Friday links: how to do good research, results-free review, and more

Also this week: all we have to fear is getting scooped fear of getting scooped, A>Z, the ongoing death professionalization of science blogging, and more. Including a bit of shameless own-horn tooting.

From Jeremy:

A while back, Meg asked if journals should offer two stage peer review as an option: methods review before data collection, results review after. A political science journal has now trialed a variant of that: results free review. Basically, reviewing the introduction and methods only; reviewers were blinded to the results. The most interesting result to me: just how reluctant referees were to take null findings as evidence against the hypothesized effect, as opposed to an indication of a flaw in the study design. Are there flawed study designs that can be recognized as such only after one sees the results?

This is old but excellent: economist Avinash Dixit on how to do good research (ht Marginal Revolution). Freely admits that what works for him may not work for others, so read it critically. Personally, it really resonates with me. A few choice nuggets to give you the flavor and encourage you to click through:

On “relevant” research:

Looking back on those years, much of the “relevant” research in economics left little lasting mark on the subject…My own work also met the same fate. My “relevant” work is mostly and justly forgotten. What has come to be regarded as a success…was not motivated by any sense of relevance, or any high-minded desire to do good.

On “sprinters” vs. “marathoners” (I’m a sprinter):

Discover your best “distance.” Some people are good sprinters in research. They can very quickly spot and make a neat point; they do this frequently, and in many different areas and issues…In the same metaphor, others are middle-distance runners. In fact most economists are at some point in this broad category. A few…are marathoners; they run only a small number of races, but those are epics, and they get the most (and fully deserved) awe and respect. In contrast, the profession seems to undervalue sprinters. But each kind of work has its own value, and the different types are complements in the overall scheme of things. Progress of the subject as a whole is a relay race, where different stretches are of different lengths and are optimally run by different people. Find out where your comparative advantage lies.

On how to read other people’s papers (I’ve always done it this way):

Read other people’s papers either seriously, or not at all.

Morgan Ernest on fear vs. reality of getting scooped when sharing data. I agree with Morgan that fears of getting scooped in ecology are way overblown. Also, as I commented over there, Morgan’s experiences with datasharing show that the sort of shared datasets people really want are those that make comparative analyses easy (many species, many sites, etc.). In passing, I’ll note that I’ve had the same experience blogging. More than once I’ve blogged about what I think is an interesting idea for a paper, and openly encouraged someone (anyone!) to “scoop” me. No one ever has. Read the comments on Morgan’s post too, they’re very good.

I’m a bit late to this: science blogging network is shutting down. In the linked post, Paige Brown-Jarreau argues that this is a sign not that science blogs are dying, but that they’re being professionalized, presumably like how popular political and pop culture blogs have mostly been professionalized for years now. I basically agree, though I wouldn’t put it exactly like that.

Ecologist Joe Craine, fired from Kansas State University after the university concluded his misconduct allegations against a colleague were malicious or at least frivolous, has been denied whistleblower status by NSF for a second time. There’s a long and complicated backstory here, which I think makes the case rather unique. So I continue to not regard this case as an illustration of any broader issue (e.g., whether whistleblowers in general receive sufficient protection).

Andrew Hendry on how (and why) to attend conferences. Here’s a compilation of our advice on this.

Ideas for cheap, practical ways to systematically improve college teaching. I’m not sure how well they’d work, especially in the sciences, but I think the post is asking the right questions.

A review of the evidence that listing authors alphabetically (as is the custom in some fields) discriminates against authors with last names late in the alphabet, and that authors react accordingly (e.g., by avoiding collaboration). Unreviewed preprint, I only skimmed it and can’t vouch for it or the underlying studies, but thought it might be of interest to some of you. (ht Marginal Revolution)

Long-term data on inflation-adjusted per-student spending on public higher education in the US. Confirms what you probably already knew or suspected: the tuition share of public higher education spending rises during recessions and remains flat during economic expansions.

And finally, we got a very kind shout-out in Nature this week (ht Aerin Jacob). Interestingly, it’s in a piece on new ways of filtering the literature, and one thing we don’t blog about is individual papers from the literature. But I guess that just goes to show that there are many ways to use blogs as “filters”.

One thought on “Friday links: how to do good research, results-free review, and more

  1. Sure, there’s a lot of new literature coming out all the time, but there’s a massive amount in the back-catalogue as well! For a new scientist getting the grips on the historical lit is just as important (and actually, probably more important) than keeping up with new papers.

    I think while individual blog posts here do not address specific newly published papers, there is a lot of talk about historically important individual papers in both posts and comments. The blog helps a lot in that regard!

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