Friday links: dAlice/dt in Wonderland, 100 things a scientist should know, and more

Also this week: the pros and cons of pandemic impact statements, Trashcan Sinatras, and more.

Famed Duke University psychologist Dan Ariely is under fire, after the data underpinning a high profile paper of his were revealed to be fake. He also had a paper subjected to an Expression of Concern recently for numerous unexplained statistical anomalies. Now it’s been revealed that he left his previous position at MIT at least in part because of serious tensions over the conduct of his research. MIT suspended him from conducting research for a year, for conducting an experiment without IRB approval. The experiment involved giving people electric shocks.

Here’s Science’s news article on the Ariely case. Contains new quotes from the principals, but not much new information. Ariely is quoted as saying (in so many words) that nobody should think he faked the data, because why would he create an obviously fake dataset and then share it with the world? To which, Ariely may want to familiarize himself with the numerous recent cases in EEB and other fields in which obviously fake data were shared with the world. That is a thing that happens, dumb or bizarre as it might seem. Pointing out that it would be dumb/bizarre to do X does not actually give others much of a reason to doubt that you did X. Particularly when, as in this case, it would’ve been dumb/bizarre for anyone to do X. But yet someone did!

Now seems like a good time to re-up my old post reviewing the data on scientific misconduct. Don’t go overgeneralizing from the Ariely case. It’s attracting so much attention precisely because it’s atypical (even for a misconduct case).

100 things a scientist should know. What a brilliant idea for a blog post. I don’t know all of these, and I disagree with some of the inclusions and omissions, which shows it’s a good post.

Good question. I can imagine various reasonable answers. I’m in favor of granting agencies, and other organizations that evaluate scientists, inviting scientists to describe circumstances that hindered their scientific work. The reasons for offering that opportunity still apply in the context of the pandemic. But on the other hand, during the pandemic many granting agencies and employers quite sensibly gave out automatic, no-questions-asked accommodations to all scientists (e.g., automatic extensions to grants and tenure clocks). Perhaps we should continue to do the same going forward? Just assume that the pandemic severely disrupted everyone’s research, without making everyone explain exactly how and to what extent it did so? What do you think?

dAlice/dt in Wonderland. This is excellent. 🙂

And finally, speaking of things that are excellent:

Have a good weekend. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Friday links: dAlice/dt in Wonderland, 100 things a scientist should know, and more

  1. Hi Jeremy! I’m curious which inclusions from 100 Things a Scientist Should Know you disagreed with. Any examples you can share with us?

    • Well, I figure that since I’ve done fine as a scientist so far, anything on the list that I don’t know can’t be that important. 🙂 For instance, the use cases of .png vs. jpg files, HSL colorspace, Bash shell, Sayre’s law, Newman design squiggle…

      But of course, I’m sure others could say the same about any list I came up with! The list of things that *all* scientists should know is actually fairly short, I think. (Well, with the caveat that you could make the list longer or shorter depending on how finely you subdivided things.)

      But if Ken had titled the list more accurately and boringly (“100 things I know, that you might also find useful/interesting to know”), it’d probably get fewer readers. Provocative post titles can be fun sometimes.

      I am now curious to learn about some of the things on Ken’s list that I don’t know about. Even though I don’t necessarily *need* to know them. Which is probably the reaction he was hoping for. 🙂

      • Yup, the title of my post is indeed a bit of an exaggeration. I was going for the same mix as the ‘things an architect should know’ post that I linked to. That is, part of my list is legitimately things every scientist should know. Others are more obscure and not terribly useful, with the Newman design squiggle being the epitome of that

    • I also think a few of the entries on Ken’s list are too reflective of stuff that certain corners of the science blogosphere/Twittersphere have been talking about a lot over the last few years. Daryl Bem’s precognition paper, for instance. Epistemic trespassing. John Ioannidis.

  2. RE: “100 things a scientist should know”

    Here’s what I consider the most important thing every scientist should know:

    A large segment of the populace (at least of the U.S. populace) will NEVER be convinced of 1) the value of science, 2) the truths that it reveals, and 3) the predictions that it makes, or warnings it may issue.

    The behavior of too many persons during this pandemic unequivocally demonstrate that. Truly, when so many of them have been willing to kill not only their neighbors but even their parents and grandparents through active dissemination of a potentially-fatal infectious disease, and vigorously argue in favor of their right to do that, can any scientist still think that these people will ever care about extinction of species, reductions in biodiversity, or the transformation of large regions of the planet into an arid wasteland?

    Rather depressing.

      • Jeremy,

        It’s not a conclusion that I enjoy reaching, but I’m old enough to have gray hair (and to have heard Dobzhansky lecture), and I believe it to be true. Time will eventually tell which one of us is correct in our assessments. But as a general rule, whether in politics, warfare, sports, farming — or science — it’s better to not underestimate what one is up against.

      • I bet all of us scientists at some point have faced a fit of frustration related to Covid, Climate Change, some other man-exacerbated natural disaster, etc. where we’ve popped off similarly. Particularly if there has been some direct loss/confrontation in the recent past. Hugs to Fred. And continued thanks to Jeremy for the forum.

  3. I wish (landscape) architects knew that you don’t plant fire sensitive trees like cedars in the middle of sweetgrass, which is best managed by periodic burns. But now that I’m a reformed academic administrator, that particular issue isn’t my problem any more.

    On the other hand, 10 years as an admin and 10 minutes reading Ken’s list suggests that I’m very rusty. 🙂

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