Overview of NSERC Discovery Grant competition results (UPDATED)

I’m a bit late to this, but I just had a look at the summary of this year’s NSERC Discovery Grant competition results. Summary and a few comments below the fold. For comparison, a summary of last year’s numbers is here.

tl;dr: Basically everything was the same as last year.

UPDATE: I screwed up and initially published a very rough draft of this post that I wrote late last night. My bad. Please ignore that version and go with the version below, which I revised after sleeping on it.

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Poll: views on authorship and author contribution statements

Science is now more collaborative than it used to be, increasing the average number of authors per paper. Authorship standards also are changing (see also here and here). All of which means that authorship, and author order, are increasingly difficult-to-interpret summaries of scientists’ contributions to a paper.

Hence the increasing prevalence of author contribution statements: formal statements of who did what. Many journals, such as Nature, now require author contribution statements. I like author contribution statements and routinely include them in all my papers. But as with any trend, not everyone likes the trend towards author contribution statements. Further, it’s not clear that anyone pays much attention to author contribution statements. Maybe author contribution statements are like some rare deep sea fish–most people are glad that they exist, even though they have no practical effect on anything?

So here’s a short poll, asking you a few questions about authorship and author contribution statements. Who should get to be an author, and are author contribution statements useful? I’ll share the results in a future post. Looking forward to your responses!

p.s. Thanks to Meg for the inspiration to do a poll on this, though I can only hope my poll will live up to the high standard hers set.

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What factors influence views on last authorship in ecology?

As summarized in my post giving the major results of our authorship survey, there seems to have been a rapid shift in views on last authorship in ecology. When I started grad school, the predominant view was that the last author was the person who had done the least work. (Indeed, I am last author on a paper from when I was a grad student because I did the least work on the project.) But the survey found that 43% answered a solid “Yes” to the question “For ecology papers, do you consider the last author to be the senior author?” An additional 43% answered either “It depends, but probably yes” or “Not sure, but probably yes”. Thus, 86% of respondents view the last author as the senior author.

As far as I know, we don’t have great data across time regarding views on this. The best comparison I know of is to a smaller survey done in 2010 by Ethan White. (I based the first draft of my survey on Ethan’s.) In that, only 19% of respondents answered “Yes” to the same question, with an additional 33% answering “Not sure, but probably yes”. (That earlier survey didn’t have the “It depends, but probably yes” option. That was added in based on feedback on the initial survey I drafted.) So, while it would be nice to have more data on this, it seems that views on last authorship in ecology have probably shifted pretty rapidly.

The goal of this post is to explore whether there are factors that are associated with views on last authorship.

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Last and corresponding authorship practices in ecology: Part 1

Who is the last author on a paper? Is it the person who did the least work? Or is it the PI of the lab where the work was done? When I started grad school in 2000, the norm in ecology was still that the last author on a paper was the person who did the least work. But, more recently, it has seemed to me that the norm is that the last author on a paper is the “senior” author (usually the PI). However, if you talk with other ecologists about the topic, it’s clear that there’s variation in views, and that not everyone is on the same page.

Similarly, my impression is that there’s been a shift in how corresponding authorship is viewed. When I was a grad student, the corresponding author was usually the first author, and mostly just indicated who had submitted the manuscript. But there’s been a shift to having the last author be the corresponding author. I am not alone in noticing this shift and in thinking that now corresponding authorship is used to claim leadership for the work.

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Ask us anything and we’ll answer! (UPDATED)

Here it is again: ask us anything! Got a question about ecology, science, academia, or anything else we blog about? Ask away in the comments, or by tweeting to @DynamicEcology. Ask as many questions as you like. We’ll compile the questions and answer them in future posts. (UPDATE: We now have a bunch of questions–thanks everyone!–and there’s a limit to how many we can handle, so we’re going to close the comments at the end of the day on June 28.)

Past questions have ranged from how we’d fix the entire US research funding system, to the statistical techniques every ecologist needs to know, to how to teach yourself theoretical ecology, to when to give up on a line of research, to how to deal with slow collaborators…

Impact factors are means and therefore very noisy

Last week the 2015 ISI Impact Factors were announced. Hopefully this was not a date circled on your calendar. But if you were on a editorial board you could not escape a quick announcement of your journal’s new impact factor, whether it gained or lost in rank relative to other journals, and cheers and (email) back-slaps all around or solemn faces and vows to do better. And in my experience authors will now switch allegiance in which journals they submit to so as to follow those ranked highest in impact factor. Is this justified?

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The microcosm wars are long since over. The microcosmologists won.

Back when I started grad school, I was acutely aware that I worked in a system–protist microcosms–that some ecologists didn’t like. When Ecology devotes an entire special feature to what, if anything, your research approach has to offer, you get quite defensive about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, even if most of the papers in the special feature are pro-microcosm. At least, I did. After all, if it was obvious that microcosms were worthwhile, Ecology would never have devoted a special feature to explaining or debating the obvious. Hence my multiple posts defending my life, my jealousy that evolutionary biologists working in microcosms don’t feel the same defensiveness, and my interest in writing papers so as to anticipate potential criticisms. And hence my sensitivity to anecdotes that tend to support my defensiveness. For instance, Charley Krebs’ call for a moratorium on microcosm studies in ecology, to which I responded here.

But while it’s understandable that I feel as I do, what if it’s not really justified? What if the microcosm wars are over, my side won, and I just haven’t realized it?

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