Also this week: genius or crank, trading one paywall for another, great moments in seminar awkwardness, the nerdiest Halloween costume, and more. Lots of good stuff this week!
A personal perspective on the sometimes thin and fuzzy line between scientific geniuses and cranks. Excellent piece.
The scientific contributions of women who wrote Am Nat papers during the first 50 years of the journal’s existence. Very interesting and informative piece, you should read the whole thing. Includes interesting data on the proportion of women among all Am Nat authors. The proportion of papers with at least one woman author was very low until the early or mid 1950s, when it suddenly started climbing rapidly (a weird drop around 1970 aside), and is now around 60%. Anybody have any idea why the sudden change in the mid-50s, or the weird drop around 1970? Similarly, the proportion of papers first-authored by a woman exhibited a weird drop around 1970 but subsequently began climbing rapidly and today is over 40%. And there’s no sign that these trends are slowing, though of course they presumably will at some unknown point in the future. It’s startling to reflect that, back when I started grad school in 1995, only about 20% of Am Nat papers were first-authored by women and only about 25% had any women authors. Just during my own career–which hopefully is only at its halfway point!–matters have really improved on that front. Also perhaps worth noting that there’s no obvious signal in these data of any effect of Am Nat’s switch to double-blind review a few years ago. But these data are far from the only data one would want to look at in order to fully assess any effects of the switch to double-blind review.
No, the fact that most peer reviews are turned in at the deadline doesn’t mean the journal can just shorten the deadline and expect reviewers to meet it.
Retraction Watch’s massive retraction database is now available. Here’s Science’s summary of the major trends. Overall, the data look like good news to me, even allowing for the fact that not all papers that should be retracted get retracted.
An unusual Editorial Comment in Evolution. If I understand correctly (and I may not), the journal is more or less officially siding with Dan Rabosky in his exchange of technical comments with Meyer et al., based on input the journal received from other experts after the exchange was published. I don’t have any further information or context, so I don’t have any strong opinion on the journal’s unusual choice here. I just read it and thought, “Huh, that’s unusual.” I did read the exchange of technical comments and thought Rabosky definitely had the stronger arguments. But I’m far from a subject matter expert so perhaps I’m missing something?
An attempt to estimate the effects of female economics department chairs (unreviewed preprint; ht Marginal Revolution). Finds that switching from a male to female department chair is associated with a range of positive outcomes for female faculty and graduate students. Note that I’ve only read the abstract, so can’t vouch for the paper. Just passing it along if you want to read and evaluate it yourself. Also, note that economics in the US is much more male-skewed than, say, life science fields. So I wouldn’t assume that the results generalize to other fields (or that they don’t). The same lead author also has compiled data on cross-departmental variation in the career outcomes of recent US women graduate degree recipients in economics (unreviewed preprint). Interviews with faculty and recent graduates from departments with better and worse career outcomes for their women graduate students suggest some strategies for improvement that all economics departments could adopt. Again, I’ve only read the abstract and so can’t vouch for the paper myself; just passing along the link for those who are interested.
This is old, but I missed it at the time, and it’s still timely: Andrew Suarez and Terry McGlynn on how it’s not really “open access” publishing if many authors can’t afford the publication fees. Related: Brian’s post documenting which publishers offer scientists the best deal for their money. Brian’s answer is the same as Andrew and Terry’s: scientific society journals like the ESA journals, Oikos, and Am Nat. (ht to Terry and Maria Dornelas, via Twitter)
That the chairman of the US Council of Economics Advisors once made this graph does…not inspire confidence.
Russian scientist in Antarctica allegedly stabbed a colleague in the chest for spoiling the endings of books. (ht Matt Levine)
And you thought your Halloween costume was nerdy. 🙂 (ht @dandrezner)
Ruth Gates, coral biologist, amazing science communicator, and great person has died far too young. Ed Yong wrote a beautiful piece about her. (I thought his piece on Ben Barres couldn’t be topped, but I may have been wrong.)
Impressively nerdy Halloween pumpkin activity from Jonathan Eisen’s lab: doing whole pumpkin assembly with long reads, short reads, etc.: