Also this week:
Charles Darwin Leon Megginson vs. failed Spanish bank, what’s wrong with null models in ecology, the formula for a high-quality paper, NSF BIO directorate cancels their DDIG program, math vs. publicity, Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood R package, rejection letter etiquette, gender as art, and more.
Christie Bahlai with the story of her long but ultimately successful tenure track job search. I’m sure it will resonate with many of you; it did with me. Like Christie, I had a dozen campus interviews but was only ever offered the job I currently hold. And had I not gotten that job I’d have quit science. Christie talks about how the low odds of success and associated need to apply for many positions may select against people who through dint of personal circumstances find it difficult to stick it out financially (aside: “difficulty of sticking it out financially” was a challenge I was fortunate not to face). I like the suggestion for colleges and universities to pay faculty job candidates’ travel expenses up front rather than reimbursing those expenses. (From Meghan: Wait, *I* linked to this but my version of the Friday links disappeared! No fair! Anyway: yes, this piece is wonderful and definitely worth reading, especially for people who are involved in the hiring process from either side. Now to try to remember what else I had put in my Friday links…) (Jeremy adds: clearly WordPress’ new “keep Meghan from stealing Jeremy’s links” feature is working as intended. 😉 )
Carsten Dormann on what’s wrong with randomization-based null models in ecology. Good piece, though I wish he’d more forcefully attacked the idea that you have to first use a randomization-based null model to show that an apparent pattern is “real” rather than mere “chance” before you’re allowed to try to explain it ecologically. The problem is that in this context “chance” doesn’t mean “sampling error”, the way it does with a statistical null hypothesis test. It means “effects of ecological processes that I don’t care about or find boring.” There’s no distinction between “Step 1: rule out chance” and “Step 2: if chance is ruled out, explain the pattern ecologically” if “chance” is just shorthand for “ecology I find boring”. Maybe if ecologists would quit trying to first rule out “chance” and just skip straight to the step of trying to explain their data ecologically, they’d quit trying to use randomization-based “null” models as ecological models. More on this in a future post, perhaps.
Stephen Heard on how to write, and read, a faculty job rejection letter. tl;dr:
To summarize: letter writers, be kind; and letter readers, understand that this kindness has to be limited.
But you should click through and read the whole thing. This bit is important:
Understand that there’s lots the letter writer can’t say – in fact, nearly everything relevant is something they can’t say.
And so is this:
Finally, realize that the letter isn’t an invitation to further conversation.
Can pure mathematical research ever be popularized without distorting it? I like the analogy of some areas of mathematical research to orchids, others to tomatoes, and others to gardening tools. How do you get non-gardeners who like gazing at orchids and eating tomatoes excited about gardening tools? Should you even try? Related: our old post asking if ecologists should care that basic ecological research never generates headlines.
Some bad arguments that academics should blog as a way to publicize their work. “Peer-reviewed papers get an extra few hundred abstract views when Paul Krugman blogs about them” is not a good reason for you to blog about your papers. You are not Paul Krugman, and you cannot become even a very poor man’s version of Paul Krugman by blogging about your own work. And if you want to converse with others about your work, well, that’s what Twitter is for. Unless your blog gets a fair bit of traffic (and it won’t if you blog solely or primarily about your own work), it’s not going to draw any comments. Here’s my old post on the questions you should ask yourself to decide whether to blog.
This is very far from the sort of stuff I usually link to (or even read), but I found it thoughtful and I think I agree with it: gender as art. Argues that both biological essentialism and social constructivism about gender are partially (not entirely) wrong. (ht @jtlevy)
This week I won a small victory for Darwin nerds everywhere. Background: I read an entertaining financial newsletter (yes, really) by Matt Levine at Bloomberg. Earlier this week the newsletter discussed the 2016 annual report of a now-failed Spanish bank, noting that the bank used a Darwin quote as the report’s epigraph. Or rather, the bank used a quote that everyone mistakenly attributes to Darwin, but that is actually from a US business school prof. I tweeted this to Matt Levine, figuring he might get a kick out of it. And he did! The next day’s newsletter devoted a whole paragraph to the irony that a bank that failed to adapt to change also failed at correctly attributing a quote about adapting to change (click the link, scroll down to the final paragraph of the first section). The lesson here is that bankers should read more Darwin, obviously. 🙂
And finally, I’m slightly late to this, the greatest seminar title ever. For some value of “greatest”:
A few weeks ago, I tweeted a link to a post showing every color cardigan Mr. Rogers wore from 1979-2001. Jeff Hollister has now created an R color package based on it. (filed under: I love the internet sometimes)
Functional Ecology is looking for a new Senior Editor. The call for applications notes: “Applicants must have expertise in animal ecology, preferably animal functional traits, animal physiology and/or animal morphology. Applications are welcome from leading scientists from any country.”
NSF announced that they are getting rid of the Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DDIG) program. This is really sad to me, as this was such a great way for students to get experience with writing NSF grant proposals. I served on the DDIG panel twice and it was my favorite panel to be on — there were always so many great ideas.