Friday links: snarky acknowledgments, top conservation papers, what tenure is for, and more (CORRECTED)

From Brian:

A nice recap of the top conservation papers of 2013.

From Jeremy:

A compilation of snarky acknowledgments sections in scientific papers. They missed one from ecology: back in 1985 Bert Murray used the acknowledgments to take a shot at the editors of his Oikos paper, writing “I thank the editors for critical comments which have had no serious effect on the text.” (h/t Retraction Watch). (CORRECTION: It wasn’t Bert Murray; see the comments)

Hope Jahren has good advice on what to do after you get tenure. This blog is one big thing I ended up doing, though it was something I kind of fell into rather than decided to do using the decision-making method Hope suggests (see also Meg’s comments below).

As a sort-of-complement to the previous link, here’s a very fine post from someone who doesn’t have tenure and never will. Philosopher Dan Fincke talks about the end of his adjunct teaching career. You might be surprised to learn that he’s not bitter in the least about the experience and has no regrets. His post reminded me of Carla Davidson’s wonderful guest post for us on escaping academia and striking out on her own. (h/t Brad DeLong)

The Pew Research Center released a poll this week reporting a big jump in the percentage of US Republicans who identify as creationist. But the data are very difficult to interpret because Pew reported many key pieces of information only for Republicans, not for Democrats and independents. Interpreting polling data is hard enough without having access to all of it, so count me among those who are puzzled why Pew would only present a selective breakdown of the results. (h/t Hope Jahren, via Twitter)

What’s the future of elite public universities in the US? Brad DeLong lays out a big-picture strategic vision for the (challenging, gloomy) future of UC-Berkeley. Worth reading for anyone who cares about higher education as a public good, not just those who work at Berkeley or other top public universities. Some gentle pushback against Brad’s pessimism here.

Not really about ecology or academia, but fun and thought-provoking enough to share anyway: a timeline of techno-panic. Worried about how the internet is rotting our brains, or know someone who is? Back in the day, people had the same worry about unnetworked computers. And television. And radio. And the telegraph. And newspapers. And books. I imagine there were Paleolithic people who hated cave paintings on the same grounds. (h/t Brad DeLong)

For Christmas my son got a copy of This Is Not My Hat. It’s very funny. I mention it here only because the book has some ecology in it. The whole story is about a little fish trying to hide in the vegetation from a big fish (after stealing the big fish’s hat). It’s like a children’s book written by Earl Werner. 🙂

And finally, here’s a video of peacock spiders dancing to “YMCA“. Don’t say I never did anything for you. 🙂 Meg, this is totally going on to your “videos for teaching ecology” list, right?…No? What if you first rewrote the lyrics to something more spider- or sexual selection-specific? “Spider/There’s no need to feel down/I said spider/Just start dancing around/You can make..that…female…choose you!…” 🙂 (h/t Cute Overload)

From Meg:

Another great post from Hope Jahren, this one on 10 things to do after getting tenure. #10 is to change the world. She says, “All these things you’ve been bitching so bitterly about for years: Public apathy over Climate Change, lack of minorities in STEM, how damn dumb the students are – it is up to you to make the data that shows these things are getting better.” I’ve certainly tried to work on making things friendlier for women and minorities in STEM pre-tenure, but plan to work on that even more in the future.

LOL my thesis is a blog in which people summarize their thesis in one sentence (or sometimes a few). I have somewhat mixed feelings on this. I totally understand where it comes from (and some of them are very funny), but do worry about things that intentionally make academic research seem trite or absurd. It’s hard enough to convince the general public the importance of funding basic research without intentionally making it sound ridiculous. But maybe I just have my crankypants on today. 😉

Here’s another post on spousal hires (a topic I’ve linked to in Friday links in the past). I think it has a pretty reasonable take on the subject.

Finally, I think this post has an interesting take on the impact of blogging on reputation. Basically: yes, blogging can have a negative effect on one’s reputation, but it can have a positive one, too. She concludes, “yes, … we need to be aware that blogging is a public medium, and anything we say on a blog can be read by anyone. But it would be a shame if we allowed ourselves to become so worried about potential problems that we failed to see the advantages of blogging for fostering academic debate.”

5 thoughts on “Friday links: snarky acknowledgments, top conservation papers, what tenure is for, and more (CORRECTED)

  1. Re: LOLmythesis, you can make anything sound trite with a bad short summary. Summary of the Origin of Species: “Things change.”

    At least the folks submitted to LOLmythesis are making fun of themselves. If memory serves, at his PhD defense seminar, my colleague Steve Vamosi had one of his *committee members* ask him “So Steve, you’ve shown that sometimes populations go up, and sometimes they go down. What have we learned here?” Which is just an incredibly unfair summary.

    I totally see where your mixed feelings about LOLmythesis come from; I share them. I think it’s a shame that we feel like we have to have mixed feelings, that we don’t feel secure enough to laugh at ourselves. But unfortunately, I think we’re right to have mixed feelings. Recall former Senator Proxmire’s “Golden Fleece Awards” for supposedly money-wasting federally-funded research, which just used terrible summaries as a stick with which to beat basic research. And IIRC, the Ig Nobel prizes used to be purely humorous, but are now given for “research that makes you laugh, but then makes you think”. Presumably they were worried that scientists making fun of science might damage public or political support for science.

  2. Re: the impact of blogging on reputation, obviously a question of keen interest to you, me, and Brian! And one on which I really wish I had more than anecdotal data. Overall, I’m confident that blogging has had a positive effect on my reputation. But not exclusively positive–I know from occasional anonymous comments and a few interactions I’ve had at the ESA meeting that it’s negatively affected my reputation with a few people. And there’s a lot of uncertainty around exactly how, and how much, it’s affected my reputation. And I really don’t know if there’s any systematic variation as to how or how much it’s affected my reputation with, say, grad students vs. senior professors.

    This is something I’ve struggled with more as our audience has grown. The more people who read you, the greater the odds that at least one of them will get pissed off by something you’ve written. And it really is true that the only way to avoid pissing anyone off is to write things that are completely anodyne. More than once I’ve discovered–or been told face-to-face–that something *non-critical* I’d written that I considered *totally* innocuous and hadn’t worried about *at all* had *really* upset someone I know, or know of, on a personal level. I’m still learning to deal with that.

    Of course, reputation isn’t a one-dimensional thing. You can have one reptuation as a researcher, another as a teacher, another as a blogger, another as a reviewer or editor…One thing I’ve wondered about is whether there’s any “spillover” between those things. How does whatever reputation I have as a researcher affect the likelihood that people will read this blog or like it? Conversely, does my blogging make it more likely that people will read my papers, and even evaluate those papers differently? It’s not clear that such reputational spillover should occur–why should my blogging affect your evaluation of my research, or whatever? But I wonder if it does. I really have no idea.

    Relatedly, your reputation isn’t just “positive” or “negative”, it’s multi-dimensional. One thing I wish I could know more about is the extent to which my blogging has caused others to see me on those other dimensions. Do people now see me as opinionated? Critical? Thoughtful? Creative? Etc. I really don’t know, though of course I can speculate. This is something else I struggle with. In some ways, my blogging is definitely an honest reflection of what I’m like–but it’s not (can’t be) a complete, accurate reflection. I’m sure many readers feel like they know me or know what I’m like, just from reading the blog. And in many ways they do–but in some ways they don’t. A blog creates a recognizable-but-distorted image of the author, like a funhouse mirror or (better) a caricature.

    But as that quote correctly notes, it would be a shame if worrying about this sort of worry prevented anyone from blogging. Of all the risks and leaps of faith people take in their lives (getting married! having kids! trying to make it in academia!), I don’t think blogging is anywhere near the biggest one.

  3. Jeremy, the credit for that funny acknowledgements from Oikos doesn’t go to Bert Murray – actually, it’s in the previous paper, signed by S.P.P. Bebrien, with address withheld on request. But it doesn’t change anything on the fact that it’s a good one 🙂

      • I know, I see that old comment and was curious to see also the paper. The acknowledgement is at the same page as the title of the paper from Bert, but above. But no worry about that. I wonder what was the story behind that forum paper of Bebrien, why the address was withheld on request… but it’s perhaps too late to find out. Sometimes I feel it would be great to get this sort of acknowledgement published, to get rid of some frustrations from the review process 🙂

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