Also this week: don’t save your R workspace, tell me again why the peer review system is in crisis, what economists (and ecologists?) don’t know, thought leaders vs. public intellectuals, William Carlos Williams vs. email, Jeremy channels his inner early-90s self, and more. Including an extra-large helping of silliness!
Don’t save your R workspace. I always say no and was never totally sure if that’s what I should be doing, so I was glad to see this! Thanks to Gavin Simpson and Dave Bridges on twitter, I learned that you can set it to not ask you. In RStudio, under the “General” tab in “Preferences”, there’s a line that says “Save workspace to .RData on exit”. You can set that to “Never”. I just did! And this post (ht: Dave Bridges) has more on customizing your R startup.
Anne Carpenter made an unofficial template for NSF annual reports. It’s a google doc that you can copy, share, or download to Word.
Even work-life balance experts are awful at balancing work and life. An interesting read on how, even when we know that working long hours and failing to take vacations is bad for us, Americans have a really hard time actually following through and setting limits on work. Long, but very interesting.
And, in a similar vein, Darwin was a slacker and you should be, too. Lots in here about very successful people who did not work very long hours. The premise of the article: “If some of history’s greatest figures didn’t put in immensely long hours, maybe the key to unlocking the secret of their creativity lies in understanding not just how they labored but how they rested, and how the two relate.” Also long, also very interesting.
Why facts don’t change our minds. (Did I first learn about this from one of Jeremy’s recent links? It’s possible.) Kind of depressing, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot as I work on developing an activity that aims to help high school students develop the skills they need to address questions of interest to them. (Jeremy adds: nope, I haven’t linked to this. I have linked to other pieces on the same topic, from Dan Kahan and Tim Harford. It’s a hugely important and very challenging issue, and one that ultimately goes way beyond scientific literacy, I think.)
Poem of the week for academics:
I did not grade
the last three weeks
At five leading ecology journals (the BES journals plus Molecular Ecology), the percentage of review invitations leading to a completed review is either steady or only dropping slowly. There was a time not too long ago when I thought the peer review system was in fairly imminent danger of collapse. I was wrong. I now think it’s under only very slowly increasing pressure, the sort that can probably be managed with incremental reforms. (UPDATE: in the comments, Brian links to another recent paper on this with an augmented dataset. That paper reaches somewhat different conclusions, finding that the proportion of review invitations leading to a completed review declined steadily from 2003-2015 for four of the six ecology journals examined, with the average decline being from 56% to 37%. The paper to which Brian links also shows that the reviewer base is expanding–the # of review requests sent to any particular individual isn’t increasing, even though the total # of review requests has grown substantially. Your mileage may vary on whether you consider this an imminent crisis, slowly increasing pressure, or something in between. Note as well that there’s some among-journal heterogeneity around that average; review invitation acceptance rates at Evolution and Methods in Ecology & Evolution seem to be holding steady, or even slowly increasing at Evolution.)
What economists know. (ht @EmanuelDerman) Answer: not nearly as much as you, or even they, probably think, because of the comparative paucity of clean empirical tests that settle disputes once and for all. Read it and think about its applicability to ecology.
Semi-relatedly, an item of particular interest to those of you who want to speak influentially on issues of public concern: on the eclipse of “public intellectuals” by “thought leaders”. Interesting, nuanced argument that we need both types of thinkers, but that several current trends (not least the rise of social media) are skewing the “marketplace of ideas” towards people who know “one big thing” and push it incessantly. Author Dan Drezner (a public intellectual himself) thinks this is bad news for academics who want to speak out publicly:
Simply put, it’s easier than ever to dismiss academic interventions in the public sphere.
Drezner has some ideas about how to rebalance the marketplace of ideas, but all are long-term projects and none are low-hanging fruit.
This has been coming for a while, but now it’s official: Scientific Reports overtakes Plos One as the world’s largest journal. I’m less interested in which journal is the biggest right now than in whether the two can stably coexist in the long run (hey, what can I say, I’m a community ecologist, I’m interested in coexistence…). It’s easy to see how journals in different fields stably coexist–they don’t compete for the same papers. And it’s almost as easy to see how journals in the same field stably coexist. It’s some combination of only competing for some of the same papers, and self-imposed limits on how many papers each journal will publish. But Scientific Reports and Plos One are competing for exactly the same papers as far as I can tell, and neither has a self-imposed limit on how many papers they want to publish. So in the long run, how can they coexist? How are they differentiated, except in ways that make one of them better than the other in the eyes of authors? Or can they both coexist indefinitely because the number of papers scientists want to publish is just going to keep increasing forever, so that both journals can grow (or at least not decline) in absolute terms even if one or the other continually increases its market share? (ht Meg)
This week in Links Giving Me An Excuse To Make Inside Jokes That Only Dan Bolnick And A Few Other People Will Understand: Amherst College just renamed their sports teams the Mammoths. Mammoths
were mighty, so now it’ll be extra-embarrassing when they lose to a purple cow. Then again, mammoths are no longer mighty so much as dead. UPDATE #2: Post updated to delete a sentence that noted the serious underlying reason why Amherst is changing its mascot–addressing serious historical wrongs committed by its founder–before making another silly joke. Thank you to a commenter for helping me realize that I shouldn’t have drawn a connection between a silly joke and the serious issue the mascot change begins to address.)
You’ve probably seen this, but in case not it’s even funnier than that kids-interrupting-their-dad-while-the-BBC-interviews-him video. It involves birds. And Elvis. 🙂
This time lapse video made me think of that old Far Side cartoon with the two spiders building a web across the bottom of a sliding board and saying “If we pull this off, we’ll eat like kings!” Also, every Amherst student or alum who watches it is going to slap themselves in the forehead and go “Oh shoot, we should’ve named ourselves the Badgers! They can defeat cows!”
The discovery of sharks. (ht @dsquareddigest) 😉