From Brian (!):
Arguably the biggest, most important trend in higher education is not the MOOC, but the increasing stratification of professionals (think adjunct faculty and growing proportion of administrators with tenure-track in between). Our profession is not unique – medicine has seen the burgeoning of nurse-practitioners and physicians assistants (and exorbitantly paid specialists), and there are para-legals in law and so on. These trends may be starting later outside the US but my sense is they are coming to the rest of the world too. The most insightful piece I’ve seen on this trend in academia is here. (Jeremy adds: here is another piece on the same trend, but focused more on the rest of the world. Asks the question: How is academia like a drug gang?)
Last week, I found myself in the rather unfortunate situation of losing a file I had been working on all day. I had been working on manuscript revisions, editing the manuscript and “response to reviewers” files simultaneously. In the morning, I had downloaded the current versions from an email from a collaborator. They downloaded to a compressed folder. I resaved the manuscript file, but apparently forgot to resave the response file. I then edited all day, thinking I was saving it, only to find that it was missing when I closed the file and went to email it back to my collaborator at the end of the day. In the end, I wasn’t able to find the file, sadly (though the department IT guy did help me try over the Thanksgiving holiday, which was pretty impressive). But, I did learn about this resource, which might prove helpful to others in a similar situation. I am sure I will be very careful about where I save my files for the foreseeable future! (By the way, I got lots of tips on where to look via twitter. Maybe I should add “emergency IT support” to the list of reasons why I use Twitter.)
Here’s a scary and powerful piece on imagining the post-antibiotics future. Definitely sobering to think about. And, on a related note, here’s an interesting figure showing infectious diseases in the US from 1888 to the present (additional code, videos, etc. here).
Science blogger Emily Graslie has a video in which she responds to the sexist messages she gets regularly in response to her blog posts. As Robert Krulwich says in the link, “In her new video, Emily (with help from director and video editor Michael Aranda) gives us samples from her mailbox. She’s not mad, not exactly. Instead, she just explains why these matter-of-fact little letter bombs make it harder for her to work, and how they hurt — every single day. And, being Emily, she explains it very well.”
Hope Jahren has a post on how she overcame imposter syndrome. The part that I thought was the most powerful was near the end when she talks about why she does science, saying:
I am doing this because I am too small and the world is too big, and so I need to be part of something that is bigger than I am. I am doing this for the women in my family who told me that they wanted to be scientists but never had the chance. I am doing it for my grandmother who couldn’t have imagined the luxury of thinking for a living. And I am doing it for the women who will come after me. Each day I will deal with a little more of this shit in the hopes that they will someday deal with a little less.
And, finally, a piece on what it’s like to be denied tenure. I found it interesting to read, and it matched what I’d heard in conversations with others about this topic: being denied tenure hurts a lot at first, but you move on and many people find new jobs that they are really happy with.
Get Science Right is a campaign from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) to oppose the current Canadian government’s systematic dismantling of the country’s information-gathering and basic research capacity (e.g., this and this, to pick just two of many examples). Get Science Right currently is running town halls across the country on this issue, and they need your support.
Caroline Tucker looks back at the Ecological Society of America’s 1965 report that ecology “was not ready to take on the responsibility being given to it.” Ecology seems more ready today–but then, more is being asked of it, too.
Carnival of Evolution #66 is up. I enjoyed this piece on how the phylogeny of languages is not tree-like (too much horizontal transfer), and this interesting debate over whether the evolution of multicellular yeast in the lab (which is so easy it can be done as a lab exercise!) is a good model for the evolution of multicellularity from a single-celled ancestor.
In previous posts I’ve noted the worrisome excess of barely-significant P values in papers in leading psychology journals, suggesting widespread conscious or unconscious fiddling to achieve statistical significance. It’s natural to ask if the same problem occurs in other fields. In vision science, the answer is “no”. Which I confess pleasantly surprises me. Now I’m really curious to see somebody do the same analysis for lots of different fields, including ecology and evolution (I lack the computer skills to efficiently compile the data myself). Looking at distributions of published P values absolutely is a crude tool for studying current statistical practice and how it varies across fields. But I think this is one of those cases where even crude data, cautiously interpreted, would be an improvement over the anecdotes on which we all currently rely.
BioDiverse Perspectives has a nice interview with ecologist (and Williams College alum!) Lauren Buckley, who works on scaling from knowledge of physiological ecology to forecasting species responses to climate change. Lauren offers her thoughts on everything from choosing study systems, to the value of historical data such as museum data, to whether NEON is right to first collect lots of data in the hope it turns out to be the right data.
On snark vs. smarm. As a sometimes-snarky blogger, I read this with interest. Though I’m not sure “smarm” is really the word the author was looking for. On the other hand, I’m not sure there is a single word for the view that “if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all” (the view that the author terms “smarm”). (ht counterparties.com)
And finally, I can haz camera trap? 🙂