Friday links: top journals vs. thumbs, history of peer review, 40 years of Darwin’s finches, squnks, and more

Also this week: a new ecology-themed GeoGuessr challenge, hype in science, two new(ish) blogs for you to check out, why Mallards aren’t boring, and more. Plus California condors links from Brian! And there might be something about a show jumping cow, but no promises.

From Brian (!):

It is popular to dismiss high impact journals like Science or Nature, but on a personal individual level most scientists would not refuse the opportunity if given it. Indeed, most would make a sacrifice to be in these journals. Just how badly do scientists want to get into these journals? Leave to an economist to quantify this. Shockingly, the short answer is to get into the economics equivalent of Ecology Letters academics would give up 9 months of their life or 3/4 of their dominant hand’s thumb! (HT Artem Kaznatcheev’s blog). Come on people – get a life!

And somebody who really did experience bodily harm to get a paper published (evaluating the painfulness of bee stings in various locations on the body using himself as the sole subject) (short answer for those who don’t want to click through: nostril, penis and lip were worst, skull and toe were least painful)

From Jeremy:

The winner of our GeoGuessr Challenge, Avi Bar Massada, celebrated his victory by posing his own ecology-themed GeoGuessr Challenge! Every location is of special ecological significance–but Avi’s not revealing their significance. So you have to both figure out where you are, and what’s so special about it ecologically. Fun!

This is a couple of months old, but I just stumbled across it. Ecoroulette is a small group blog by four young ecologists at different career stages (grad student to assistant prof) and on different career paths (in and out of academia). The posting frequency is high. The posts cover a range of topics, mostly to do with the day-to-day business of being an ecologist.

The history of peer review. Dates back to 1731, but use of external reviewers didn’t take off in a big way until after WWII. (ht Denim and Tweed)

Here’s an interesting idea relayed by Andrew Gelman: “crowdstorming” a dataset. The idea is to pose a scientific question, provide a dataset that can be used to address the question, and then compare the range of answers you get from everyone who has a go at answering the question. If everybody provides the same answer, that suggests that the answer is robust. If everybody comes up with different answers, well, you have an object lesson on the importance of researcher degrees of freedom. Unfortunately, it seems from the comments on Andrew’s post that this particular question-dataset combo may not have been well thought out. The question posed seems trivially simple (just asking whether two variables are correlated), but the dataset contains some (not all) of the variables one might want if one was actually out to do some fancy structural equation modeling or something. Which I suppose is an illustration of an important statistical principle: you have to be clear on what your scientific question is before you start crunching numbers. I vaguely remember that an NCEAS working group did something like this back in the late ’90s. IIRC, they published time series data on the abundance of an unnamed species and invited all comers to build models that would predict its subsequent abundances. Anybody remember more details?

Survey data on who publishes in open access megajournals, and why. I only glanced at it, but thought I’d point it out. (ht Retraction Watch)

Mallard ducks are everywhere, and they look the same everywhere. Which makes them boring, right? Not so fast–as Andrew Hendry argues, maybe that actually makes them really interesting. A meditation on uniqueness in ecology and evolution. Includes a fun extended analogy to collecting objects that are all minor variations on a theme (e.g., matchbooks).

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne reports from a conference on hype in science. The general consensus is that hype is increasing, due to increased competition for funding and jobs. And that there’s not much that can be done about it. Suggests that blogs can function as a means to damp down the hype because they’re a way to push back against hype as soon as it appears. I suppose that might work, although I think it’s only going to work in really high-profile cases. And even there, you have to keep in mind that sometimes it’s the people crying “hype!” who are wrong. Even if it’s a lot of people, or very famous people, doing so. For instance, is human genome sequencing just hype? Mostly hype? Some hype? Or what? Not easy to say, as evidenced by the range of views out there (see here and here for some discussion). Plus, lots of people use their blogs as a way to hype their own research–or indeed, hype their minor criticisms of the work of others. So I don’t see blogs as a general-purpose antidote to hype.

A depressing reminder that online discussions of even highly technical subjects can get contaminated by trolls (e.g., the same person submitting similar comments under various names from the same IP address). We’ve never had to deal with anything like that, though–y’all are awesome commenters!

Peter and Rosemary Grant have written their valediction, a new book summarizing their four decades of research on Darwin’s finches.

A German girl has a show jumping cow. πŸ™‚ (ht Marginal Revolution)

And finally, here’s a squnk. At least, that’s what it should be called. πŸ™‚

From Meg:

Here’s a great resource related to informal science education, which describes itself as β€œan online community and collection of informal STEM learning project, evaluation, and research resources.” It includes links to articles on things like afterschool programs, citizen science programs, and programs at museums and science centers. It seems like it would be a great resource for people working on broader impacts or education components of a CAREER proposal. (ht: Elena Bennett)

Good news for those of us who have treadmill desks: a new study suggests walking improves creativity (but not focused thinking). (That said, I was more productive last week while trapped on planes than I’ve been in a long time. Maybe I need a plane seat desk?)

Paleontologist Ellen Currano has reactivated her blog, saying β€œThis spring, I have a new purpose: to remind myself that I’m not alone in attempting to break into the old boys club that is field paleontology and to celebrate some inspiring paleontologists and geologists who defy the stereotypes that run rampant in the popular media.” I’m looking forward to reading the posts!

12 thoughts on “Friday links: top journals vs. thumbs, history of peer review, 40 years of Darwin’s finches, squnks, and more

  1. Interesting about the treadmill desks, Meg. After setting one up for myself, I found that I prefer to work standing, but not walking. (Luckily it works for that, too.) Instead, I find that I’m most productive when actually *moving* — whether by foot, bus, train, or plane. Wonder why…

    • That’s interesting! I definitely have noticed that what is most productive for me varies. Walking at my treadmill desk increases my productivity for some things (especially reading), but that I need to stop for other things (e.g., editing a passage in a manuscript that I’m having a hard time wording correctly.)

      • Oh! Hmm… maybe I should try walking again (when I’m no longer pregnant). My first attempts were while finishing up my dissertation, which was definitely writing-heavy, reading-light.

    • I spent much of the time working on my annual report for my grant. I’m not sure that requires much in the way of productivity!

      • “I spent much of the time working on my annual report for my grant. I’m not sure that requires much in the way of productivity!”

        Don’t you mean creativity? Or maybe it doesn’t require much of either? πŸ™‚

      • Oh, ha, yes, I meant creativity. Apparently my brain has turned off for the day. πŸ™‚

  2. Smith’s concluding sentences: “The results herein are of course limited to honeybee stings, which constitute only a small part of the human pain experience. Future work will address this limitation by investigating high velocity impacts with various cacti and yucca species, should we still be capable of writing upon completion of the field trials.”

    Couldn’t he just have jabbed himself with some needles or something?

      • That remembers me about a story at our department where one was biten by a snake during a field survey at a remote location in Africa and nowbody knows what will happen next (reactions in closely related species reached from pain as after a bee stick to dead). Luckily he survived and was able to publish the first record of human envenomation in that species – as first author of course πŸ™‚

        In comparison, bee sticks are somewhat for “beginners” πŸ™‚

        Thanks for posting all the interesting stuff (I’m new into the blog and really like reading it)!

  3. Pingback: Flump – featuring outstanding ecological theory, enormous fruit flies, and #OddScienceEquipment | BioDiverse Perspectives

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