Friday links: biodiversity apps, blogs vs. Twitter, succession of grossness, and more

Also this week: extinctions to celebrate (?), infographics vs. philosophy of science, Princeton vs. grade inflation, eagle vs. London, hoisted from the comments, and more. Also, two of Meg’s favorite things, combined into one!

From Meg:

Here’s an example of succession that should get your students attention: succession of microbes in campus bathrooms.

Animal Diversity Web, which started as part of the University of Michigan but has now spun off to be an independent startup company, has launched a new app that has interactive pocket guides for Great Lakes parks, zoos, and museums. Here’s a link to the iTunes store page for the app, and here’s a link to a UMich news story on Animal Diversity Web.

Sciwo had an interesting post on the strange duality of being a pregnant academic. I was sad to read she had to fight so hard for leave (I’ve been fortunate to not have to fight for leave). I really understand the conflict between feeling like you need to spend those first few months focusing on your baby and recovering from birth, but also wanting to make sure that your lab folks don’t suffer as a result.

From Jeremy:

A little while back Stuart Pimm published a very negative book review in Biological Conservation. Which he couched in language demeaning to women. After an outcry, the journal has now appended a note to the review calling the language “denigrating” and “inappropriate”, after Pimm refused to edit it. The journal also has changed its editorial procedures, and will be publishing a letter about the incident from conservation biologist Amanda Stanley, who has some very good further comments here.

From the This Is Obvious But I’m Linking To It Anyway Because I Agree Dept.: Twitter has many uses. But substantive, evidence-based debate isn’t one of them.

Grade inflation at elite US colleges and universities has been going on for decades. Princeton has now abandoned a plan to fight it. Andrew Gelman comments.

All of philosophy of science in one diagram.

Can a scientific lecture–not a TED talk, an hour long lecture–work as theater?

Should we reduce the burden on pre-publication peer reviewers by going to a hybrid model in which only certain types of papers are subjected to pre-publication review, with others being “reviewed”, if at all, only post-publication?

Has leading sports channel ESPN suspended Keith Law, one of its writers, for…defending evolution on Twitter? Hard to say for sure. But since Law was arguing with his creationist colleague Curt Schilling, who wasn’t suspended, the optics are bad.

Lots of discussion this week about how efforts to save some extremely rare vertebrates have led to the extinction of some of their specialist parasites. See here, here, and here. Relatedly, here’s a New Yorker piece from a parasitologist, celebrating the (near) extinction of a parasite of humans. (ht Not Exactly Rocket Science)

Want to buy James Watson’s Nobel Prize? (ht Marginal Revolution)

A video with an eagle’s-eye view of London. (ht Not Exactly Rocket Science)

And finally, this science project involves 2/3 of Meg’s favorite things, lacking only this. :-)

Hoisted from the comments:

Do you think the quality of reviews tends to be better at more selective journals? Experiences vary; discussion starts here.

On the importance of not letting busyness become your default state. Starts here.

And finally, Ellen Sims wins the week by explaining why you shouldn’t try to get an A in organic chemistry. :-)

Have you ever gone up the journal ladder following a rejection?

After getting rejected from a selective journal, it’s common to revise the paper and then resubmit to a less-selective journal. This is often called “going down the ladder”.

But what about going up the ladder instead? I’ve never done this myself, but I can imagine circumstances in which someone might do this:

  • Maybe you got a really good suggestion for a substantial revision, that the editor wasn’t sure you could carry out, hence the decision to reject the ms. If you do the revision and the ms is much improved, it’d be tempting to go up the ladder. A simple model of the reviewing process supports the intuition that it can be a good idea to go up the ladder when the reviews associated with the rejection let you greatly improve the ms.
  • If you got a rejection with invitation to resubmit as a new ms, with no deadline (or a far-off deadline) for the resubmission, then you might be tempted to go up the ladder instead. Figuring that this isn’t submitting the same ms to two different journals, since after all the current status is “rejected”. And figuring that if you get rejected from the journal higher up the ladder you can just fall back on resubmitting to the original journal.
  • Maybe other circumstances I haven’t thought of?

Note that I don’t consider revising and resubmitting to a higher-impact journal that covers different topics as going up the ladder. That’s more like changing ladders.

Have you ever gone “up the ladder” following a rejection? Looking forward to your comments.

Reader survey results

As promised, here are the results of our reader survey. Thanks to everyone who completed it! This is a long post, and it’s mostly for our own reference. But if you’re curious, read on!

For comparison, the results of our last reader survey two years ago are here.

tl;dr version: Our readership looks about the same as two years ago, except that the gender balance is improving. And readers still like what we’re doing.

We got 426 respondents, most of whom answered every question (the few non-responses were randomly scattered throughout). This isn’t a random sample of any well-defined population. Don’t take these numbers as gospel. It’s probably best to think of them as a rough snapshot of our regular readers.

I had a quick look at some of the crosstabs. Not to test hypotheses, because I didn’t have any, but just to get a sense of the patterns of covariation. If there are any other crosstabs you want me to look at, ask me in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

58% of respondents are male, 41% female, with one transgender respondent. That’s much less male-biased than last time (when it was 75% male), which is good. No idea to what extent the shift towards a more gender-balanced readership reflects things we’ve done, vs. factors external to us. Though it’s hard to believe the gender balance of ecology as a whole could have changed much in two years, so presumably that particular external factor didn’t drive this shift.

39% of respondents are grad students (about 6/7 of whom are Ph.D. students), 23% postdocs, 25% faculty. The faculty are split evenly between those who’ve been faculty for <6 years, and more experienced faculty. Which surprises me, I’d have thought it’d be a substantial majority of new faculty. Small numbers of respondents are in other occupations. All these numbers are similar to last time. As you’d expect, the gender balance of respondents varies with occupation: student respondents are only slightly male biased, while postdoc respondents are 60% male and faculty and other professional ecologist respondents are roughly 2/3 male. I remain surprised that postdocs are such a large fraction of our readers. But this may just reflect the fact that I’m in Canada where postdocs are relatively rare–maybe I’m forgetting that there are lots of postdocs in the world? And I remain a bit surprised that our grad student readership skews so heavily towards Ph.D. students. Ph.D. students in ecology can’t possibly outnumber M.Sc. students 6 to 1, can they? Three speculative hypotheses: (i) M.Sc. students are less likely than Ph.D. students to be considering a career in academia, and so are less likely to read an academia-focused blog like ours? (ii) M.Sc. students are more likely than Ph.D. students to be working on applied/conservation/management issues, which we don’t write about very much? (iii) M.Sc. students focus more narrowly on their own projects, while Ph.D. students spend more time reading broadly about things not directly relevant to their own work?

53% of respondents are from the US, 9% Canada, 6% UK, 18% non-UK Europe, the rest from elsewhere. That’s roughly in line with where our pageviews come from, so the  respondents are geographically representative of our total readership. The main change from last time is that our UK readership is up relative to other countries. Interestingly, it looks like gender and geography covary. Our US readership is slightly female biased, with readership from the rest of the world being strongly male biased.

Lots of variance in how long respondents have been reading Dynamic Ecology. 17% started reading my posts on Oikos Blog and followed me when I left there. 19% started reading in 2012, the year we started, 39% started reading in 2013, and 25% started reading earlier this year. These numbers are consistent with the ongoing but slowing growth in our pageviews. Consistent with the improvement in our gender balance over time, respondents who followed me over from Oikos Blog skew very heavily male, and respondents who’ve been reading since 2012 skew quite heavily male. In contrast, respondents who started reading us this year skew very slightly female (which is interesting in light of the overall male bias of ecology as a whole). So you need to explain the male bias of my Oikos Blog readership in order to explain the male bias of our readership in the previous survey.

As you’d expect, most respondents are pretty regular readers, sufficiently so that the majority want to be notified immediately when a new post goes up. 10% of respondents read all our posts, 55% read most of them, with 33% reading some of them. 57% of respondents learn about new posts primarily via RSS feed or email subscription. 31% just visit the homepage. Interesting that only 6% primarily find out about new posts by following us on Twitter. We have over 2,200 followers for our robot that tweets new posts, but apparently most of those followers aren’t getting much out of following us.

70% of respondents read other ecology blogs too. Trying to decide if that’s surprisingly low. 55% read other academia blogs, 57% read other non-ecology science blogs, and 52% read other sorts of blogs. 7% of respondents are worryingly single-minded in their attentions to us and don’t read any other blogs. :-) In retrospect, it would’ve been interesting to ask people how many blogs they read regularly. My guess is that most respondents read other blogs besides Dynamic Ecology, but only a few others.

