. There is often a decent sized line because of it’s proximity to the capitol but they move quickly. They close at 6p on weekdays so plan accordingly if you want a sandwich for dinner.

Shoki – The best ramen in town with lots of options to keep it vegetarian or vegan. This is another place where I have never had a bad meal, but service can lag a bit when they are busy.

Burgers and Brew – The name says it all. Good burgers and a good selection of craft beers.

Shady Lady Saloon – If you like cocktails this is the place you will want to visit. They also have a nice menu. I should note that I like this place but it can get very loud at night and you may have to be assertive to get your order in at the bar.

Fox & Goose – A nice public house with good seating. There is often live music but I’ve found it to be a place to regroup and chat late at night. I have not tried the food here.

Dad’s – This is one of my favorite places to eat in Sacramento. Everything they make uses local ingredients and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had there. Beware, parking is a problem here because it is located in a residential neighborhood with 1 hr max parking time. But have no fear, there is a BLUE line station just up the street (4th and Wayne / Hultgren station). In my opinion, this has the best local craft beer selection in town (20+ taps).

Rick’s Dessert Diner - If you have a sweet tooth than this is where you will want to go. At any one time they have at least 20 different cakes/tortes/pies and they also make excellent shakes, all in a 50’s style diner that is open late.

Hot Italian – If you like Neapolitan style pizza than you want to come here. They do offer the traditional 12″ pizzas made with 00 Italian flour but they also offer a number of less traditional toppings that may sound odd but are delicious.

Pangea – A Belgian “Bier Cafe” with lots of imported ales on draft and a decent menu of contemporary bar food.

Firestone – This place has a large selection of craft beers (but is in no way associated with the Firestone Walker Brewery). I’ve found the food to be mediocre but the beer list is respectable.

Breweries – If you want to go and visit any of the breweries located in Sacramento I recommend the following:

Rubicon        Hoppy      Track 7     New Helvetia

Poll: how do you calculate sums of squares in an unbalanced ANOVA?

Inspired by, and related to, Meg’s recent poll on how you interpret interaction terms and main effects in ANOVA, I thought I’d ask my own ANOVA-related questions:

Part of the reason I’m asking these two questions is that different stats programs default to different calculation methods. Base R defaults to type I SS (though some packages have different defaults), while SAS defaults to type III. All of these methods give the same answer when the design is balanced (which is one good reason to balance your designs!), but they give different answers for unbalanced designs because they test different hypotheses. So really, what I’m asking is, exactly what hypotheses do you prefer to test when doing ANOVA with >1 factor?

I’m also curious whether people’s preferences match up with the defaults in their preferred stats packages. And if the match is because stats package defaults shape people’s preferences, rather than people’s preferences shaping their choice of stats package.

At the risk of biasing your answers, here’s an accessible discussion of the issue, here’s another, and here is a third (ht ucfagls, in a comment, for that third link).

Unusual uses of technology for ecological studies

Last year, I attended the defense talk of Jasmine Crumsey, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. Her PhD dissertation focused on the impacts of exotic earthworms on soil carbon dynamics. Her work is notable because of what she found (exotic earthworms alter carbon storage, but the exact effect differs among species depending on their burrowing pattern), but also because of how she found it: she worked with radiologists from the University of Michigan medical school to reconstruct and quantify earthworm burrow systems. How cool is that?*

Legend: The Xray CT with one of Jasmine’s mesocosms in it, rather than a human. (Photo credit: Jasmine Crumsey)

This made me think of my post on unusual suppliers of research equipment (the winner being the use of vibrators by pollination biologists), but it’s on a whole different scale in terms of cost and technology!

Do you know of other examples of people using very fancy, very expensive equipment for an “off-label” use in ecological research? Have you done this for your own research?


*Jasmine was not the first person to use this approach – see her Ecology paper for references to others who did this before her. This was just the first time I’d heard of this.

**You can also learn more about Jasmine’s research and see video of her electroshocking to get worms out of their burrows by watching this video, starting around 9:20.

