Also this week: pulling back the curtain on rejection without review, tenure for non-academics, running for Congress as a scientist, zombie ideas in psychology, PI liability for scientific misconduct by their lab members, scientist dad jokes, and more.
Macroeconomist Nick Rowe is retiring. By his own admission, he never became a leading researcher in the field. But as a blogger at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative, he became perhaps its finest explainer. In my admittedly-limited experience the only econ blogger in Nick’s league as an explainer is Paul Krugman. Nick excelled at conveying the key intuitions behind difficult math using simple parables and thought experiments. And far from being mere thought experiments, Nick’s thought experiments often had direct connections to macroeconomic policy. Reading Nick’s posts over the years helped inspire me to try my hand at explaining difficult ideas in ecology. It was a pleasure and privilege to meet him once, over dinner. I wish him all the best in his retirement. And I’m glad to hear that he plans to keep blogging.
Well, this is sobering. A US court has now established the principle that PIs can be held solely liable for scientific misconduct committed by those working in their labs or by longstanding collaborators, even if they had no knowledge of the misconduct. That is, the PI has to take reasonable proactive steps to guard against misconduct committed by others. It’s not a defense to say (e.g.) “I’ve known [person who actually committed the misconduct] for years; I had every reason to trust this person and no reason not to.” And it’s not a defense to say “I can’t possibly validate every datum my lab collects.” Though exactly what steps are required to avoid liability remains unclear to me.
Good overview of how scientists running for the US Congress are doing (tl;dr: it’s a mixed bag). Includes good discussion of how running as a scientist tends not to resonate with many voters. I might’ve liked to see some comments from former Congressman and physicist Rush Holt on this point. I vaguely recall that he played up his scientific background when he ran; there were bumper stickers reading “My Congressman is a rocket scientist”. But I might be misremembering the extent to which he ran as a scientist (anybody recall?). And those were different political times, and he ran in a pretty educated district (the NJ district that includes Princeton) that later was redistricted into a pretty safe Democratic seat. So what worked for him might not work for others.
Am Nat EiC Dan Bolnick pulls back the curtain to reveal just how carefully he considers rejection without review.
Terry McGlynn with an update on his experiment with turning off comments by default at Small Pond Science, but turning them on for certain posts. He’s now going to turn comments on by default, but turn them off on some posts (primarily those addressing fairness and equity issues). I’m always interested to read how other bloggers think about their blogging goals and how to achieve them. It helps me reflect on my own blogging goals and how to achieve them.
How come tenure (operationally defined as “a very long term employment contract”) doesn’t exist outside of academia? Maybe it should? I have mixed feelings about this idea, but haven’t thought about it much.
Since the Great Recession, US undergraduate enrollment in the humanities has cratered, because more students are choosing majors that they think will lead directly to employment. I do wonder if some students are overestimating how much difference their choice of major will make to their future employment prospects or salaries. But even if they are, it’s hard for me to imagine humanities enrollment bouncing back in the absence of an economic boom, or failing that an even longer period of uninterrupted decent economic growth than we’ve already had since the Great Recession.
Is loss aversion (a cornerstone of modern psychology) a zombie idea? Or at least an idea in need of critical, ground-up re-evaluation? Judging by the responses here and here, it sure sounds like it.
Speaking completely objectively as a scientist and baseball fan, THIS IS THE GREATEST THING IN THE HISTORY OF THINGS. 🙂 (ht @duffy_ma)
This is an amazing blog post by Rachel Wigginton at Sweet Tea Science on navigating death and grief as a graduate student. I’ve already shared it with a colleague with a student in an unfortunately similar situation, and I’m sure it will help others, too. And this line in particular applies to so many situations (since, as I’ve written about before, so many people have Shit Going On):
Anyone who doesn’t appreciate the way life knocks us all on our asses sometimes doesn’t deserve your time as a colleague
On a much lighter note, this is an excellent contribution to the scientist dad jokes genre: