Also this week: not getting ice cream is bad but not getting a grant is…good?, how selective US colleges and universities got that way, a theory of faculty meetings, 1 lion = 3 pro wrestlers, and more.
Congratulations to the 2019 ESA award winners, particularly Eminent Ecologist Bob Holt. It’s been a privilege to learn from Bob since he was the external member of my PhD committee. Bob is just so generous with his time and wisdom.
I’m late to this, but I just learned that Robert Mark passed away last month. Mark was an innovative civil engineer and architectural historian, who used modern engineering methods to understand how Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals were built. Evolutionary biologists will (or should!) remember him for his brilliant takedown of both Stephen Jay Gould and Daniel Dennett in their debate over whether “spandrels” are “non-adaptive” features of cathedrals (see my old post for some discussion).
To our faculty readers: I hope you wanted Johnny Depp to play you in the movie of your life, because he is.
The Ontario government is proposing changes to the provincial Endangered Species Act. The proposed changes seem bad from an ecological perspective. You can comment on the proposed changes here.
Here’s an incident that the ESA and other scientific societies should pay attention to as they develop, and possibly have to enforce, meeting codes of conduct. An archaeologist who’d been banned from his university campus after a Title IX investigation into serial sexual harassment showed up at the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) conference after registering on site. SAA’s meeting code of conduct only covered conduct at the meeting itself, so it took two days for the SAA to revoke his society membership and ban him from the meeting.
Good news (or at least, not bad news): implicit biases, as measured by Project Implicit, are decreasing. Just eyeballing the graphs, this isn’t a recent trend; it’s been going on for years. I confess I’m unsure what to make of this; there are criticisms of the implicit bias test, and of purported associations between real-world behavior and the test results. Would particularly welcome comments from folks who know the relevant literature.
A claim (unreviewed preprint) that just barely missing out on getting an early career NIH grant appreciably increases the likelihood of leaving NIH-funded biomedical research–but that those rejectees who don’t leave actually go on to greater long-term research success than those who just barely got the grant. And it’s further claimed that that’s not just because people who barely miss out on a grant but persevere are a non-random sample of all biomedical researchers, but also because barely missing out on a grant actually causes increased research success among those who persevere. That which does not kill you makes you stronger, as it were. I am somewhat skeptical of these claims, especially the claim that having a grant rejected causes appreciably-higher long-term research success for those who remain in the field. But having skimmed the preprint I didn’t spot any obvious technical problems, so [shrug emoji]. (ht Marginal Revolution)
A very promising experiment from the University of Michigan that got a bunch of high-achieving, low-income students to apply and enroll, by using a simple cheap intervention that encouraged them to apply and made it clear that they could afford it. (ht Meghan) I think this is awesome. Ok, I’m far from an expert on this stuff. But from what little I’ve read, I’ve long had the sense that there are lots of great students out there who don’t ever apply to places like Michigan (or my own alma mater, Williams College) because they mistakenly believe they wouldn’t get in or wouldn’t be able to afford it. And I’ve long had the sense that “top” public and private colleges and universities could do more to correct those widespread mistaken impressions. Not that there’s anything wrong with not applying to Michigan or Williams or wherever if you don’t want to! But everybody ought to be put in position to make an informed choice from the full range of options.
Related to the previous link: when and why did competition for admission to “top” US colleges and universities first get so fierce? Has it gotten more fierce recently? Here’s a deep dive into the answers. As the cliche goes, (some of) the answers will surprise you. I disagree with some of the author’s interpretations, but I learned a lot from the piece.
Andrew Gelman compiles some reviews of Deborah Mayo’s new philosophy of statistics book. Here’s my old summary of Mayo’s ideas, which had a big influence on how I think about statistics.
Scholars have made their entire careers out of finding problems within what is perceived to be settled knowledge. They carve out that tiny bubble at the edge of what we know, and they focus all of their ample energies and intelligence on precisely defining, or redefining that small issue. Gather a hundred of these people together, and give them a policy to review. You think that’s going to go well?
I leave it to Meghan to decide if this qualifies as a video for teaching ecology. 🙂