Friday links: zombie ideas in evolution and psychology, a world without statistics, and more

Also this week: “charging a cover” for students to attend lab, the (ridiculous) ecology of Tatooine, and Florence Nightingale vs. Twitter trolls. Oh, and I make fun of some pseudoscience.

From Jeremy:

Jerry Coyne argues that there are no ring species. I don’t work on speciation, so I’m not qualified to judge this. But as a connoisseur of zombie ideas, I’m curious to hear from folks who do. Is Coyne right? Are ring species now a zombie idea? Are people attempting to save the idea by broadening the notion of what constitutes a “ring species” (as at least one commenter on Coyne’s post tries to do)? Curious to hear what folks more knowledgeable than me think of this. (ht Ed Yong)

Speaking of zombie ideas, here’s one from psychology: the famous Stanford Prison Experiment. You’ve probably heard of it–but you probably weren’t aware that the results actually weren’t clear cut, that the results may well have been driven by leading instructions to the participants from the lead investigator, or that a major replication attempt produced dramatically different results. But then, you’re probably not a psychologist, so it’s not particularly surprising or worrying if you aren’t aware of all the really serious criticisms of this experiment (I wasn’t). What is worrying is that psychology textbooks that cover the Stanford Prison Experiment (which most do) mostly either present the claimed results uncritically, or else present only cursory coverage of ethical criticisms while skipping over substantive criticisms (see the link for details). Textbook authors are quite rightly drawn to classic studies and dramatic examples. But are you really doing students a service if you ignore serious criticisms of classic studies, and focus on dramatic examples that may well be unrepresentative flukes? Plus, as the linked post points out, the controversy over the Stanford Prison Experiment is a great opportunity to teach students about research methods, pitfalls in study design, the importance of replication and alternative explanations, and more (an opportunity that a few textbooks do take up, to their credit). All of which gives me an excuse to link to our old post on whether and how to teach scientific controversies. (ht @TimHarford)

What would the world be like without statistics? Andrew Gelman speculates that it might not be all that much different, or all that much worse.

This week in pseudoscience: Did you know that, because the Concorde deviated from the allometric relationships that apply to other aircraft, it was an “evolutionary dead end”, obviously suboptimal and therefore doomed to fail? That’s what some engineers are claiming, anyway. This seems like a major methodological advance, being able to identify things that are doomed to fail just by looking at whether they deviate from allometries. Wonder what you’d find if you applied that reasoning to vertebrate…OH NO WE’RE DOOMED!!!11!:


(image modified from here.) Also, I love that their own figure actually shows that all airplanes deviate systematically and substantially from the allometries that govern animal locomotion. Let’s not even get started on how the Concorde actually did fly, and failed because of economics rather than the laws of physics. As for the lead author’s notion of a “constructal law” (all systems–living organisms, airplanes, river networks, economies, you name it–must maximize their “flow” if they are to survive)…how, um, interesting. Surprising that a reputable journal would publish this, though perhaps they published it for the data on airplane allometries and decided to pass over the odd bits. Thanks-for-nothing ht to Marginal Revolution.

This is old, but it’s quite interesting (and I bet I’ll surprise a few of you by recommending it): in praise of theories based on verbal stories rather than mathematical models, and empirical studies emphasizing description of variation, “stylized facts”, and what ecologists would call “natural experiments” over sophisticated statistical estimation or hypothesis testing. It’s from macroeconomics, but it’s pretty accessible; you should be able to at least get the gist. Definitely worth thinking about how it might apply to ecology (the author spends a lot of time comparing economics to the natural sciences). I don’t know that I agree with it in the context of ecology, but it’s thought-provoking. Maybe I’ll try to find a way to work it into my Ignite talk for the ESA meeting… (ht Brad DeLong)

Semi-relatedly: teaching students about existing theories vs. teaching them how to develop new theories. Or, teaching them how to solve math problems vs. teaching them how to develop math problems that are worth solving.

