Friday links: conservation postdocs, can you trust Jared Diamond, and more

From Jeremy:

Some thoughts from a community college dean on graduate training. Recommends some changes to how we do it, and that we ought to do less of it. Focuses more on graduate training in the humanities, but the piece applies equally well in the sciences, including ecology.

The Liber Ero postdoctoral fellowship program is a new, privately endowed program supporting postdocs doing applied conservation research. The competition is open to people of all nationalities, but you have to be based in Canada and jointly sponsored by an academic and a conservation practitioner. The Liber Ero program is modeled on the Smith Fellows program in the US. It’s an attractive award, 2 years at a salary of $55,000/year, plus $15,000/year for travel and research. Application deadline is March 31. I’m not an especially applied guy and I admit I don’t have many contacts in Canadian government or conservation organizations. But if you’re interested in this and have in mind some project that you think might be up my alley (say, because it gets at interesting fundamental questions in population/community ecology as well as having applied relevance), by all means drop me a line.

The New York Times comes out against MOOCs–and indeed against all online-only college courses, except for highly-motivated students who are well-prepared for college-level work. A reality check for the Clay Shirkys of the world, and it highlights the limits of arguments for MOOCs based on their low cost. If you drop out of a course (any course), you’ve basically gotten nothing from it, no matter how little you paid. Even a really low-cost course will have a terrible cost-benefit ratio for the students if they fail to complete it. (HT Economist’s View)

Can you trust Jared Diamond? Jared Diamond is one of the great “big picture” scientists of our time. But at what point does a broad-brush big picture become too broad-brush? At what point does “zooming out” so that you can “see the forest for the trees” turn into mistaking other sorts of landscapes for forests? Related old posts here, here, and here. (HT Economist’s View)

Links Having Nothing To Do With Ecology, That Only I Care About: The New York Times says that “Hastings-on-Hudson is a village, in a Wittgensteinian sort of way.” A better example of “language on holiday” could hardly be asked for–what could it possibly mean? Crooked Timber has the answer, with the funniest Wittgenstein-based Top 10 list you are ever likely to read. 😉

From Brian:

The Scholarly Kitchen argues that peer review serves several functions besides just validating the technical correctness of papers, and that validating technical correctness may well be the function that peer review is least able to fulfill.

3 thoughts on “Friday links: conservation postdocs, can you trust Jared Diamond, and more

  1. And oh, my, must I ever comment on grad school! Thanks for linking to the CC admin’s essay.

    I taught in CCs for a year or so after grad school. What a joke. I love my experience as a student at a CC, but my rate as a contract teacher made grad school look like a good job. I shared a desk with about eight other contractors and had to provide my own computer. I taught Intro Geology. Down a few doors was an intro geography course, the content of which was mostly geology. That chap, at age 30something, was living with his parents and scrounging up jobs in about eight different schools. Why would anyone try to compete with that, or aspire to such a meager existence after 7 years of grad school?

    Grad schools are WAY, WAY, WAY over producing. We’re producing gazillions of ecologists and geologists and astrophysicists while Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are importing people from India for computer science jobs. It’s a sorry state of affairs.

    But no one in academia wants to take the punch bowl from the academic party. Faculty need grad students to do research. Research is the path to more $$, tenure, and accolades. Suggesting a cut in research funding is blasphemous.

    • Well, I think you have a point, but wouldn’t suggest a cut in research funding either! Because that’s not the only way to stop PhD overproduction. For instance, as I suggested in the post, there could be restrictions on use of grants to pay grad students as opposed to proper employees–lab managers, technicians, etc.

      • It might be prudent to have more professional researchers than grad students. I’m not really sure about that. Nor am I sure about a cut or not in research funding. But I might rather see the money go to primary ed. Or maybe to hire full-time (instead of trash-paid contracts) CC/university instructors so we don’t select them by who’s spouses or parents are supporting them. 🙂

        just some thoughts…

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