Also this week: Margaret Kosmala vs. #365papers, virtual networking vs. real networking, questioning the evidence that humans have altered species co-occurrence patterns, and more. There’s even a link from Brian! UPDATE: You know that #researchparasites hashtag that just started trending on Twitter? We anticipated it and commented in advance.
Caroline Tucker with an astute post-publication review of Lyons et al. 2016 Nature, which claims that humans have dramatically altered species co-occurrence patterns over the Holocene. Short version: she’s not convinced.
Stephen Heard says that Canadian scientists are inflating their trainee numbers by claiming too much credit for jointly supervised trainees, presumably at the cost of the amount of individual attention they give to each trainee. I’m not sure; any other Canadian readers noticing a trend here? He suggests that PI’s should get credit only for “value added” mentoring, recognizing that this would be hard to implement.
UPDATE: #researchparasites is trending on Twitter, in response to a NEJM editorial a lot of people don’t like. Which gives new relevance to this old post of Brian’s on the topic. Check out the comment thread too, for my suggestion that people start claiming “I’m a parasite” or “We’re all parasites” as a badge of honor. 🙂
Interesting: “Contributed” PNAS papers (those by National Academy members, which go through fast track review and are hardly ever rejected) are cited less often on average than regular PNAS papers, but the gap is shrinking. And you can’t just look at the overall averages to get the full picture, because the top 10% of contributed PNAS papers are cited more than the top 10% of regular PNAS papers. Food for thought here both for those who think “contributed” papers are just a way for Academy members to pad their cv’s with crud, and those who think regular peer review is too conservative and prevents publication of truly groundbreaking work.
Semi-related: Margaret Kosmala (whose new blog is kicking butt and taking names) on how she doesn’t even try to “keep up with the literature”, instead just searching for papers on topics closely related to her own work and relying on her social network (including email and face-to-face conversation) and Google Scholar alerts to point out anything else especially important. Different strokes for different folks (which I’m sure Margaret wouldn’t deny): even among younger ecologists Margaret is unusual in her filtering methods. And of course, whether she realizes it or not (and I’m sure she does), she’s still indirectly relying on journals to at least some extent, possibly a great extent. Because I’ll bet that the people in her social network pay disproportionate attention to what’s published in leading journals as opposed to the Podunk Journal of Things Nobody Reads or Cites. And while there may come a time when it’s simply infeasible for anyone to filter the literature in any way besides how Margaret does it, I don’t think that day is nearly as close as Margaret seems to think it is. Things are changing–but not that fast. Finally, speaking for myself, I filter the literature in mostly old-fashioned ways–but not because I’m under the illusion that I can (or ever could) read everything worth reading. Finally, I think for many people the motivation for #365papers isn’t “OMG I might miss something” so much as “Reading isn’t ever something I have to do right now, which makes it very easy to let it slip too much.” But all that’s quibbling over details (lots of quibbling, I know, but it’s still quibbling). I totally agree with her main point: it’s rarely a disaster if you “miss something”, and you shouldn’t lose any sleep over the fear of missing something. All of which still leaves open the question of how much you should read. Peter Adler has an old guest post touching on this, and Brian has one in the queue. Related old posts here and here.
And finally, speaking of new things, posting from Meg might be a bit light for a while:
And the tweet of the day about my biodiversity pizza analogy: