Also this week: questioning whether tweets lead to citations, COVID-19 vs. scientific societies, and more.
The Magic School Bus author Joanna Cole passed away earlier this week. She was 75. Countless kids, including my own, learned a ton of science from those books and the associated cartoon series. Schoolteacher Ms. Frizzle is one of the great creations of children’s literature, and I’m sure will long outlive her creator. RIP Joanna Cole, you will be much missed.
Ashlea Morgan on (re)claiming scientific identity. Eloquent piece that will resonate with many.
Ed Yong on what happens if there’s a second pandemic in the US before the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
The posthumous reckoning with the legacy of hugely-influential psychologist Hans Eyesenck, who’s been credibly accused of serial fraud.
96 bargaining unit faculty positions at the University of Akron have been permanently eliminated. This is on top of 77 recent voluntary retirements or resignations among full time faculty, if I’ve done my math right. Dozens of staff and contractor positions have also been permanently eliminated. My uni’s undergoing major cuts too, though so far faculty positions haven’t been eliminated except via voluntary retirements or resignations. The same very sad story seems likely to be repeated in many places in the months and years to come.
Recently, I linked to a randomized experiment showing that new papers that are widely tweeted subsequently get cited more often than papers that aren’t. But Phil Davis took a close look at the paper (which I didn’t do), and has a bunch of questions. He couldn’t find tweets for many of the papers that purportedly were tweeted, the authors didn’t provide the data despite repeated requests (the journal has no data sharing policy), and some of the statistical analyses are at best poorly explained and at worst wrong. Phil subsequently put in additional work to reconstruct and reanalyze the dataset himself. Turns out that the papers used in the study don’t match what’s claimed in the methods (the methods claimed that reviews and editorials were excluded, but actually they comprised 16% of the papers!) And there’s actually no significant difference between tweeted and non-tweeted papers in terms of how often they’ve been cited in the 2+ years since publication, not even close. Oh, and one of papers included in the study was an editorial that the lead author published in…three different journals. In light of all this, I regret linking to this paper when it first came out. It sure looks to me like I fell for clickbait. I should’ve either looked at it more closely before linking to it, or used better heuristics to decide whether it was worth linking to. It’s too sloppy a paper to take seriously. But it’s too late now. The paper said something that a lot of people on social media wanted to hear, or at least found interesting, so it got shared widely. It’s too late for the serious doubts that have now been raised to get much traction. Someone should redo this randomized experiment properly, and report the results properly.