Also featured this week: the internet vs. English, English vs. English, and tea vs. lakes…
An interesting post on stammering (a.k.a. stuttering) and the academy. According to the post, 1% of adults have a stammer or stutter, which means that this is something that is quite likely to come up during teaching, mentoring, and all other day-to-day interactions we have. There’s lots of interesting and useful information in the post, including about how to be considerate of the needs of people with a stammer.
Two of my favorite topics (lakes and tea) in an xkcd “What if”! (Specifically: “What if we were to dump all the tea in the world into the Great Lakes? How strong, compared to a regular cup of tea, would the lake tea be?”)
Another fun one: the #montypythonscience twitter hashtag emerged this week. A couple of particularly good ones:
I’ve had coauthors I didn’t know (usually when they provided data negotiated through another co-author), but I’ve never been on a paper that forgot people off the list. That has to be embarrassing.
Think that “p-hacking” is only a problem for people using frequentist statistics, not for Bayesians? Think again. If you’re p-hacking, you’re also posterior hacking. (ht Andrew Gelman)
Speaking of p-hacking…here’s an online guide to common statistical mistakes committed by scientists. Written in a non-technical way, and appropriate for undergraduates in introductory biostats courses. I’ve only read bits of it, but what I’ve read so far is quite good. Definitely thinking of referring my own biostats course students to it.
Zombie ideas alert! The Edge asked 174 famous scientists and intellectuals (including a disproportionate number of psychologists) “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?” Check out their answers here. On a quick skim, answers from ecologists and evolutionary biologists include “privileging science over scientists” (that from Kate Clancy, in one of the best entries I saw) and “inclusive fitness” (from I bet you can guess). Worth a look, but you’ll need to skim to find the good nuggets. There’s lots of rather obvious stuff being pumped up as a bigger deal than it is–declarations that straw-man versions of the Modern Synthesis and frequentist statistics are dead never go out of style, apparently. And there are lots of intentionally-provocative or overbroad headlines followed by rather mundane answers: “evolution is true”, “statistical independence”, “certainty”, and “science” are listed among the ideas we should retire! A lot of the “scientific” ideas suggested for retirement are actually philosophical positions. If you’re looking for focused critiques in the spirit of my own attempts at zombie-slaying, you’re going to be disappointed. And there are a few entries that are seriously confused or just plain wrong. At least two psychologists working on altruism apparently can’t distinguish proximate from ultimate explanations. And in the very last entry (saving the worst for last?), science author Kevin Kelly makes a really embarrassing, undergraduate-level mistake in suggesting we retire the notion of “random” mutations. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know what “random” means in this context. Kevin, in the unlikely event you read this: “random mutations” doesn’t mean mutations occur uniformly, or without statistical patterns; it means that mutations don’t occur because of their fitness effects. (ht Chris Klausmeier)
Here’s the newish (a few months old) blog Data Colada. It’s by three psychologists who’ve been leading the debate within psychology on topics like reproducibility, researcher degrees of freedom, study preregistration, etc. I’ve only had time for a skim, but Data Colada looks really good. Like Dynamic Ecology, they’re out to use blogging as a way to start and contribute to serious scientific discussions, with an emphasis on analysis as opposed to mere opinion. And much of what they have to say isn’t just of interest to psychologists. For instance, here’s their interesting suggestion for how reviewers can oblige authors to disclose “researcher degrees of freedom”. Here’s a nice post on why authors should want to preregister their studies and hypotheses (because reviewers and readers will be really impressed when the preregistered predictions are upheld). Lots of other good stuff too, and all the posts are short and clearly written.
The internet vs. “Standard Written English”. Argues that the internet is winning, and that that’s a good thing. I suspect that the divide the author identifies is part of what underpins different scientists’ reaction to blogging, or to what they imagine blogging to be. Here’s a quick litmus test to find out which side of the divide you fall on: Which is better, my blog posts on zombie ideas, or my TREE paper based on those posts? (ht counterparties.com)
You’ve probably heard the old joke that the US and the UK are two nations separated by a common language. Speaking as an American who did a postdoc in the UK, there’s a lot of truth to that. My PhD supervisor actually warned me about this before I started my postdoc. So for any American readers planning to talk to British academics, here’s a handy dictionary for translating phrases commonly used in academic conversations into their American equivalents. It’s very funny, but also very true. I myself have an amusing anecdote about the word “interesting” that I may share at some point. 🙂 (ht Retraction Watch)
Just for fun: a bestiary of academic “trolls”. Written for economics, but most species are also found in other fields. 🙂
And finally, the population distribution of the continental US, in units of Canadas. Fun little map. (ht counterparties.com)