Also this week: there’s no such thing as very old people, the USDA vs. science, betting on replication, Ecography switches to author-pays OA, diversity vs. groupthink, and more. Lots of good stuff this week!
Michelle Smith and Natasha Holmes at Cornell are recruiting a postdoc who will “take a leading role in the design and evaluation of a new assessment for students’ critical thinking skills in ecology lab and field courses”. I think having that assessment would be really neat (and am on the advisory board for the project), so wanted to make sure folks know about the position! Here’s the link to the full job ad.
Are supercentarians mostly superfrauds? Usually we think of removing untrustworthy observations from your data as something you do before you do statistics. But here’s an interesting example of using statistics to detect untrustworthy observations. Good fodder for an intro biostats course, I’ve added it to my list of statistical vignettes.
Sticking with Andrew Gelman, this looks fun: predict which of thousands of social and behavioral science experiments will replicate. 200 of the candidate experiments will then be randomly selected for a preregistered replication. If your predictions are accurate enough to place you in the top 500 contestants, you win money! Prediction markets have previously been shown to predict the outcomes of preregistered replications in psychology, but this looks like by far the biggest such prediction market yet. Based on previous prediction market results, my understanding is that “bet against priming studies” is one good rule of thumb. I continue to be fascinated watching the norms and practices of psychologists change so fast.
Speaking of confronting beliefs with data…The Gates Foundation just spent 5 years and $500 million dollars, in 3 big US school districts and four charter school organizations, to measure teaching effectiveness, help teachers improve, and take teaching effectiveness into account in teacher hiring, firing, and promotion. The result of which was…precisely zero student improvement. Kudos to the Gates Foundation for doing this and not burying or soft-pedaling the results. Anyway, the lesson I take away from this as a teacher is that I should teach as best I can, but not be too hard on myself if whatever pedagogical changes I implement don’t seem to make a difference to student mastery of the material. Because what I do in the classroom is only one among many factors affecting learning outcomes, and often far from the most important one. (UPDATE: Brian read the report, and knows a lot about the broader issues here. See his great comments.)
Lord’s paradox. If you’re testing for a difference between a treatment and a control in terms of their effects on weight gain, should you do an ANCOVA on final weight, with initial weight as a covariate? Or should you first calculate weight gain/loss for each subject and then test for a difference in mean weight gain between treatments? The two approaches don’t always give the same answer! So what’s the right approach? Statistician Stephen Senn does a deep dive into a simple-seeming but tricky inferential problem.
ESA President Laura Huenneke on ESA’s increasing efforts to fundraise from members, to support ecology students and for other goals.
Athene Donald on diversity vs. groupthink.
Longtime USDA crop plant physiologist Lewis Ziska has quit, because department officials questioned his work on the consequences of climate change for rice nutrient content and tried to minimize publicity surrounding the paper.
Tell me again what exactly “tenure” is, and whether British academics have it? And how exactly does “tenure” (whatever it is) map onto “job security”? Useful piece both for British and non-British academics. I knew most of this, having done a postdoc in London, but I’m guessing it will be news to many of you. And even I didn’t realize just how much the details varied among British universities. (ht Jeff Ollerton)
Matthew Holden with a bunch of tips for organizing an inclusive academic conference. Includes a new (to me) way to encourage attendees to not only go to the poster session, but visit many posters.
An experimental approach to understanding why statistical methods behave as they do. Unreviewed preprint; looks interesting. (ht Andrew Gelman)
I hadn’t realized that genome sequencing costs stopped plummeting years ago. (ht Marginal Revolution)
Ecography is switching to author-pays OA; here’s the accompanying editorial from the editors. I have a bunch of thoughts and questions:
- It’s striking that the editorial board is going along with this change only reluctantly.
- It sounds like the main (?) motivation for the change is to align the journal with Plan S, on the assumption that Plan S is going to pass in some form. My sense from conversations with people who know better than me is that NSF and NIH are very much not on board with Plan S (anyone heard differently?). And I haven’t heard anything about the Tricouncil agencies in Canada joining Plan S (again, anyone heard differently?). So it looks like there is a bifurcation in scientific publishing coming, with Europe going one way and N. America another. No idea which way funding agencies outside N. America and Europe are leaning.
- It’s interesting that Ecography will offer discounts on the OA fee to people who review for the journal. That’s a single-journal, real-money version of Owen Petchey’s and my old idea of PubCreds. And of course, many others before and after us have independently proposed variants on this idea.
- Ecography also will offer discounts on the OA fee to anyone without the means to pay, though few details are provided. I wonder if that would include me? I have a research grant that could in principle be used to pay OA fees; I’ve used it to do so in the past. But if I say (truthfully!) that at the moment all the remaining money is already committed to pay research costs, would I qualify for an OA fee discount?
- Between the discount for authors without means to pay, discounts for reviewers, and the fact that Ecography is a fairly selective journal, I wonder how the economics of this are going to work out. You can’t get OA fees from rejected papers or discounts. Which is why the OA fees at other selective journals are sky high, and why discounts at other selective journals often are designed so that few authors qualify for them. I guess Ecography’s relying heavily on Plan S passing in Europe, so that European authors won’t qualify for discounts due to inability to pay? Or maybe some of the discounts won’t be very big?
- Ecography is only one of multiple Nordic Society Oikos journals, all of which the society contracts with Wiley to publish and distribute. So I don’t quite grok why the editorial says that “subscription income from Ecography is insufficient to cover the costs of publication.” How can they isolate the subscription income and publication costs of Ecography from those of Oikos and the other Nordic Society Oikos journals?
There may now be life on the moon. Specifically, dormant tardigrades. At least when I drop a culture vessel in my lab, the microbes just end up on the floor, not on the moon. 🙂 The linked story contains some eye-opening (to me) information about private space rocket…hobbyists? Entrepreneurs? Visionaries? Cowboys? I’m not sure what the right word is, honestly. Question: is there any governing legal framework here, or is anybody with enough money free to launch whatever payloads they want to the moon? In the comments, tell us: if you could afford it, what would you launch to the moon? 🙂 +1000 Internet Points for funny/interesting answers. (ht @dandrezner)
And finally, ending on a serious note, I know this is way outside our usual domain, and linking to it feels a bit like an empty gesture in the wake of the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. But here’s rituals of childhood.