Friday links: academic urban legends, #SongsResubmitted, and more

Also this week: Twitter trolls are so 11th century, sloppy citations and what to do about them, the attributes of philosophers, psychologists, and ecologists, explain your science to your mom interested uncle, and more.

From Jeremy:

What’s the connection between the subjective feeling of understanding or insight and scientific truth? Maybe nothing, since after all many incorrect ideas are intuitively appealing. As economist Noah Smith likes to say, it’s easy for vague incorrect verbal ideas to provide “the warm glow of understandiness”. Semi-related: John Maynard Smith’s wonderful essay on the most beautiful scientific idea that turned out to be totally wrong.

Academic urban legends: a twisting tale of sloppy citations and the myths to which they give rise. Semi-related: this old post in which I asked, “What myths of academia need debunking?” (ht Andrew Gelman)

Following on from the previous item: The EEB and Flow reviews the literature on the accuracy of ecologists’ citations and asks why our citation practices are so sloppy. I was interested to learn of limited data suggesting that citations in high-IF journals tend to be much more accurate. I bet that’s because of both more careful authors and better peer review. Ends with a good question: why aren’t students taught how to cite? How many and which papers to cite for an idea, how deep to go, etc.

Very interesting remarks from someone who does both philosophy and psychology on the attributes that are valued in each field. Philosophers care about how “smart” you are, psychologists care about what you’ve discovered. As the linked post notes, both are problematic if overvalued. See also the comment thread here, which includes some pushback against the claims in the linked post. Got me wondering: what attributes are most valued in ecology? Are they overvalued? Are there other attributes that are undervalued in ecology? And if there’s disagreement on the most valuable attributes for a good ecologist to have, is that disagreement a good or bad thing? (I could see arguing both ways) Semi-related: musings on the culture of ecology.

Stephen Heard asks how much time you spend writing.

Joan Strassmann’s advice on how to write a tenure letter.

11th century Sufi philosopher vs. Twitter trolls. (ht Dan Drezner)

When an experiment should theoretically work.πŸ™‚


From Meg:

The American Society for Microbiology asked scientists to explain their research to their mom. (As explained in the linked post, they have now taken down the video where they did that in response to feedback.) The problem with this? It implies that mothers have a hard time understanding science. It’s similar to asking people to explain research to their grandmothers — that’s also common and was the motivation for the Grandma Got STEM blog. In my lab, when we work on elevator pitches for a lay audience, I suggest they think of an interested uncle.



12 thoughts on “Friday links: academic urban legends, #SongsResubmitted, and more

  1. But “an interested uncle” is gendered, too. Also, why are we always trying to explain things to people older than us – uncle, mom, grandma? Why not choose something free of gender connotations and age-ism: a close friend, a sibling, a cousin?

    • During my comps, my advisor asked where my research would appear in a middle school science book, and what it would say. I thought it was a cool question.

      • My middle school teacher spouse informs me that that comps question is even more hypothetical than it once was. Middle schools have gotten away from science textbooks (too boring, to passive) in favor of other sorts of resources and other pedagogical approaches.

  2. RE: citations

    Something strange happened- and I don’t want to double post so to summarize:

    I would love to see a post on good practices/rules of citing literature. Especially in light of some journals stressing fewer citations. And because I have had feedback/conversations about citations/rules/good practices only a few times yet it appears that there are some conflicting opinions. As a subject, it doesn’t get much attention it seems to me. For example, do you cite the source everyone knows or do you cite a reference that is more obscure/in a smaller journal/older/newer if either reference supports your statement? If you cite both you risk the editor warning you of indulging in strings of redundant citations…

    Love your blog and the active community, much appreciated.

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