BioDiverse Perspectives poses four questions for biodiversity science, and invites you to comment or tweet your answers. The questions are pretty broad and allow a lot of scope for interpretation, so not surprisingly the answers so far are all over the map. But still, it’s good to step back and think about this sort of big picture stuff periodically. We have several old posts relevant to the first two questions, which have to do with translating science into conservation policy (here, here, and here).

Would you “charge a cover” to undergraduate students to attend lab? That is, assign prelab quizzes that students can only pass if they’ve familiarized themselves with the assigned background material. Any student who doesn’t get 75% on the quiz is not allowed to participate in the lab (!) My first reaction is that it sounds like a good idea in principle, but that in practice it would be hard to design and explain it in a way that doesn’t piss off lots of students. I’d first try to come up with other ways of ensuring that unprepared students don’t waste the time of the TAs and the prepared students (not that that’s easy…)

The ecology of Tatooine makes no sense. :-)

And finally: what if great scientific discoveries of the past had been announced on Twitter? The double helix and evolution are the funniest. And Florence Nightingale shows how to deal with trolls. :-) (ht Scholarly Kitchen)

Survey: where do you prefer to publish your theory papers?

Bruce Kendall, chair of the ESA’s Theoretical Ecology section and an editorial board member at Ecology, is surveying ecologists on where they prefer to publish ecological theory and models, and why. The motivation is to help the ESA make its journals a more attractive outlet for theoretical and modeling work aimed at a broad audience.

The survey is short, asks for no personally identifying information, and only aggregate results will be reported. There’s a place for you to make anonymous comments. The preferred deadline is before the upcoming ESA meeting, but the survey will remain open until the end of August.

You can take the survey here.

Unread classics in ecology

I’ve been thinking more about this recent Crooked Timber post on classic books that hardly anybody actually reads.* Suggestions in the post and comments include The Gulag Archipelago, Joyce’s Ulysses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, the Bible, War and Peace, and anything by Pynchon or Proust.**

Many scientific classics would qualify for this list. Anything by Kepler, Galileo, or Newton, for instance. I’m sure chemists don’t read Lavoisier. I bet geneticists don’t read Mendel. Etc.

Classics can go unread for different reasons. The lasting insights of people like Newton, Lavoisier, and Mendel have long since been incorporated into textbooks, so nobody has any reason besides historical curiosity to read the originals. And arguably, even historical curiosity might be better satisfied by reading about those works rather than actually reading them, since the outdated language and terminology of the originals often makes them difficult to read even in translation. In contrast, if a literary classic from the last couple of centuries is unreadable then that arguably means it’s flawed, though perhaps with compensating virtues. Of course, a book that’s unreadable for one audience might be highly readable for another. A Brief History of Time is infamous as a bestseller that nobody read, but I suspect that most of the physicists who bought it read it and enjoyed it.

I’ve read Darwin’s Origin of Species and recommend it highly, but my track record on other ecology classics is pretty spotty. I’ve never read Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago, though I’ve heard it’s very readable. I’ve never read anything by Cowles, Clements or Gleason. I’ve never read Elton’s animal ecology textbook. I’ve never read Lotka. I have read Gause’s The Struggle for Existence and was very impressed. Though of course I have a personal bias since I work in the same system as Gause, and so it’s hard for me to separate purely historical or personal interest from scientific interest when it comes to Gause. And there are lots of classic papers in ecology and evolution that I know only second hand, but for purposes of this post I want to mostly stick to books and monographs.

So, just for fun: what classics of ecology have you actually read? Take the poll below!

(Yes, I know the poll isn’t a comprehensive list of ecological classics. Sorry. I just picked the first things I could think of, trying to include books (and in Cowles’ case, a series of papers) of a wide range of ages. You get the polls you pay for on this blog.)

