Friday links: a missing voice, Am Nat vs. the OED, RIP Raymond Smullyan, and more

Also this week: 2017 ESA Fellows and Early Career Fellows, how to make new faculty orientations more useful, underrepresentation of women in top-ranked graduate programs, neuroscientists vs. microprocessors, Daphnia vs. Meg, and more.

From Jeremy:

Here are Margaret Kosmala’s very personal and moving reflections on why she hasn’t been blogging lately. Actually, it’s about finding the courage to oppose authoritarianism. No, actually, it’s about her family history. No, actually it’s about all of that, and more. It’s the best thing you’ll read this week.

Sad news: Raymond Smullyan has passed away at the age of 97.  He was a remarkable man: mathematician, concert pianist, magician, and logician. He wrote some classic books of logic puzzles and recreational mathematics, most famously What Is The Name Of This Book?. I loved that stuff when I was growing up, and I’m guessing many of you did as well. If only life were like one of his logic puzzles, we could ask the other guard if he had really passed away and infer from the answer that the news of his passing was false. (ht@kjhealy)

The 2017 ESA Fellows and Early Career Fellows have been announced. Congratulations all!

This is nothing to do with ecology, but it’s a very cool example of a very important task: validating one’s data collection and statistical methods on an artificial system having a known structure. Here, if you collect standard neuroscience measurements on a microprocessor (as opposed to on a human brain), and analyze those data in standard neuroscience ways, you get data with interesting structure–that has absolutely no relationship to the actual structure and functioning of the microprocessor. Which would really worry me if I were a neuroscientist, though perhaps that just illustrates that I’m not one. (Aside: there is actually a tangential connection to ecology here: I don’t think we ecologists do this sort of validation exercise nearly often enough. We’re constantly running out and applying methods that purport to recover process from pattern without first validating them.)

Women comprise 46% of recent (2003-2014) Ph.D. recipients in the US. As I’m sure you’re all aware their representation among recent PhD recipients varies a lot among fields. Weeden et al. (2017) examine gender skew of recent US Ph.D. recipients along a different dimension: by prestige of graduate program according to the 1995 NRC graduate program rankings. They find that graduates of the top 20-30% of Ph.D. programs in any given field tend to skew modestly male relative to the field-wide average; graduates of Ph.D. programs that weren’t ranked by the NRC tend to skew modestly female compared to the field-wide average. Variation in gender balance of recent Ph.D.s among graduate programs within fields is much smaller than variation in gender balance of recent Ph.D.s among fields. Interestingly, fields in which recent Ph.D. recipients skew male are not necessarily those in which top-ranked graduate programs skew especially male. (ht @kjhealy)

Am Nat is #113 on the list of sources most cited by the Oxford English Dictionary–ahead of Proc Roy Soc!

How to make new faculty orientation more useful.

This week in Links Of Interest Only To Me: a fascinating comparative analysis of how computers conquered chess and Go. (ht Marginal Revolution)

And finally, I know this isn’t well-timed, but I’m sharing it anyway: it’s too bad Meg hates April Fool’s Day, because Daphnia love it. 🙂

From Meg:

Elizabeth Warren was told to be quiet. Women can relate. Indeed. That includes women in science. From that piece:

Was there a woman who didn’t recognize herself in the specter of Elizabeth Warren silenced by a roomful of men?


Being interrupted or ignored, and being one of the few women in the room, can be both inhibiting and enraging. You check your own perception: Was I being too aggressive, or did I really have a point? Is this about being a woman, or something else?


The unpalatable truth is that women encounter this behavior in most professions. It often comes from well-intentioned men who are horrified when it is pointed out or oblivious when it is going on, as well as those who are less enlightened.


Most women have learned how to shrug these episodes off and muster to fight again. Unfortunately, research suggests that they too often pay a price, being labeled too aggressive. Tuesday night was another reminder, as if many women needed it, that speaking up remains an arduous and necessary task.

Joan Strassmann asks whether Wikipedia is anti-intellectual and concludes the answer is “yes”. And, over at Small Pond Science, Amy Parachnowitsch asked whether scientists should write or edit Wikipedia pages for their study organisms. Here’s my Wikipedia experience/cautionary tale and the follow up post where I give suggestions (based on feedback I got after writing about my experience) on using Wikipedia in the classroom.

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