Friday links: Ruth Gates passes away, the history of women authors at Am Nat, retraction database, and more

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!

From Jeremy:

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)

Via a commenter, your periodic reminder that Accidental aRt is still going strong. If you ever mess up a graph in R and need an amusing reminder that you’re not alone, click that link. 🙂

And you thought your Halloween costume was nerdy. 🙂 (ht @dandrezner)

Great moments in seminar awkwardness. 🙂

From Meghan:

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.:

4 thoughts on “Friday links: Ruth Gates passes away, the history of women authors at Am Nat, retraction database, and more

  1. I agree with Terry’s point about PLoS etc. but Am Nat, the ESA journals, Oikos, British Ecol Soc. journals have had effectively zero positive response to concerns about access. Compare to the Company of Biologists (which includes Journal of Experimental Biology) or the Am. Physiol. Soci (physiology.org) journals – these become open access after 6 months or 1 year AND provide complete archive going back to issue 1. Why can’t the ecology journals do this? Is there any pressure to do this? J. Exp. Biol (and its sister journals) did this before it was a thing (before there was an expectation). So far, the ecology journals aren’t even followers (like Nature – which is finally making its archives open), much less leaders.

    • Its a slightly different and maybe today a weaker model, but give the ecology journals credit for early mover. They were some of the first participants in JSTOR which makes back issues available quite easily. Between affordable campus subscriptions (JSTOR is library friendly) and free access in developing countries the ecology journals were close to open access before open access was a big concept (e.g. late 1990s).

      There is at least one sense in which JSTOR Is superior to simple open access – it provides a funding model to ensure back issues are available in perpetuity even if the journal goes under – not so true for pure open access – somebody has to pay to keep those servers maintained.

      Society journals have also been leaders in green open access (author published PDFs).

      There’s more than one way to get the job of wide, cheap circulation done.

      • Rats, Brian beat me to it by moments!

        So, like Brian said: I think JSTOR is one of the good eggs in the publishing ecosystem. Ecology journals making their content available on JSTOR after 12 months (or whatever the window is) is a pretty good way to ensure pretty wide and reasonably timely access to their content.

      • All good points. I’ll enjoy watching how this all plays out over the next 20 years…and continue to rely on google scholar + bioRxiv.

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