A final, deliberately-contrarian thought: can it sometimes be a bad idea to read the classics? Not just because of opportunity costs (time spent reading anything is time not spent reading or doing something else), but because it actually might reduce your ability to think critically and rigorously or expose you to zombie ideas? Where does “having some first hand knowledge of the history of your discipline” stop and “excessive respect for outdated ideas” begin? Here’s Noah Smith, articulating my worry pretty well in the context of economics:

There is nothing more annoying than when you argue with some idea, and then some guy comes along and says “Go read Ludwig von Mises, then you’ll understand everything.” No you won’t. You’ll just get a warm glow of understand-y-ness, and you’ll end up parroting words and phrases from the Old Master without being any better able to think critically and originally about the issues.

Then again, a lot of those old folks were really smart, and there are probably insights embedded in their writings that are too vague or complex to be translated directly into math, but which contain information, the way the priors of a portfolio manager carry valuable information in a Black-Litterman model. But the flip side of that is that you probably have to be a really, really smart person to extract that deep-buried insight. Economic history, in other words, seems like very dangerous sauce to me – in the right hands it can be useful, but it is usually in the wrong hands.

Looking forward to your responses to the poll, and to your comments.

*Unread classics are different than neglected classics. Neglected classics are works that deserve to be regarded as classics, but aren’t because they’re not widely known. Unread classics are widely regarded as classics, despite the fact that few people have actually read them. People know of unread classics, but don’t know them first hand.

**Also tables of logarithms. :-)

Neglected classics in ecology and evolution

What are the greatest neglected classics in ecology and evolution? Truly great papers or books that deserve to be much more widely known than they are?*

Part of the challenge here is deciding how little-known a paper has to be before it counts as “neglected”. I’d be very surprised if any truly great paper was totally unknown–say, never cited, or cited only a handful of times. Indeed, lots of my very favorite papers are hardly obscure, even if they’re not nearly as famous as I think they should be.

The other part of the challenge here is deciding how good and important a paper has to be in order to deserve to be called a “classic”. There’s no single right answer here. Major league baseball fans fall on a continuum from those who’d prefer a small Hall of Fame, to those who’d prefer a large Hall of Fame. Similarly, I’m sure ecologists and evolutionary biologists fall on a continuum from those who think that only papers on this level count as “classics”, to those for whom “classic” means “any paper I like a lot”.

Note that a “neglected classic” needs to be old enough that it could’ve attained “classic” status. Ok, I don’t know exactly how old that is. But probably at least a decade, right? Maybe even more?

Here’s an opening bid: Levin 1970. A huge step forward for coexistence theory, I think. Mark McPeek thinks so too. I agree 100% with Mark that this paper totally supersedes older verbal ideas about coexistence. If you want to understand coexistence as a dynamical phenomenon, and so appreciate all the ways in which Hutchinson’s famous “n-dimensional hypervolume” metaphor is limited and unhelpful–even the opposite of helpful–you need to read Levin 1970. It’s also very accessible, and it’s got an unusual and charming epilogue. And Levin 1970 has only been cited 262 times according to Web of Science, about 1/10th as often as the most-cited ecology papers from that time. Perhaps Mark’s paper looking back on Levin 1970 will raise its profile to “classic”.

Armstrong and McGehee’s work on nonequilibrium coexistence via the mechanism now known as “relative nonlinearity” might qualify. This is hugely important work and was a big conceptual leap for community ecology at the time (though see next paragraph for related work from around the same time). But Armstrong and McGehee 1980 (the paper most ecologists cite, even though they first published the idea in 1976) has been cited 572 times, which arguably means it’s not really “neglected”.

And as long as we’re talking about neglected classics in coexistence theory, I’ll throw Levins 1979 out there. Terrific paper, only been cited 278 times. But some of the key ideas are in Levin 1970 (Levins basically extends the argument to non-equilibrium situations), so if you forced me to pick one I’d pick Levin as the neglected classic.

Until not too long ago, Price 1970 was definitely a neglected classic. But thanks to the work of Steven Frank and others, the Price equation is now much more widely known. Price 1970 has now been cited 651 times, and unlike most papers it’s been cited much more often in recent years than it was when it was first published.

