Brief book reviews: four popular science and history of science books

A while back I asked y’all for recommendations for popular science books that a scientist would enjoy. Meaning, not written a too low a level, not too hype-y, etc. There were so many great recommendations that it was hard to choose! But in the end, I decided to start with:

Brief reviews below the fold. tl;dr: The first three are all well worth your time. The Book That Changed America is a bait and switch and eminently skippable.

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How can scientists engage with policy makers? (Updated!)

Last week, I visited Washington DC for training as part of the AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement. I spent the week with the other 14 incoming Leshner Leadership Fellows, learning about writing and pitching opinion pieces, storytelling, evaluating outreach, and much more. But perhaps the thing that was the most eye-opening for me was our trip to Capitol Hill, where we met with two staffers from the House Energy & Commerce Committee as well as several staffers from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP). Prior to going, we got a tutorial from some AAAS folks on policy engagement fundamentals. In this post, I’ll go over the policy engagement fundamentals that I learned at AAAS, supplementing with things I learned in this free online course related to public engagement, which included several expert opinions on engaging with policy makers. In a follow up post, I’ll talk about what I learned from my visit to The Hill.

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Open thread: where to eat and drink in Portland for Evolution 2017 and #ESA2017

Evolution 2017 starts in in a couple of days, and #ESA2017 is coming up soon after that! We have a local lined up to write a guest post for us about where to eat and drink in Portland for #ESA2017, but in the meantime: been anywhere good? Tell us, and your many hungry and thirsty colleagues, in the comments!

I’ll start: McMenamins Kennedy School is worth the car ride. It’s a historic elementary school that’s been converted into a boutique hotel and brewpub. My wife and I stayed there a few years ago. You have to see it to believe it, it’s such a cool place. Every nook and cranny is put to use. There are several bars, each with its own funky decor; even the boiler room is a (cozy) bar now. The auditorium is now a theater that features classic movies and live music. You can eat and drink outside in the courtyard in the center of the school. The walls are festooned with paintings from local artists, every one of which was commissioned to commemorate the school. And the classrooms are now hotel rooms–that still have the chalkboards and chalk. In the ultra-competitive world of Portland brewing, McMenamins beers are fine, nothing special. Same for the food–it’s average brewpub food. But you’re going for the setting. McMenamins has made a name for themselves with their amazing renovations of historic properties in and around Portland, but they really topped themselves with the Kennedy School. I took my lab group there last time the ESA was in Portland, and might do so again. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Brief book reviews: five novels featuring scientists

A while back I asked for suggestions for “lab lit”: novels featuring scientists and scientific themes, that a scientist would enjoy. That last caveat is crucial: many fictional scientists ring true only to non-scientists.

And boy did our commenters come through in spades! I’ve been working my way through some of the suggestions from the post. Here are brief, mostly spoiler-free reviews of five of them: The Southern Reach trilogy, All The Birds In The Sky, and Ordinary Thunderstorms.

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Reader survey results!

Thank you so much to everyone who completed our reader survey! It’s very helpful to us to know what readers think of Dynamic Ecology and to receive so much thoughtful feedback. Below is a (long) summary of the results, with some commentary.

tl;dr: The overall feedback was very positive, but compared to our previous survey there’s definitely more of a sense that the blog could use some freshening up.

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Guest post: Got a professional editor?

Today we have a guest post from Richard Primack of Boston University. Last week, I did a poll asking whether readers had used a professional editor for a grant proposal or manuscript, based on a Nature News piece that quoted Richard as saying, “I hire professional editors to help me polish my articles, grant proposals and reports.” he says. “I can do this myself, but it’s more efficient for me to pay someone to help.” I was surprised by that, since it never occurred to me to use a professional editor. The poll suggests I was not alone. 62% of respondents said they’d never used a professional editor for a manuscript because it had never occurred to them; 67% said it never occurred to them for a grant proposal and 68% for their dissertation. In this guest post, Richard talks more about the process.

Richard’s post appears below the break:

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Want to write a guest post for us on where to eat and drink in Portland for #ESA2017? (Update: we have a local volunteer)

Do you know Portland, OR? Do you like to eat food and drink drinks? We need your help! We’re looking for a volunteer to write a guest post for us on where to eat and drink in Portland for the ESA meeting.

Here’s an example of the sort of thing we’re looking for. But feel free to give it your own personal spin.

We’ve been doing these “where to eat and drink at the ESA meeting” posts for several years now and readers find them super-useful. So this is your chance to share what you love about Portland with lots of ecologists!

The ideal volunteer will be able to bang something out soon, so that those attending Evolution 2017 in Portland June 23-27 can benefit as well.

If you’re up for it, email me ( or tweet to @DynamicEcology.

p.s. I tweeted a request for volunteers a couple of days ago, which led to a few folks replying with some suggestions: