Dynamic Ecology year in review

Happy Almost New Year! Here’s the annual wrap-up of our blogging year. It’s mostly notes to ourselves, honestly. But if for some strange reason you care how much traffic we got, or what I thought our best posts this year were, or want to see me embarrass myself by misremembering who wrote one of our posts, read on.

Jeremy’s reflections:

The year isn’t quite over yet, but we’re on track to get almost exactly the same number of pageviews and unique visitors we got last year and the year before that: about 730,000 pageviews from about 358,000 unique visitors. Although this year we achieved that traffic with 192 posts (as I’m writing this), compared to 224 last year and 212 the year before that.

Our comment threads continue to die, after a 1-year hiatus last year. We’ve gotten 2706 comments as of this writing, down by over 1000 (!) from last year. To which, shit. If this trend continues (and why wouldn’t it?), it is really going to suck in a few years when there’s basically no substantive public discussion of our posts. Just people on Twitter liking, retweeting, commenting non-substantively, and occasionally badly misreading us.

The most-viewed posts we published this year (which of course tends to be biased towards posts published early in the year):

  1. When writing, tell us your biological results! by Meghan
  2. Where did recently hired N. American TT asst. professors of ecology get their PhDs? by me. To which, really? This was our second most-read post of the year? I had no idea. And, um, why? I mean, I know that many of our readers care about the N. American ecology faculty job market, and the data I’ve compiled on it. But of all my posts on the ecology faculty job market, this is the one that drew the most traffic?
  3. What proportion of recently hired N. American TT asst. professors of ecology have Science/Nature/PNAS papers? by me. I can understand why this one got a lot of traffic. Although hopefully the effect of this post will be to cause ecology faculty job seekers to quit worrying so much about Science/Nature/PNAS papers. If this post keeps drawing traffic years from now, it won’t have done its job.
  4. Friday links: overwork and mental health in academia, Liam Neeson vs. teaching, and more, by Meghan and I. Yes, a linkfest was our fourth most-read post of the year! Clearly it was because many people love Liam Neeson memes care about workload and mental health in academia.
  5. Friday links: Daphnia theme song, RIP PubMed Commons, Joy of Cooking vs. p-hacking, and more, by Meghan and I. I have no clue why this was one of our most read posts of the year.
  6. The unbearable hypocrisy of being an ecologist by guest poster Mark Vellend. This prompted one of our longest and best comment threads ever.
  7. A now-expired job ad for a postdoc in Meghan’s lab. This one continues to draw a steady stream of pageviews. Does it come up high in the results for Google searches on “ecology postdoc openings” or similar?
  8. Poll: what’s your preferred number of times to teach a particular course? by Meghan. To which, really? This was our most-read poll of the year? Huh. I had no idea.
  9. What if we make a class better for student learning but unsustainable for faculty? by Meghan
  10. My strategies for mentoring undergraduate researchers by Meghan

Meghan’s post dominate the list, and they’d continue to do so if the list were extended. Meghan writes very well about topics that many people rightly care a lot about, and it shows in the traffic her posts draw.

As usual, the posts I think were the best, or that were my personal favorites, don’t overlap all that much with our most-read posts. I’m proud of my ecology faculty job market data compilation. By far my best and most important post on that topic is the one on gender balance of recently-hired ecology faculty. Which despite being about an issue that lots of people rightly care a lot about, and despite me promoting it in advance on Twitter (which I’ve never done before and have no plans to do again), drew less traffic than many other posts we published around the same time, and less traffic than several other less-important ecology faculty job market posts. I’m also proud of my poll on what our readers think about the most controversial ideas in ecology. Fascinating data that led to a great discussion. Best post idea I’ve had in a long time. I think my post on the most important technical statistical mistakes in ecology and whether they’re all that important asked a good question and got a good discussion going. We also had a good discussion of unpopular ecological opinions. I thought my post on whether a field can have theory without theorists asked a good question, although readers apparently didn’t agree (hardly anybody read it). My post asking readers to identify ecology’s equivalent of Paul Erdos was a lot of fun. (From Meghan: Hey, I wrote that post!) (From Jeremy: Whoops! My bad. Would you believe it was, um…[thinks fast]… an intentional mistake on my part to check whether anyone else was paying attention? [Meghan shakes head, rolls eyes]) Readers immediately hit on the best answer–Bob Holt!–and we all had a blast calculating our “Holt numbers”. And I’m glad that my blog posts on the ASN Jasper Loftus-Hills Young Investigator Awards had their intended effect of dramatically increasing the size of the applicant pool and the number of applications from ecologists, without discouraging applications from non-ecologists or reducing the average strength of the applications.

In terms of my favorite posts of the year from others, I thought Brian’s post on science, advocacy, and honesty was great. Brian’s post on the shape of the long trajectory of ecology was a lot of fun–looking forward to seeing the poll results Brian! I really liked Meghan’s post on the social aspects of writing. (From Meghan: That post relates to another one that was fun to write that focused on rough drafts and getting words on the page.) Inspired by that post, I started a writing accountability group and it’s been a godsend for me. Meghan’s post on the unsustainability of some pedagogical approaches, linked to above, really spoke to me, and I think to many others as well. It was also an exceptionally brave post to write. It takes guts to express any reservations about flipped classrooms these days. Her review of Merchants of Doubt was one of our best book reviews ever, I think. Mark Vellend’s guest post on the unbearable hypocrisy of being an ecologist, linked to above, was one of my favorite guest posts of the year. Peter Adler’s guest post on conceptual fragmentation in basic research was really good too.

12 thoughts on “Dynamic Ecology year in review

  1. Jeremy, please don’t get discouraged about the lack of substantive comments. I read your posts carefully and often circulate them to staff at our institute here in New Zealand. I don’t usually comment because I am a science editor, not a scientist, and usually don’t have a thought that I think will add much to the conversation. Meghan’s post on tell us your results was part of a seminar series I run on scientific writing so I hope we contributed to making it number one!

    • Thank you for the kind words Gretchen. I should clarify that I’m not concerned about this blog’s reach. We’re still as widely read as we have been for years, folks like you still share our posts with colleagues just as much as they have for years, instructors still use our posts in classes just as often, etc. And obviously, no one should feel obliged to comment. But I learn a lot from our commenters and enjoy interacting with them. If the comments go away, I’ll miss them.

      • Not that you care what I think but I’ll echo that comment! DE is great. I’ve tried to find a comparable earth sciences blog but alas it seems to not exist.

      • Well, although I have strong political opinions, and some might say im grumpy, id say I like science for sciences sake. The politics monkey things up. DE is fairly light on politics.

      • Interestingly, in past reader polls that’s something our readers split on a bit. A small minority of our regular readers wish we’d write about “politics” (broadly defined) more. Another small minority wish we’d write about “politics” less.

        We duly note reader views on such matters, but then just write about whatever we feel like writing about. Our muses are fickle. 🙂 We couldn’t greatly adjust our topic choices in response to reader demand even if we wanted to, and even if readers broadly agreed on what they wanted us to write about. We rely on readers to pick and choose which posts to read (and to pick and choose whether to read us at all, if it comes to that).

      • Incidentally, pretty much all of my blog reading these days is DE derived: DE, Gelman, MR and a few others.

      • So, you’re saying you mostly just read the blogs in our blogroll? 🙂

        Now I’m tempted to mess with you by changing our blogroll, just to try to nudge you to read a bunch of cooking blogs or something. 😉

      • In some political discussions when there is an important argument that’s not getting air, I feel like it’s my responsibility to speak, although I’m less inclined than I used to be.

        I like the whimsical aspect of DE. For me DE has the right amount of politics, and politics that are carefully expressed. What I like most about DE are the general discussions about science and the scientific method, how it succeeds and how it fails, and of course the discussions on teaching and education. I realize I’m a terribly disagreeable reactionary, but believe me even when I disagree with y’all I almost always learn something from you, which is why I’m here.

        Yes, so to Megan, Brian and Jeremy, thanks for all your work. DE is an important contribution to science.

  2. Yeah, you won’t trick *me* with a cooking blog! 🙂 I have no patience for recipes! If I eat something delicious at a restaurant, I just go buy some and try cooking it, and it usually comes out pretty good, although I’ve had some pretty hilarious failures

  3. Quick comment. Is there a wrong link around the following piece of text?

    In terms of my favorite posts of the year from others, I thought Brian’s post on science, advocacy, and honesty was great.

    Right now it seems to link to Jeremy’s post on unpopular ecological opinions instead of Brian’s post.

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