Friday links: PhD models, great Tony Ives interview, shameless self-promotion, and more (UPDATE: link added)

Also this week: the irony (or maybe paradox?) of publicly-funded research, an ecology blog gets archived by the Library of Congress, academics in children’s books, and more…

From Jeremy:

Shameless self-promotion: The University of Maine has a nice article about our very own Brian McGill. Talks about his efforts to do policy-relevant science, his blogging, and the links between the two.

The irony (or maybe paradox?) of publicly-funded scientific research: the government seeks to pay for research that will yield high returns–but that the private sector won’t pay for. Which in practice means paying for research for which the expected returns are high but uncertain. Nice post and case study. I’d only add that there are other big reasons for the government to pay for scientific research, such as that the “returns” aren’t monetary, or at least aren’t easily monetized by individual firms. See this old post for related discussion. (ht Economist’s View)

BioDiverse Perspectives has an interview with Tony Ives (UPDATE: link added), whose award-winning work we’ve discussed before. Check out his views on what skills grad students should cultivate (“I don’t think graduate school should be about cultivating skills”), the importance of failure (“One of the things that I’ve learned is to allow myself to be epically wrong…and not in a ‘but I learned so much that good came out of it’ way, but just good plain wrong”), imposter syndrome (“I don’t think I’ll ever get over the imposter syndrome”), and more.

The EEB and Flow is going to be archived by the Library of Congress. Congratulations to Marc Cadotte, Caroline Tucker et al.–that’s pretty cool! I’m officially jealous. 🙂

Related to my recent posts on “culture clashes” and the norms and practices of post-publication review: here’s an interview with Paul Brookes. He’s the originally-anonymous founder of the now-defunct, a controversial website on which he identified papers he argued were fraudulent (e.g., due to duplication and illegitimate manipulation of gel images). He shut the site down after someone contacted his university and many others, revealing his identity and threatening to sue him. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other on (I never looked at the site and don’t know enough about it). I just found it interesting to read about why Brookes did what he did, and what has and hasn’t happened to him since. (ht Retraction Watch)

Barraquand et al. (open access) report results of a survey of quantitative training among early-career ecologists. The survey respondents wish they’d been taught more math and statistics.

Top stats blogger Andrew Gelman on why he still publishes in journals, rather than just putting everything on his blog or on ArXiv or whatever. His reasons seem cogent to me, and include (but aren’t limited to) “to reach a bigger and/or different audience”, “to get peer review that improves the paper”, and “to get validation that encourages others to use the approaches described in the paper.”

An unsurprising but depressing survey of how academics are portrayed in children’s books. (ht @franceswoolley)

Hope Jahren has good general advice about whether you should be on Twitter. Much of it’s probably familiar to many of you, but it’s well-put. If anyone asks you for advice on whether they should be on Twitter, just point them to Hope’s post, and then to Meg’s for more specific suggestions on what Twitter is useful for.

A while back I suggested that ecologists should read more philosophy. Apparently, so should businesspeople, entrepreneurs, programmers, and engineers. Anecdotal, obviously, and many of the philosophy students quoted in the article might well have gone onto success without studying philosophy. But still, I do think there’s something to it. Then again, since I took several philosophy classes in college, I would say that! 🙂 (ht @learnfromerror)

From Meg:

This one is fun: this company is using women with PhDs and women PhD students to model their clothes.

This page has a lab philosophy that includes list of interesting articles on the culture of science (scroll down a little to get to the list). I’ve read several of the articles on the list and found them interesting, and look forward to reading more of them. (ht: Caitlin Pepperell)

17 thoughts on “Friday links: PhD models, great Tony Ives interview, shameless self-promotion, and more (UPDATE: link added)

      • Great interview though and amen to this:

        “The freedom to be wrong is important. I’m probably more wrong than anybody else in the lab…….you can’t live life as a scientist always being scared of being wrong or failing. It’s going to happen, and you have to get comfortable with it.”

  1. I read the Ives’ interview and it was really good. However: “One of the things that I’ve learned is to allow myself to be epically wrong.” seems to be not well justified and it left me quite cold. What does it mean “allow myself to be epically wrong?”? It means, you can decide to be wrong or not?

    Maybe, it would be better to rephrase in to “allow myself to take risks”, “to make bold predictions” and then being comfortable with being wrong, because it is something you do, but being wrong is not something you directly do, at least, not if you do not that on purpose.

    As for twitter advice, I kinda agree apart from the rage thing with which I do not agree with. I think one of the drawbacks of using twitter is that only a certain kind of scientists is on twitter and that may give the false impression that it is a representative sample. It is like meeting up with analytical, interested, up to date people all day and then not being aware that it is not a representative sample. So, if you are not using github, share code and data, love your family and friends, hiking and be amazed by the diversity of species, you are one of those losers. It also encourages sometimes the herd mentality and behavior. I find tweeter very useful and if you think you do not have the time to scroll it that day or that week, well, nobody is missing you, so I do not see a particular problem.

    • Re: the “rage” thing, I’m sure you’re right that certain types of people are attracted to Twitter, and one of those types is basically “angry people”. But as you say, every mode of communication–heck, every human activity–attracts certain types of people. Who, if they’re not careful, can slip easily into thinking that different types of people are doing it wrong (whatever “it” is).

      Blogging is definitely a case in point here; that’s something I plan to talk about a bit in my upcoming talk on blogging at Virginia Tech. The advent of efficient technical tools for blogging, and a growing audience for blogs, definitely creates an opportunity for certain kinds of people–like me! I leave it to readers to decide what sort of person that is… 🙂

      All of which makes it a bit tricky to distinguish the way people actually do things from the way they ought to do them. For instance, I’ve made the mistake in the past of criticizing live-tweeting of talks, because that’s something that wouldn’t work for me personally. I couldn’t do it, nor would I get anything out of following someone else’s live tweets. But I failed to recognize that is *does* work for other people. So the correct answer to the question “should you live tweet talks?” is “it depends what sort of person you are.” But I don’t think everything is like this. I don’t think everybody always does things in the best way, even when “best” is defined as “whatever works for you”. For instance, I think blogs are just a better medium for discussion and debate than Twitter, full stop. You cannot have a productive debate 140 characters at a time (well, except maybe if you include links in your tweets, but in that case your twitter debate is totally parasitic on a debate that’s actually being carried out more than 140 characters at a time, plus you’re making the dubious assumption that your opponents will read the stuff you’re linking to). So I actually do think that, insofar as your goal is to “have productive debates”, you’re doing it wrong if you’re trying to do it on Twitter. But who knows–maybe this is just another example of me failing to recognize what works for other people! 🙂

      • Jeremy, I agree ” So I actually do think that, insofar as your goal is to “have productive debates”, you’re doing it wrong if you’re trying to do it on Twitter”.

        I agree. At the same time, how many blogs are there, how many ppl read them? How many followers can you have on twitter? I add, how many ppl want to have productive debates on Twitter? 2% of ppl on Twitter?

        Twitter gives other opportunities, clearly less opportunity to develop a “sound debates”, but generally a bigger audience. And I am of the school do what works best for you after having defined what you want to do. While the first part of the sentence is obvious, the second part a bit less.

      • @Simone:

        Re: audiences for blogs vs. Twitter, I think it’s hard to generalize. We certainly have many more readers than people who follow us on Twitter, for instance.

        I also think that audience size comparison for blogs vs. Twitter is an apples-to-oranges comparison, for just the reason you describe: Twitter and blogs have different purposes for most people.

      • @Simone:

        “You just link to blog posts on twitter, so it has to be a subset of readers who follow you on twitter.”

        Yes, assuming (as is reasonable) that no non-readers follow us on Twitter. But our number of Twitter followers is actually well below our number of readers. As of right now, we have 1555 Twitter followers. But we get thousands of unique visitors per week and over 10,000 per month. Hard for me to imagine having that many Twitter followers even if we used Twitter as something other than a way to send out alerts of new posts. There aren’t many scientists or science bloggers who have 10,000+ Twitter followers! Meg for instance is a quite active Twitter user as well as blogging here, and she only has about the same number of Twitter followers as the blog does.

    • RE: being wrong
      The way I interpreted that statement, is that it is important to be OK with being wrong. For example, when evidence starts to accrue that a particular pet hypothesis is wrong, admit it to yourself and move on rather than trying to work out an interpretation of the new data in which your hypothesis still works.

      I am not sure if this is what Tony Ives meant, but if it is, I couldn’t agree more.

  2. I read the “OK to be wrong” statement slightly differently. For me the key phrase was “I’ve said some things in lab meetings that made other lab members ask whether it is possible for me to say something sufficiently stupid to have my PhD revoked.”

    To me, that’s about taking risks on a day-to-day basis, by voicing ideas and opinions that could well be crap, but just might be important as a stimulus for other ideas. That seems to me to be different from formally testing a favoured hypothesis and showing that it’s wrong.

  3. When I checked out the link for the survey of kids’ books, I couldn’t help thinking of fictional school teacher “Ms. Frizzle” from the Magic School Bus series. She was neither an old, white guy nor a megalomaniac (she was also a “Ms.” instead of a “Professor”)… and I’m pretty sure she played a big role in my developing a love for science / respect for scientists as a kid. I wonder if we’re not the ones with the narrow view of what constitutes an academic/scientist and what features are important in the mind of a child.

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