I can think of numerous others just off the top of my head, though I don’t know that any are quite on the same level as Levin 1970. Armstrong 1979 (ahead of its time, though it has antecedants including Levin 1970; Robert Armstrong has numerous underrated papers). Kaunzinger and Morin 1998 (ok, I’m laughably biased on this one since Christina Kaunzinger was a labmate of mine and Peter Morin was my supervisor, but I still think it’s maybe the greatest food chain experiment ever and should be in every ecology textbook). Chesson and Huntly 1997 (one of my favorite papers ever, a big influence on me and very well-known in the circles I move in, but not as widely known as it should be). Lots of others I’m dying to name–I could go on and on. But I’ll shut up now and open the floor for comments.

*Maybe we should call them “should-be classics”, since “neglected classics” is something of an oxymoron.

Don’t worry (too much) about whether you’ll get tenure, because you probably will

A while back, Terry McGlynn came out of the tenure denial closet, revealing that he was denied tenure at his previous job (he’s now tenured). Terry’s far from alone. I know, or know of, several people who were denied tenure, or who left tenure-track jobs in anticipation of being denied. I’m sure anyone who’s been around academia for a while could say the same. And while some of those denials were for good reasons, some were for debatable reasons, and some were for bad reasons.

If you’re a new assistant prof, or hoping to become one, stories of tenure denial can be scary. It’s only natural to worry that the same might happen to you.

Here’s my advice: don’t worry, at least not too much, unless you have some reason to worry that’s specific to your own situation. Because the data show that most people do get tenure.

Data on tenure rates aren’t routinely collected and compiled. They’re much harder to come by than, say, data on grant application success rates at national funding agencies. But I did some googling, and asked around a bit, and came up with some numbers. The numbers should reassure those of you who are worried in a generalized, abstract way about your prospects for tenure.*

It’s not randomly-sampled or census data, of course. For instance, it’s my impression that tenure denial is somewhat more common at Ivy League universities and elite liberal arts colleges than at other types of institutions–but I don’t have much data to back that up (and anecdotally, that may be changing a bit). I didn’t find data for anywhere except North America. Etc. Perhaps commenters can provide links to other data sources. In the meantime, I do think some data is better than no data.

  • Every year, the California State University system publishes data on faculty recruitment and career progress (ht Terry McGlynn). In the most recent report (covering the 2010-11 academic year), over 90% of tenure applications were successful (455 faculty tenured, 42 denied). That’s across all fields at all campuses; the linked reports also break the annual numbers down by campus and field.
  • Over the last five years, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard has tenured 66-75% of candidates (Note: The success rate was slightly higher for men than women in this dataset. Issues of bias are very important, but they’re a topic for another post. I just set out to find whatever data I could on rates of tenure denial, whether or not the data were broken down by gender, race, or other factors. And I have no contextual data that would let you interpret the causes of any biases, and you really need to look at contextual data. So I’ll note in passing where the data are broken down by race or gender, but can’t really comment further.)
  • At the University of Ottawa, the success rate for tenure and promotion applications in recent years has been over 90%, although with a drop to 67% in 2013 (note that those data don’t break out tenure applications separately).
  • As of 2001, the University of British Columbia was hiring with the expectation that 90% of those who apply for tenure in the sciences will be successful.
  • At DePaul University, since 1985-86, tenure applications have had a success rate of 79-93% depending on the race of the applicant (the linked article is a story about possible racial bias in tenure denials at DePaul)
  • A plaintiff in a lawsuit against USC claimed in court documents that, from 1998-2012, USC departments of humanities and social sciences tenured 92% of white men, but only 55% of women and minorities.
  • Some data from my alma mater: as of the mid-2000s, 74-78% of Williams College faculty coming up for tenure got approved.
  • Some of you may wonder whether data on tenure applications success rates tell the whole story. After all, pre-tenure faculty may decide to leave before applying for tenure if they have reason to think they’ll be denied. It’s especially hard to find data addressing this concern, but what I could find is reassuring, I think. This report shows that approximately 55% of profs hired at 10 US research universities from 1990-2002 eventually attained tenure at the universities where they were hired (note: gender and racial biases seem small to nonexistent in this dataset). That 55% number is the same as at Williams College, by the way. Now, on their own those data are hard to interpret, because don’t split out reasons why people didn’t attain tenure where they were hired. But data from the California State system (link above), my own anecdotal experience, and the anecdotal experience of others I’ve spoken to indicate that by far the most common reason why people don’t get tenure at the university that originally hired them is because they left to take a tenure-track job at another university. “Took another job” accounts for almost 50% of all resignations from the Cal State system in the most recent year’s report (see link above; the bulk of the other 50% are for reasons like medical issues, spousal employment, etc.). Meg and Brian are good examples here. Meg was first hired at Georgia Tech, but chose to go to Michigan and is now tenured there. Brian chose to move twice before settling at Maine and getting tenured there. So it’s not that tenure denial rates are low because lots of people read the writing on the wall and leave the tenure track before they can be denied tenure.
  • Along the same lines, this 2012 Science paper reported that, of 2966 science and engineering faculty hired since 1990 at 14 US universities, 64% were promoted to associate professor at the same institution that originally hired them. At most places, promotion to associate professor either accompanies tenure or (much less commonly) precedes eventual granting of tenure. Some unknown but probably substantial fraction of the others left for another tenure-track job. Further discussion of the results here (note that this paper looked for and failed to find gender differences in the data considered).

And for what it’s worth, these data line up with my own anecdotal impressions. As I said, I do know of several people who failed to get tenure, or who left in anticipation of being denied tenure. But I know of many more people who got it. In the 10 years since I joined the Dept. of Biological Sciences at Calgary, for instance, I think everyone has either gotten tenure, or left to take another tenure-track job (and no, that’s not a tiny sample size–we’ve had people come up for tenure every year, I think).

None of this means that tenure is easy to get. It’s not as if you can just slack off once you’re hired, figuring tenure is already in the bag! All it means is that colleges and universities mostly do a good job of hiring people who are capable of meeting the expectations for tenure, and that those people do mostly end up meeting those expectations. Which makes sense, I think. Colleges and universities have strong incentives to hire good people and give them the support they need to succeed, since to do otherwise is very costly and inefficient for them (financially and otherwise). And there’s a lot of competition for tenure-track jobs, which means that there are lots of good candidates available.

Of course, these data don’t tell you anything specific to your own situation, nor do they imply anything about how to maximize your own chances of getting tenure. Meg just posted good advice on how to navigate the tenure track, including how to find out what the expectations are and make sure you’re meeting them. And here’s a good post from Tenure, She Wrote on making adjustments to deal with a bad pre-tenure performance review.

And I definitely don’t mean to downplay or dismiss the experiences of those who haven’t gotten tenure. Everybody’s personal experience with the tenure process is valuable, and has something to teach others. As I say, the point of these data is purely to provide some larger context–a (necessarily coarse) summary of the experiences of many people.

p.s. This post applies to candidacy exams and thesis defenses too. Those too can be stressful, and passing them isn’t easy. And probably everyone knows or has heard about people who failed. But most people pass their candidacy exams and thesis defenses. Here’s advice from Brian on how to prepare for your candidacy exam.

*Which is totally different than being worried for some concrete reason that’s specific to your own situation. For instance, if you’ve been told by your head of department that you’re not meeting the standards expected of you, you should worry. If you’re about to come up for tenure and know that your tenure packet is clearly inferior to the packets of other people who’ve recently been tenured in your department, you should worry. If your department has a history of denying tenure to most candidates, you should worry. Etc. Think of this post as telling you what your “priors” should be in the absence of additional information specific to your own situation.

Friday links: revisiting old papers, life after lab closure, and more (UPDATED)

Also this week: how being a cyclist is like being a woman, scads of advice for navigating the tenure track, against rejection without review, and more. Oh, and the National Science Foundation has been reading our old posts. At least, I like to think so. :-)

From Meg:

Read this great post by Andrew David Thaler at Southern Fried Science. It covers several stories from the past week that relate to women in science, and has the blunt title “These things are related”. As he summarizes,

So, to reiterate, in the last week, we’ve been asked to ignore the profoundly misogynistic behavior of one long-departed scientist because his contributions to the field are too important; a graduate student is suing her former university for what appears to be systematic sexual harassment by her superiors; 1 in 5 researchers in the field report being victims of sexual assault; and one of the leading scientific journals thinks is perfectly appropriate to feature a dehumanizing image of sex workers on their cover.

