Also this week: gifs vs. your tenure-track job search, contractions aren’t a problem in scientific writing, why science Twitter always discusses the same topics, and more.
Terry McGlynn remarks that he’d prefer if science Twitter conversations would focus on certain topics much less often (*cough* preprints *cough*) and certain other topics much more often. Which raises the question, why does science Twitter (or really any corner of Twitter) focus on certain topics to the exclusion of others of at least equal importance? Here’s one hypothesis, originally developed in a different context: “because you can always get a game” discussing
Israel preprints. If you’re not sure if I’m joking about this hypothesis, well, I’m not sure either. 🙂
Ed Yong criticizes the reporting of WWF’s Living Planet Report. No, it doesn’t show, or say it shows, that humans have “wiped out 60% of animals since 1970”, or “killed more than half the world’s wildlife populations”, or “wiped out 60% of animal species”. Interestingly, unlike many cases of inaccurate popular media reporting of scientific findings, these inaccuracies don’t seem to have come from the report itself or the associated press release, at least as far as I can tell (did I miss something?). And while I freely admit I’m no expert on science reporting, I have to say I share Ed Yong’s frustration. This report does not strike me as even slightly difficult to summarize accurately in one sentence, even for a general news reporter rather than a science journalist. Also, I liked how at the end of his piece Ed addresses head-on the argument that he’s a pedant who’s distracting from the urgent task of waking people up to a crisis:
Surely what matters is waking people up, and if an inexactly communicated statistic can do that, isn’t that okay? I don’t think it is. Especially now, in an era when conspiracy theories run rampant and lies flow readily from the highest seats of government, it’s more important than ever for those issuing warnings about the planet’s fate to be precise about what they mean. Characterizing the problem, and its scope, correctly matters. If accuracy can be ignored for the sake of a gut punch, we might as well pull random numbers out of the ether. And notably, several news organizations, such as Vox and NBC, managed to convey the alarming nature of the Living Planet Index while accurately stating its findings. The dichotomy between precision and impact is a false one.
The next US Congress will include at least 18 members with backgrounds in STEM or demonstrated support for STEM issues (see here, scroll down to Maggie Koerth-Baker’s last comment, which I’m summarizing). Ten of the 18 are incumbents, and a few who aren’t scored upset victories. 16 of the 18 are Democrats. But of course it’s very hard to say just how much, if any, of their electoral success can be attributed to their STEM backgrounds.
US humanities major enrollments are collapsing, even at elite colleges and universities. Here’s what some colleges and universities are trying to do about it.
Using contractions won’t make your paper less accessible to readers for whom English is an additional language.
Applying for a tenure-track job at an R1 university, explained with gifs. 🙂