Friday links: how to give a chalk talk, the importance of role models, and more

Also this week: blogs as the first draft of the peer-reviewed literature, why you feel busy (even when you’re not), teaching while introverted, David Sloan Wilson vs. economics, “all humans are basically Doc Brown”. Also: funny wildlife photo caption contest!

From Jeremy:

A while back we published a guest post from Angela Moles and Jeff Ollerton critiquing the “zombie idea” that species interactions are stronger and more specialized in the tropics. Which led to a great, high-quality debate in the comments; it’s one of our best-ever comment threads. Angela and Jeff later expanded that post into a peer-reviewed paper.  Now one of the commenters, Carina Baskett, and her co-authors have replied with a paper of their own in TREE. Dynamic Ecology: where you can read tomorrow’s papers, today!🙂

CIEE/ICEE (which if you don’t know is basically the Canadian NCEAS/NESCent) has issued a new call for synthetic working group proposals. Deadline is Nov. 14.

On some faculty job interviews you have to give a chalk talk on your future research. Here are 10 common pitfalls to avoid. Many of these apply even if the talk isn’t literally a chalk talk (i.e. you’re using prepared slides). I wish I’d had this list back when I was a postdoc interviewing for faculty positions. The one time I was asked to give a talk on my future research plans, I gave an absolutely abysmal talk. I’m sure it convinced everyone in the room I was unhireable, and rightly so. Not sure why I only mentioned this very briefly on my list of my most embarrassing moments in science. Maybe it was so embarrassing I repressed the memory!

My introverted buddy Greg Crowther on why introverts love teaching.

Australian ecologist Rick Shine has won the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for his work on cane toads. (ht a correspondent)

Advice on how to use Twitter to be a public intellectual. From a historian, but much of the advice generalizes. I think. Meg would know better than me, since I’m barely on Twitter. (ht Brad DeLong)

David Sloan Wilson has a new website devoted to evolutionary critiques of mainstream economics. Sharp economist Noah Smith (who by the way has a physics background and is generally sympathetic to arguments that economics is insufficiently empirical or scientific) had a look and was not impressed. I score this one for Noah.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. The full gallery of finalists is here. Image 39 is my favorite. A once-in-a-lifetime juxtaposition. Let’s have a caption contest in the comments! Some opening bids:

  • For image 31/40 in the gallery: “[knock knock] [pause] Oh good, the bathroom’s not occup–AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!”Alternative: “The worst part is they never flush.”
  • For image 13: “Multa novit vulpes.”🙂
  • For image 27: “Gagnam style!”
  • For image 39: “This is bullshit.”

And finally, the United Federation of “hold my beer, I got this.”🙂 I’m not even a big Star Trek fan, and I found this very funny. (ht Brad DeLong)

From Meg:

I’m a few weeks late in getting this posted, but here’s a wonderful piece by Athene Donald on role models and the importance of role models showing their stumbles and struggles. It’s really excellent and well worth a read. She points out that there are two kinds of role models: the people not as far ahead of us who can provide insight into how to overcome hurdles that we’re currently facing, and the people who are inspirational but so far from where we are that they aren’t relatable. She notes:

The latter group are more about dreams, perhaps, than reality. I still find it startling that people place me in the latter category, and I say this in all humility. But that makes it all the more important for me to speak up about my own flaws so that I can still seem human rather than some fantasy superwoman. Since I lack the power to fly or to climb buildings with my bare hands and feet, I am better off being honest.

As she says:

Everyone can profit from the clear-sightedness of someone just that bit ahead of them in the game. Everyone should be able to believe that the obstacles they currently face, be it settling down to writing that PhD or dealing with an aggressive fellow worker, do actually have a solution and that other people’s experience can (but may not) be helpful.

But, my favorite part is:

No one gets to the top (unless, perhaps, by literal family nepotism) without struggling at some time or the other. No one achieves success without occasionally falling flat on their face, feeling out of their depth, or royally screwing up.

I added the link to Athene Donald’s piece earlier this week, so it was funny timing that I then saw a piece on a similar theme by chemist and MacArthur Fellow Carolyn Bertozzi (ht: Anne McNeil). The piece is framed around her use of twitter, but focuses in part on how she uses twitter as a way to show that, while she is a very successful scientist, she still does things like forget her passport. The piece says:

Bertozzi says she believes younger scientists, especially women, need to see that even the most successful people don’t have their act together at all times. “Women get this weird impression that somehow, you have to be so perfect to be successful,” she says. “That’s not true at all.” (On Twitter, she has dismissed the idea that she is a perfect mother, following up with a few parenting tips including “Eat ice cream before pizza as lesson in how to blunt insulin spike.”)

Moving on, I enjoyed this BBC piece on why we feel busy all the time, even though we’re not. From that piece:

There are always more incoming emails, more meetings, more things to read, more ideas to follow up – and digital mobile technology means you can easily crank through a few more to-do list items at home, or on holiday, or at the gym. The result, inevitably, is feeling overwhelmed: we’re each finite human beings, with finite energy and abilities, attempting to get through an infinite amount. We feel a social pressure to “do it all”, at work and at home, but that’s not just really difficult; it’s a mathematical impossibility.

Sigh, indeed. I’ve been thinking of writing a post where I ask people to give their strategies on emails, since that is definitely something that leaves me feeling overwhelmed. Though I’m not sure what the post would be other than “If you don’t feel overwhelmed by emails, please tell me how”.

That BBC piece then goes on to say:

With that kind of time pressure weighing us down, it’s hardly surprising that we live with one eye on the clock. But psychological research demonstrates that this kind of time-awareness actually leads to worse performance (not to mention reduced levels of compassion). So the ironic consequence of the “busy feeling” is that we handle our to-do lists less well than if we weren’t so rushed. The economist Sendhil Mullainathan and the behavioural scientist Eldar Shafir describe this as a problem of “cognitive bandwidth”: feelings of scarcity, whether money or time, prey on the mind, thereby impairing decision-making. When you’re busy, you’re more likely to make poor time-management choices – taking on commitments you can’t handle, or prioritising trifling tasks over crucial ones. A vicious spiral kicks in: your feelings of busyness leave you even busier than before.

This makes me wonder if one of my favored recommendations when people are struggling with feeling too busy — logging their time spent on different activities — might backfire. I certainly agree that, when busy, I make worse time-management choices. For this reason, I’ve been thinking I want to think more carefully about how I want to use my time, and then use that plan I develop to make myself stick to those goals and enforce boundaries (between work and life, but also between different aspects of work). I’ll probably have a full post on this topic in the future.

4 thoughts on “Friday links: how to give a chalk talk, the importance of role models, and more

  1. For some reason the TREE response only deals with a part of what Angela and I were discussing, and ignores specialisation completely, so isn’t really a “reply” as such.

    “I’ve been thinking of writing a post where I ask people to give their strategies on emails”

    That’d be interesting. My strategy is to try to reply to things immediately, or delete them.

    • Yep, go through email first thing in the morning while I wake up and get in the groove. Reply immediately and file it away or delete.

  2. Pingback: How do you manage email? | Dynamic Ecology

  3. I’m a couple of weeks late in reading the twitter piece, but, yes, I think it has good advice that applies pretty generally!

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