Also this week: the most beautiful data in the world, the perception of doors, against pre-publication review, and MOAR!
The British Ecological Society is marking Black History Month with a series of blog posts by and about black ecologists, their work, and their experiences in ecology. The ESA is doing the same. Lots of good stuff here well worth reading and reflecting on. I’ll also take this opportunity to re-up this excellent guest post from Lynette Strickland from last summer, which speaks to some of the same issues raised in some of these posts.
Oh man, these are the most beautiful data I’ve seen in a long time. Even though they’re the data I think everyone expected.
Sticking with things that give hope: Bree Rosenblum has written a textbook on global change biology that aims to plant “the seeds of a new story: a story in which our actions matter – not because we are racing against the clock fueled by guilt and fear – but because we are bringing our passion and creativity to the grand challenges of our time.” (quoted from an email blurb I received about the book) Sounds intriguing. Related: Meghan’s post on this issue, which has an excellent comment thread. And Brian has various posts critiquing gloom-and-doom stories about global change, such as this one.
Holy s**t: Laurentian University, a public uni in Canada, applied to court for protection from creditors, so that it can financially restructure. The university says it will run out of money to pay salaries at the end of the month. Here is some commentary from Canadian higher education consultant Alex Usher, and here is some more, some of which corrects errors in the previous link.
The ESA on lessons learned from the 2020 virtual annual meeting, and their application to planning the 2021 meeting.
Nick DiRienzo on the status of the two Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology papers he co-authored with Jonathan Pruitt. The co-authors requested retractions a year ago, on the grounds of serious data anomalies that Pruitt (who collected the data) could not explain to their, or the editors’, satisfaction. But yet, a year later the papers still haven’t been retracted.
The perception of doors. Very good short essay on macroeconomics. Even if you don’t agree with it, I hope you’ll agree it’s a good example of the general sort of thing you’d want to say to students on the first day of any college or university class. What’s this class all about? Why should you care about it?
New preprint from Insler et al. exploits random assignment of US Naval Academy students to intro course sections (e.g., Calculus I) to estimate how student performance in later courses (e.g., Calculus III) depends on the instructor they were assigned in their intro courses. The study then asks how estimated instructor quality relates to how instructors are viewed on RateMyProfessor.com. I’ve skimmed it, it looks to me like an ideal dataset for addressing the questions asked. And it seems quite carefully done to me, though of course I’m no expert on this literature. Some instructors are indeed better than others (by the measure used in the paper), and poorer instructors are poorer for interesting reasons. Would be particularly interested in comments from folks who know this literature better than me. (ht Marginal Revolution)
Writing in Science, Luis Campos reviews Lara Choksey’s Narrative in the Age of the Genome. It’s literary criticism of a dozen gene-related works of fiction and nonfiction. Based on the review, I can’t decide if I want to read the book or not. On the one hand, I’m interested in how scientific ideas feed into novels and other works of art, so the book sounds right up my alley (for instance). And the review is positive. But on the other hand, the bits of the book quoted in the review make it sound full of jargon. Maybe I’ll wait for Stephen Heard to read it, and then ask him to tell me about it.
Philosopher of science (and other things) Liam Bright’s brief reviews of his own papers. The title–“My Work Is Bad”–gives you an idea of the tone. Not sure what to say about this beyond that I found it striking. Just speaking generally rather than about this piece specifically, there’s a lot to be said for being your own toughest critic, but there’s also a lot to be said for not being too hard on yourself. Finding the optimal balance between those two desiderata isn’t always easy. Anyway, here’s Liam Bright talking briefly about why he wrote and published this piece.
Sticking with Liam Bright, here’s Heesen & Bright (2020) arguing that pre-publication peer review should be abolished (!) I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve found Liam Bright’s other work thought-provoking even when I haven’t agreed with it, so I’m happy to link to this sight unseen.
And here’s a wide-ranging interview with Liam Bright. Includes interesting discussion of the linkages between science, philosophy, and improving human societies.
Kareen Carr on the Monty Hall problem. Caught my eye because he doesn’t think the problem has much to do with probability. I just taught the Monty Hall problem in my intro biostats course, as a fun aside in the unit on probability. I doubt that teaching it did any harm, and it didn’t take much time away from other stuff I could’ve taught instead. But now I’m kind of thinking I either need to stop teaching it, or else get clearer in my own mind why I’m teaching it.