Also this week: NSF fires NEON Inc., Andrew Hendry vs. data archiving, the evolution of creationism, peak live tweet, voluntarily making your cv hard to read, the biggest zombie ideas in science, Silicon Valley start-ups vs. Star Wars, and more. Lots of good stuff this week for your holiday reading pleasure!
DEBrief has the success rates and other numbers from core NSF DEB programs in FY 2015. Broadly similar to last year in most respects. The success rate for women PIs hit an all time high. Almost 40% of awards went to women PIs, higher than their ~30% representation among preliminary proposals. Looking at the time series data, that seems to be a combination of a long-term upward trend, and a favorable blip this year. (ht Small Pond Science)
In other NSF news: NSF has fired NEON Inc. They will look for a company with experience managing large, complex projects to try to get NEON running without further delays, cost overruns, or changes to its scope. (ht Margaret Kosmala)
Ian Lunt argues that live tweeting of scientific conferences is now too much of a good thing. I’m interested to see that it’s not just non-Twitter users like me who struggle to see the value in skimming hundreds of tweets per hour all tagged with the conference hashtag. Ian suggests that people should be encouraged to produce curated collections of tweets that tell the complete story of a single presentation or session (for example).
Warning to faculty: there are commercial websites whose business is to sell your course content–old exams, lecture notes, etc. They often give students gift cards in exchange for providing material. In light of this, you might want to check out my old post on text matching software as a way to flag cases of potential plagiarism. WCopyFind looks to be a particularly useful tool if your main concern is with students plagiarizing others who are in the same course or who have taken the same course previously.
A new economics working paper (i.e. unreviewed preprint) asks whether, as Max Planck quipped, science really advances one funeral at a time. The answer seems to be “yes”, at least for one definition of “advance”. The authors assembled a database of over 12,000 “elite” scientists, and looked at how publication and citation rates of their collaborators, and of other researchers, changed following the pre-retirement death of an elite scientist. Following the pre-retirement death of an elite scientist, his or her collaborators publish less in that field, and other scientists publish more. And the post-death publications of those other scientists are disproportionately likely to be highly cited. The authors suggest that elite scientists are associated with intellectual, social, and resource “barriers to entry” into the “market” of the field in which they work. Which is one way to put it; another would be that scientists often have reasonable disagreements about what science is most worth doing, which necessarily get resolved (or not) in part via judgment calls and heuristics. This has the side effects of imparting some (sometimes too much) conservatism to science and creating correlations between the direction of the field and the career trajectories of the individuals working in that field. Writeup from Vox (on which I’m relying, and which puts a more negative spin on the results than I would) here. (ht Marginal Revolution)
Arjun Raj with a thoughtful post on what he likes and doesn’t like about writing grants.
Nicholas Matzke wins the intertubes this week with a phylogeny of creationist legislation. The latest “key innovation”: including anti-climate change language, because targeting evolution alone is prima facie evidence of religious motivation.
Megan Scudellari’s list of the biggest zombie ideas in science. The list (paraphrased, with a few comments):
- More and earlier cancer screening is always good
- Antioxidants good, free radicals bad
- Humans have exceptionally large brains (this one depends on what species you’re comparing humans to, I think–just primates, or all mammals, or all animals)
- Individuals learn best when taught in their preferred learning style
- The human population is growing exponentially, and overpopulation means we’re doomed. (Related post; you really ought to read The Bet and/or Joel Cohen’s How Many People Can the Earth Support? if you believe this myth.)
Andrew Hendry with a balanced post about the pluses and minuses of mandatory, open access data archiving. Includes data on how many times his own archived datasets have been accessed (not often, mostly) and used in publications (never). (ht Stephen Heard, via Twitter)
guessthecorrelation.com, an 8 bit online game. Potentially useful undergrad teaching tool. (ht Simon Goring, via Twitter)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens spoilers. “It’s like the Death Star, but for your lunch.” 🙂 (ht Kieran Healy, via Twitter)
And finally, Caroline Tucker’s traditional holiday caRd! With bonus phylogeny of Santas! 🙂