Meg was swamped this week, so it was Jeremy’s job to read ALL the things and pick the best ones. Also this week: ASN award nominations open, data on what it takes to get hired as an evolutionary biologist, the root “problem” with peer review is not actually a problem, new R package vs. sloppy results sections, online supplements vs. reviewers, the government of Oklahoma vs. ESA memberships, plagiarists are losing the technological arms race, and MOAR. Lots of good stuff this week!
Applications and nominations for the 2016 ASN Jasper-Loftus Hills Young Investigator Awards (and other ASN awards) are due Jan. 1. Details here. You have to be in your final year of grad school or less than 3 years post-PhD on Jan. 1. The award comes with $500 cash, travel expenses for the ASN annual meeting in Austin, and a presentation slot in the Young Investigators symposium at the meeting. Sweet! Plus, it’s a nice feather in your cap that will look great on your cv. Four awards are available. You don’t have to be an ASN member to apply. Note that I said you should “apply” for the award. Don’t think of applying as some unseemly form of self-promotion. Think of it as you would applying for a grant. And don’t assume that you won’t be competitive and let that stop you from applying! I’m on the J-LH Young Investigator awards committee this year and I’m really looking forward to it. But we can only choose from among the applicants we get. I can tell you from past experience on other awards committees (including the ESA’s Buell and Braun awards) that it is unfortunately very common for people to not apply for awards for which they would be very competitive. Looking forward to seeing your applications!
Stephen Heard on lectures as active learning. Another reminder that lecturing is not inherently bad teaching. It’s just one teaching tool among others, which can be done well or done badly. So enough with calling it unethical and arguing for it to be banned already.
A bit late to this, but better late than never: postdoc Jeremy Yoder on what’s a postdoc, again? He has a very reasonable, healthy attitude towards his postdoc, and to the academic job market.
Via Jeremy’s piece, some data on how many papers it’s taken to get hired as an evolutionary biologist at the NCSR in France from 2005-2014. The NCSR has a stable, formulaic hiring process, making cross-year comparisons straightforward. We’re only talking about one institution and 55 hires, so the sample is small and possibly non-representative of other places. But FWIW, from 2005-2014 the paper productivity of new hires almost doubled, from a mean of 12.5 papers to a mean of 22. That’s largely but not entirely because the post-PhD experience level of new hires jumped dramatically during that time, from 3.25 to 8 years on average. One small question I have is how the proportion of first-authored and many-authored papers on new hires’ CVs has changed over that period. (Aside: when it comes to post-PhD experience, the NCSR data are in some ways not representative of what’s happening elsewhere, at least in ecology. Previously, we’ve linked to survey data from ASLO showing that the typical post-PhD experience level of new faculty hires in ecology has dropped over time, from 4-7 years in the 1980s to 3 years from the 1990s til today. But note that there is lots of variation around what’s “typical”.)
Thinkpiece on the decline of Twitter. Sometimes unclear and way too jargony, but still worth a read. tl;dr: Twitter’s problem is that it’s written communication with some–crucially, only some–of the features of oral communication. I was mostly interested in it because of its implications for blogging. As bloggers, we occasionally run into a bit of the same problem as Twitter has, especially when a post goes viral and gets read by lots of strangers who’ve never read us before and never will again. But only a bit, because we’re writing thoughtfully and at some length. So Dynamic Ecology is mostly written communication.
Very interesting preprint simulating various pre-publication peer review systems. The take-home message is one I and others have been banging on about: the root “problem” with peer review is not a problem at all, but just a fact of life: we all disagree with one another. So peer review cannot be “fixed”, including by any form of post-publication review. Well, unless you think it’s both possible and desirable to force all scientists to agree with one another about everything…A couple of other minor comments on the simulations. First, the assumption that reviewer decisions on whether or not to review mss are independent of ms quality is false, though I’m not sure if its falsehood much affects the author’s results. I and most reviewers I know are more likely to accept invitations to review if we think the ms will be good, based on the abstract, the journal, and (if provided) the authors’ names. Not that our guesses are infallible–far from it!–but I bet they’re better than coin flips. Second, I was pleased to see that the editorial decision-making method that worked best in the simulations is the one I think all good editors use: the editor uses the reviews to inform his or her own judgment, rather than just counting votes.
Over half of the psychology papers that reported at least one null hypothesis test from 1985-2013 reported at least one p-value “grossly inconsistent” with the reported test statistic and degrees of freedom. And in a depressing non-surprise, such gross inconsistencies were more likely for p-values reported as significant. At least the prevalence of such sloppiness isn’t increasing over time. The work was done using a new R package called statcheck, about which I am now very curious. Note that I haven’t read the paper and am relying on the abstract, which may be unwise, so you should definitely click through and read it for yourself if you have more than a passing interest. (ht Retraction Watch)
Writing in Nautilus, James O’Dwyer with a popular account of why ecologists ought to seek universal laws. Cites an old blog post of mine.
Matt Ridley with a provocative editorial arguing that basic scientific research doesn’t lead to useful technological innovation, not even via serendipity. Puzzling and difficult to follow in many places, at least for me. It’s a summary of a forthcoming book of his, so perhaps the longer treatment is clearer and more coherent. (ht Retraction Watch)
In immunology, only 2.4% of citations are negative, and only 7.1% of papers attract any negative citations, even under a broad definition of “negative”. And negative citations have little or no association with how often papers are subsequently cited. None of this is very surprising, I don’t think, but it’s nice to have it quantified. I leave it to you to decide what, if any, implications these data have for arguments that the scientific literature needs more criticism. (ht Retraction Watch)
Wait, has the governor of Oklahoma really just ordered every employee of public universities in the state to give the state written notification every time they give an invited seminar out of state, every time they renew a scholarly society membership, and every time they buy a piece of equipment worth >$10,000?! Any Oklahoma readers who can enlighten us in the comments as to what’s going on?
Attention stupid/lazy/desperate/dishonest students and academics: you know those “article spinning” sites that promise to rephrase plagiarized work so that it won’t be caught by text-matching software? They suck, in hilarious ways that will instantly give you away, and risk making you the butt of jokes on the internet.
Sorry, you’ll have to go back to disguising your plagiarism by hand. Which will either fail, or be so much work that you might as well just use your own words. Unfortunately, the free technical solution to your stupidity/laziness/desperation/dishonesty has yet to be invented.
BAHFest is coming to London in 2016, with a two-day event on “evolution” and “big science”. Click the link to propose a talk on a logical, well-argued hypothesis that is also totally, hilariously wrong. 🙂
When I complained recently about how online supplements are getting out of hand, I didn’t know the half of it:
Protip: do not try to publish your thesis as a single 10-page paper with 300 pages of supplementary material. 🙂 So, what’s your best guess as to what would possess anyone to do this? Mine is “student took supervisor’s advice not to ‘salami slice’ waaaay too seriously.” 🙂 (Ok, I admit this an extreme, atypical example, but I do think it illustrates a growing problem.)
Is it wasteful to discard the leftover pumpkin seeds from your jack o’ lantern rather than toasting them? A trickier question than you might think…
And finally, this week in People With Too Much Time On Their Hands: someone made an emoji-based cellular automata model of forest fires.