Also this week: “your personal scientific watchdog”, the need for speed (of phenotypic change), against work-life balance, shake up your lab meetings, nuance vs. theory, “silverbacks” vs. silverbacks, and more.
I enjoyed this post by Andrew Hendry, which gives the history about Andrew and Mike Kinnison’s efforts to quantify the speed of phenotypic change in populations. He ends by noting that his student Sarah Sanderson
generated a list of all studies in the database (we have some others still being entered), which we provide here. If you study phenotypic change in contemporary time, it would be fantastic if you could skim this list to see if your study is included. If not, we would love it if you could contact us to tell us about your study so that it can be included. Importantly, the database will – when reasonably finished – be provided online for all to use, which can only increase its (and your study’s) value to the scientific community.
Sticking with the evolutionary theme, videos from this summer’s Evolution meeting are available at this YouTube channel.
On twitter, Jacquelyn Gill told the story of her worst field experience, which happened in . . . . Indiana?! Pretty much everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Here’s the first tweet in the thread (they’re threaded, so you’ll see them all from that link).
This idea for a lab meeting where people think about how to structure their papers (and maybe of additional experiments that need to be done!) sounds interesting and worth a shot. The exercise reminds me of some suggestions from Stephen Heard’s excellent book on writing. And, if you’re looking for other ways to shake up lab meeting, here’s an old post of mine with some ideas.
Joan Strassmann had an interesting post describing a workshop she participated in on improv for science communication. It sounds really neat! I’ve done the half-life activity (having 1 minute, then 30 seconds, then 15 seconds) to convey one’s message and it’s really effective. The other activities she describes sound really interesting, too!
The Canadian government commissioned a blue ribbon panel on the future of fundamental research in Canada–and has ignored it. Which makes me unhappy because I liked the report. It called for more funding for basic research and for spreading funding among many investigators. The Canadian government would rather spend money on applied research priorities of its own choosing and concentrate funding in the labs of star senior researchers. The best line from the linked piece:
[I]t does no good to retain end-of-career stars if there is no mechanism for letting oddballs flourish.
Because the scientists you want to attract and retain are tomorrow’s star senior researchers–who are today’s oddballs.
The case against work-life balance. I actually disagree with much of this; at best I think it’s good advice for only a small minority of people (I like Meghan’s advice much better). I know plenty of young successful people in and out of academia who are purpose-driven in the sense of the linked post but who don’t work the long hours the post recommends. But it’s better than most pieces I’ve seen arguing for the same conclusion.
On scientific objectivity, contrarianism, and politics in conservation. Mark Vellend features. (ht @JeffOllerton)
Game theoretician Ariel Rubenstein on why game theory has no direct practical applications–and why it’s worth doing anyway. Very interesting interview. Really, it’s about why do any research that doesn’t have direct practical applications. Related: my old post on why do fundamental research in a world with pressing applied problems.
Against requiring doctor’s notes for deferral of exams or other assignments. Includes some alternative suggestions to achieve the same goals. [From Meghan: I’m going to piggy back a question I’ve been thinking about on this link: Are there any studies that look at whether requiring some form of documentation — not necessarily a doctor’s note — helps some students get connected with help sooner? This is one of the most compelling reasons I’ve heard for not going fully to a no-documentation-required policy. Also related to Jeremy’s link is this great Tenure, She Wrote post calling on faculty to be empathetic to students whose grandmother died during finals week — even if their grandmother didn’t actually die. That was motivated by a satire piece in the Chronicle that I haven’t read but that sounds like it was mean instead of funny. Terry McGlynn also had a good response to it.]
In the social sciences, “nuance” is on the rise and “theory” is (mostly) on the decline. Interesting little text-mining exercise. It would be fun to do something like this for ecology. What terms do you think such an analysis should include for ecology?
And finally, how actual silverbacks answer questions after their talks. 🙂