Just one link from me this week: another great post from sciwo at Tenure, She Wrote. (Really, I should just autofeed her posts into my Friday links.) The post is on the frenzied schedule that typifies academics, and the effects on lab members. The reason I have only one link this week is because I’m in the midst of feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list, so this was a timely read for me!
Here’s Claudia Goldin’s recent Presidential Address to the American Economics Association (the economics equivalent of the Ecological Society of America) on the last chapter of the grand gender convergence. Reviews the converging roles of men and women in the workplace, and what it would take for full equality to be achieved. Relevant to academia as well as to other workplaces. (ht Economist’s View)
Ideas in Ecology and Evolution is doing a special issue on data sharing in ecology (here; open access). Includes contributions from several folks whom many of you will recognize from their own research, their efforts to support datasharing, and from their blogging and commenting here and elsewhere (Ethan White, Tim Poisot, Angela Moles…). I thought the Moles et al. contribution was particularly thoughtful, supporting sharing of one’s own data while while highlighting some real practical challenges to sharing multi-owner datasets governed by previous datasharing agreements, and giving appropriate credit to data collectors and collators. I think Moles et al. are right that the ethical issues here are complicated, so that one can’t develop sensible policies simply by appeals to ethics while giving short shrift to incentives and constraints.
In it’s infinite
wisdom [unprintable], the Harper government has decided to dismantle many of the scientific libraries of the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, without warning or consultation. (ht former Dynamic Ecologist Chris Klausmeier)
Scicurious has left the academic career path, due to not having enough of her own ideas to be a PI. Scicurious laments how long it took to come to this realization. I wonder how much Scicurious’ experience reflects how grad students typically are trained in some biological fields. If students aren’t given much leeway to think for themselves and come up with their own ideas, how are they supposed to learn to do it, or discover that they struggle with it? Because it’s a really hard thing to learn. Like many ecology Ph.D. students, I was expected to come up with my own project more or less from scratch, as opposed to fleshing out someone else’s. And during my postdoc, I had complete freedom to do whatever I wanted. And I still felt like I was well into my postdoc before I really got good at coming up with my own ideas.
BioDiverse Perspectives has an wide-ranging interview with marine community ecologist Jay Stachowicz, the Director of the Center for Population Biology at the University of California-Davis. Jay has some good stories, and lots of sensible advice. I especially liked this bit, in response to a question about his hopes for the next generation of scientists and what they should study:
I hope [and] expect they’ll be smarter than us and they should do whatever they think is most interesting. They should listen but not blindly follow the old farts of the world (like me). Listen and take it all with a grain of salt, don’t reinvent the wheel but also don’t slavishly follow what someone else says you should do. You might do the wrong thing but so what? If you think about the people who have made the biggest impact in ecology they are generally the people who didn’t spend time doing what others told them they should be doing. They’re generally people who did things pretty different. They were people who started doing experiments, they were people who said it wasn’t all about competition and predation and that facilitation might be important, they were people who said humans are having a big effect on top predators, they were people who said we needed to look at things at larger spatial scales. These people understood the orthodoxy and understood where it was coming from but didn’t just throw it out because it was orthodoxy. They also recognized whatever its limitations were and didn’t hold themselves to it because it was the way people did it or because their advisor told them it was an important thing to study.
This is old but it’s new to me (plus, it’s about foxes): a story about how foxes catch mice beneath deep snow, which is a pretty amazing trick when you think about it. Includes a dramatic video. Have to say I’m skeptical of the notion that foxes are using the earth’s magnetic field to help them. The only evidence seems to be a putative orientation pattern in a fairly small dataset, and I bet there were a fair number of researcher degrees of freedom involved in the analysis. See here for similar concerns about a more recent, related study claiming that domestic dogs orient using the earth’s magnetic field. Anybody know of any follow-up work more directly and rigorously testing this idea? (ht counterparties.com)
This is old too, but I missed it at the time, plus it relates to the Hope Jahren post we linked to last week. She urged readers to use the security of tenure to take risks and change your world. And quite rightly, too. But as Zen Faulkes suggests in an old post, if you don’t somehow find the courage to take some risks pre-tenure, you’re not likely to find it post-tenure. “I need to do X to get tenure” will morph into “I need to do X to get grants” or “I need to do X to get promoted”, or etc.
And finally: k-means clustering of 86 single malt scotch whiskies. Includes the raw data and R code, so you can replicate the analysis, or analyze the data using your own preferred methods. Presumably while drinking shots. 🙂 (ht counterparties.com)
UPDATE: A follow-up to a link from last week: remember that recent Pew poll purporting to show a rapid increase in the proportion of Republicans rejecting evolution in favor of divine creation? Well, don’t believe everything you read–not even from the normally-reliable Pew, apparently.