Friday links: Hope Jahren’s blog turns 1, Tim Poisot wins the intertubes, and more

Also this week: teaching advice, a classic paper on the ecology of dragons, don’t believe the hype, great minds think link alike, and more. Also, Happy Halloween!

From Meg:

I enjoyed this post at Tenure, She Wrote on maintaining productivity and finding structure despite stress, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome.

I also enjoyed this post on why PhD students should use twitter. I love how twitter facilitates interactions across all ranks, across disciplines, and of scientists and non-scientists. (My own reasons for using twitter are in this post.) (Jeremy adds: What, no ht?๐Ÿ™‚ Also, yes, Twitter can be very useful, but if it doesn’t work for you don’t sweat it.)

This NPR piece focuses on Jennifer Doudna, who has done transformative research that might earn her a Nobel Prize some day. Part of why it is interesting is because it talks about how her incredibly important discoveries arose out of basic research. But another reason why itโ€™s interesting is because it includes an anecdote about how important it was for her, when she was a girl, to see a scientist who looked like her.

This week, I attended a teaching seminar featuring Robin Wright of the University of Minnesota. In it, she mentioned a new open access journal focused on biology education, called Course Source; she is the Editor in Chief. From their webpage:

CourseSource isย an open-access journal of peer-reviewed teaching resources for college biological science courses.ย We publish articles that are organized around courses in biological disciplines and aligned with learning goals established by professional societies in biological sciences disciplines.

She also mentioned this article, reporting the results of a study that found that simply teaching intro bio in a room designed for active learning improved student learning, even when there was no shift in pedagogy. She also recommended the book Make It Stick, which focuses on how students learn and has tips for students and instructors on how to improve learning.

From Jeremy:

Tim Poisot with a nice piece on how people who feel too busy may indeed be too busy, because we all go through the cycle of taking on more work (thus making us feel too busy), learning to handle it (so that we don’t feel busy any more), and then taking on more work (so that the cycle repeats). (ht Small Pond Science)

But nice as that piece from Tim is, this one’s better: here’s Tim sharing the story of the 12 second conversation that caused him to quit academia, and the mentor who pulled him back. Here are four more stories about the same sort of thing, each of them unique: from Meg, from Carla Davidson, from John Stanton-Geddes (ht Jeremy Yoder), and from me.

One more from Tim, who is on fire lately: he’s doing a series of posts on his (ultimately successful) search for an academic job, a search that took him to France before he ultimately ended up in Canada. Starts here.

Missed this last week, so a slightly belated happy 1st birthday to #HOPEJAHRENSURECANWRITE. Yes, she can!

Over at the Journal of Animal Ecology blog, Tim Coulson argues that trying to address the causes of science’s skewed sex ratio has failed, and that the answer is mandatory quotas to enforce gender balance. Provocative piece on a serious problem, though your mileage may vary on quotas as a solution (to his credit, Coulson does try to address various serious and spurious objections to which quotas are subject). Here’s a related post of Meg’s addressing a similar issue at the lower level of individual investigators.

What to do if someone accuses you of p-hacking. Note that some of these require you not to have p-hacked in the first place. And I love the point that “our chosen analysis is reasonable” is not a defense.

Relatedly: in praise of statisticians’ resistance to hype.

Evolutionary biologist Britt Koskella is a convert to double-blind peer review. Although note that, while it presumably wouldn’t hurt, the evidence that it will help is mixed (see Tom Webb’s comment in the thread on Coulson’s piece).

Think the peer review process in science is too slow? It could be worse; you could be in accounting, or economics, or finance, or psychology, or… (ht @franceswoolley)

Should you reply to bulk emails from prospective grad students (often from developing countries) who don’t know who you are or what you work on? I just delete them.

PeerJ is growing steadily. The linked piece also includes a lot of arm-wavy speculation about its future.

While procrastinating by browsing some old posts, I stumbled on this comment linking to a classic letter to Nature by Bob May, on…(wait for it)…the ecology of dragons! Have I mentioned lately that I love our commenters?๐Ÿ™‚

And finally: Happy Halloween from Dynamic Ecology! Hope you remembered to carve your pumpkin…

…dress as your study organism (or Meg’s)…

…or think of something else if you don’t really have a study organism.๐Ÿ™‚

(Images from,, and

8 thoughts on “Friday links: Hope Jahren’s blog turns 1, Tim Poisot wins the intertubes, and more

  1. While I completely agree that it’s fine to delete bulk emails from prospective grad students from developing countries who don’t know your work *after* you’ve read the content of the email and determined that they in fact don’t know your work, I worry that for some people the process might get flipped a little. That is, they see a name that indicates a student from a developing country, assume that the email must be a bulk email from a student who doesn’t know their work, and therefore do not respond. That would explain the results of a study that showed wide disparity in response rates from faculty to *identical* emails from students with names indicating different racial identities, specifically the relatively low response rate to names suggesting that the student is Indian or Chinese.

    • Hi Ambika,

      That study you linked to addresses a quite different situation than the bulk email situation. The whole point about these bulk emails is that they’re not identical in every way with emails sent by other students except for the name of the sender. They have other distinguishing features, such as the subject line. In my own experience it’s very easy to distinguish real bulk emails from real non-bulk emails.

      • I fully understand the difference, and am sure that it is easy to distinguish the bulk emails upon reading them. I just wanted to share the study to ensure that we all guard against any sort of bias when deciding how to deal with emails from students whose names suggest they may come from developing countries.

      • In my experience bulk emails can usually be identified without opening them. The subject lines generally are quite distinctive. When I’m not sure, I err on the side of opening them (which so far has always revealed a bulk email…).

  2. I thought my old dragon paper comment was ignored, but it seems it was over looked. Thanks for sharing on such an apropos day Jeremy!

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