Also this week: all the reasons Jeremy’s now looking forward to the rest of this year less than he was a week ago, forward vs. reverse causal inference, and more.
Evolutionary biologist Swanne Gordon on diversity in nature and academia. Very good interview.
The ESA’s 2020 annual report to its members. Which was incomplete when I looked earlier this week; the 2020 financials page was blank when I visited it. Also, question: is the ESA sure it needs to keep doing external peer review of contributed meeting abstracts (which it started doing recently), given that 95% of abstracts are accepted?
On flexibly switching between forward and reverse causal inference. Very astute blog post that’s not at all technical. From social science, but it definitely generalizes. You should read it. Here’s an extended quote from the opening, to encourage you to click through:
One can see this regularly when a researcher presents the results of a randomized experiment designed to test whether a treatment improves some outcome (a tutoring intervention designed to improve student achievement, let’s say), and an audience member asks a pointed question specific not to the findings but rather to their own causal variable of interest—economic inequality, for example. The audience member may ask why the researcher didn’t manipulate their own construct of interest, or perhaps whether the researcher “accounted” for their construct of interest—presumably, in some way other than designing the study to distribute it equally, on expectation, between groups.
After watching these dynamics in action for several years, I think that they have something to do with the distinction between “forward causal inference and reverse causal questions” (see Gelman and Imbens here). The hypothetical researcher presenting the tutoring evaluation is in forward causal inference mode (“What would happen to y if one did x?”) But the hypothetical audience member is in reverse causal question mode. (“Why do some kids have higher achievement test scores than others?”) When people are in these two different modes, they’re likely to talk past one another…
How public health messaging on Covid-19 backfired.
I’m very late to this, and I doubt it will resonate with many parents who’ve been raising children over the past year, but here’s Zena Hitz on escape from quarantine.
I’m late to this, but here’s ESA’s lessons learned from the 2020 virtual meeting. I do think their survey of reasons for attending the meeting should have included the option “I want to support the ESA.” Not surprised that the networking aspect of the meeting was rated just fair or poor by 40% of participants. And I wonder if some of those who rated it better than that were grading on a curve. I’m not sure what the ESA can do to improve the networking aspect, but I guess we’ll see. I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t seen more hot takes saying “networking is overrated anyway”, or “networking at conferences is a bad thing on balance because it favors [group of people], so it’s good that virtual meetings make networking hard”. It’s a “fox and the grapes” thing–to cope with not being able to have something you wanted, convince yourself that that you never really wanted it in the first place. Or that you, and the world, are better off without it. I guess most people just miss in-person interactions so much that they’re not going to try to convince themselves, or anyone else, that actually they don’t miss in-person interactions.
Continuing to follow the line of thought from the previous link: goddammit. 😦 I’m not questioning the decision, I totally understand the reasons for it. I just really, really miss the in-person ESA meeting. The possibility of a partially in-person ESA meeting in 2021 was one of the things I was most looking forward to for later this year. Now that hope is gone. 😦