Friday links: Brian wins the linkfest forever. Also, academic whack-a-mole, and more.

There are other links this week, but really the only one you need to click is Brian’s. Greatest. Link. Ever. Seriously, drop whatever you’re doing and click through NOW.

From Meg:

Here’s an argument for giving women faculty a bonus to offset the gender bias that occurs in student evaluations.

I enjoyed this piece by Nathan Hall, who runs the Shit Academics Say (@academicssay) twitter account. I really enjoy the account, and it was neat to read the backstory.

On twitter, Anne Hilborn (@annewhilborn) asked:

I said I would add dialogue to my paper and then have Nina Totenberg read it. Because, as Anne said,

Tweets are now coming in with the #SciPaperNarrator hashtag.

This is a great post on time management in academia, how easy it is to get bogged down in the tedious little things, and how important it is to avoid that. Best yet, it does it with an extended analogy to whack-a-mole. Read it! Here’s one part:

My assumption as a young assistant professor was that if I whacked all the moles fast enough, I would run out of moles and have time to do research. I have since learned the error of my ways and I will let you in on the secret they will never, ever tell you at faculty orientation: there are always more moles. In fact, I am convinced that there are an infinite number of moles. You could spend every waking hour whacking moles and still never run out of moles. Honestly.

Indeed. Also read the comment from Odyssey, who points out:

You have the right approach, although I would go one step further. Not all moles are equal. Try to focus on whacking only the moles worth the most points.

Good advice. (ht: Ethan White)

From Jeremy:

Data Colada with some straight talk on reducing fraud in science, with which I agree. And with which most of Twitter disagrees, as far as I can tell. To give you the flavor, here’s an extended quote, pushing back against the notion that we need to change the incentives scientists face in order to prevent fraud:

First, even if rewarding sexy-results caused fraud, it does not follow we should stop rewarding sexy-results. We should pit costs vs benefits. Asking questions with the most upside is beneficial.

Second, if we started rewarding unsexy stuff, a likely consequence is fabricateurs continuing to fake, now just unsexy stuff.  Fabricateurs want the lifestyle of successful scientists. Changing incentives involves making our lifestyle less appealing. (Finally, a benefit to committee meetings).

Third, the evidence for “liking sexy→fraud” is just not there. Like real research, most fake research is not sexy…That we attend to and remember the sexy fake studies is diagnostic of what we pay attention to, not what causes fraud…

The evidence that incentives causes fraud comes primarily from self-reports, with fabricateurs saying “the incentives made me do it” …To me, the guilty saying “it’s not my fault” seems like weak evidence. What else could they say?

Similarly weak, to me, is the observation that fraud is more prevalent in top journals; we find fraud where we look for it. Fabricateurs faking articles that don’t get read don’t get caught…

Rather than change incentives, they suggest that authors be obliged to post data, materials, and code, and keep a paper trail verifying that they did the claimed work.

Tim Poisot asks: when do scientific debates get vicious? I think his answer (lack of data) is at best incomplete. If only because lack of data seems to be a poor explanation for how scientific debates even get started in the first place. Semi-related: name the most productive and unproductive debates in the history of ecology. And why I love a good argument, and what makes an argument good.

Banning bottled water sales at the University of Vermont had the opposite of its intended effects. Good fodder for an environmental policy class.

Serious, but honest, scientific errors of famous scientists.

Way too early to get your hopes up, but Disney is thinking of making an adventure movie about Charles Darwin. Here’s the trailer (I assume). Dana Carvey is a surprising but effective choice for the lead. 🙂 (ht Rich Lenski, via Twitter)

From Brian:

Did you wonder why the hotels in Baltimore for ESA were so booked up on Saturday and Sunday night? We’ll have some company at the convention center on Sunday. Get your costumes ready now (HT Jes Hines)

(meme credit: Jeremy)

Jeremy adds: the ecological implications of Brian’s link are thoroughly discussed in this video. Which provides some, um, novel suggestions for Meg’s “organism of the day” project. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Friday links: Brian wins the linkfest forever. Also, academic whack-a-mole, and more.

  1. When I saw the brony news, I emailed it to my lab and apologized for leading them astray by saying there was no real need to get there on Sunday.

  2. Last time ESA was in Baltimore, it shared the convention center with a scifi convention. I thought nothing could top that. I stand corrected. 🙂

    So, is anyone going to BronyCon *and* ESA?

  3. I believe two other categories you could add to the scientific fraud listing are pressure/ survival and mental illness.

    Often there is tremendous pressure to produce results relative to career survival. For many, not getting the next grant results in a quick trip to the unemployment line. Tenure buffers some of that impact, but increasingly post-tenure review is being used to apply this pressure.

    I’ve read several reports suggesting there is an inordinately high proportion of sociopaths and psychopaths in science, compared to the general population. Fraud, among other nefarious deeds, are commonplace among such folk.

  4. My dad was a grocer before he retired. He once went to a big food convention in Baltimore that was sharing the convention center with a square dancing convention. All the women were wearing hoop skirts.

    I think sharing with BronyCon tops that pretty easily. 🙂

  5. It’s worth noting that I asked for the raw data for the study of sex bias in teacher evaluations cited in Meg’s link (MacNell et al. 2014), but my request was declined. I requested and received some summary statistics, but I asked for and did not yet receive permission to share those summary statistics on my blog (I asked Jan 16, 2015). It doesn’t seem like a good idea to make policy based on small-n studies for which the data are not public.

    For what it’s worth, the study was not optimally designed, given that it appears that the instructors knew whether the students were told that the instructor was male or female (“Each assistant instructor taught one of their groups under their own identity and the second group under the other assistant instructor’s identity”, p. 2 of the article). In a field where subconscious bias is so well discussed, it’s amazing that the instructors would not be blinded to whether the students were told that the instructor was male or female.

    But these sort of flaws get lost when studies get used as proof texts in political arguments. The post that Meg linked to discussed a 16% decrease, as if that estimate had no error. No mention that the study had four conditions and 43 total participants, either.

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