Friday links: junk science then and now, so you suddenly have to teach online for the rest of the term, and more

Also this week: party debate “objectivity” in science like it’s 1999, the latest on Jonathan Pruitt, funding open access publication, and more.

From Jeremy:

Jonathan Pruitt’s lawyers have written to journals in which he published, insisting that they shouldn’t retract any more of Pruitt’s papers until McMaster University finishes its investigation of Pruitt for misconduct. Apparently, the letters also tell the recipients…not to discuss the existence or content of the letters. Pruitt also says he can’t provide datasets that aren’t already publicly available to journals wishing to investigate his papers, because…the journals are communicating with each other. As Ecology Letters EiC Tim Coulson notes, this reason for not providing the data does not exactly inspire confidence. Pruitt continues to deny misconduct.

Andrew Gelman on junk science then and now. Argues that, in the mid-20th century, the important junk science mostly came from the fringe (shamelessly self-promotional aside: see my reviews of The Pseudoscience Wars and How the Hippies Saved Physics for more on mid-20th century fringe science). Now it comes from prominent, mainstream scientists and leading journals, for reasons Gelman discusses. Very interesting argument.

Here’s Richard Rorty’s 1999 review of Ian Hacking’s The Social Construction of What? If you want to read something intelligent about “objectivity” in science, that’s not inspired by the latest silly Sokal-type hoax or the latest trollish Richard Dawkins tweet, you should go read it. And you should read Hacking’s book too; I read it back when it first came out, it’s very good. (ht @jtlevy)

100 long-term social and economic trends, in graphs. This is fascinating. (ht Andrew Gelman)

Interesting news article in Science on new funding models for open access publishing.

I’m a couple of days late to this, but Rich Lenski has decided to shut his lab and temporarily halt his famed Long-Term Evolution Experiment due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Experienced online instructor Paige Harden with some tips for any college or university instructor who’s suddenly been obliged to teach their course(s) online for the remainder of the term due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I have to say, her first tweet in that series is surely both correct, and daunting. I appreciate her suggestions, and her encouragement to embrace and enjoy the challenge of teaching online, I really do. Positive encouragement is very welcome right now! But speaking for myself, and I bet for a lot of other people who’ve never taught online-only, the idea of quickly doing the large amount of new prep required to suddenly convert the last 5 weeks worth of my big class to a decent video-based online version does not seem like a good time investment for me. It doesn’t even seem likely to reveal to me whether I might want to go towards more video-based online teaching in future. So I hope everyone will be understanding of instructors who feel daunted at the prospect of having to suddenly teach in a totally new way, and who decide not to go all-in on videos or whatever. Please don’t judge any prof who decides that, all things considered, the best way for them and their students to deal with the cancellation of on-campus classes is different than your way. You don’t know everything there is to know about any other instructor’s circumstances, so you’re in no position to judge them. This is a time when it’s especially important that we all be supportive and understanding of each other. Anyway, here are a few other suggestions and anecdata from Jeremy Pressman. In the comments, please do share your own advice and experiences, and links to resources you found useful for suddenly switching in-person classes to online-only.

And finally, the humorous version of the previous links, because we could all use a laugh right now:


14 thoughts on “Friday links: junk science then and now, so you suddenly have to teach online for the rest of the term, and more

  1. When you’ve invested 30+ years and are 70,000 generations into an experiment like the LTEE, a temporary delay is nothing. Another reminder that the ability to freeze and revive our study organism is at least as important as the speed with which they reproduce. Take care, everyone.

  2. I feel this, and my uni’s on-campus classes aren’t even cancelled*. 🙂

    *Well, they’re cancelled today, but as of this moment they’re supposed to resume Monday.

    • That post is completely on target (although worth noting it is NSFW and likely will offend some people with its language).

      As long as you stick to what you reasonably believe is true and do not violate any commitment to silence which you actively agreed to there is no basis for telling somebody else “you cannot repeat what I just told you”. Saying “I received out of the blue this letter from attorney so and so” is way far over the line into safety on both of those fronts!

      • Yes, the language in that linked post is very strong–numerous strong obscenities and some crude jokes. Apologies, should’ve noted that up front.

  3. So if you’re wondering what the British government might be thinking in its unique approach to COVID-19, see here for one hypothesis:

  4. The lawyering up by Jonathan Pruitt reminds me to a quote from Paul Brookes, author of (‘Internet publicity of data problems in the bioscience literature correlates with enhanced corrective action’).

    “Threateners of libel suits have a tendency to deflect the argument toward the hyperbole, the specifics of the delivery, while failing to realize that simply addressing the underlying facts would make the problem go away. If someone criticizes your work, instead of getting hung up on what names they called you while doing so, concentrate on the data. (that is, of course, if you actually have a case of any substance based on real data). Real scientists, when challenged, reach out for the lab-book, not to the lawyer or the image-management consultant.” (Paul Brookes).

    The lawyering up by Jonathan Pruitt reminds me as well to a quote from Philip Moriarty in an e-mail to me dated 2 October 2015):

    “Anyone who gets lawyers involved in a dispute about scientific results is not a scientist. (I can think of many different names, but “scientist” isn’t among them).” (Philip Moriarty)

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