Also this week: fighting over frequency, the challenges of writing public-facing scholarship, citizen squirrel science, T. rex gets a PhD, and more.
Stephen Heard with a blog post about a very nice and important paper on which he’s a co-author, that grew out of a previous blog post of his. The previous post suggested, and the subsequent paper shows, that many species that have been monitored over time may appear to be declining in abundance not because they actually are declining, but because of regression to the mean. If species’ abundances vary in time and space (without any long-term trend in time), but you only start monitoring them at the times and places where they’re most abundant, you’re going to tend to see declines in abundance. Nice example of using a blog post to put an interesting, provocative idea out there quickly, get feedback on it, and then use that feedback to guide further research that firms up the idea. I’ve done the same thing myself a couple of times (example), with a third in press. Will have to add Stephen’s paper to my list of statistical vignettes for teaching intro biostats. Also, +1 to the paper’s authors for working in “purple-snouted crompus”. 🙂 Now I want every ecology paper that involves a hypothetical example to give that example a ridiculous name. I claim “Mortimer’s Snerd” for my next hypothetical species. Well, unless I need a hypothetical example of a declining or extinct species, in which case I claim “ambiguous pazuma“.
Artem Kaznatcheev reports on what sounds like a very interesting talk by philosopher of science Karen Kovaka. Who observes that heated scientific debates over a seemingly straightforward empirical question–“How frequent is X?”–generally don’t get resolved. Usually they just peter out. Now I really, really want to see the paper when it comes out so that I can dive into this.
A takedown of how sexual harassment is (not) addressed in the workplace. Focuses on corporate workplaces but applies to academia too. (ht Brian)
Political scientist and FiveThirtyEight writer Julia Azari on the challenges of writing “public-facing scholarship” on venues like Twitter and FiveThirtyEight. Particularly when you–and the publication for which you’re writing–openly adopt a particular political point of view. Curious to hear if this resonates with folks who write about ecological research in a public-facing way. I’m thinking for instance of ecologists’ public-facing writings about the recent “Insectageddon” controversy. (ht @jtlevy)
Vaguely related to the previous: what, if anything, should (or can) researchers do about the fact that, when they tweet out a brief summary of a paper (often accompanied by a single figure, or a screenshot of the abstract or conclusions), hardly anybody clicks through and reads the actual paper? Is that a good thing on balance? After all, it’s probably a few more people than would’ve read the paper otherwise. Or is it a bad thing on balance? Because if a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, the tweet probably greatly increased the number of people who only have a little knowledge. And yes, one absolutely could ask the same questions about our linkfest entries…
Attention Stephen Heard: citizen scientists see squirrels. 🙂 This is interesting as well as amusing. The project seems to have started as a joke, and the founder still emphasizes that it’s a way of “telling a story” rather than a scientific study. But yet, the project volunteers seem to have put a lot of effort into collecting detailed, high-quality data, and the data will be publicly released. So, is it science or not? Or is that the wrong question to ask? (ht Matt Levine)
And finally: T. rex gets a PhD. 😛 😛 😛
LOLsob at this McSweeney’s advice on how to chair an academic committee. (More seriously: there are resources about how to run meetings, set agendas, etc. If you will be chairing a committee or running meetings, please read them!) (Jeremy adds: Brian spent a decade in the business world. He knows how to run a meeting. Here’s his post on how to do it.)