Also this week: what intro courses should teach, field safety, grant lotteries, what probability is, and more. Oh, and Happy New Year!
Writing in Plos Biology, Kevin Gross and Carl Bergstrom give a theoretical argument for funding scientific researchers based on either a partial lottery, or on the basis of their past scientific success. Interesting exercise, though as a Canadian I refuse to accept the assumption that only a few grants can be funded. I wonder whether it would be better on balance to reduce average award size so as to be able to fund substantially more awards. See old posts from Brian, me, and me again for discussion. And here’s a different motivation for grant lotteries. (ht Meghan)
Very interesting and accessible interview with philosopher Rebecca Kukla. Touches on everything from what makes for interesting philosophy, to when (if ever) to use the phrase “speaking as a woman”, to the unfollowable norms and bad science that make it impossible to be pregnant without feeling guilty. Best thing I read this week.
Why economists shouldn’t teach behavioral economics in intro courses, even though doing so would improve “realism”. I link to this because some of the issues raised generalize to all intro courses. I particularly like the suggestion that intro courses should spend the most time on material that is of applied relevance, but that most students find counterintuitive or otherwise difficult to learn. What would that material be for intro ecology and evolution?
Advice from a prof who often appears on cable tv news for other profs who want to do the same.
Andrew Gelman on what probability is. Interesting to me because I’ve long wondered what his view was on this, and because I hadn’t encountered this view before in my admittedly-scattershot reading in philosophy of probability.
The University of Ghent is radically changing how it evaluates academic staff. Not many details at the link, but as best I can make out evaluations will be much less frequent (every five years rather than annual), and will no longer be based (primarily? at all?) on quantitative metrics such as publication counts. Instead, “All staff members will make commitments about how they can contribute to the objectives of the department, the education programmes, the faculty and the university.” (ht @dsquareddigest)
However you wear academic robes, you’re doing it wrong. This is how you do it. 🙂 (ht Jacob Levy, via Twitter)
I enjoyed this post by Robert Talbert on planning as an act of hope, reflecting on life, work, productivity, and hope. Here’s one section:
There are two choices: to spend my life purposefully, or to give up on the concept of purpose. To do the former makes assumptions. To do the latter is to give up hope.
My life, your life is finite one way or the other, so the question isn’t about how to prolong that life but how to use it, whether that’s a month or 50 more years, so that’s bigger than just the sum of our moments.
And the way we do this, is to have the audacity to make the assumption that we’ll have a life to lead in the future, and then guide how that life unfolds. That’s what planning is. That’s what GTD and productivity, otherwise just silly corporate buzzwords, is all about. Being intentional about your time, tasks, projects, calendar, and all the rest is stepping out on faith, a radical act of hope that says Whatever time I have left here, matters.
Daniel Bolnick had an important post advocating for better training for field emergencies and risk management related to field research. I don’t think I’ve ever been cavalier about safety in the field (I credit being the child of a firefighter and a nurse — safety first!), but this twitter thread last fall by Matthew Venesky made me think even harder about it. I discuss field safety with my lab folks, and we discuss that it’s the most dangerous thing we do as a lab. Our field work is local, but in rural areas where there’s poor (or no) cell service. So, we should probably spend more time before next field season thinking as a lab about what to do. At a minimum, we should have a list of which hospitals are closest to our different field sites — this seems obvious now, but it’s not something I thought to do before Dan’s post prompted me to think more about the golden hour. (Jeremy adds: here’s our old “ask us anything” on field work safety; many good resources in the comments.)
I love this post by Jen Heemstra and especially this part:
careers are all about growth. And, if you are willing to push yourself and grow a little bit each day, by the time you get to each stage, you will have the skills and knowledge you need to be successful there
(Jeremy adds: I see that Meghan’s New Year’s resolution is “steal back any links that Jeremy steals from me.” 🙂 )