Also this week: questioning the evidence for p-hacking, hamster wheel desks, are academics becoming more selfish, new faculty advice, resources for modelers, 35 years of “Spandrels”, zombie ideas in other fields, making nerd fury work for you, and more.
I really enjoyed this profile of space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock. Her story is really inspiring, including her current work to inspire the next generation of scientists.
Here’s a new article in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the impacts of global climate change on human health. There was also an editorial associated with the article, which includes this statement, “Today, in the early part of the 21st century, it is critical to recognize that climate change poses the same threat to health as the lack of sanitation, clean water, and pollution did in the early 20th century.” (ht: Seth Mnookin)
Melissa Wilson-Sayres had a post this week with good advice for pre-tenure faculty.
I enjoyed this post from Jacquelyn Gill on how we all need to work to change the climate for women, instead of just talking about the problems with the climate. My small step of the morning was to send an email trying to get the ball rolling to use the Clancy et al. study as a justification for including training related to sexual harassment into the research ethics course.
This week, the Royal Society announced it’s 43 new University Research Fellows. Only 2 are women. According to the Royal Society:
This year women accounted for 19% of applications for the URF scheme but only accounted for 13% of those shortlisted, 9% of those interviewed and less than 5% of those awarded. Last year women accounted for roughly 20% at all stages of the process.
I’ve linked in the past to text-mining studies looking at the distribution of published p-values and finding that in some fields there’s an excess of barely-significant p-values, suggesting p-hacking. Turns out that at least some of those results may well be artifacts of how authors report p-values (e.g., reporting p<0.05 rather than an exact value). See the linked post for a lengthy discussion of proper “p-curve” construction and analysis, and discussion of how to test for publication bias more broadly.
Yeast mail. I’m not kidding. (ht Yoav Ram, via Twitter)
Amy Parachnowitsch wonders if competition for jobs and grants is causing academics and their students to just put their heads down, beaver away on their own work, and focus too much on the things that are of obvious direct benefit to their own careers. Possibly to the detriment of their own careers as well as to others around them and the field as a whole.
Zombie ideas, humanities and social sciences edition: Harry Brighthouse wonders when philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists will quit teaching students the standard–and in his view discredited–versions of Milgram’s obedience experiment and the Kitty Genovese case. In the comments there’s debate about what aspects of these cases have been discredited.
MIT used a lot of pre- and post-testing to show that one of their MOOCs was as or more effective than the classroom based version, and that it was equally effective for all students regardless of their background preparation. The link goes to a press release and I haven’t seen the actual paper. And since students weren’t randomly assigned to a regular classroom vs. a MOOC you need to be careful about what inferences you draw here. But if it’s true it would go against other things I’ve read about MOOCs.
A bit outside our usual territory: lots of discussion in the economics blogosphere this week on two major reports arguing that the net economic costs of fighting climate change would be small or even zero. The devil is in the details with these sorts of reports, because alternative assumptions about all sorts of technical matters make a huge difference to one’s final estimate of the economic costs. To help get you up to speed and give you some sense of the range of informed opinion (and it’s notable that views on these reports aren’t tightly correlated with people’s political views), here are comments from Paul Krugman, Peter Dorman, Robert Stavins, and John Quiggin. (UPDATE: and one more from Tyler Cowen) I’m no expert, so please do share links to other commentaries in the comments. (ht Economist’s View)
Nothing to do with ecology, but I have a personal bias so I’ll share it: Ethan Zuckerman’s lovely convocation address to his (and my) alma mater, on the importance of expanding your horizons.
How to do it all. Your mileage may vary, of course. And note that following some of these suggestions will lead to the sort of behavior that Amy Parachnowitsch bemoans in the link above. (ht Marginal Revolution)
Theoretical ecologist Marissa Baskett maintains a nice list of resources for ecological modeling. Includes programming advice, classic papers on the philosophy of modeling, links to summer programs for grad students, and more.
How to make online nerd fury work for you. The linked post is about using it to find places to eat in new cities. But it’s fun to think about using this approach to get advice on any matter on which lots of people consider themselves “experts” and have strongly-held views. Maybe I should use this approach to figure out the stats for my next experiment.🙂 (ht Marginal Revolution)
So what’s an “individual” organism, anyway? How do you differentiate one from another? Evolutionary biologist Charles Goodnight is mulling it over in a series of posts. Starts here.
This week in back of the envelope calculations: all of the ants are not as heavy as all of the humans.
And finally, grumpy