Also this week: #bugsR4girls, quadratic regression is not a valid test for humped and u-shaped relationships, a belated shoutout to #MySciComm, karaoke talks, college ≠ Harvard, and more. Including a link from Brian!
Quadratic regression is an invalid test of humped and u-shaped relationships between variables. It has a hilariously high false positive rate, routinely misdiagnosing curvilinear relationships with no mode as humped or u-shaped. Ecologists aren’t entirely unaware of this and often deal with it by testing whether the estimated maximum/minimum of the fitted curve is within the observed range of the predictor variable. But still, that’s kind of a kludgy, imperfect workaround. The linked post develops and evaluates an alternative test, a variant on breakpoint regression. Students: your “low hanging fruit” alarm should now be blaring. Want a quick and easy paper that would also be an important contribution? Find some important study or meta-analysis that looked for a humped or u-shaped bivariate relationship using quadratic regression, and redo the analysis with this new approach. Even if you have no plans to ever run a quadratic regression, you should click through. The Q&A at the end of the post is a great example of why it’s important to be crystal-clear about your goals when choosing your statistical technique.
Peer review is younger than you think, although I believe the age of the practice varies by field (?). Indeed, by the linked measure, it’s about my age. Which raises the question:
I’m very late to this, but via a correspondent, I just found out about the ESA Science Communication section’s #MySciComm series of interviews with scientists on how they got into scicomm and how they do it.
A preview of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest winners. I used to love going to this exhibition when I was a postdoc in the UK. The standard is much higher than for any other nature photography contest I’ve ever seen.
Your annual reminder, if one were needed, that when it comes to news stories about college and university admissions (or really, any news story to do with undergraduate experiences of college), any story that focuses on current or aspiring students of Harvard and similar institutions is focusing on a very small and unrepresentative minority of all students.
The ASN standalone meeting is going to formally debate the question of whether evolutionary history tells us anything about the functioning of contemporary ecological communities, and is going to have a natural history trivia contest, and is going to have karaoke talks?! Man, I am sooo tempted to cancel the first week of my classes so that I can go. 😦
And finally, commenter max informs us that there is a heavy metal song based on the last line of The Origin of Species (the famous bit about “endless forms most beautiful”). Here’s the video. Have I mentioned lately how much I love our commenters? 🙂 Of course, now I’m going to have a metal song in my head whenever I reread the final paragraph of the Origin, which I consider the most beautiful and eloquent passage ever written. That’s going to be a disconcerting experience. But I still love our commenters.
This science communication issue of the Annals of the Entomological Society of America looks fantastic, including #bugsR4girls, the use of science communication to combat research isolation, and a piece by Terry McGlynn on recruiting students from minority-serving institutions. (ht: Christine Rose-Smyth) Update: NPR covered #bugsR4girls! It’s a really wonderful story, featuring entomologist Morgan Jackson (who created the hashtag) and 8-year-old entomologist Sophia Spencer (who was the inspiration for the hashtag).
I found this survey* on American college student attitudes towards and knowledge of free speech disturbing. 40% think hate speech is not protected (it is), 60% think allowing a platform for the opposite point of view is required (it isn’t), and a shocking 20% think that physical violence is an appropriate response to objectionable speech (just wow!). Democrats, Republicans and Independents all agree on that last point so don’t go looking to make this partisan. Look, I don’t like the views of a good number of people that have been in the news for getting shut down on college campuses. In fact I hate some of them. But the first amendment is the bedrock of what makes America work**. I’m pretty sure the idea that King George was an odious tax-grubber was considered hate speech at the time it was uttered too (and a few of our British readers might still feel that way …). I don’t mean to make a flippant comparison to some other remarks that are genuinely hate speech (and odious in themselves). But the point of the first amendment is that neither the state nor any one person has the right to decide. It is in the rational communal discourse that bad ideas are outed and good ideas advanced. The alt-right speech in Boston and the peaceful response (guaranteed by some excellent police management) is exactly how free speech should look. It made the alt-right look pitiful and ridiculous and they literally gave up and quit early. And college campuses ought to be especially good at doing this. In this time when freedom of the press is under attack, colleges should teach and serve as models of how free speech works, not be a seed of violent shut down of free speech.
* Caveat emptor – the survey was funded by the Koch brothers but it was designed and run independently by a scholar at the Brookings Institute (a highly respected and non-partisan think tank in DC). So read the survey carefully and draw your own conclusions.
** I am writing this from an American perspective, but some version of free speech is at the core of most modern democracies.