Friday links: transparent peer review, sciencing while pregnant, and more

Also this week: moving sucks, sleep deprivation vs. you, the replication crisis vs. evidence-based policy, whatever happened to complexity theory, evolution vs. economics, parallelizing peer review, and more. Also, why you never see Mike Rosenzweig and David Letterman in the same room together.

From Jeremy:

I’m a bit late to this: back in January, Nature Communications adopted an interesting “transparent peer review” policy. If their paper is accepted, the authors have the option of having the reviews, and the authors’ response letter, published as an online supplement (not the reviewer’s comments to the editor; those are still private). Reviewers who don’t want their reviews published have to decline to review. The reviewer’s name is only published if the reviewer signs the review. Interesting experiment. I’m curious how many authors will use the option, and if it will make it harder for Nature Communications to get reviewers. It’s too early to tell because they’re not yet publishing articles that were submitted in 2016. Would you use it as an author? Would it affect your decision whether to review? Personally, as a reviewer I probably wouldn’t mind, but as an author I wouldn’t bother unless I thought the review was exceptionally insightful. I don’t see any reason to publish back-and-forth about minor technical matters or the typo on p. 17.

Shameless self-promotion alert: Recently Nature published a news piece about how scientists are increasingly frustrated with having to repeatedly revise and resubmit mss after rejection. I signed a letter to Nature this week, pointing out that Axios Review and other similar services already provide a solution to this problem, by “parallelizing” the review process.

Whatever happened to Santa Fe Institute-style complexity theory? tl;dr: it didn’t reckon with Darwinian evolution, or loosely-analogous processes in other domains.  (ht Marginal Revolution)

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean evolution is a Theory of Everything. Sharp economist Noah Smith takes a critical look at David Sloan Wilson’s claim that evolutionary theory provides a new paradigm for economics. Smith has a science background and knows what it takes to influence the direction of one’s field. A choice quote:

Would-be evolutionary economists should realize that the measure of their success will be quantitative prediction. Get some numbers right out of sample, and they will win. What won’t be useful is for them to simply point at various economic phenomena and say “Hey, this looks kind of like it conforms qualitatively to one or more general principles of evolution!” That sort of vague hand-waving does not really generate any progress in humanity’s understanding of our world – it merely creates a feel-good sense of “truthiness” that makes for some good hypey media articles but little else.

The sobering implications of the replication crisis for the evidence-based policy movement, from the very sharp Dan Davies. Follow up post addressing obvious objections here. See also this piece arguing that evidence-based policy should be based on what ecologists would call adaptive management rather than on randomized controlled trials of proposed policies. I don’t know enough to have a sensible view on any of this, but find it interesting and important to think about.

And finally, Michael Rosenzweig and David Letterman are the same person. Apparently. 🙂


David Letterman. Maybe.


Michael Rosenzweig. Or not.

Click the Letterman link above if you have no idea what I’m on about. Image sources.

From Meg:

Margaret Kosmala had a post this week on being unwilling to relocate again, which details all the problems caused by frequent moves. I’ve written previously about how moving is the hardest part of academia.

Sarah Supp had a post on sciencing as a pregnant postdoc. In it, she gives a fairly detailed accounting of how things have gone for her as she tries to juggle science with the physical demands of pregnancy.

Why working longer won’t make you more productive. This makes the argument that we need to change our mental image of the ideal worker so that it is no longer someone who works long hours. It also says, “The truth is super hard for us to hear: Overwork does not make us more productive or successful.” (ht: Raul Pacheco-Vega)

Related to the above: sleep deprivation is bad for you, even though you may not realize it is. Most notably:

In the last few days of the experiment, the subjects who were restricted to a maximum of six hours of sleep per night showed cognitive performance that was as bad as the people who weren’t allowed to sleep at all. Getting only six hours of shut-eye was as bad as not sleeping for two days straight. The group who got only four hours of sleep each night performed just as poorly, but they hit their low sooner.