There’s wide variance in how often people read the comments. 22% read the comments on most or all of the posts they read, 35% read them on some of the posts they read, 38% read them on few of the posts they read, and 5% are really missing out because they never read the comments. Gender, occupation, and geography don’t covary with how often folks read the comments.

In line with the previous survey, only 30% of respondents have ever commented on Dynamic Ecology, with ~2/3 of those having commented only once or twice. Basically, there’s a very small number of people who comment regularly (hi Jeff! hi Terry! hi Margaret!), and a much larger number of people (though still a small proportion of the readership) who comment if the topic of the post really interests them. The few respondents who have commented more than once or twice are almost entirely male; respondents who rarely or never comment are slightly female-biased compared to the full dataset. Interestingly, there’s no covariation between what fraction of our posts folks read, and how often they comment.

That ~70% of readers never comment would be worrisome if it reflected something about Dynamic Ecology that was off-putting to potential commenters. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. We asked respondents to identify the most important or common reason why they don’t comment. 42% said they don’t feel they have anything to add, 24% said they never comment on blogs or never write on the internet, and 19% said not sure/never thought about it/no reason. Only 5% said they don’t want to get into an argument or worry about being criticized, which is a reassuringly small fraction (plus, it’s not clear what fraction worry about that for reasons that are specific to Dynamic Ecology, as opposed to avoiding commenting on all blogs for that reason). So while we love the commenters we have and would love to have even more, I’m not sure there’s much we can do to address respondents’ main reasons for not commenting. (As an aside, that 24% of respondents have a policy of never writing anything on the internet is a sobering reminder that the people you read and interact with online are a non-random fraction of all people). I was reassured that less than 0.5% of respondents said that they don’t comment because they’d rather discuss the posts on Twitter or Facebook. This confirms my impression that social media isn’t cannibalizing blog comments, at least not ours. There wasn’t any covariation between gender and main reason for not commenting, which surprised me a little as I had thought women might be more likely to say that they never write things on the internet. A couple of respondents did use the “other” option to indicate that they avoid commenting on the internet because of hostility to women.

Most readers either like our substantive discussions and critiques the best (34%), or have no one favorite type of post (34%). That’s actually a pretty big shift from last time, when 61% of respondents picked our substantive discussions and critiques as their favorite type of post and only 24% said they don’t have a favorite type. 11% like our advice posts best, and 9% like the linkfests the best. As you might expect, it’s mostly students and postdocs who like the advice posts and linkfests the best.

42% of readers think we should just keep doing what we’re doing, and the rest don’t agree on what changes they’d like to see. That’s far more votes for the status quo than last time, when only 11% of respondents told us not to change a thing. The single most popular suggested change (picked by 26% of respondents) was for us to start doing posts highlighting and briefly commenting on new ecology papers. I confess I don’t really like writing such posts. In part because I don’t read such posts myself on other blogs. I don’t use blogs to find new ecology papers to read, and if I want a summary of a paper I just read the abstract. And in part because I used to write such posts on Oikos Blog, and they were by far our least-popular sort of post. Perhaps we’ll experiment with posts in which we very briefly highlight papers we thought were really cool, just in case some readers want to use our recommendations as a way of filtering the literature. The next most popular suggested change was more discussion of applied/management/conservation issues (19%). Brian’s the only one of us who has much experience to draw on there, so if we’re to go down that road it’s up to Brian or the guest posters. Speaking of guest posters, there was some support for more of them, whether as more invited guest posts (14%), inviting comments or guest posts from people who disagree with our posts (17%), or adding one or more new bloggers to the team (9%). For the folks who’d like to see more voices on the blog: we agree! But it turns out that, to a good first approximation, every ecologist who wants to write even one blog post already has their own blog. We invite more guest posts than we publish; we’ve found that many folks who are eager to do it in principle struggle in practice to carve out enough time to follow through. We’ll keep trying. Perhaps we’ll consider doing more email interviews, because that way the folks being interviewed don’t have to go to the trouble of writing a post. Although that’s a niche that BioDiverse Perspectives, The Molecular Ecologist, and others already occupy.

We’re getting better in the eyes of readers, or at least holding steady. Respondents were about evenly split among those who think we’ve gotten better (31%), stayed the same (30%), or not sure/can’t tell (36%). Only 1% said we’ve gotten worse. As you’d expect, “not sure/can’t tell” was a common response from those who only started reading us this year, and a rare response from those who’ve been reading us since 2012 or earlier. Of course, anyone who thinks we’re getting worse might well stop reading. But that’s the limitation of any poll of the readership–it doesn’t give you any data on what non-readers think of you. There was no covariation between gender and overall opinion of the direction of the blog.

The feedback was very positive overall. Not surprising, obviously, since anyone who doesn’t like us presumably wouldn’t read us. But still, positive feedback is always nice to hear. :-) Most of the comments said “keep it up!” or words to that effect. Following are summaries of the lengthier comments on issues not addressed in the survey:

  • Several comments about how the blog helps students, ecologists in small or developing countries, non-ecologists, and people outside academia keep up with what ecologists are thinking and talking about. (I just hope nobody assumes that Meg, Brian, and I are representative of all ecologists!)
  • A few comments appreciating our statistical posts
  • A few comments appreciating the substantive discussions and debates we host and the respect with which we treat commenters, including those who disagree with the post. We even got one really nice comment to this effect from someone who says they disagree with a lot our posts, particularly on statistical issues. Conversely, one person said that some posts within the past year had been overly confrontational, leading to overly-confrontational comments.
  • Several comments appreciating the breadth of topics covered. Conversely, one commenter suggested we stick to our niche and not get more applied, as there are other blogs and outlets for that.
  • A couple of commenters wanted to see us engage on Twitter. (Sorry, but Brian and I leave that to Meg, who likes it and is good at it. Brian and I on Twitter would just be sad-making for all concerned.)
  • A couple of comments had specific suggestions as to the sort of diversity we should seek if we were to add someone to the team–a grad student or postdoc, someone from outside North America, someone who is not white.
  • One comment that Meg’s posts on equality in science, particularly the one on sexual harassment and assault in the field, had been eye-opening for many members of the commenter’s department.
  • One request for video posts or podcasts. (Sorry, doubt it’ll happen. Too much work for us.)
  • A request for more discussion of how senior scientists can pair up with and help junior scientists.
  • One comment worrying that the proportion of career advice/academia/just for fun posts has been too high lately
  • One commenter really likes our eye-friendly design (Thank you WordPress 2011 default!)
  • A comment appreciating my posts on the IDH and how they turned into a published paper
  • A comment appreciating my philosophy of science posts
  • One person who finds the Friday links too much to read all at once. (Not sure if this comment refers to the amount of stuff we link to, or to the linkfest posts themselves. Either way, I suggest just skimming for any links that especially interest you; I think that’s what most readers do.)
  • One person who said that my posts tend to be too long, and would be even better if shortened. (This person is right.)
  • One comment appreciating advice on topics that graduate advisers don’t often address
  • And finally, +1000 Internet Points to the person who requested “more prize giveaways”. Ask and ye shall receive! :-) As long as what you’re asking for is Internet Points. :-)

On busyness and striving for balance

This semester has been rather hectic for me, hence my lack of blogging. Why? Mostly because of a combination of field season and flipping Intro Bio. Intro Bio here at Michigan is huge (over 600 students), and is a bit of a beast to teach, especially in the fall when many students are just getting used to college. And we’re overhauling the course this semester, which has greatly increased the workload. So, while I still am not working 80 hours a week, I have routinely been working ~55. I sneak in work at every available moment, and, when I’m not working, I feel guilty that I’m not. We’ve had a babysitter come for a couple of hours on the weekends so I can get a bit more work done. I have not seen or called friends nearly as much as I’d like, because I feel like I need to spend that time trying to get work done, because the deadlines for getting samples counted, quizzes written, lectures prepped, etc. are relentless. I’ve been working right up until going to bed*, and waking up early thinking about work. That lack of sleep means I’ve been making more mistakes, and that I’ve been more frazzled this semester. It’s not good.

I was recently re-reading this blog post by Chris Buddle, where he implores “Please stop telling me how busy you are”. I agree with the general idea that we shouldn’t wear busy-ness as a badge of honor. But, at the same time, there are times where there truly is too much to do. Should I have said “no” to more things? Apparently, but the things that have me overwhelmed are pretty important parts of my job. I knew that this fall would be busy (yes, I’m using that word), and so I started prepping my lectures in July. I didn’t give my first lecture until late October. At the time, it seemed a little extreme to be starting that early, but I am so glad I did. If I hadn’t, I really don’t know how I’d have gotten through this semester. And, even with that, I’ve been scrambling as hard as I can to keep up, and feel like I’ve just barely done so. The metaphor that keeps springing to mind is that this fall feels like I am trying to sprint a marathon. There have been weeks where things that needed to get done didn’t; I hate prioritizing essential tasks in terms of which would be the least bad to let slip, but that’s how it’s been this fall.

