Friday linkfest: zombie ideas in higher education, do boring papers need full peer review, and more

From Jeremy:

Zombie ideas in higher education: why Canadian universities shouldn’t change to suit industry needs. (HT Andrea Kirkwood, via Twitter)

You may be interested in taking this brief (3 min.) survey of how long it took ecology faculty to obtain their first faculty position. The folks doing the survey are ecology postdocs, and they plan to share their results widely.

Really nice post by Andrew Gelman on the inescapability of the bias-variance trade-off in statistics.

With Google Reader gone, is Google Scholar next?

Lots of you probably already know about this, but in case you don’t, Survive and Thrive in Grad School (formerly Getting Things Done in Academia) by evolutionary ecologist Mike Kaspari is a terrific blog. Chock full of excellent advice on every aspect of grad school.

The always-thoughtful Phil Davis asks whether boring papers (e.g., papers reporting negative or purely confirmational results) really need full peer review, or whether they just need someone (maybe just the handling editor) to check them for serious technical problems. Underlying this is Phil’s continuing suspicion that it will become increasingly hard for journals that publish these sorts of papers (like Plos One) to find peer reviewers, since many reviewers will only agree to review papers that sound interesting or important. (Certainly, that’s very much my attitude–I get about one request to review every two weeks; I turn down any that sound boring or that aren’t right up my alley). So in future, those journals–which do play an important role in the publishing ecosystem–may find that they need to stop asking for full peer reviews and start asking reviewers to just say “Is this ms technically-sound or not?” Of course, even asking for that much means you’re still asking reviewers to read papers that many will regard as boring, and I for one wouldn’t be willing to do even that much. I just have too many other things I could be doing with my time (many of which are altruistic), and get too many requests to review relative to how many papers I submit. And while it’s true that most reviewers don’t get as many review requests as I do, it’s also true that a minority of people get the majority of the review requests, and do the majority of the reviewing (Owen Petchey and I have some ecology-specific data on this that we’re in the process of writing up…). So maybe in future journals like Plos One will be forced to fall back on relying on their own editors to do most of the reviewing, paying for reviews, or getting reviews from elsewhere (e.g., from one of the new peer review services like Rubriq, or by being part of a review cascade with a selective journal).

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