Also this week: the story of Roger Arliner Young, why hasn’t the NAS kicked out any confirmed sexual harassers yet, data for democracy, and more
Sad news: Charles Goodnight has passed away, following a stroke a few years ago that led to lingering health issues. He was an important and original evolutionary thinker. He developed an unconventional perspective on the importance of group selection in evolution, through a combination of theory, experiments, and new analytical methods such as “contextual analysis”. He maintained an occasional blog for many years, spelling out his evolutionary ideas in an accessible and entertaining way. He wasn’t a prolific author, but became influential anyway because many of the papers he did write were deep and thoughtful, even philosophical. I never met him, to my regret. Perhaps others who knew him better than me will share their remembrances in the comments.
The story of Roger Arliner Young, the first black woman to hold a US doctorate in zoology, and the first black woman to publish a paper in Science. She accomplished a tremendous amount, not just as a scientific researcher but also as a teacher and labor organizer. But her research career ultimately was derailed by the sexist norms and racist laws of the time, and by those who were in a position to support her had they chosen to do so. Long read that’s well worth your time.
Over a year ago, the US National Academy of Sciences amended its bylaws so that members could be kicked out for sexual harassment or other misconduct. But nobody’s yet used the new system to report any sexual harassers, even though there are three NAS members who resigned or were fired from their jobs for serial sexual harassment, and even though you don’t have to be a member of the NAS to report harassment by an NAS member to the NAS. The linked news piece discusses why that might be.
Sticking with bad behavior by scientists, and its consequences or lack thereof: of 44 scientists barred from receiving US FDA funding since 2005, 7 subsequently received payments of at least $10,000 from drug companies. Two got hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’d say it’s good news that the large majority apparently did not go on to lucrative careers consulting for drug companies, but the fact that even a few of them did suggests there’s room for improvement in how drug companies choose their consultants. Related old post.
Writing in Nature, Beth Noveck reviews Julia Lane’s Democratizing Our Data, a call to arms over the US government’s data collection, covering everything from the census to measurement of GDP.
Interview with Matt Yglesias on his new book One Billion Americans. It’s on my reading list and it sounds like I’ll like it. I’m kind of curious how many readers of this blog would like it vs. how many would find it appalling. And whether people’s plans to read correlate with how much they think they’ll like and agree with it. Related old post.
Zeynep Tufekci in The Atlantic on the role of overdispersion and superspreading events in the Covid-19 pandemic.