One of the most alarming results from the sleep study is that the six-hour sleep group didn’t rate their sleepiness as being all that bad, even as their cognitive performance was going downhill. The no-sleep group progressively rated their sleepiness level higher and higher. By the end of the experiment, their sleepiness had jumped by two levels. But the six-hour group only jumped one level. Those findings raise the question about how people cope when they get insufficient sleep, perhaps suggesting that they’re in denial (willful or otherwise) about their present state.

Okay, moving on to a more entertaining link: I enjoyed this Deep Sea News post by Craig McClain about why Boaty McBoatface is an excellent name for the new British ice breaker. As the post says:

An cliche name like the Polar Star or name after yet another dead white guy will never capture the public interest or imagination.  The ship will be forgotten soon.  What won’t be forgotten is Boaty McBoatface and with daily updates from a @BoatyMcBoatface twitter account this is the scicomm gift that keeps giving.  How many kids know the name of even a single research vessel?  Think that will change with Boaty McBoatface? You bet your icebreaker it will.  Some are going to say that science is serious business and this is no time for the antics of ship named Boaty McBoatface.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Boaty McBoatface captures the spirit of research at sea.  Boaty McBoatface captures the fun of going out to sea to explore the ocean.  Science could use a little more fun than it currently possesses.

(Jeremy adds: Sorry, but I think Dan Davies and Kieran Healy have a point:

Which perhaps just goes to show…something. I leave it to you to decide what:

Try not crash’s servers by all voting for the humorless option at once. 🙂 )

(Meg’s reply: I do also like the suggestion to name the boat Honor Frost, after the pioneering underwater archaeologist. But I can see the scicomm value of Boaty McBoatface.)


6 thoughts on “Friday links: transparent peer review, sciencing while pregnant, and more

  1. I’m actually kind of surprised that anyone voted me a “voice of reason” on the whole Boaty McBoatface thing. And that the vote is only running 8:1 against that option. I’d have thought it’d be more like 10:0. 🙂

  2. Nice piece by Margaret Kosmala and I agree with the feelings.
    If you add that in my case my hometown and family are at 15 hours of flights from where I live in the US, moving around again and again gets old at the speed of light. Add also the visa process in the US, the complete lack of support of Universities on real problems (while they spend time, effort, and people on well-advertised, non-existent problems), and the sensation of being as disposable as a used tire, and the joy of travel is soon forgotten. Then, you face the byzantine, non-transparent, only-on-the-surface fair recruiting process and also the joy of academia is likely to become a thing of the past.
    Unfortunately, the problem is largely unavoidable. Either moving around is necessary (largely the US view) or it has to be avoided/strongly discouraged (the South European view, but also some Nordic countries). In fact, if the recruitment is open (for postdoc, TT etc.) it is very unlikely that you are the best candidate for the position for statistical reasons, the exception being the position being created for you. And that’s the SE view. There is little interest in hiring the global best, but only the local best (who is not even the local best most of the time). Since most of us find the love of our life in our hometown/neighborhood/lab, maybe finding the global best is not optimal, but that’s a different story, although very important.

      • I briefly expand. Disclaimer: generalizations.
        Given that finding the global best (or better, the best of certain well-identified labs) is top priority for R1 US prestigious institutions, you would expect the local-hiring processes of SE to basically make all research institution collapse among a sea of corruption, laziness, poor quality.
        You would be surprised on how per-dollar spent and per-capita the SE research is efficient (you can use Web of Science, Scimago databases), using measures such as citations or publications per-capita or per-dollar spent on research. There is widespread corruption, there are fake public calls, there are still family ties, money is poor (I was paid 10 years ago ~$800 a month for the PhD, ~$1200 for postdoc). But still, the quality of research is surprisingly good.
        Unfortunately, a hybrid system in which moving is neither encouraged nor discouraged is not stable and it inevitably moves toward the US system or the SE system. There are exception, but “should I move or should I not move to maximize my chances of getting the elusive academic job” has a clear answer.
        So, on this side you have the problem of moving around, kids, partners, friends, on that side you have drama, drama again, a degrading run to the worst you can accept. Difficult times.

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