(Note: I think the Clancy et al study on rape and harassment at field sites is so important that I wrote a post about it, rather than just linking to it here.)

Your amazing natural history video of the week: a great blue heron catching and eating a gopher. (ht Jessica Light)

proflikesubstance hosted a pre-tenure blog carnival, and has aggregated the posts here. It includes my post on navigating the tenure track.

I just ordered this book, Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists, even though my daughter is younger than the intended audience. It looks great! (ht: @bug_gwen)

How being a cyclist is a lot like being a woman. (ht: Tracy Teal)

Joan Herbers had a melancholy post on life after lab closure. She gave up her lab researching ants to focus on work related to gender issues in STEM. This part was particularly painful:

As I transitioned to my new career, piles of old notebooks were relegated to the recycle bin. Some contained data collected to tackle questions that have been answered or are no longer interesting. Many more data were still useful and could fortify other lines of inquiry. Even so, nobody wanted my notebooks and I needed the space. So out went all those numbers, gels, charts, computer printouts, and methodology notes.

I’ve written about having data go unpublished for lack of time before, but, still, the thought of throwing away raw data is so sad. (I’m not saying I don’t understand her decision, just that it’s sad to have to do that.)

Here’s a post on how to mitigate bias in a job search. This department made the long list based on anonymized CVs, but then based the short list on full, non-anonymized applications. It includes suggestions for what they would do differently in the future, and made me think of UConn EEB’s efforts to do a gender blind search.

From Jeremy:

The latest issue of the Ecological Society of America Bulletin has a bunch of short pieces by prominent ecologists talking about old papers that influenced them. All the pieces are open access, I believe. And Caroline Tucker of The EEB and Flow writes about papers that influenced her here.

Also from the latest Bulletin: how to plan for safe field work. Also includes discussion of lines of authority and power relationships.

And one more from the Bulletin: ecological papers that are rejected without review commonly end up getting published in similarly-selective journals. Which doesn’t necessarily prove the original editors wrong. Maybe they were right and subsequent editors and reviewers were wrong, or (more likely) maybe people just differ in their opinions. But it does prove that papers receiving editorial rejections often are not obviously worse (on any dimension) than papers that get sent out for review. Which is a problem, since many journals say that they only reject papers without review if those papers are obviously uncompetitive for publication. The claim is that rejection without review just saves everyone time, because those papers would get rejected anyway. Not so. In an ideal world, I think rejection without review would be unnecessary or very rare. But failing that, I personally would like to see selective journals that reject lots of papers without review state a different, and I think more accurate, rationale for doing so. Something like this: “The whole point of a selective journal is to provide filtering, on various grounds including but not limited to technical soundness. A lot of our filtering is done by our editors, without the aid of reviewers, because that’s easier and faster than lining up reviewers. No doubt other editors, or reviewers, would make different filtering decisions, but so what? People’s professional judgements differ, and judgment calls are inherent to any process for filtering scientific results. So if you don’t like the professional judgements of our editors, stop reading and submitting to our journal.” (Note: the linked data don’t necessarily represent a random sample from a well-defined population, but I think they’re good enough data to prompt and inform a blog discussion). (UPDATE: see the comments for some typically-thoughtful and measured pushback from Ben Bolker. Ben correctly notes that editorial rejections for “lack of fit” that eventually get published in an equally-selective journal with a different profile arguably represent editorial successes rather than failures.)

Meg posted on this one yesterday, but I wanted to comment as well. Clancy et al. report results of a web-based survey of field scientists (mostly archaeologists and anthropologists) of their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault in the field. It’s a follow-up to an earlier, smaller survey we’ve discussed before. Substantial proportions of respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment and even sexual assault, most commonly trainee women victimized by male supervisors. I don’t think it’s worth getting too caught up in the exact numbers, which could be off for various reasons the authors discuss. I think it’s clear there’s a serious problem that needs addressing, even if we aren’t sure exactly how accurate the numbers are. The biggest take-away for me was that respondents mostly had little awareness of codes of conduct or reporting mechanisms. This seems like something that ought to be at least partially addressable (e.g., see link to ESA Bulletin piece above). I used to be fairly casual about training my grad students and their undergrad assistants for field work and talking about issues that might arise. I guess I felt like I knew them well enough that I could trust them to conduct themselves appropriately. And apparently that attitude is common. But I’m trying to get my act together and do better. See the comment thread in that old post of ours for some good discussion of practical steps you can take as a PI (including from Katie Hinde, a co-author of Clancy et al.).

Say you currently have a long-term academic position. How do you decide whether to apply for another one? A guest poster at Crooked Timber discusses his/her own decisions on whether to apply for several positions, each with their own pluses and minuses. Also discusses the issue of whether to apply to jobs you think you wouldn’t take (or even jobs you’re sure you wouldn’t take), just to get the interview practice or some leverage with your current institution. (Personally, I wouldn’t take an interview someplace if I was sure I wouldn’t take the job, as I wouldn’t want to waste other people’s time, money, and interview slots). Written from the British perspective but most of the issues raised apply more broadly. Though in contrast to the post author, in my experience candidates who don’t precisely fit the job description often are quite competitive.

Economics blogger Noah Smith with a bird’s eye view of changing modeling approaches in macroeconomics. I always find it interesting to compare and contrast what seems to be going on ecology with what’s going on in other disciplines that have some things in common with ecology. Touches on different uses of mathematical models–making quantitative predictions vs. sharpening your intuitions and checking your logic. Questions the value of verbal arguments, especially “classic” ones. That bit has some good lines, about how physicists do not write papers about the Newton-Aristotle debate, or worry about whether their equations capture what some Important Person “really” meant. That bit is definitely relevant to ecology (e.g., this). Concludes with a discussion of the impact of blogs on the direction of the field, suggesting that it’s been modest but positive on balance, but with the downside of injecting too much acrimony and aggression into professional debates. (That last one is a hard one; the optimal level of civility is a tricky issue. And at least in macroeconomics, acrimony also arises from the high political stakes.)

Lots of discussion on the internet this week over how we should think about Richard Feynman, who was a brilliant scientist but also behaved very badly towards numerous women. See here, here, here, and here (and also this old post, which is belatedly relevant). Got me thinking about a lot of things, but my thoughts are still kind of inarticulate, plus they’re not specific to Feynman or to how men behave towards women, so I’ll save them for another time. (ht to the Southern Fried Science post Meg linked to above)

This is old, but it’s still interesting to contemplate: what widespread behaviors, attitudes, or policies will be regarded as immoral in the future? I was wondering about this in the context of science, whether there are current widespread scientific practices that in future will be regarded as immoral, or at least professionally unethical.

Jeremy Yoder on a proposal in the popular press for peer review reform. He’s kind enough to give Owen Petchey and I a shout-out. Also gives a shout-out to Axios Review, with which I’m involved.

Speaking of peer review reforms proposed by Owen Petchey and I, the NSF is experimenting with exactly the same idea for their grant reviews: obliging those who submit grants to do reviews in return. NSF didn’t get the idea from us (others, before and after us, have thought of the same idea independently). But it’s gratifying to see that people whose job it is to make sure that peer review works are thinking along these lines.

Hoisted from the comments:

This is old, but I think I forgot to hoist it at the time: an interesting exchange between me and a commenter on what constitutes “self promotion” online, and whether or not it’s ever a good thing. This is a topic on which people have widely varying opinions. The exchange of comments starts here. Semi-related to the Feynman stuff, since Feynman seems to have been a quite deliberate self-promoter.