Friday links: publication bias vs. Easter, scientific progress is slowing down (?), and more (UPDATED with bonus link)

Also this week: the future of scientific publishing is the past of non-scientific publishing, majoring in nursing > majoring in English, and more.

From Jeremy:

Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 ESA awards!

An argument that scientific publishing (meaning, subscribers subscribing to big bundles of content from a few large publishers) is the future of all publishing. Ok, it’s not phrased quite that way, and scientific publishing isn’t actually raised as an example. But that’s more or less the upshot. The author argues that future, if it comes about, will be a good thing for publishing as a whole, compared to the status quo. I think it’s a pretty cogent argument, though obviously I’m no expert. Anyway, it’s an interesting perspective from which to think about the push to move scientific publishing in the opposite direction, towards the purely advertising-supported model that’s now falling apart in non-scientific publishing. Because that’s more or less what author-pays open access publishing is: advertising-supported publishing. Authors pay publishers to publish their articles in order to get them in front of readers, analogous to how advertisers pay publishers to publish their ads in order to get them in front of readers. Ok, I wouldn’t take that analogy too far or too literally–but it’s interesting to think about just how far and literally it can be taken. (ht @noahpinion)

Is it becoming harder to make scientific progress? At least on scientific problems of direct applied relevance? Economist Michael Webb has an interesting paper on that. Here’s an interview with him (podcast and transcript). (ht Marginal Revolution)

The Canada 150 Research Chairs program is succeeding in attracting top academics to Canada. But I’m pretty sure you’d get more bang for your buck, research-wise, by spreading that money more widely. (ht @dandrezner)

Since the mid-90s, the percentage of US bachelor’s degrees going to students majoring in English, history, social sciences, and education has dropped a lot. (Better graph, going back to the 1970s, here). Instead, students are doing bachelor’s degrees in health professions. Presumably (?), these trends are driven at least in part by perceptions about the employment and earnings prospects of people with different majors. But I wonder how accurate those perceptions are, and if some students overrate the extent to which their choice of major will dictate their future employability and earnings. All the data I’ve seen indicate that simply obtaining a college degree, in anything, is a bigger deal for expected future employment and earnings than choice of major (e.g.). And there’s a lot of variation around those major-specific earnings expectations. Anyone know of good survey data on why students choose the majors they do, and how much they think choice of major affects their future employment and earnings?

And finally, #sorrynotsorry for linking to this. 🙂

UPDATE: this is a good idea I just heard about and didn’t want to wait to link to it until next week. Susan Perkins of the American Museum of Natural History has set up an Early Career Reviewer Database covering the fields of ecology, evolution, systematics, and behavior. If you are an early career researcher in one of those fields, have at least one published peer-reviewed paper, and are willing to review papers and/or grant proposals, you can add yourself to the database. You can also update your information as needed, for instance if your contact details change. Note that the database is not publicly accessible, so adding your details doesn’t put you at risk of being spammed by predatory journals. Rather, legitimate journals and grant program officers can request that their editors have access to the database. Am Nat, where I’m an editor, just signed up for access, which is how I heard about this. I think it’s a win-win for journals that want to broaden their reviewer bases, and for early career researchers who would like to do more reviews.

4 thoughts on “Friday links: publication bias vs. Easter, scientific progress is slowing down (?), and more (UPDATED with bonus link)

    • I don’t think it’s a naive question at all, I think it’s a quite natural question.

      I’d want to do a bit of background research before answering. For instance, I vaguely recall reading some criticisms of one of the linked studies claiming massive declines in insect abundance. I’d want to check that the answer to the question isn’t “insects aren’t actually declining in abundance everywhere”.

      Re: the narrower question “how come we aren’t all dead because all our crops aren’t getting pollinated?”, again I’d want to do some background research but I can imagine various possible answers. Such as “increasing use of commercial bees for crop pollination”.

      Hopefully Jeff Ollerton or some of our other pollination biologist readers will see this question and address it better than I can just now.

  1. The ECR reviewer list is a very good idea! I’m wondering if Journals use publons at all as a tool to pick reviewers. You can see what journals a person reviewed for and some statistics about their reviews [although the stats are biased towards which journals share review content with publons].

    I wonder if their final play is to act as an intermediary to hold and pass reviews between journals. Right now, the focus seems to be on giving credit to reviewers for their reviews and building relationships with journals. But I could see them eventually going more towards the Axios route – but free for authors – and charging journals (with more relationships already established).

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