Friday links: control vs. treat(ment), how to frame your next paper, Marlene Zuk on gender in science, and more

Also this week: getting the most out of conference travel, “the foxes are making coffee”, and I think we can all agree that the optimal number of books to own is n+1, where n is the number you currently own.

From Jeremy:

How to choose a “framing narrative” for your next paper.

Maximize the benefits of your conference travel.

An arbitrator in Ontario has decided that Ryerson University cannot use student evaluations of teaching to assess the teaching effectiveness of instructors for purposes of tenure and promotion. (ht a correspondent)

Good interview with ecologist Amy Austin on closing the gender gap in ecology. For context, if you haven’t done so already I strongly urge you to read my post showing that, over the last three years, newly-hired TT N. American asst. profs in ecology and allied fields have been 57% women. Many ecologists are unaware of this. That number is of course just one piece of the puzzle, but I think it’d be better if all ecologists were aware of it. The more we know about the current system-level state of affairs regarding diversity and equity in academic ecology, the more effectively we’ll be able to pursue the vital work of continuing to improve diversity and equity.

Here’s an amusing experiment that illustrates one reason for that arbitration decision (ht @kjhealy). I selflessly volunteer my own classes to replicate this delicious chocolatey important study. In the comments, feel free to make your own “TREATment” jokes. 🙂

Switching to SAT-optional undergraduate admissions policies seems to have no effect on any attributes of the admitted students in the US.

Multa novit vulpes (although I get my caffeine from soda rather than coffee):


It me. And I bet it you, too. 🙂

From Meghan:

I loved this interview with Marlene Zuk! Here are some parts I especially liked:

Even people who completely understand the level of nuance in ecology will then develop very simplistic ideas like this. You hear things like “males are just naturally better at math.” What does that even mean?

You can’t ever do that experiment. You can’t ever raise boys and girls in an environment where you treat them exactly the same and then you see what emerges.


I’m not arguing that every single difference is culturally imposed, but you have so much interaction between the social influence and biology, that they’re impossible to disentangle. So I have gotten really interested in how that is all working. But people love assuming these differences are inherent, because that is easier.

6 thoughts on “Friday links: control vs. treat(ment), how to frame your next paper, Marlene Zuk on gender in science, and more

  1. Those interviews with Marlene Zuk and Amy Austin are an interesting study in contrasts in terms of how they talk about gender balance in academic ecology and how it’s changing.

  2. There seems a general push in social sciences for gender as a social construct idea in its full (in an almost toxic manner, just to keep using gender language). This interview seems to be pushing for something similar in biology or evolution, doing the same thing as most gender studies do: Use some ambiguous examples and keep hammering, “I am not saying that it is…. ” but actually you do (want) to imply there are no differences. There are differences, and the scientific evidence is quite overwhelming in this regard (in no particular direction of quality or quantity). To what extend we can or can’t disentangle the differences between nature or nurture is another matter (a flaw that social science has to deal with and makes it such a subjective study in first place). The fact that we cannot disentangle this complexity adequately does not automatically imply that the opposite is true, which is equally almost implied within this article. I am fully in favour of gender equal opportunity but we are hitting the level that any difference found that would not fit a current politically correct narrative would not be allowed to be mentioned, or requires really careful messaging. We are in a scientific crisis of political correctness in this manner. We as biologists should be able to theorise regarding what the effects are of two different gender roles on our own evolutionary path as a human species (stop mentioning fungi, we are mammals!). One sex until about 100-200 years ago, always had to provide milk as the main source of food until a child was around 4 years old! This was completely the norm and only now is changed with the invention of formula. Pregnancy equally is no small matter. Children not nursed until this time had a much lower chance of survival as currently found in the few hunter gatherer societies. If one sex had to fulfil this essential role for such a long time to maintain the species, and at repeated instances, of course it would be logical to expect differences for socialisation and society matters for a species that had this limitation for almost its entire evolutionary existence (there is no patriarchy involved in this, this is simple biology). I equally understand that there are studies that suggest that intelligence increases in children with longer periods of breastfeeding as supposed to early formula use.
    I am not implying that there are no possible and interesting surprises possible as implied in the article. I equally don’t want to imply that currently women should be or feel they need to like care roles or should only choose certain subjects as a career path (do whatever you want!). I agree it is wrong to say, “you are going against nature!”. What I am saying is that any evolutionary scientist, interpreting sex differences in humans in a more traditional framework of the care roles for women should just be allowed to have a point and not be pigeonholed into a box of patriarchal thinking from the start. We are only starting the journey as a species in which gender differences are allowed to be negated, previously we simply could not.

  3. I completely agree that one should try to get the most out of conference trips, and visits to other universities are certainly one way to do it. But there are others:

    – combine conference trips with field work and collect some data.
    – take photographs that might be useful for your teaching, especially if there are field visits associated with the conference, e.g. I make a point of photographing flowers and pollinators, and also grassland sites, habitat restoration projects, etc.
    – come early, or stay on after, for a short holiday! We talk so much about the requirement for a work-life balance, taking time off to recharge, etc., and here’s a perfect opportunity.

    I’m sure there are others that I’ve not thought of.

  4. I just read the abstract, and quickly looked at the tables, but the cookie intervention paper seems to have quite low effect sizes. But perhaps the effects are high in the context that SET data is inherently noisy?

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