Also this week: the twelve kinds of scientific papers, the most Instagrammable bird, crime vs. the US News university rankings, pranking pigeons, dinosaur vs. quarantine, and more.
Sad news from earlier this spring, that I missed at the time: David Schindler passed away on March 4. Schindler was the first scientific director of the Experimental Lakes Area, a pioneering field station for long-term experimentation on entire lakes. Work at the ELA was instrumental in establishing that phosphorus was the limiting nutrient for freshwater algal production, suggesting that limiting P input would resolve eutrophication. As one of the uncountably many scientists who’ve made use of long-term ELA data in papers, I can hardly imagine someone leaving a bigger legacy to a scientific field than David Schindler left.
Congratulations to the ecologists newly elected to the US National Academy of Sciences: Anurag Agrawal, Juan Armesto, Jayne Belnap, Thomas Lovejoy, Steward Pickett, Nancy Rabalais, and Ruth Shaw!
Is science communication unteachable? Worse, is it unteachable because we can’t even agree on what good communication is?
Is it a federal crime to submit fake numbers to the US News and World Report university rankings? The indictment alleges that this is fraud against applicants to, students of, and donors to the university in question. Follow the link for some interesting discussion of the indictment from a retired federal prosecutor. Apparently, under US law it’s not fraud to trick someone into entering into a transaction so long as they get what they paid for. So I guess the question here is: when you pay tuition to University X, are you paying to take courses from “University X”? Or are you paying to take courses from “The nth best US university, according to US News and World Report”? If it’s the former, I don’t see how this can be fraud under US law. If it’s the latter, I guess I can see how it might be fraud under US law. I was also wondering about a different (?) legal theory: false advertising. It’s illegal for a US university to just straight-up lie in its own publicity material about, e.g., the percentage of its students who graduate within 5 years (for example). Would lying to US News and World Report’s data collection exercise also constitute false advertising? I’m guessing not, because the US News rankings technically aren’t “advertising” for the ranked universities. But I am not a lawyer so I have no idea really. Also, this whole thing brought back amusing memories for me. Back when I was an undergrad, a friend of mine got a questionnaire from the Princeton Insider’s Guide to Colleges about what our college was like. He didn’t take it seriously and sent back a bunch of joke answers, figuring they’d never get printed. They got printed. I find it amusing to think that his little joke wasn’t that different from conduct that might be a federal offense!
The oldest permanent forest plot in Britain. I find it very satisfying that it looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. Is it the oldest permanent forest plot in the world? Anyone know?
Several journals are outsourcing their peer review to Peer Community In. I have thoughts on this. But I’m very curious to hear what others think.
This week in Clickbait Papers That I Clicked: the most Instagrammable bird, according to science.
I think the paper in the third column of the first row is one of mine. And half my blog posts used to fall into the second column of the fourth row. 🙂
Bagasaurus. 🙂 I feel like this family accomplished more during two weeks in a hotel than I have in the last 14 months.