What topics would you like us to poll on?

Meghan, Brian, and I are all lazy busy right now, so we’re planning to do some reader polls. These are always good conversation starters; it’s always fun to find out what a bunch of your colleagues think.

Two are already in the queue for this week. Tomorrow: “controversial ideas in scientific publishing”. Thursday: how do you filter the literature and identify papers to read?

Question: what else would you like to see us poll on? Suggest topics in the comments!

15 thoughts on “What topics would you like us to poll on?

    • Can you elaborate a bit? What sort of unlikely/surprising/invisible skills should we poll on?

      Or are you suggesting that we ask readers to give examples of unlikely/surprising/invisible skills they’ve acquired, that they believe have helped them in their careers?

      • I’m interested in seeing if there are a few (as a former teacher of mine would call them) invisible skills out there that aren’t widely taught in a more formal class setting but seems to be common to a lot of ecologist as their careers progress.

        For instance, I took graphic design courses while I was in high school and used Adobe Illustrator and InDesign to make all of my graphs and posters during my undergrad research days while the rest of my classmates were using powerpoint. I liked the finish on my Adobe-designed poster better than the powerpoint posters; I just felt I had more control over the overall appearance and quality of the photos and graphics. Those software skills still come in handy even now when I’m making field guides or protocols for my lab’s citizen scientists or designing and maintaining our lab website….I was curious if there are similar stories and if there are some standouts among these soft skills or less-commonly-thought-of skills that don’t necessarily have course listings attached (and if any of those skills are more common than they seem) but are incredibly useful down the road.

  1. Perception vs. actual prevalence mental health ‘issues’ among graduate students.

    What % of PIs believe their students have mental health ‘issues’, and what % have ‘issues’ are affecting their quality of life, including work life?

    What % of student responders have mental health ‘issues’ and are they affecting QOL?

    I know there are quite a few posts with mental health tag, but no (I think) polls of readership.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. Tricky to come up with a list of choices for that poll.

      I wouldn’t say that there’s any one character trait that’s essential for success in ecology. Well, besides obvious things like “not dishonest”.

  2. While its unclear how putting together a poll will save you folks time…….I suggest you revisit the highly contentious 2017 survey that generated ” 100 papers every ecologist should read”. Would be nice to see what the community thinks about the criteria for inclusion, who gets to vote, and so forth. Yea, I realize that lots of comments got tossed out, and several angry letters got written [and published]; lots of heat, not much light

  3. A little related to your survey about tenure track job searches…

    How many applicants do search committees expect to receive for different faculty/post-doc positions?
    Geographic location, R1/other and breadth of field* would be interesting modifiers to add (sure there are others).

    * e.g. an ecologist vs. freshwater invertebrate ecologist

    • Some colleges and universities tell unsuccessful applicants how many applications the position received, and sometimes people share that info on ecoevojobs.net.

      I suppose I could try setting up a survey asking people who’ve sat on ecology faculty search committees recently to anonymously share how many applications they got, and some contextual info about their institution and the position.

      Speaking very broadly, R1 positions probably get the most applicants, though the number varies (it’s not always 200+). But I suspect that the positions that draw the most applications also are those that draw the most totally-uncompetitive applications. Positions that are widely seen as desirable will tend to draw a lot of long shot applications. So looking at number of applicants isn’t really informative about how competitive the position is.

      I suspect (but don’t know) that small, “non-elite” colleges located in rural areas draw the fewest applicants.

      I think “breadth of position” isn’t always clear-cut (though sometimes it is, as in your hypothetical example). And I suspect it doesn’t affect number of applications all that much. But I’m just guessing on that.


    • If the evals are based solely or primarily on student evals of teaching, then we know from randomized and quasi-randomized experiments that they’re not reflecting teaching quality!

  5. How about asking folks about things administrators at various levels (dept chair, dean, etc) do that help facilitate or hinder faculty/student productivity, morale, etc? An interesting addition to a survey like this might be a short answer box that says something like, ” One thing my department chair/field station director did that was particularly effective in advancing our department (or my own productivity) was…” Pretty sure everyone can come up with tons of complaints, I’d be curious about the wins. My sense is that the readership here is still fairly young/early, and I’d be interested in the responses from that career point (also students).

    • “My sense is that the readership here is still fairly young/early”

      We know from reader surveys that our regular readers are about 30% grad students, 30% postdocs, 30% faculty, 10% government/NGO scientists + a small number of others.

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