You’ve probably already seen this because it went viral on social media: the syllabus for PSY 607: Everything is F*cked (ht @dandrezner).
Ok, the title is trolling, but in a good way–it actually looks like a really good psychology course to me. It’s good mental exercise to consider the possibility that your entire field might have gone off the rails, even if you don’t really believe it has.
Unlike social psychologists, ecologists don’t have a widespread collective sense that their entire field is f*cked, and I don’t think they should. In case it needs saying, ecology is not f*cked! But it’s still amusing and interesting to imagine what the syllabus for an advanced ecology course would look like if ecology were f*cked. So here’s an opening bid for the syllabus of ECO 607: Everything is F*cked. Suggest edits/additions in the comments!
Week 1: Ecology has long been f*cked. Excerpts from Peters’ A Critique For Ecology.
Week 2: Classic ideas are f*cked. My posts on zombie ideas in ecology, of course.
Week 3: Field studies are f*cked. Hurlbert 1984, plus Hurlbert’s later follow-up showing that pseudoreplication remains common.
Week 4: Lab studies are f*cked. Carpenter 1996.
Week 6: Statistics are f*cked. Brian’s posts on statistical machismo, the cult of AIC, and the insidious evils of ANOVA. Also Low-Decarie et al., showing that ecology papers are reporting lower and lower R^2 values.
Week 7: Data sharing and meta-analysis are f*cked. Lindenmayer & Likens 2013. (need a better critique of meta-analysis here…)
Week 8: Community ecology is f*cked. Lawton 1999 arguing that there are no general laws in community ecology, so we should quit doing it. (need critiques of other subfields here…)
Week 11: Big ecology is f*cked. News pieces on the struggles of NEON to get off the ground, plus a historical piece on the failure of the IBP.
Week 12: The global climate is f*cked. Take your pick from the universe of pessimistic pieces on how warm the planet will get by 2100 and the consequences for people and other species. For instance.
Weeks 13-14: Maybe the course should conclude by spending a couple of weeks on reasons ecology is f*cked that apply to other fields as well? Scientific publication is f*cked? Peer review is f*cked? Government funding for basic research is f*cked? The academic job market is f*cked?
It’s also interesting to imagine the syllabus for the opposing course, about how ecology is in a hugely exciting time and poised for rapid advance. They’d make a good pair: ECO 607: Everything is F*cked, and ECO 608: Everything is Awesome. Ideally, both courses should cover exactly the same topics. So in the comments, tell us what should be in ECOL 608: Everything is Awesome, retaining the topic list above. Here and here are some freebies for “Week 4: Lab studies are awesome” to get you started.
Interestingly (depressingly?), I find it much harder to think of readings for ECO 608: Everything is Awesome. It’s very easy to think of specific examples of awesome ecology–awesome field studies, awesome lab studies, awesome applications of statistics, etc. But it’s much harder to think of pieces showing that in general this or that bit of ecology is awesome.
And finally, just for fun: