Friday links: the perfect scientific crime, pollinator action movie, and more

Also this week: ESA award nominations sought, against degrowth, terrible “Matrix” puns, and more.

From Jeremy:

The ESA is seeking award nominations. Speaking as chair of one of the ESA’s award subcommittees, I can tell you that we definitely need and would welcome more nominations for all the ESA awards! There are so many great people out there doing so much great work in ecology–take a few minutes to nominate someone for an award and help get them some well-deserved recognition.

No, you’re not going to get the “big 5” scientific publishers to start paying for peer reviews out of their profit margins. Takes me back. I remember when I too had the motivation to argue with people who are wrong on the internet.

This is years old, but it’s new to me. Neuroskeptic on “the perfect scientific crime”: how scientific fraudsters tend to get caught, and what that suggests about how to prevent fraud. It’s funny; I’d been thinking about doing a post along these lines, but was struggling to think of a framing that wouldn’t come off badly. As Neuroskeptic writes, the goal here isn’t to give would-be scientific fraudsters advice on how to get away with it! I agree with most though not all of what Neuroskeptic says. I’d quibble with the idea that, to get away with fraud, you need to have co-authors, because a sole-authored paper would be too suspicious. Maybe that’s true in some fields; I don’t know. But in ecology, a single-author paper wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, be considered suspicious. (Rare, yes; suspicious, no.) Though in practice, this might be a distinction without a difference, because even solo authors usually have research assistants who’d have to be deceived by an author wanting to commit fraud. I’d also quibble with the idea that suspicions about the data collection process invariably come after suspicions about the data themselves. I agree that’s often the order of events, but not always. The recent fraud accusations against Danielle Dixson arose at least in part because the methods section of the paper in question describes methods that seem implausible or impossible.

Sweden now has a national academic integrity board, tasked with investigating cases of scientific misconduct referred to it by universities or individuals. Here’s a summary of their 2020 caseload. It was interesting to compare the data to similar data from the US NSF OIG. For both agencies, plagiarism accusations comprise a large fraction of all scientific misconduct investigations. Both the new Swedish agency and the NSF OIG only find misconduct in a minority of cases they investigate. I was also interested to read that many of the cases the Swedish agency is asked to investigate involve personal conflicts, such as authorship disputes. I wonder if the same is true at NSF OIG, and if that’s why both agencies only find misconduct in a minority of cases they investigate.

Same story in Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium: only a minority of scientific misconduct investigations establish misconduct. In large part because a substantial fraction of accusations are deemed outside the scope of the investigating committee. That includes everything from misconduct accusations arising from personal disputes or garden variety scientific disagreements, to misconduct accusations against people who aren’t employed by the university with which the complain was filed, to complaints about copyright and patent infringement, to resubmissions of already-investigated complaints with no new information. I think this is useful context to keep in mind. So much public discussion of scientific misconduct–including on this blog!–is prompted by unusual cases. It’s worth remembering that those cases are unusual. Most scientific misconduct allegations in Europe and North America don’t concern prominent scientists, and don’t concern fabrication or falsification of data.

Against degrowth. Speaking purely anecdotally, I feel like a lot of ecologists would find this challenging and thought provoking. Or have my anecdotal impressions given me a very skewed sense of what most ecologists think about degrowth?

To my pollination ecologist friends: This is as close as you’re ever going to get to Jason Stratham playing you in a movie. YMMV as to whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. In the comments: try to guess what the iconic line from this movie will be. I’ll start: “I have a very particular set of skills. Skills that make me a nightmare for Varroa mites, and also for people like you.” +1000 Internet Points for the best suggestion. πŸ™‚

Speaking of movies, now’s your chance to share all the terrible “matrix” jokes you didn’t get to share back in the early oughts because social media didn’t exist yet and you didn’t have a blog back then. I’ll start: I hope that the villain’s name is “Jacobian”, and that Neo defeats him by “inverting the Matrix”. πŸ™‚ -1000 Internet Points for the best (meaning worst) joke. πŸ™‚

If you actually want a semi-serious reaction to the previous link, Kieran Healy is right. As usual.

Caption yourself. I’m “The Price equation isn’t a conventional theoretical model. It doesn’t make assumptions, from which conclusions or predictions are derived. Rather, it is a partition. A partition divides…” πŸ™‚

And finally, here is my entry in the weekly music selection contest with Stephen Heard that only exists in my own head:

Beat that Stephen! And have a good weekend, everyone. πŸ™‚

9 thoughts on “Friday links: the perfect scientific crime, pollinator action movie, and more

  1. Ha! It’s only a competition in your head, Jeremy, and I say that largely because I can’t win it. (Especially because my “Music Mondays” was a summer series and I’ve wrapped it up, at least for this year).

    Can I just say, though: that keyboard player is the most uncool dude it’s possible to see jamming with David Byrne. I mean, he’s almost as uncool as ME. I’m looking forward to David Byrne calling me up.

    • Now I want to see you sing a karaoke version of Crash Test Dummies’ “When I Go Out With Artists”:

      If I were David Byrne
      I’d go to galleries and not be too concerned
      Well I would have a cup of coffee
      And I’d find my surroundings quite amusing and
      People would ask me which were my favorite paintings


  2. Pollinator action movie? Hold my beer…

    ‘The name’s Bombus, James Bombus’

    ‘I’ve had it with these muthaf**kin bees on this muthaf**kin plane!’

    ‘Do you feel swarmy punk? Well do ya?’

  3. There will bee a hive of activity as the producer, dressed in a little yellow jacket, combs the area looking for a sweet setting before filming in a wax museum. I could drone on and on like this, but when I read that this film is β€œa lightning-paced thriller,” I imagined beekeepers suited-up like astronauts, running from an apiary. Anyway, if there’s enough buzz and they cell enough tickets, I heard that Sting will go to great pains to see sit in the theatre.

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