Friday links: in praise of “token” women, solving the two body problem, and more (UPDATE: link fixed)

From Meg:

Morgan Ernest has a post on planning a sabbatical with kids (UPDATE: link fixed) that has lots of helpful tips for people who might find themselves in a similar situation.

I really enjoyed this post by sciwo at Tenure, She Wrote on the two body problem. This problem is something that comes up quite often, and that I get asked about regularly. Sciwo’s post is great, laying out both the problem (and why some administrators view it as an opportunity!) and how she and her partner dealt with it. The specifics are different than they were in my case, but I agree with the four stages that she lays out.

I also enjoyed this post by Scicurious on how we all know lots of people who’ve gone on to “alternative” careers after getting their PhDs, even if we don’t think we do. So far, the best way I’ve kept in touch with various people who’ve gone on to careers outside academia is Facebook. Sci’s post is making me actually consider joining LinkedIn as another way to do this.

This page of word problems for grad students is entertaining, including problems such as: “George’s copy of Word has six obvious bugs. After a reinstall, George’s copy of Word has no obvious bugs, which in a way is even more concerning. How long should George wait before opening a copy of his lit review section?” 🙂

From Jeremy:

Harry Brighthouse discusses a new preprint from philosopher Anca Gheaus, “Three cheers for the token woman“. Should you feel embarrassed, or like an imposter, if you’re invited to something (a conference, a workshop, etc.) because you’re a woman? Gheaus says “no”, in part because people are invited to speak and participate in workshops for all sorts of reasons besides pure intellectual merit. Brighthouse reinforces this by listing all the non-meritocratic reasons why he’s been invited to speak in conferences over the years–including all the times when he himself was a “token” in one way or another. None of which made him feel embarrassed or like an imposter. I agree with Harry and Anca on this.

Alex Usher has been crunching the numbers on changes in higher education financing (where do universities get their money, how much do they get, and what do they spend it on) in Canada over the last 20 years. The final post in the series is here. The bottom line:

Billions of dollars went into the academy in the last twenty years, coming from students, government, and other sources.  But a disproportionate amount of that money went into non-operating areas (such as research).  And a disproportionate amount of operating money went into areas other than academic salaries.  And average faculty wages rose substantially in real terms. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how faculty:student ratios can fall by 20% while income per student rises 40%.

Astute commentary from Livio De Matteo at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative, who pushes back against Alex’s conclusion that these shifts in financing are “self-inflicted”, with no role for Federal government policy.

Ecologist Amy Parachnowitcsch, is originally from Canada, but did her PhD in the US and has now moved to a fixed-term professorship in Sweden. She has a nice guest post on Small Pond Science on moving “across the pond”. I did this for my postdoc (in the UK), and I’ve interviewed for a few UK faculty positions as well. My wife and i loved living in the UK, it was a terrific experience. We were initially hesitant to move so far from family and friends, but we ended up really glad that we made the leap. Grad students who want to go on to an academic job: think about how widely you’re prepared to cast your net when it comes time to look for a postdoc or a faculty position.

In praise of pie charts. Distance runner and scientist Greg Crowther of My Track Record disagrees with some scientific graphics gurus (and his own partner!) and says pie charts have their place.

An academic editor at Plos One resigns after the journal does a terrible (and terribly slow) job handling one of his own papers. Seems like part of the problem was the utter lack of communication from the journal, but that was only part of it. (HT Small Pond Science)

Various new initiatives are trying to reform academic publishing and peer review in various ways. Via Crooked Timber, news of a new sociology journal that combines various ideas that have been tried or proposed elsewhere. Including charging for submission as well as publication, leaving most of the reviewing to the board of editors, and limiting decisions to “accept” or “reject” (i.e. no opportunity for revision). I have no idea what the typical peer review process is like in sociology, so I’m in no position to judge whether the novel combination of policies they’ve chosen is workable, or an improvement on standard practice in that field. It’s just interesting to me to see various publishing reforms mixed and matched in different ways. A while back I asked if there were “holes” in ecological “research space”. It seems that one could ask the same question about “publishing and peer review space”–or maybe every possible combination of proposed reforms is now being tried somewhere!

Alfred Russel Wallace’s butterfly collection, long thought lost at sea, has been found in an Oxford museum by a school girl.

And finally, via Brad DeLong, here’s my belated contribution to Meg’s post asking for videos to teach intro ecology: an octopus demonstrating its impressive freakin’ incredible powers of camouflage. Actually, I don’t know that camouflage is really the sort of thing you’d cover in intro ecology, but this was too cool not to share.

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