Friday links: do blind orchestra auditions really benefit women, advice vs. coaching, machine learning vs. eggnog, and more

Also this week: “carry on” vs. “mad dash” ecology, best tweet ever (Manuscript Central edition), Game of Thrones vs. baby names, philosophy musical, salary disclosure vs. the gender pay gap in academia, who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf randomized experiments, and more. Lots of good stuff this week!

From Jeremy:

Charlie Krebs with an astute post on two possible ways in which ecologists can respond to climate change in their own research: “carry on regardless” and “mad dash”. Really, they’re two ends of a continuum, as Krebs notes. Related old post from Meghan.

Here’s something everybody (including me) knows: blind orchestra auditions massively benefit women, who would otherwise be severely discriminated against in unblinded auditions. But most everybody who knows that, including me, knows it because they heard it from a secondary source. Andrew Gelman goes back and reads the original paper and finds that it’s comprised entirely of small, noisy, non-significant effect size estimates, some of which are in the opposite direction from what everybody “knows”. But don’t just take my, or his, word for it, read the original for yourself. I did, and…yeah, it’s not especially convincing, although you need to allow for the fact that that the effect size they’re testing for might well be too small to easily detect (which doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking for or doesn’t matter, of course!). And like Gelman, I struggled to figure out how the authors got the huge effect sizes stated in their concluding summary. Those huge claimed effect sizes are what always get quoted in secondary sources summarizing this paper, and are why this paper is so widely known. None of this means that orchestra auditions shouldn’t be blinded, of course. There are good reasons why they should be, and no good reason why they shouldn’t be. Still mulling over what, if any, general lessons ought to be drawn from all this. Maybe one is: be clear and careful in how you summarize your results, because that summary is the only thing anyone besides the reviewers will ever read or hear about.

The latest on Plan S and major scientific publishers’ responses to it.

A news article on climate scientists who refrain from flying. Related old guest post.

The gender pay gap is closing among full time Canadian academics, in part because of provincial laws requiring public disclosure of (some) salaries. Pay disclosure laws reduce the gender gap primarily because they slow the growth rate of the annual salaries of highly paid male faculty. (ht @noahpinion)

Thematically related to the previous link: NSERC (the main federal funding agency for non-biomedical basic scientific research in Canada) has a new grant program that “supports the adaptation and implementation of evidence-based organizational and systemic change strategies by Canadian post-secondary institutions to foster [equity, diversity and inclusion]” in Canadian post-secondary research.

Are people–even those with science degrees–generally uneasy with randomized experiments? If so, why? Interesting (and disturbing) possibility, I want to think and learn more about it. Note that I haven’t read the underlying paper, of which the link is merely a summary. Don’t take the summary as gospel without reading the paper yourself!

Against advice. Speaking as a youth baseball coach, I don’t think “coaching” was the best word choice for the linked piece. A lot of coaching is actually what the linked post calls “instructions”. But the broader point of the post is right, I think.

How to get more voice into scientific writing. I particularly like the suggestion that authors just go ahead and experiment with a bit more personal voice in their own writing, rather than self-censoring on the assumption that the reviewers want dry, voice-free writing. Sure, maybe the reviewers will make you remove your personal voice–but maybe they won’t! And even they make you remove it, they’re not going to reject your paper because of it.

Accounting identities and the implicit assumption of inertia. I find this interesting because ecology, evolution, and statistics also have accounting identities, which sometimes get misinterpreted.  But I never see them misinterpreted in the specific way that economics accounting identities often are.

SciMeter lets you create your own customized indices of scientific productivity, collaboration, and topical focus. So far it only works for papers and authors on arXiv.

How the common probability distributions relate to one another. Good teaching resource for intro biostats.


Recently discovered optical illusion: curvature blindness. (ht @felixsalmon)

Bird conservation: the board game. Link goes to a review.

A Theory of Justice: The Musical. Yes, really, apparently. In the comments, tell us: what ecological or evolutionary theory would you like to see form the basis for a musical? No picking Darwin’s theory of evolution, that’s already a musical. (ht Marginal Revolution)

Protip: don’t name your newborn after a character in a tv show that hasn’t ended yet. 🙂 Link goes to a series of cool graphs of baby name frequencies over time. Time series of US baby name frequencies seem like fun data sets for data nerds to play with. Interesting mix of frequency dependence, among-group differences, one-off events, and long-term trends.

The opposite of eggnog is a terrifying site to behold.” 🙂 (ht Matt Levine)


5 thoughts on “Friday links: do blind orchestra auditions really benefit women, advice vs. coaching, machine learning vs. eggnog, and more

  1. “authors just go ahead and experiment with a bit more personal voice in their own writing ”

    Bad idea. Write clearly and simply. But your personality as a scientist isn’t useful or beneficial to the advancement of knowledge. Keep a journal or start a blog if you want to express yourself.

    • A bit of color does no harm to clarity. Indeed, often it can aid clarity, for instance by driving home the most important point to the reader. And many readers prefer a bit of color.

      • “it can aid clarity”

        🙂 Pretty soon you’ll all be talking like Trump and NPR will be taking everything you say literally.

  2. Just regarding the manuscript central password issue, I have my own solution (maybe something like this has been mentioned on twitter, i haven’t looked). Although it risks making me easier to hack (but really, who cares?) I’ll share it.

    I use the same template that then includes something like the journal abbreviation in the password. The template uses hard-to-guess words, symbols and numbers (or may be it doesn’t…), so the template itself would function as a good password. But then it becomes unique for each journal website. As far as I can see, this is as safe as a single strong password, but flexible and easy to remember. Perhaps you want to use your own rule for changing the password between websites, but all you need to do is remember the rule, not the unique passwords, and it should be hard to forget.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.