Also this week: data on ecological “publishing lives”, becoming a musical science writer, improving graduate seminars, Trump vs. NSF (but not that way), and more.
Proc B and Royal Society Open Science are going to start publishing peer reviews for manuscripts submitted beginning on January 2nd. In announcing the move, the Royal Society said that 2/3rd of RSOS papers already appear with peer reviews.
Chanda Prescott-Weinstein with a great thread on being an activist and an academic, especially as a grad student. Touches on everything from the value of working within the system to change the system, to the uses and misuses of anger, to the complementarity of technical expertise and activism, to why succeeding within the system is not “selling out”, and more. Sorry to hear that lots of people on Twitter are misreading it. (ht Meghan)
Interesting data on the “publication lives” of authors of papers in (a few) leading ecology journals. (UPDATE: I just became aware that the authors have been credibly accused of taking the idea for this study, and some of the data, from someone else without attribution. If they did, that’s obviously highly unethical and the paper should be retracted.) For instance, back in the 1960s it used to be that about 75% of people who published a paper in one of a few leading ecology journals would publish a first-authored paper in one of those same journals at some point. That fraction has declined linearly over time and is now below 40%. The authors interpret their data as reflecting growth in the workforce of “supporting scientists” such as technicians and lab managers. Which could be right, but I wonder if that’s the only thing or even the main thing going on in these data. For instance, there are many more ecology journals now than there were decades ago, including more “leading” journals. So these days, I’m sure it’s increasingly common for people to remain active in publishing ecology papers, including in “leading” journals, without remaining active in publishing in the specific leading ecology journals considered in the study. (Aside: I wish the paper authors had chosen different terminology, rather than referring to people who publish in a few specific leading journals for at least 20 years as having “full” careers and others as “dropouts”. People who no longer publish papers in (a few of) the leading journals in their field often haven’t left the field! But still, the data are interesting and worth thinking about, despite the poor terminology.) (Second aside: Lots of Twitter commentary on this paper summarizes/interprets the paper as describing career paths in ecology. Again, these aren’t data on career paths. If you want up-to-date data on career paths of people holding US PhDs in ecology, you should look at Hampton & Labou, and my commentary.) (ht Meghan)
I’m a bit late to this, but here’s the very sharp Cosma Shalizi’s two truths about peer review:
- The quality of peer review is generally abysmal.
- Peer reviewers are better readers of your work than almost anyone else.
In my opinion, and in the opinion of scientists who’ve responded to big global surveys, he’s wrong about #1. But he’s right about #2. And he’s right about this:
[M]ost papers which get published receive almost no attention post-publication; hardly anyone cites them because hardly anyone reads them. In the second place: if one of your papers somehow does become popular, it will begin to be cited for a crude general idea of what it is about, with little reference to what it actually says.
Ideas to improve a graduate seminar in ecology & evolution.
How protein folding researchers are reacting to Google DeepMind’s impressive entry into the field. Interesting window into the sociology of a scientific field, which is something I always find interesting (ht Marginal Revolution). A sample to whet your appetite:
There are dozens of academic groups, with researchers likely numbering in the (low) hundreds, working on protein structure prediction. We have been working on this problem for decades, with vast expertise built up on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific, and not insignificant computational resources when measured collectively. For DeepMind’s group of ~10 researchers, with primarily (but certainly not exclusively) machine learning expertise, to so thoroughly rout everyone surely demonstrates the structural inefficiency of academic science.
My buddy Greg Crowther on how he became a musical science writer.
Axel Rossberg on different kinds of scientific explanation in ecology.
Apparently Donald Trump plans to apply for an NSF grant to build the wall. This is one of those jokes that will make you laugh because the alternative is to cry. 🙂 😦
And finally, this week in Non-Scientific Holiday-Related Links I Am Probably Going To Immediately Regret: no, Baby It’s Cold Outside is not about date rape.
I don’t want to end on a downer, so here’s a BBC Earth video of hermit crabs demonstrating game theory. 🙂 (ht Matt Levine)