Also this week: modern dance vs. being judgmental, a new climate change novel, Jonathan Pruitt’s latest retraction, our commenters vs. xkcd, and more.
Advice from a former NSERC Discovery Grant panelist in computer science about how to write your grant application. Gets to the heart of the matter and generalizes beyond computer science or the NSERC Discovery Grant program. Reminiscent of my old post on good and bad reasons for choosing a research project. (ht Marginal Revolution)
Stephen Heard talks about the importance of being slow to judge others as only Stephen Heard can. (Meghan adds: I loved this post!)
Neuroskeptic on the Jonathan Pruitt situation. Add Neuroskeptic to the growing number of people frankly stating their view that Pruitt fabricated data. The post goes on to note a striking similarity between the Pruitt case and past cases of scientific fraud (specifically, the Stapel case and the Schön case). Related: my recent post summarizing the available data on the prevalence and causes of scientific misconduct.
Speaking of retractions…the Retraction Watch story on the recent retraction of a Nature paper on deforestation and stream flow includes a nice quote from the person who discovered the errors that led to the retraction:
I know the reviewers, and they’re smart people. … It just can be really hard to catch some of these issues without doing a lot more digging than one can realistically expect reviewers to do. The flaws look obvious once you see them, but you *do* need to see them, and there’s some work involved in proving that they are really there. If I were a reviewer I wouldn’t want to say, “I can’t really figure out what’s wrong but it shouldn’t be published because it just doesn’t smell right”, and as an author I wouldn’t want reviewers saying that either.
In this particular case, the system ultimately worked; when the authors saw that there were substantial problems, they decided to retract the paper (and we’re even still on good terms, too).
I especially like the bit about “the flaws look obvious once you see them”. The cliche “hindsight is 20:20 vision” is a cliche for a good reason–it’s very true. Often, the answer to the question, “How could the reviewers not have spotted this obvious flaw in this now-retracted paper?!” is, “It only seems obvious once it’s pointed out.”
Speaking of hindsight being 20:20 vision…96% of non-preregistered psychology papers report data supporting the stated scientific hypothesis. The corresponding number for preregistered papers is only 44%. I wonder how much of this is because of HARKing (“hypothesizing after results are known”). I recall in an old linkfest (sorry, can’t find it now), we linked to an interesting analysis of the business/accounting literature, comparing people’s dissertations to the peer-reviewed papers arising from those dissertations. The papers supported the stated hypotheses way more often than the dissertations did, because hypotheses that weren’t supported in the dissertations got replaced by different hypotheses in the subsequent papers.
Students: don’t worry that someone will steal your research ideas. Ideas are cheap. It’s completed work that gets stolen.
New working paper (=unreviewed preprint) looks at the consequences of the “Kalamazoo Promise”. In 2005 an anonymous wealthy donor offered to pay the cost of attendance at select colleges and universities for any student who attended a particular public school district in Kalamazoo, MI continuously for at least 4 years before graduating high school. Before clicking through, see if you can guess what the consequences were. Note that I only skimmed the paper very quickly, so you’ll need to evaluate it for yourself; just passing the link along if you are interested. (ht @noahpinion)
17 year old birdwatcher, naturalist, and environmental activist Mya-Rose Craig, aka “Birdgirl”, is set to become the youngest honorary doctorate recipient in British history. She is being honored for work to involve children from ethnic minority backgrounds in conservation.
A review of Weather, a new climate change novel that may interest some of you.
And finally: lizard art. 🙂
I liked a lot of things about this piece, and Stephen Heard did a better job of summarizing it than I did, so I’m going to go with his summary:
(Jeremy adds: I really liked this piece too. Had me recalling this related link from a while back, an interview with Alexis Shotwell about her book Against Purity)