Friday links: Hidden Figures lego shirts, is theoretical ecology dying, and more

Also this week: Happy belated 99th birthday Katherine Johnson, gender-neutral success rates at the NSERC grad student and postdoc fellowship programs, the importance of wasting time on bad ideas, every academic as a distracted boyfriend, and more.

From Meghan:

Get a Hidden Figures lego shirt recognizing the contributions of Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson and support today’s women of color in STEM. What more could you ask for? I’ve ordered my shirt already.

Speaking of Katherine Johnson, she just turned 99 recently! She had a great cake!

GoogleDocs now allows for version control! (ht: Arjun Raj):

From Jeremy:

Several days ago there was a bit of ire expressed on Twitter when someone tweeted a table of the results of the 2017 NSERC grad student and postdoctoral fellowship competitions. The table appeared to show that success rates for women at several grad student fellowship panels were much lower than for men. The trouble is, the data in the table for the grad student fellowship competition are incorrect. It’s obvious something’s amiss if you look at the column totals, because the success rates broken down by panel can’t possibly add up to the specified overall success rates. I went back to the raw data from the public report in which the tweeted table appears and immediately found the problem. Bottom line: overall success rates for men and women (and applicants who chose not to indicate their gender) were the same for both the grad student and postdoctoral competitions this year. But men comprise well over 50% of applicants for both the grad student and postdoctoral fellowships.

Emeritus rheumatology prof John Kirwan went back through his records and found that 75% of his project ideas never resulted in any publications, and that 62% of his work effort was spent on projects that produced no publications. He argues that that’s a good thing, because having lots of bad ideas is part and parcel of having good ones. (ht Retraction Watch)

The secret epistemology of field work. The examples are paleontological, but the post generalizes to other sorts of field work. Interesting discussion of “targeted” vs. “prospective” (exploratory) field work, and how background knowledge and expectations are essential for interesting or fruitful explorations. Relevant to our old discussion of what makes for good exploratory work (starts here).

Survey data on asking for and receiving feedback on unsuccessful faculty job applications.

Against absent minded professors. Well, against professors who are consistently absent-minded in big ways; everybody forgets something at some point.

Wait, NIH ran closed preprint exchange groups on various research topics in the 1960s?! I had no idea. The project died after attacks from journal publishers. (ht Retraction Watch)

Is theoretical ecology dying? Matthew Holden examines the citation-based evidence. I’d say that, on his evidence, all of ecology is dying save for those bits concerned with methodological development! See also.

Is the academic job market in political science a prestige cartel? Dan Drezner isn’t convinced. From 2012, but still relevant today. Further discussion here. Curious what similar analyses for ecology would show. I have a guess but I’ll keep it to myself.

Nominations are open for the 2018 ESA awards. (ht @duffy_ma)

What should universities look for in their presidents?

If you think the answer to your question is data, ask a better question.” Discuss. (ht @noahpinion)

Every academic as a distracted boyfriend. ๐Ÿ™‚

4 thoughts on “Friday links: Hidden Figures lego shirts, is theoretical ecology dying, and more

  1. Eh… theoretical ecology is dying? Really? Man, this could make for a great HBO mini-series!

    Naw- it ain’t a dyin’ Jeremy… it’s just that deja vu ain’t what it used to be…

    I would argue that there were once more people publishing alleged theoretical works in ecology because back in the day of MacArthur, Janzen and others, this was the stylish and trendy thing to do. I remember attending a lecture back in the 1980s concerning the “peanut butter and cracker theory” of microbial ecology… You can look it up- I won’t waste your time explaining it.

    Suffice it to say, it was a hypothesis at best, and one that was pretty self-evident. There was nothing theoretical about it- but, it got published. That kind of drivel would not get published now-a-days. Having fewer theoretical works published is a good thing, I believe.

  2. Oh, the absent-mindedness as dominance behavior really speaks to me. This happens in so many ways. Like the colleague to whom I write “Please let me know when you can make it to XYZ boring but important meeting. The days we are free are Tuesday and Thursday.” and get the response “Here are the times I am free on Wednesday.” I’m not sure if this is willful or not, but it sort of doesn’t matterโ€”either way, it’s the conscientious that end up doing more than their fair share. I’m sure that the folks themselves don’t *think* they’re doing this on purpose, but I definitely think I see a general correlation of this behavior with perceived self-importance, which I’m guessing allows them to justify it to themselves.

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