Friday links: inreach vs. outreach, Steinbeck vs. the title of your next paper, and more (UPDATED)

Also this week: the realized niche is “all shit”, world’s greatest faculty job application cover letter, the sixth mass extinction speciation, MIT diplomas vs. Bitcoin, debating systematics, scientific mavericks, Rand Paul vs. peer review, and more. Lots of good stuff this week! Stick around to the end for a joke involving Shirley Jackson and Peter Chesson. Like our tagline says, “the fox knows many things”–and he also likes to show off his half-remembered liberal arts education by making weird jokes. 🙂


From Meghan:

I guess I missed the “it’s all shit” option when I was considering the realized niche in my old post:

From Jeremy:

Functional Ecology EiC Charles Fox with a new paper showing that, at 6 EEB journals, mss for which editors have more difficulty finding reviewers receive more negative reviews and are more likely to be rejected. Interestingly, mss for which editors have great difficulty finding reviewers are slightly more likely to be rejected than would be predicted based on their negative reviews, suggesting that difficulty of finding reviewers signals to editors that the paper isn’t worth publishing. Also interestingly, reviewers who are invited closer in sequence (without many declined invitations separating them) tend to score mss more similarly. This suggests that editors faced with many declined invitations start inviting reviewers who differ in some ways from those invited earlier in the process (presumably as an accidental side effect of casting a wider net for reviewers). Commentary from the very sharp Phil Davis here. Like him, I interpret the headline result as showing that reviewers can and do make better-than-chance guesses about ms quality solely from the title, abstract, and author list. Which, frankly, they should be able to do, since the whole point of an abstract is to, you know, summarize the paper. So the headline result doesn’t surprise me at all (does it surprise you?). I like the result because it justifies my own behavior. Like many established scientists, I get more review requests than I’m willing to do, and so I’m able to pick and choose among them while still doing more than 2 reviews for every ms I submit or co-author. I choose to review mss that seem like they’ll be good, and I’m pleased to have statistical confirmation that this is possible. Finally, I know that there are some journals that have a policy of rejecting without review any ms for which they have too much difficulty finding reviewers. Fox’s data provide some justification for that policy.

Estimating whether “hidden moderators” (aka unmeasured confounding variables) explain among-lab variation in the results of multi-lab psychology experiments. Good fodder for an intro stats course that covers randomization tests. And not much comfort here for the social psychologists still clinging to hope that their favorite results fail to replicate because of hidden moderators rather than pure sampling error or confounding of exploratory and hypothesis-testing analyses (what Andrew Gelman calls “the garden of forking paths”).

MIT grads can now get their diplomas on the blockchain. Why they’d want to is another question. Like author contribution statements, this looks to me like a pointless innovation, though it may someday become non-pointless.

Pockets of predictability“: the idea that time series data that are mostly an unpredictable random walk might nevertheless exhibit occasional periods of short-term predictability. Interesting. Don’t know anything about this beyond what’s in the link, but would be curious to know more and think about if this could be usefully applied in ecology. Is this idea related to local Lyapanov exponents? (ht Economist’s View)

I’m a bit late to this, but the Society for Systematic Biologists is once again holding a series of debates at its next meeting. They’re looking for suggestions as to the theoretical and/or empirical topics attendees would like to see debated. Debates at scientific meetings are awesome.

Adrian Currie on scientific mavericks–and how we can have creative, risk-taking science without them.

Following up on a story we linked to last week, here’s Dan Drezner on the broader lessons of the controversy over Amy Cuddy’s work on “power posing.”

Blogging for other academics in your field as “inreach“. Great coinage. Not sure I agree that inreach blogging is “having a moment”. I think it had its moment back in, oh, 2009 or so. As evidenced for instance by the fact that many of the examples of great “inreach” blogs cited in the linked post don’t exist anymore. I agree that science outreach blogging is slowly dying, as would-be outreach bloggers increasingly realize that the market for science-related online content is already (beyond?) saturated by existing professional popsci outlets (and press release aggregators). UPDATE: Sentence deleted because it reflects a misreading of Terry’s post. My apologies.

An interview with conservation biologist Chris Thomas, who argues that humans are creating biodiversity at least as fast as they’re eliminating it. I’d like to see somebody partition all of the ways in which humans create and eliminate biodiversity.

Rand Paul in his wisdom has decided that the US Senate should royally screw up peer review. I don’t know that this is likely to go anywhere, but it might be worth calling or writing your senator just in case.

The only paper anyone would happily review. (ht @jtlevy) 🙂

The world’s greatest faculty job application cover letter. 🙂

This tweet is a kind and true remark about Meghan’s time allocation. But I got a chuckle out of imagining alternative versions about me. “If you look at what Jeremy Fox, tenured faculty at semi-high-powered research uni, writes on @DynamicEcology, making zombie jokes is a big part of his job.” “If you look at what Jeremy Fox, tenured faculty at semi-high-powered research uni, writes on @DynamicEcology, reading economics blogs is a big part of his job.” “If you look at what Jeremy Fox, tenured faculty at semi-high-powered research uni, writes on @DynamicEcology, pretending he’s a philosopher is a big part of his job.” Suggest your own versions in the comments. 🙂

And finally, the books you read in high school English class live on in the titles of scientific papers. Greedily, I’m disappointed that short stories were not also covered. Surely some botanist has titled a paper “Flowers for Algernon” followed by a subtitle explaining what the paper is actually about. And the fact that nobody working on the lottery model has ever based a paper title on “The Lottery” is unconscionable.  🙂

7 thoughts on “Friday links: inreach vs. outreach, Steinbeck vs. the title of your next paper, and more (UPDATED)

  1. Adrian Currie on scientific mavericks; I dont much like this article which mixes together everything from social justice to how journals and granting bodies make[ or should make] decisions, and tosses in the usual scientific history. Its very simplistic, and pretty much boilerplate. sorry to be so negative, but its not a very deep article.
    One of the main exemplars is the work of Kristen Hawkes on hunter gatherers and the human life history. Definetly a great Maverick, VERY SMART SCHOLAR, and extremely productive ; to summarize her insights as stemming from a female perspective alone[ or mainly] is complete nonsense….She did much more than that. Luckily we will have the history of her , and close colleagues work [ James OConnell & Nick Blurton jones], in their own words since they have penned a memoir to appear in a special issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology next spring, a special issue with 25? histories of physical anthropology, all written as personal memoirs by the main contributors to the discipline. I have worked with Hawkes for almost 40 yrs, and she is really GREAT.
    ric charnov

    • I kind of agree about the depth of the article. It did make me think about how scientists see their own degree of ‘maverickness’. I suspect that many of us have an internal narrative that we are a little bit maverick. I look forward to seeing counter examples where someone says ‘I really conform to the norms of the field!’.

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