But, now that field season is over and I’ve gotten some of the workload of Intro Bio completed, I’ve found that I’ve defaulted to a routine where I feel like I have to be working all the time, and where doing other things (like writing this blog post!) feel like a luxury. But that’s not good. Chris is right that it’s important to take moments to enjoy the small things, and that evaluating one’s priorities is essential. Even during the busiest times of the semester, I continued to run regularly, because I know that that is essential for my mental well-being, so it’s a very high priority. But I’ve cut back on other things that are also important to me, and I need to start prioritizing those more. And I need to stop feeling anxious if I’m not working all the time. I am more than just my work.

I’ll say that again: I am more than just my work. I think I need to make that my new mantra. I don’t need to be a slave to my email.** And while it’s very tempting to add that cool new example to my lecture, I need to ask myself: Is including that new example in my next lecture more important than baking cookies with my daughter? No, it’s not. So, on that note, I’m going to hit “post”, then turn off my computer now and go outside to hang up Christmas lights with my daughter. This is likely one of the last warmish days we’ll have for a while — I want to enjoy it!


*I’ve decided that I need something like Microsoft’s Clippy, except I need him to pop up when I’m trying to work at night, saying “It looks like you’re trying to work late at night. Stop!”

** I was recently thinking about how nice it would have been to teach in the pre-email days. While I’m sure there were many challenges, right now, the idea that I wouldn’t be expected to be available every day seems really, really nice.

Friday links: on live tweeting talks, measurement vs. theory, #myworstgrade, and more

Also this week: the ethnography of Wikipedia, why statistically significant parameter estimates are biased estimates, and more. Plus a hilarious prank instructors can play on their TAs! For some value of “hilarious”.

From Jeremy:

Lots of sensible discussion in the paleo blogosphere this week about the need for clear policies on live tweeting of conference talks, after a speaker asked the audience not to live tweet her talk and a late-arriving audience member did so. See here, here, here, and here. I don’t have much to add, except that this seems to me to be one more example of how we’re living through culture clashes. (full disclosure: I personally am fine with people live-tweeting my talks, taking the view that it’s no different than people talking about my talks or journalists writing about them, and that it’s vanishingly unlikely that anyone would try to scoop me on the basis of tweets, or be able to if they tried. But I’m an ecologist, if I were in some other field I might feel differently.) I do think it’s interesting to see people who like live tweeting nevertheless calling for conferences to impose some rules for everyone to abide by. I haven’t often seen this sort of call in other areas in which new online tools are unsettling established expectations and practices. In my admittedly-anecdotal experience, it’s more common for advocates of new online tools to downplay the importance of agreed rules for the appropriate use of those tools. Not sure why.

Interesting piece on the need for more theory in neuroscience, along with suggestions for how to promote theory and theory-data linkages. I always like reading about how folks in other fields see issues that also crop up in ecology. (ht Not Exactly Rocket Science)

Speaking of the need for theory, here’s a really nice post on the dangers of “measurement before theory”. If you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to measure, so you just go with some plausible-seeming index, there are going to be tears before bedtime. I once tried to get at this in an old post, but didn’t say it as well. Also provides a nice cautionary tale, suitable for undergraduate introductory stats courses, on the limitations of trying to use covariates to try to control for extraneous sources of variation. Note that the linked post is about economics, but it’s totally accessible and you’ll be able to think of the ecological analogues very easily. For instance, think of the fruitless debate over different indices of the “importance” of competition in community ecology. (ht Economist’s View)

Here’s a really nice figure from Andrew Gelman, illustrating the expected distribution of estimated effect sizes for a low-powered study in which the true effect size is positive but only slightly different than zero. Statistically significant estimates are those that are much larger in absolute magnitude than the true effect, and often have the wrong sign. I’ve read some of Gelman’s writings about “type M” (magitude) errors and “type S” (sign) errors before, but this really clarified his point for me. Still mulling it over.

Apparently we all need to check our Google Scholar profiles for fake papers. Yes, really. Call me old fashioned, but this is an illustration of why I prefer to rely on Web of Science.

The ethnography of Wikipedia. Confirms my impression from previous discussions we’ve had. (ht Marginal Revolution)

And finally, a teaching prank: start an analogy, and then leave the TA to finish it. :-)

From Meg:

I love this post from SciCurious in response to my post on keeping perspective and the #myworstgrade hashtag. I wish all the students struggling in my class right now would read it!

Keeping Perspective

We are at that point in the semester where many students are incredibly anxious about their performance in courses. This is especially true for first year undergraduate students. One aspect of teaching Intro Bio in the fall semester is trying to help students manage the stress of transitioning to college. For many of these students, this semester has marked the first time they have ever received a C on a major assignment (such as an exam or paper), and it can be very, very hard. I get it. I remember very well what it was like to struggle as a freshman.

I went to a small high school that I loved, but that had pretty poor science instruction overall. It became quickly clear in my science classes that I was woefully underprepared. Like many students, I hadn’t needed to develop good study skills and habits in high school, because the work was easy. And then there was the cultural shift – my graduating class had 36 students. My sister’s had just 9! So, going from a high school of 100 students total to an Intro Chem lecture hall with 300 students (and that was just one of three sections!) was really overwhelming. I was pretty clueless.

In my first year, I got a C+ in inorganic chemistry. And, frankly, that wasn’t such a bad grade, considering how far behind I was coming in, and that I was pretty sick that semester. At that time, I didn’t panic about its effects on med school or grad school, because I knew I didn’t want to go to med school, and grad school wasn’t on my radar at all. I also, though, had the perspective provided by my older sister. She had gone to the same high school and college I did, and had gotten a C in her first semester Intro Bio course. When she got that grade, she was sure she wasn’t going to get into med school. In the end, she had no trouble getting in, and she’s now a successful family medicine physician who loves her work. I often tell students about my sister and myself at this point in the semester, because many of them really, truly believe that a single bad grade will cut off career options. I can also tell them, based on my experience on my department’s grad admissions committee that it is absolutely not true that one bad grade in a STEM course will prevent you from getting into grad school in the sciences.

And, based on responses to my tweets about this, I am far from alone in having done poorly in a science class but then gone on to a successful science career. I’ll put several of them below at the end of posts. They are great for putting things in perspective – there are lots of us who had bumps (sometimes big ones!) along our path. This series of posts from SciCurious is particularly worth reading, in my opinion:

On a related note, I also struggle to keep my own perspective during these times. It can be so easy for me to take on the students’ stress and anxiety and become anxious myself. Plus, as I will cover in a future post on flipping the classroom, this semester has felt like trying to sprint a marathon, since we’ve done a major overhaul to the class. So, I am already a bit frazzled when interacting with my students. The frazzlement (pretty sure I just made up that word!) comes because, inevitably, there will be some slides with typos, or one question on a given quiz that was confusing. I absolutely HATE when these things happen. Like many (most?) academics, I have high standards for myself, and hate making mistakes. But, rationally, I know that, if I’m writing 100 quiz questions a week (and, yes, that number is correct), there will be some mistakes. So, I need to have some better perspective for myself: I very much want to get an “A” in teaching, so to speak. That is, I want to be a good, engaging, effective teacher. But that does not mean that I’m not allowed to be human and make mistakes. So, just as a single bad grade (or even a few!) doesn’t mean for my students that their dreams of a career in science or medicine are dashed, for me, a mistake in a lecture or on a quiz doesn’t mean I’m not a good instructor.

Perspective. It’s useful.


Related Post:
Hat tip to Tanya Noel for pointing me to this post on a related topic


Here are some of the tweets. Tweet your own using the #myworstgrade hashtag:

Please complete the Dynamic Ecology reader survey! (UPDATEDx2)

UPDATE #2: Responses have slowed to a trickle, so the survey is now closed. Thanks to everyone who completed it, results next week!

Two years ago, when this blog was only a few months old, we surveyed y’all to learn something about who you are, and get feedback on how we can improve Dynamic Ecology. That was really valuable to us. You might be surprised to hear this, but we don’t have that much information (and hardly any non-anecdotal information) about who reads this blog or what they think of it. Having a bit of information helps us justify our blogging to our employers and funding agencies, and helps us get better.

