Friday links: science funding and the “decline effect”, ecology in China, Finnish bus stations (yes, really), and more

From Jeremy:

Bit late on this, but here’s an interesting and provocative suggestion from Mike the Mad Biologist on how the structure of science funding leads to the “decline effect” (the first published studies of any effect often report statistically significant results that weaken or vanish as more studies are done). He suggests that the decline effect doesn’t just arise from publication biases, but ultimately arises because most grants are too small to pay for more than modest sample sizes. He argues that, for this reason, funding agencies ought to be handing out many fewer, much larger grants (“Manhattan Projects”).

Terry McGlynn has been publishing the reviews his papers receive (including those for rejected papers), and says you should too. What do you think? My first reaction is that I don’t see the harm in it, and I think Terry’s right to downplay many possible risks (like “journals might not like it and would turn against you”). But I’m not sure I see much benefit either, either for the person publishing them or the field as a whole. For instance, I’m not sure it really does much to assuage doubts about the integrity of journals or the quality of peer review for people (both within and outside professional science) who harbor those doubts. Or that it would contribute materially to keeping taxpayers informed about what their tax dollars are buying. Indeed, I’m not sure many people would care, except for students who want to know how the peer review process works. And even those students presumably only want or need to see a few examples. But it’s an intriguing idea, and I freely admit that I (and Terry) are just speculating about the consequences of widespread publishing of reviews, since reviews aren’t widely published.

While it’s important to make sure that students considering grad school go in with their eyes open, it’s also important to recognize that whether or not grad school is the right choice depends crucially on a student’s other options. And those options often are very different for black students. Just telling everyone “don’t go to grad school, it isn’t worth it” isn’t universally-good advice. (HT Terry McGlynn, via Twitter)

Spurious correlation of the week: the US stock market does well in years when 17 year cicadas emerge. Clearly, population cycles drive everything! Fear our cicada overlords! 😉 (HT Terry McGlynn, via Twitter)

Why grad students should blog. I have to say, I doubt the author’s own positive experience with blogging would apply for everyone. Yes, blogging is good writing practice–but only if you do it. And if you struggle to force yourself to write your dissertation, you’re probably going to struggle to force yourself to blog as well. But still, worth a look if you’re thinking of taking the plunge yourself. (Meg adds: I don’t think it should be a requirement, but I do think the author raises a lot of good points about how blogging can be valuable for academic writing, and particularly for graduate students.)

Very interesting and wide-ranging interview at The EEB and Flow with a Chinese ecology graduate student, on ecological research in China. Covers everything from funding, to the importance of publishing in English-language journals, to mathematical and statistical training, to what sort of research topics are chosen and how, and more. I’ve just been invited to China, along with a number of other ecologists and evolutionary biologists, to give some lectures and speak to potential collaborators. And just in the past few years I’ve been noticing an increasing number of colleagues who have collaborations in China. Growth of Chinese science is going to be one of the most important trends in science in the coming decades, I think.

And finally, the Finnish Bus Station Theory of How To Do Novel, Creative Work. Click through, read, consider relevance to ecology. I particularly look forward to comments on this from our Finnish readers. 😉

From Meg:

Terry McGlynn has an interesting post on using ungraded quizzes for more efficient teaching. Really, these quizzes aren’t entirely ungraded, as the students grade each others (though that is optional). I’ve written about my use of clickers before (here and here) Terry argues that written ungraded quizzes can be more useful than clicker questions, since the process of writing things down and having it graded by a peer makes it more formal and hopefully makes them more likely to retain the information. I like this idea, and might try it the next time I teach Intro Bio.

A post on parents in science, this one from a dad’s perspective. I liked his part about nap time being sacred — he clearly takes part in #naptimescience! (ht @highlyanne)

From the archives:

Since we’ve been talking a lot about the role of mathematics in ecology lately, I thought I’d link back to this old post on what empiricist Charles Elton had to say about theoretician A. J. Lotka. You might be surprised!

2 thoughts on “Friday links: science funding and the “decline effect”, ecology in China, Finnish bus stations (yes, really), and more

  1. Loved the article. As a student, reviews on rejected submissions would definitely help us understand the process and tailor our projects to meet the standards of the scientific community. For that reason alone, I think publishers should put our at least a para on all of their recieved submissions.

  2. Pingback: Friday links: the need for replication, how artists and scientists present their work, and more (much more!) | Dynamic Ecology

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