Also this week: a sexist peer review, the history of popular science, comparative advantage vs. teaching assignments, vignettes of famous evolutionary biologists, there’s no such thing as Big Science, and more.
In case you think things are all just peachy for women in science, read about this review that two women evolutionary biologists received on their manuscript on gender differences in the transition from PhD student to postdoc. The reviewer suggested, among other things, that they should consider working with “one or two male biologists” on the research. This is definitely an argument in favor of double-blind peer review; given that, the timing on this correspondence to Nature (from this week’s issue) arguing against double-blind review is interesting.
Ever wonder how a drawing of apes and ape-like ancestors walking in line behind a modern human became an iconic image of evolution? Here’s the answer.
Robert Trivers’ personal recollections of famous evolutionary biologists. (ht Marginal Revolution) Very personal and frank–Robert Trivers always tells you exactly what he thinks. Plenty of amusing anecdotes too, like this one about Phil Darlington:
We also feared him because he was a tall, lanky, dour, elderly character who did not invite easy banter. But there was one reason we all loved him. He had a pronounced limp on one side and he gained this, we were told, is the service of evolutionary biology. As the story went, he was walking along a rope ladder above a river in Indonesia when a crocodile leapt up and grabbed his leg and hauled him into the river. As is their style, a croc likes to pull you under water, whip you around and drown you. On his way down Darlington was alleged to have said to himself in righteous anger, “Wait a second, you don’t collect us as specimens, we collect you!” In any case, he managed to free himself and reach safety, although for the rest of his life he walked with a pronounced limp.
Trivers has incisive things to say about science as well as scientists. For instance, here’s Trivers–himself a theoretician–on the value of hypothesis-free, curiosity-driven data collection:
He was a pure empiricist…I love these people—they work for the future and gather data whose logic later generations will reveal. Precisely because they have no axes to grind or hypotheses to prove, their data are apt to be more reliable than the first wave after a new theory.
Imagine you’re a department chair. You have to assign faculty to teach courses. You should assign each course to the best prof to teach that course, right? Wrong.
Congratulations to the 2015 ESA Fellows and Early Career Fellows!
On the different cultures of data analysis in different fields.
Speaking of popular science, I sure hope this is intentionally ironic. But then, as the previous piece notes, if you want people like Oliver Sacks and Carl Sagan, you’re going to have to live with Dr. Oz and bad TED talks.
The Canadian government thinks that its job is to subsidize industrial R&D rather than fund basic research. Sigh. Further discussion here.
NY Times magazine with a feature on the urban ecology of New York City, focusing on animal movement. My former labmate Timon McPhearson makes an appearance.
There’s no such thing as Big Science–only Big Engineering. And Big Engineering projects are only scientifically helpful in fields where we already know a lot and have a well-developed theoretical framework. Begin arguing over whether this is true, and its applicability to NEON…now! (ht Not Exactly Rocket Science)