Also this week: Contrarianism! Academia isn’t broken! It’s not actually that important for the vast majority of data to be made available and accessible in a standardized form! And also lots of things that aren’t contrarianism but are still thought-provoking! And a video interpretation of my blogging! And a picture of Dr. Evil! And more! Ok I’ll stop now!
Most popular programming languages across all programming (not just academic ecology). R just edges out Matlab in terms of popularity, but Python crushes both (in a virtual tie between Java, C, C++ and Python). Personally, I am midstream switching from Matlab to Python with R pulled in for teaching or specialized stats (or to conform with norms in working groups). Python is clearly a juggernaut in scientific computing in general, but I’m curious how many other ecologists are using it?
First, a reminder as the semester begins that I have a post that contains links to videos for teaching ecology.
Times Higher Education had a very interesting article entitled “Work less, do more, live better”, which focuses on similar themes as my post on how you do not need to work 80 hour weeks to succeed in academia. It includes interesting information on historic work patterns, efforts by companies to restrict how much their employees work in an attempt to prevent burnout, and the importance of exercise and sleep. It says, “This article is the opposite of a call to arms, it’s a call to leisure, a call to lay down your keyboard and take up your knitting needles, your surfboard, your pleasure reading and, especially, your walking shoes.”
And, in a similar vein, Inside Higher Ed had a piece on working 40 hours a week and succeeding in academia. It’s a great piece. Many of the points mirror ones I made in my post on not needing to work 80 hour weeks: if you track your time, you are likely to be surprised at how little work you are actually doing, and, if you do put in longer hours, you are likely to become less and less efficient/productive during those hours. The author (Trish Roberts-Miller of the University of Texas-Austin) says that she discovered as a grad student that “I was spending a lot of time in a fairly draining world of neither work nor play — not fun, and so not a world that rejuvenated me in any way, but also not really work, and so not a world in which I was getting anything useful done. I wasn’t exactly the long-suffering martyr I was imagining — in fact, I needed to work more.” She also talks about how the amount of time required for specific tasks she performs (e.g., grading) increases as she works longer hours each week. All in all, a very interesting read. ht: @scitrigrrl
Ed Yong tweeted that it would be really helpful if lab’s included information on their major accomplishments on their webpage, which got an impressively quick response from Emilio Bruna:
I think Emilio’s page is great. I’m interested in giving this a shot!
I really liked this post by Sarah Bisbing on the lessons she learned in her first year on the tenure track. There’s lots of great advice there. (Jeremy adds: hey, that’s my link!)
And I’m late on this, since I haven’t sent in links in a few weeks, but The Guardian featured a new twitter account, @LegoAcademics, which has used the new women scientist lego set to create scenes of academics acting out their daily lives. It doesn’t include my favorite so far, which is this one:
Terry McGlynn with his impressions of the four conferences he attended this summer, including the ESA. Touches on everything from the prevalence of students (lots more of them at ESA, apparently) to the apparent paucity of new Big Ideas:
Another thing that I noticed about the meetings that, at each one, so many talks were about the same. exact. damn. idea. For example, I’m not joking when I estimate that about every other talk at the Tropical Biology meeting was about biodiversity along elevational gradients…When there is a new Big Idea out there, it makes sense that people are working on it and presenting that work. But here’s what caught my eye about most of these Big Ideas at the meetings. These are ideas that have already played out. The biggest discoveries tied to those Big Ideas have already happened.
Terry also talks about the difference between using talks to sell your science vs. using talks to sell yourself, and says he mostly saw the latter. I confess I don’t really see the distinction Terry sees. If it’s a distinction at all, it seems to me more like a distinction between different ways of selling one’s science. Some old thoughts on showmanship and salesmanship in scientific presentations and papers here and here.
Is ecology explaining less and less? Science has a writeup of a new study I was very impressed with at the ESA meeting. Quotes Brian. The EEB and Flow also comments (in a post that also hits on the theory vs. empiricism survey that we linked to last week).
Sarah Bisbing on the lessons she learned as a first year faculty member.
Here’s a pretty cogent argument from Arjun Raj that it’s not necessarily worth it to make any and all data freely available in a standardized form without any need to contact the original authors. Before y’all start flaming me (or him), click through and read it. He actually shares a lot of his own data (and code), and makes heavy use of data collected by others. His point is simply that there are no easy, dead-obvious answers here. Though note that the data sharing requirements many ecology journals have implemented seem less onerous than the sort of thing Raj is mostly thinking of. And at least some kinds of ecological data seem less likely to quickly be outdated or superseded than the sorts of data Raj works with.
A nice piece on Robert MacArthur, from the alumni magazine of his alma mater, tiny and unconventional Marlboro College. I didn’t know that MacArthur was part of their first class of students, and that his father started the science labs there. And this is a candidate for the most MacArthur sentence ever written:
But the college possessed two things the younger MacArthur brother found particularly to his liking: an excellent mathematics teacher in the person of Alan Paine, and an abundance of meadows and forests where he could do fieldwork to his heart’s content.
(ht Small Pond Science)
The Chronicle of Higher Education is going to try to track who gets every new North American tenure track job advertised this year in 11 fields–including ecology. (ht Small Pond Science)
The role of markets and incentives in the recovery of white rhinos in South Africa. Interesting, I didn’t know this. (ht Economist’s View)
A (humorous) taxonomy of papers. I just had a “Face Plant” myself not too long ago. 🙂
The 11 funniest economics papers ever. Anyone care to compile a similar list for ecology?
Sociologist Kieran Healy with the greatest syllabus ever, for “Sociology 710: Social Theory Through Complaining.” I love how it’s an equal-opportunity skewering. Commenters are invited to post suggestions for an ecology equivalent. You can get a good start just by using some of Healy’s, or slight variations thereon. “Ecology 710: Ecological Theory Through Complaining”. “Week 1: This class has nothing to do with my research”. “Week 3: It’s not like we can even predict anything”. “Week 9: What is theory without data?” 🙂
Marmot vs. GoPro. I
spit on lick your attempt to take time lapse video! 🙂
In a similar vein, here’s a video of me blogging. Well, sort of blogging. And sort of me. 🙂
And finally, I was procrastinating this week and decided to make a meme for Brian’s “insidious evils of ANOVA” post:
Have a good weekend! 🙂