Also this week: final exams vs. zombie ideas, the replication crisis in biomedicine, Q&A with Hugh Possingham, Stephen Heard vs. his book (or his book vs. him, I’m not sure), advice for early career researchers, and more. Including terrible Octopussy jokes! I hope.
A Q&A with Hugh Possingham, new Chief Scientist of the Nature Conservancy. Possingham takes over from the controversial Peter Kareiva. A few quotes that jumped out at me:
My undergraduate degrees are in math and biochemistry; now, I’m an ecologist. I think of myself as an economist; I could be a geographer. I’m from a family of engineers. I’m able to talk to soil scientists and philosophers. That’s part of why I’m doing this…
They [the Nature Conservancy] don’t just say, “You can’t do this, you can’t have power, water, dams.” But they ask how can we do this in a win-win way. Everything we do should be win-win-win. I believe every activity of humanity could be like this…
I think both of us [Peter Kareiva and myself] occasionally like to wind people up a little bit. I’m not, maybe not quite as provocative as Peter, but slightly provocative…
A pilot project at NSF finds that eliminating grant deadlines more than halves the number of proposals. Wow. And before you ask, there was no effect on applicant demographics. No word yet if success rates went up, but presumably they will go up (how could they not?) And the hope is that there’s no effect on the quality of funded awards either, because hopefully the proposals you’re not getting because you don’t have a deadline are mostly the hastily-conceived and hastily-revised ones. I do wonder whether eliminating application deadlines would raise success rates substantially in the long run, because a jump in success rates might attract more applicants in future. Then again, it might not: some small NSF programs eliminated deadlines several years ago and saw a big drop in applicants and a big jump in success rates that has been maintained since. I have some tentative further thoughts on this I might share in a future post…
A cogent argument that biomedicine is facing an even worse replication crisis than psychology. (ht Andrew Gelman)
Apparently, lots of people have totally unreasonable expectations for how long peer review should take. There are good reasons why it takes as long as it does, people! And if you don’t like how long it takes, well, I sure hope you immediately say yes to every single review request you receive and do the review the same day, without fail. And that you will continue to do so even as the number of review requests you receive and your other duties ramp up over the course of your career.
Just stumbled across a short video interview with John Maynard Smith commenting on the Price equation, and “microscopic” vs. “macroscopic” mathematical models more generally. Choice quote (which I think is a purposeful exaggeration): “I’m not going to tell you what Price’s theorem is, because I don’t understand it.” Click through for many more clips of Maynard Smith, discussing everything from real-world examples of game theory in action, to terminological arguments, to feminism in science, to how moving to Sussex turned him into a theoretician. The same link has interviews with Crick, Wolpert, Lorenz, and various other famous scientists and social scientists. Lots of familiar stuff in there, I’m sure, and yes, it’s mostly old white guys, but worth browsing for good nuggets.
This week in Bloggers Overgeneralizing From Their Own Examples. (ht @kjhealy) Requiring everyone to blog because it worked for you is as silly as requiring every blogger to quit because it worked for Larry Wasserman. Here’s a better idea: let people do what works for them. And if you’re trying to figure out if science blogging would work for you, ask yourself these questions.
Stephen Heard with a blow-by-blow of how he wrote his book. Interesting to me because I’m gearing up to write a book. Fortunately, unlike Stephen, I was able to get a contract on the basis of a proposal, rather than having to write a substantial chunk of the book on spec first.
I assume that the James Bond theme was playing in the background while this was happening. In the comments, make your own “Octopussy” joke. 🙂 (ht Not Exactly Rocket Science)
And finally, Josh Drew asks the sort of final exam question you probably imagined I’d ask:
Nicola Hemmings on mistakes she made as an early career researcher. I think there’s really good advice in here.
There was a piece in the NYTimes this week on “manologues”, which had important observations and information regarding gender dynamics in speaking. An excerpt:
The prevalence of the manologue is deeply rooted in the fact that men take, and are allocated, more time to talk in almost every professional setting. Women self-censor, edit, apologize for speaking. Men expound.Of course, some women can be equally long-winded, but it is far less common. The fact that this tendency is masculine has been well established in social science. The larger the group, the more likely men are to speak (unless it is in a social setting like a lunch break). One study, conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University and Princeton, found that when women are outnumbered, they speak for between a quarter and a third less time than the men.
So here is the conundrum: Including women is not the same as hearing women. As the Princeton and Brigham Young study noted, “having a seat at the table is very different than having a voice.” Women at the table will attest to finding themselves talked over, cut off, interrupted or forced to politely listen to reams of lengthy speeches.