We’ve changed in the last two years, and our audience has grown a lot. So we’re doing a new reader survey. Please take about 2-4 minutes (which is all the time it should take) to complete the anonymous survey below. Please fill it out even if you’re not a regular reader; it’s much less helpful if only our biggest fans complete the survey. We’ll summarize the results in a future post. Thanks in advance for your help!

UPDATE: Thanks to a correspondent who pointed me to this resource, I’ve realized that the question on gender could’ve been structured better. I wanted to ask about this because the last survey indicated that our readership skewed heavily male. And I wanted to be inclusive rather than just limiting the options to “male” and “female”. But just including a “transgender” option wasn’t the best way to be inclusive. In retrospect, instead of “transgender” I probably should’ve gone with an “other” option letting respondents fill in their preferred gender identification. That’s what I’ll do on future surveys.

Friday links: female ESA award winners, #overlyhonestcitations, academic karma, and more (UPDATED)

Also this week: George Scialabba vs. depression, Andrew Gelman’s thoughts are worth the wait, baseball player vs. evolution, and more…

From Meg:

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment had a piece by Chris Beck et al. on women and underrepresented minorities in the Ecological Society of America. Having posted about a lack of women award winners before, I found WebTable 2.0 particularly interesting:


The Eminent Ecologist, MacArthur, and Mercer awards have skewed male, while the Buell, Braun, and Distinguished Service awards have skewed female in recent years. Their analysis doesn’t look at the newer ESA Fellows, but last year only one of the 12 fellows was a woman. I’ve been working with others (including Gina Baucom and Pleuni Pennings) to make sure that more women and underrepresented minorities are nominated for awards this year. (ht: Cat Searle)

I enjoyed Terry McGlynn’s response to the shirt worn by the scientific head of operations for the European Space Agency (the other ESA!)’s Rosetta Project. I also thought this tweet was worth thinking about more:


Like him, I would like to think I’d have said something. But it’s a good reminder that we need to speak up in these situations, even if it might make us uncomfortable. (UPDATE: Jeremy Yoder passes on the news that the guy in question, Matt Taylor, has issued a heartfelt apology.)

From Jeremy:

Essayist George Scialabba tells the story of his four-plus decade battle with depression through the notes of his doctors and psychiatrists. A sobering read for someone like me, who’s been fortunate not to have had to deal with depression. Crooked Timber comments on the piece.

A few years ago Owen Petchey and I suggested that authors should have to “pay” for reviews of their papers by performing reviews themselves, using a notional “currency” called PubCreds. Subsequently, others have hit on the same basic idea and are starting to turn it into a reality. I just stumbled across another such effort: Academic Karma. From a glance, it looks to be more or less exactly like PubCreds, except that any authors, reviewers, and editors who want to participate do so voluntarily. Very early days, but worth watching. Relatedly: here’s some data on whether ecologists currently review in appropriate proportion to how much they submit.

The research productivity of newly-minted economics PhDs is highly skewed, with a small fraction of people producing a large fraction of the high-profile papers. This seems like one more bit of evidence for William Shockley’s “hurdle model” of scientific productivity. (ht Economist’s View).

Andrew Gelman’s belated comments on that experiment manipulating the emotional content of people’s Facebook feeds are better than any comments I saw at the time.

#overlyhonestcitations: Ethology just published a paper containing the following phrase where a citation should have been:

should we cite that crappy Gabor paper here?

Well, this is awkward. Especially since Caitlin Gabor knows and has published with some of the authors. And in a sign of the times, this story has now gone viral and has been splashed on popular general news sites like Vox. Which seems like kind of a big penalty for an embarrassing but minor mistake. Because let’s be honest–everyone has negative opinions about some papers, and that’s perfectly fine (indeed, it’d be very worrisome if it were otherwise). So there’s a part of me that’s happy to have a chuckle by linking to this–and a part of me that’s a little scared because “there but for the grace of God go I.” (ht Jeff Ollerton)

I’m only linking to this for the benefit of longtime reader and commenter Jim Bouldin: Curt Schilling vs. evolution. On Twitter. Apparently, you don’t need to click through because it was exactly like what you’d imagine.

@ResearchMark (as in Mark Wahlberg) is only one joke. And more or less the same joke as the now-defunct biostatistics pickup lines Tumblr. But it’s still funny. In a similar vein: @AcademicBatgirl. :-) (ht Simply Statistics)