Friday links: #pruittdata rolls on, philosophy vs. Jeremy’s papers, Kate Winslett vs. Mary Anning, and more

Also this week: ESA award nominations sought, the half-life of The Spice Girls, and more.

From Jeremy:

Another week, another two Expressions of Concern for Jonathan Pruitt. Well, they actually came out on Aug. 10, but I missed them at the time. One is for Pruitt et al. 2012 Functional Ecology. The other is for Pruitt 2010 Functional Ecology. No details provided, merely says that concerns have been raised about the validity of the data, and that the University of Tennessee is investigating. Those papers date from Pruitt’s time as a graduate student at Tennessee. In the unlikely event that you are new to the #pruittdata saga, see here for background.

Yale law professor Jed Rubenfeld has been suspended for two years for a track record of serial sexual harassment going back many years.

ESA award nominations are due Oct. 22. You should nominate someone, or ask someone to nominate you! Seriously–there are lots of ecologists out there doing excellent work in the many areas that the ESA awards recognize. They ought to be recognized! 🙂 Writing a nomination letter isn’t difficult (it’s actually fun!), and it gets quicker and easier with practice. And don’t worry about being a burden to others by asking them to nominate you for an award–whoever you ask is almost certainly happy to do it, and doesn’t see it as a burden or a big favor. Like most all scientific society awards, the ESA awards are not overwhelmed with nominations. All nominations are appreciated by, and get a careful look from, the relevant awards subcommittee. And you have no idea who else will be nominated, so don’t fall into the trap of trying to guess whether your nomination would be “competitive”. That’s just your brain trying to find an excuse not to submit a nomination. As the chair of the Mercer Award subcommittee, I know I speak for everyone on every awards subcommittee when I say that we want the ESA awards to reflect the full diversity and excellence of ecologists and the work they’re doing (not just research, but outreach, service, and more). We can only achieve that if we get a lot of nominations. Looking forward to receiving yours! Related: here’s some advice from Richard Primack, Pamela Templer, and me on how to write a good nomination letter, and more broadly about why awards are worth giving and worth seeking.

Adrian Currie with a new philosophy paper about the value of laboratory microcosm experiments in community ecology, even if the results can’t be extrapolated to field systems. Fact check: true. Related: my old defense of microcosms in ecology. Not sure who needs to hear Adrian, or me, tho. The microcosm wars ended long ago, and the microcosmologists won.

James Cook University has concluded its investigation into researchers who were accused of misconduct related to multiple high-profile papers on lionfish ecology, finding them not guilty. One of the researchers concerned is Oona Lönnstedt, who was at JCU at the time, and previously was found guilty of misconduct by Uppsala University for fabricating the data in a 2017 Science paper. See the first link in this paragraph for criticism of the JCU investigation from ecologist Dominique Roche. I haven’t followed this story closely. But just based on the news articles I’ve read and my own professional scientific judgment, I share Dominque Roche’s concerns about the rigor and thoroughness of this investigation.

Ever wonder how long it takes before a hit song is mostly forgotten? And how much song-to-song variance there is around the typical half-life? Well, whether you have or not, here are the answers for the songs that I used to listen to back in the day. Just eyeballing the data, it looks to me like if you want your song to be remembered forever, you should make sure it either becomes a wedding reception staple (“I Will Always Love You”, “Macarena”, “Jump Around”, “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, “Gonna Make You Sweat”) or is used in a popular animated movie (“All Star”, “A Whole New World”). Of course, there’s the songs that will be remembered, and the ones that should be remembered. Glad to see we’ve all collectively decided to forget that Meat Loaf, Milli Vanilli, Right Said Fred, and Wilson Phillips ever existed. On the other hand, you youngsters have decided, in your collective wisdom, to remember “Achy Breaky Heart” and memory hole “Give Me One Reason”. Good job everyone. 😦

Here’s the trailer for Ammonite, a forthcoming Oscar contender starring Kate Winslett as Victorian paleontologist Mary Anning. The film features Anning in a lesbian romance. Maybe by November the pandemic will be sufficiently under control here in Calgary that I’ll feel comfortable putting on a mask and going to see this (hope springs eternal…) Related: this fun old post and comment thread on the best movies about scientists.

In other scientific movie news, Nature reviews the new Tesla biopic starring Ethan Hawke.

18 thoughts on “Friday links: #pruittdata rolls on, philosophy vs. Jeremy’s papers, Kate Winslett vs. Mary Anning, and more

  1. Thanks for this update! I notice that the same author is involved in both the mentioned #pruittdata expression of concern and the investigated Lonnstedt #perchgate lionfish papers. Surprising connection!

  2. “The film features Anning in a lesbian romance.”

    So it’s not possible to have a historically accurate depiction of the life of a 19th century female scientist without the writers inventing facts about their love life? Sometimes I despair of Hollywood.

    • I mean, I guess if you’re in the market for a historically accurate Anning biopic, this probably isn’t the movie for you. But if you’re in the market for historical fiction, this might be just the movie for you.

      It’s a gradient, right? From rigorously fact-checked documentaries, to accurate-as-possible biopics, (which have to invent dialogue, etc.), to biopics that take a few liberties with the facts to heighten the drama, to historical fiction that contains many real people and events, to historical fiction that has real people and events only in supporting roles, to fiction that includes real people and events but makes no pretense to historical accuracy (think “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”). You’re going to be disappointed if you’re looking for a movie at one place on the gradient, and go to see a movie at another place on the gradient.

      Of course, you could be disappointed for other reasons too. I’m thinking back to “Creation”, which I thought was bad. It took a lot of liberties with the facts, but that wasn’t why I didn’t like it. I just didn’t think it was very effective as drama; I think it never found an effective way to dramatize inner turmoil.

      So we’ll see when it comes to Ammonite! Kate Winslett is great, so I have high hopes that the movie will be watchable regardless of the writing. And trailers sometimes are misleading, sometimes deliberately so. Who knows, maybe the lesbian romance is just a subplot that the trailer plays up to try to draw a bigger audience?

      p.s. This is an indie film, so it shouldn’t cause you to despair of Hollywood.

      • I stand corrected, I despair of indie film makers. I get your point about a gradient of accuracy and I have no problem with jazzing up a story for the sake of dramatic or comedic effect. But adding in a fictitious lesbian relationship, or indeed an intimate relationship of any kind, in the absence of any evidence, just seems unnecessary. But I’ll reserve judgement until I see the movie.

  3. On the subject of historical characters in movies, one may wonder why I spent a day last week in front of a green screen dressed as Charles Bradlaugh MP, who famously asked Darwin to be a character witness at his trial for obscenity after publishing a pamphlet on birth control (Darwin refused):

    • Yes, I just saw that a few minutes ago myself! It’s…interesting. 🙂 (Before anyone asks: yes, I have a guess who did it. No, I’m not going to share my guess.) Already have an item about it in next week’s linkfest.

      Also in the next linkfest are the two new Pruitt retractions/EoCs that dropped this afternoon. Journals seem to have learned what many other businesses and governments already know: the best time to report bad news is Friday afternoon, because fewer people will notice it.

  4. As someone who moonlights as a wedding DJ, I can proudly say I’ve never once played any of those songs you listed, nor have guests ever requested them!

  5. “And don’t worry about being a burden to others by asking them to nominate you for an award–whoever you ask is almost certainly happy to do it, and doesn’t see it as a burden or a big favor”

    That’s a surprising take. Or at least subtly different from my own experience.
    I am not talking about any particular award, but nominations in general. In the two instances I have personally discussed award nominations (as a potential recipient of an award myself), it has indeed not been too hard to find someone who would happily nominate me.
    BUT in both cases, I was asked to write the nomination letter myself. The same thing has happened with reference letters for faculty positions.

    So when you say people are happy to do it, do you mean they are happy to actually write the letter? Or that they are happy to have the nominee write it, and then put their name under it?

    Every time I have to write a reference or nomination letter for myself I throw up in my mouth a little bit…

    • Hmm. Sorry to hear that. All I can say is that your experience has been different than my own and that of my friends. (Obviously, “me and my friends” is a small and very non-random sample of the world…) I always ask people for whom I’m writing letters for as much relevant info as they can give me, so that I can write the most specific letter possible. But it never occurred to me to ask them to write the letters themselves! (not even first drafts that I’d edit)

      Gotta say that I don’t think a letter you write yourself would be as effective as a good one written by someone else.

      Maybe we need a poll on people’s experiences on this.

      • Completely agree that a self-written letter can only go so far. And I dread the day when all 3-4 referees for the same position ask me to write my own letter. That will take a bit of creativity!

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