Also this week: the de-internationalization of US higher education, realized (blogging) niches, and more.
So, you know how your US college or university is looking to international students (and the high tuition they’re often charged) to balance its books? Good luck with that. At least until Trump isn’t President any more. (ht @noahpinion)
Andrew Gelman, following Uri Simonsohn, argues that robustness checks (alternative ways of translating the same scientific hypothesis into a statistically-testable claim) are a joke. Basically, the argument is that, if your scientific hypothesis is too vague to really be testable, robustness checks just paper over the vagueness and fool you into thinking it’s testable. As someone who, following Richard Levins, very much believes in (and uses) robustness checks in a different context, I found this interesting. Now I’m thinking about the circumstances in which robustness checks are helpful vs. harmful. A key issue seems to be that “robustness check” can mean lots of different things; Gelman’s and Simonsohn’s criticisms apply to only one sort of robustness check.
The field of US academic economics remains heavily male-skewed and progress toward gender balance (at least in top departments) has stalled in the last 20 years. Here’s a deep dive into the relevant data (unreviewed preprint). As an aside, the paper documents considerable heterogeneity among fields in how gender balance has changed over time. Here’s a bit of relevant data for recently-hired ecology profs. I wish we had as much data about people’s individual career trajectories in ecology as economists seem to have about individual career trajectories in their field.
Following on from the previous, here is a link to economist Kasey Buckles’ data-based review of what interventions work to attract and retain women in economics at every career stage. Emphasis is on focused, practical interventions implementable by individuals, departments, and faculties. Note that not all of these necessarily generalize to other fields. For instance, her review highlights the importance of interventions at the K-12 level, since in economics the male skew starts before college and doesn’t change all that much (in either direction) after that. In contrast, in the life sciences in the US undergraduate degree recipients are about 60% women and have been for many years. In ecology, the proportion of women subsequently drops slightly at every stage through the postdoc stage, but then rises back up to close to 60% among recently-hired asst. profs.
Laura Deming with a very interesting remark (ht Marginal Revolution):
One of my biggest personal fears is working in the wrong field to achieve the goal I care about. If you were around pre-1900s, and wanted to contribute to biology, you should have been a physicist (Robert Hooke, a physicist discovers the first cell, making a better microscope is a major driver of progress). In which field should you work to maximize progress in biology today?…
But something interesting happened around the 1950s. If you look at the most important techniques in biology, in the second half of the 1900s, they’re all driven by tools discovered in biology itself.
Why agree to be the EiC of a leading journal?
My goodness, this is a remarkable CV. Here’s the tweet that led me to find it, but it’s really worth clicking through for the whole CV: