Also this week: NEON vs. ecology, the death (?) of megajournals, the fox knows many things (like how to walk), and more.
Will NEON kill ecology? That’s the clickbait title of a very detailed and damning blow-by-blow history of NEON. I know nothing about NEON besides what I read in the news, so I have no context for this. Based on what little I know, I agree with the main claim–NEON has so far been a failure and looks likely to continue to be a failure, or at least a suboptimal use of NSF’s money. I would quibble with a few of the details (e.g., the notion that it’s scandalous that NEON Inc. spent a trivial amount of money on t-shirts with the NEON logo). And I disagree with the claim that if only NSF and ecologists hadn’t forgotten what a failure the IBP was, they’d never have started NEON. History does have lessons for us, but they’re never as straightforward as “anything that resembles the IBP is a waste of money” or “if it’s not hypothesis testing, it’s not worth doing”. After all, lots of people complained that the Human Genome Project was going to be an expensive, useless exercise in hypothesis-free data collection. And while the Human Genome Project was never going to live up to the more grandiose claims made for it–that it would cure cancer or whatever–I think it’s hard to argue that it was a waste of money. Very interested to hear comments from folks who know more about NEON than I do, particularly regarding the linked article’s claim that NEON was foisted on ecologists by NSF.
An overview of forthcoming changes to the ESA annual meeting. In general, I think the ESA meeting organizers do a very good job of trying new things at the meeting. The change that caught my eye is that next year in Salt Lake City the meeting will return to 15 minute time slots for oral presentations. That’s what it was back when I started attending ESA meetings back in the late ’90s, and it makes a lot of sense. Personally, I love this change, though I know the membership is split on it. I was interested to read that part of the motivation for this change is so that more conference centers are willing to host ESA. Apparently some conference centers don’t like hosting conferences with many parallel sessions relative to the overall size of the meeting. In 2020 ESA also will start charging $60 for all oral presentations, which if I understand correctly will be non-refundable and in addition to the meeting registration fee (is that right?). The goal is to encourage some people to give posters instead of talks. Other scientific societies do this, and in parallel with this change ESA is going to make some other tweaks to increase attendance and interaction at poster sessions (though personally I feel like ESA’s poster sessions are already well-attended and have lots of interaction…). But I predict the fee is going to be controversial in some quarters. It’s going to be viewed by some members as forcing students and others of less financial means to give posters rather than more “prestigious” talks.
Open access author-pays megajournals that evaluate mss only for technical soundness are declining in influence and impact by various bibliometrics. I knew that Plos One was declining but hadn’t realized that other unselective megajournals are showing similar symptoms. Most interesting to me was that papers in unselective megajournals are increasingly unlikely to cite (not just be cited by) papers in leading selective journals. (ht Retraction Watch)
A brief statistical history of ecology doctorates in the UK. Or at least of the word “ecology” in UK doctoral dissertation titles and abstracts.
The Democratic primary field as academic history department. 🙂 (ht @jtlevy)