Old but good: Cosma Shalizi proposes a quite plausible “neutral model” of scientific inquiry, one which omits any actual scientific discoveries, but which includes apparent discoveries (i.e. Type I errors) and publication bias (the “file drawer problem”). He sketches how to derive the expected dynamics of many interesting features of this model, and how to compare them to actual features of scientific inquiry. Fun, thought-provoking, and more than a little sobering. (HT Brad DeLong)
Meta-advice: here’s a nice post offering advice on what advice to take. For instance, what should you do if you’re given contradictory advice by different people? How do you handle it if someone seems to be not just offering you advice, but expecting you to act on it? (HT Jeremy Yoder)
If you’re keeping an eye on the ongoing conversation about massive open online courses (MOOCs), the news article in this week’s Nature is a good overview of the state of play. UPDATE: And here are Terry McGlynn’s thoughts on MOOCs–a sobering reminder that the on-the-ground (on-the-internet?) reality might end up being rather different than Silicon Valley techs tend to envision. One possible future is one in which only the wealthy get to go to university, and MOOCs are a cheap second-class substitute for everyone else.
Here’s a very nice, clear cautionary tale about how difficult it is to use multiple regression/path analysis/structural equation modeling to correctly infer causality, even in very simple situations.
And finally, a tip for users of Google’s RSS reader, which Google is shutting down. I don’t use Google Reader myself, but from what I hear, I’m guessing many of you share Hitler’s feelings about the shutdown. If you still use Google Reader, you (and Hitler!) can transition seemlessly to feedly, which has cloned the Google Reader API, is free, and is promising work-arounds that will keep it working after Google Reader shuts down on July 1. You could also try Reeder, which costs a few bucks. Over at The Molecular Ecologist, Jeremy Yoder says he’s trying out both, and he knows more about RSS readers than I do.