Friday links: math with bad drawings, the rejection that wasn’t, holiday caRd, and more

From Jeremy:

This isn’t about ecology, but it’s great. I just found Math with Bad Drawings, a wonderful (and long-running, quite popular) blog from Ben Orlin, a schoolteacher in California. It’s funny ruminations on mathematics and teaching, illustrated with amusing, intentionally-crude whiteboard drawings. For instance, check out this post on how headlines would read in a mathematically-literate world, or this one on the heliocentric teacher-centric universe. (Although it’s a little unfortunate that Ben prefers a subjective definition of probability…)

The Molecular Ecologist has an interview with Rich Lenski. You know about the interplay of chance and necessity in his experiments–go read about their interplay in his own life.

Terry McGlynn comes out of the (tenure denial) closet, revealing himself as the author of a series of pseudonymous articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education on being denied tenure, and how he eventually landed on his feet.

Lisa Schulte Moore on why, and how, she led a Science Cafe at the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting.

The University of Kansas Board of Regents has adopted a new social media policy for the university. Which includes the right to fire any prof (tenured or otherwise) for posting things “contrary to the best interests of the university” or that “impair harmony among co-workers”. Which is a terrible policy for a university, for such obvious reasons that I’m kind of surprised they adopted it (maybe I should just be depressed rather than surprised). Here’s hoping they walk it back. Good coverage at The Monkey Cage and Inside Higher Education.

Top stats blog Normal Deviate is shutting down. Larry Wasserman has said everything he wanted to say, so he’s stopping. I’ll be sad to see him go–I learned a lot from reading him. But at the same time I wouldn’t want to see him continue just for the sake of continuing. I have no plans to stop blogging myself. But I hope that, if there ever comes a time when I’ve run out of things to say that are worth saying, I’ll be able to recognize that and quit while I’m ahead.

I argued recently that ecologists should read more philosophy of science. Here’s a good example of the sort of thing I think it’s useful to read more of. Philosopher Deborah Mayo has a new paper on the problem of “double dipping” (aka the “Texas sharpshooter fallacy“). Broadly speaking, this is the notion that it’s not legitimate to use the same data to both develop a hypothesis, and then to test the same hypothesis. It’s circular reasoning. Or so it seems–until you realize that there are real world examples (Darwin’s Origin among them) in which we intuitively regard such double dipping as perfectly legit. In her paper, Deborah Mayo teases out our conflicting intuitions and spells out the general principles that govern when “double dipping” is legitimate, and when it’s not. It helps to have some familiarity with her ideas about “error statistics”, in particular the notion of a “severe test”; links to some background material on those ideas here.

I don’t ordinarily plug papers from ecology and evolution journals, figuring you already have your own ways of finding ecology and evolution papers to read. But I’m making an exception for Scott-Phillips et al. (in press at Evolution). It’s a collaborative effort between proponents and detractors of the idea of “niche construction”, aiming to clarify areas of agreement and disagreement (mostly the latter) and if or how they might be resolved. Such collaborative efforts between intellectual opponents are rare for obvious reasons, but often particularly valuable when they can be pulled off. Interesting to note that the paper began as a criticism of niche construction, with an advocate of niche construction being invited on board later, because that seemed likely to lead to the most useful paper. Oh, and this is another good example of a scientific paper with a lot of philosophical-type content.

And finally, Caroline Tucker shows off her mad R skilz with her now-traditional holiday caRd.

From Brian:

Lots of tweets do not equal lots of citations. And yes citations is not a perfect metric either, but it is way better than impact factor.

BES journals to require submission of data in order to publish (although embargos for up to one year are allowed -something which even I as a data parasite support by the way – people who collect data deserve time to get what they want out of it)

And my two favorite recent links from the R-bloggers aggregator (both of which ironically are about why R isn’t the be-all-end-all tool): on how to use Excel well for holding data and a post on the “homogenization” of scientific computing. The latter is not too far from my own journey through computational software.

Terry McGlynn hit the nail on the head when he talks about “the rejection that wasn’t” – I had identical experiences as a graduate student. Definitely ask somebody else to read your rejection letters to see if you agree what it means. And if you’re in a large enough department to have somebody who is or was an Associate Editor for that journal ask them – they know exactly what a given set of verbiage means. As an editor, I try to be clear in my own comments on what I expect and how strongly I feel about it.

From Meg:

This is a wonderful video on why there are so many species of salamanders in the Smokies. I love that it was made by middle school students!

Athene Donald had a post on being feisty and unconventional. The part I found most interesting related to an anecdote from a recent workshop. She discusses an interaction over dinner with Curt Rice (someone who is well known for tackling issues related to women in academia), saying:

Put a single woman in a group of men, he said, and she will feel uncomfortable and awkward. All the women present nodded in agreement. Put a single man in a group of women – as he himself was at that point, which was why the comment arose – and he will feel in charge. The jaws of myself and the other women who heard that remark dropped. It sounded all too plausible. It absolutely ties in with the sorts of studies Virginia Valian covers in her book Why So Slow?  This ‘natural pecking order’ is instilled in so many of us. There are few women who would react as Curt appears naturally to do when in a minority of one, with the possible exception of those well-known female chemists Maggie Thatcher and Angela Merkel. And, for those of us who work in male-dominated fields, this difference in comfort level is likely to affect the way we come across, network or get our voices heard. No one has to make the slightest negative remark or indicate that that lone woman is a lesser being for us unconsciously apparently to feel that way. Culturally that just seems to be how we are brought up. Maybe simply by recognizing that fact we can gain some strength and inner conviction. It is not a sentiment I have ever heard expressed before. I will bear it in mind in the future.

I agree. I think you could make a similar case for underrepresented minorities, too.

Christie Bahlai, a postdoc at Michigan State, has started a blog about data management. Christie works with other people’s data, and would like to help those of us who collect our own data to manage that data well. Or, as she puts it, the goal of the blog is “to offer practical tips for data generators to 1) make my job easier and 2) make their jobs easier.” Sounds good to me! I was recently considering how to instruct new students about the dos and don’ts of good data management, and couldn’t find a lot of easily accessible and digestible info on the topic, so having a whole blog, written by an ecologist, on this topic is exciting.

I was also going to post to Terry McGlynn’s post on rejections, but Brian (!) stole it. But I will add that I remember, as a graduate student, hearing a faculty member congratulate a student who had had a paper rejected without prejudice (I think from Evolution). That a rejection would be grounds for congratulations seemed odd, until the faculty member explained that a paper with that decision actually stood a good chance of ultimately being accepted. So, yes, definitely ask someone with more experience (ideally with that journal) to help you interpret the decision letter.

Hoisted from the comments:

This week’s post on the statistical techniques every ecologist should know was followed by an excellent discussion of multiple topics. The pros and cons of various statistical techniques of course (everything from GLMs to AIC to regression trees). Also what a “constraint” is or isn’t, and how one can use or abuse quantile regression to test for constraints. That last topic relates to an old, fun post of mine on “trade-offs” in ecology and evolution, and how they often arise from selection rather than constraining selection.

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