Another excellent post from sciwo over at Tenure, She Wrote about the conveyor belt of research. This relates to an issue I’ve discussed before: on how to prioritize manuscripts and having data go unpublished for lack of time. I haven’t written about making sure I have enough projects at the start of the conveyor belt, and that I don’t forget about some projects that are midway along (uh, everyone forgets about some projects, right?), but those are things I worry about, too. My solution so far is to keep a list of projects going (a shorter list on my whiteboard, a longer one in a Word file), so that I can make sure I rotate through giving them attention. And, of course, some end up getting tossed off the conveyor belt into the compost (to stick with sciwo’s analogy) when they just don’t seem promising enough.
The 9 kinds of physics seminar, which Amy Parachnowitsch pointed out on twitter applies broadly to all kinds of seminars (ht: Amy Parachnowitsch via Morgan Ernest).
PhD Comics on TV Science vs. Real Science, which includes pointing out that MythBusters has no replication or control. I’ve posted in the past about how to use MythBusters to teach experimental design, so I certainly agree!
The science and engineering academic job market since 1982, summarized in one simple plot. (HT Jeremy Yoder, via Twitter)
The BBC (!) on the Price equation (!). Not sure what the occasion is, or even if there is one. And I think you’d be hard-pressed from the article to figure out exactly why George Price is considered such a genius or why his equation is so deep and important. But I admit those are very difficult things to convey in a short popular article. And I still got a kick out of seeing one of my intellectual heroes getting a shout-out on the BBC homepage, in an article with quotes from people whose work I know and admire. Can’t imagine how they neglected to mention the horror movie based on the Price equation, though (just kidding, probably best not to mention this…)
A new working paper (=non-reviewed preprint) finds that, when a paper is retracted, those co-authors who aren’t eminent suffer a massive decline in the rate at which their previous work is cited. But the eminent co-authors suffer little if any decline in the rate at which their previous work is cited. This may be an example of the “Matthew Effect”, in which eminent members of team tend to be given most the credit for the team’s successes, and little of the blame for the team’s failures. (HT Retraction Watch, which has a brief summary and discussion)
Joan Strassmann is skeptical of the value of grading rubrics.
The EEB and Flow on the effects of the US government shutdown on scientific research. Makes me glad I’m an expat. Although in the comments over there Caroline Tucker asks what’s worse: indiscriminate but temporary disruption of massive amounts of research, or longer-term, targeted degradation of research capacity (the latter is what’s occurring in Canada)?
Ben Haller highlights the importance of getting to know your prospective graduate supervisor before agreeing to join their lab, ideally by visiting their lab in person. The visit should include some time talking to current graduate students without the supervisor present. I’ll note in passing that I insist on this; I don’t ordinarily accept any prospective student who hasn’t visited my lab. That includes insisting that prospective students get plenty of time to talk to my grad students without me around. I also emphasize to my current grad students that I want them to be completely open and honest with prospective students. Just as students don’t want to end up in a lab that’s not a good fit for them, supervisors don’t want to supervise students who aren’t a good fit. Believe me, if you and I wouldn’t get along or are incompatible in some other way, I do not want you joining my lab! It’s in the interest of both the supervisor and the student that they be a good match. And I pay for the visit, of course. It’s a small investment that’s well worth it for the sake of ensuring a good match between me and my students. Of course, as Ben’s post illustrates, not everyone operates the way I do (though many people do), and so some students end up being supervised by people with whom they’re incompatible. Ben asks whether universities ought to respond by formally evaluating faculty performance as supervisors (e.g., by exit interviews of graduate students).
Adam Eyre-Walker (whom I know a bit from my grad student days) and Nina Stoletzki have a new paper in Plos Biology comparing agreement among three ways of assessing papers: post-publication peer review, number of citations, and impact factor of the journal in which the paper was published. They find that these metrics are moderately positively correlated, but that this is apparently due in part to post-publication peer reviewers taking account of the journal in which the paper was published. Publication venue also affects the number of citations as paper receives (as does the number of citations it’s received in the past; papers often get cited because they’ve previously been cited a lot). They argue that all three metrics are very noisy and error-prone measures of “merit”, but that impact factor of the journal publishing the paper is least bad. That’s because the decision on where the paper will be published at least has the advantage of not being biased by publication venue! Their results have implications for the conduct of the REF, the periodic assessment exercise that the British government uses to allocate funds to universities.
Time management tips for academics, here and here. And while it might seem ironic for a blogger to offer time management tips (since many people procrastinate by reading blogs), as Tyler Cowen notes, “Blogging builds up good work habits; the deadline is always ‘now’.”
From the archives:
Is macroecology like astronomy? (on what it takes to be a successful scientific field when you can’t do experiments, or more accurately can’t do certain kinds of experiments. Probably one of my best posts, which is funny because when I wrote it I thought it was a boring rehash of previous posts. And it has a great comment thread involving Florian Hartig, Fred Barraquand, Brian, other folks, and yours truly)
Advice: the ‘snake fight’ portion of your thesis defense (“Q: Why do I have to do this?” A: Snake fighting is one of the great traditions of higher education. It may seem somewhat antiquated and silly, like the robes we wear at graduation, but fighting a snake is an important part of the history and culture of every reputable university…”) 🙂