Meg recently debunked the myth that you have to work 80 hours/week to succeed in academia, and the closely-related myth that there are academics who work that much. It’s now our most popular post ever! Clearly a lot of people appreciated having that myth debunked. So I thought I’d ask:
What other myths of academia need debunking? And are there myths specific to the field of ecology and evolution that need debunking? Or maybe you’ve read or heard something and want to find out if it’s a myth?
Note that I’m not thinking here of claims about science or scientific methodology. I’m not asking you to name zombie ideas in ecology or anything like that. Rather, I’m thinking of things like the following:
- It’s a myth that you have to have a Science or Nature paper to get hired at a research university. It’s also a myth that they don’t matter at all. (The linked post also comments on various other myths surrounding the hiring process at research universities.)
- It’s a myth that in recent decades ecology journals (or maybe just leading ecology journals) have started to fill up with mathematics and meta-analyses, thereby crowding out observational studies of single species.
- The NSF Division of Environmental Biology recently went out of their way to debunk various myths about award size and duration, such as that inexpensive proposals don’t get funded, or that the DEB prefers proposals from large teams.
So, heard or read something about ecology, or about academia more broadly, and want to know if it’s really true? Now’s your chance to find out: ask away! I’ll do my best to answer, and hopefully commenters will chime in as well. Or, is there some widespread belief that you know is mythological, and want help in getting the word out? Say so in the comments!
Note that I’m hoping folks will ask about stuff they personally think is true, as well as stuff they think is false. That is, I’m hoping folks will ask “Is this a myth?” about stuff that they don’t think is a myth! For instance, I was really surprised by data showing that the ecological literature actually is dominated by observational rather than experimental studies. So my own belief that “ecology journals mostly publish experimental studies these days” turned out to be a myth, despite me not even suspecting it might be a myth! Which just illustrates that, in general, our own subjective feeling of certitude is a lousy guide as to what’s actually true.
Blogs and other social media are kind of a double-edged sword here: they can aid both myth-making and myth-busting. Sometimes, social media can be great for exposing you to data and anecdotes that contradict your own beliefs, thereby encouraging you to question those beliefs. But other times, social media can be the greatest echo chamber ever invented–a “filter bubble” that you don’t recognize as such. Here’s hoping that this post will help bust a few myths without creating or reinforcing any!