About Jeremy Fox

I'm an ecologist at the University of Calgary. I study population and community dynamics, using mathematical models and experiments.

UCLA has suspended award-winning ecologist Priyanga Amarasekare without pay, apparently for speaking out against discrimination. Here are some ways you can help. (UPDATED)

MacArthur Award-winning ecologist Priyanga Amarasekare has been suspended from UCLA for a year without pay, apparently in retaliation for speaking out against discrimination against her in promotion and advancement. She has also had her research grants taken away, her grad students reassigned to other supervisors, been barred from campus, and been subjected to additional sanctions. Nature news story here.

Like the many other ecologists who know Priyanga, I’m shocked and appalled by UCLA’s actions here. Priyanga didn’t sexually harass anyone. She didn’t commit scientific misconduct. She just stood up for herself. And for that, UCLA is sanctioning her in ways that threaten her career and livelihood.

If you want to help, here is a petition to UCLA that you can sign, asking that Priyanga be reinstated and compensated. And here is a GoFundMe set up by Sally Otto, to help Priyanga with day-to-day expenses. Priyanga has two children to support, and she’s months away from foreclosure on her home. Please donate if you can.

UPDATE: Nature got hold of documents from a UCLA committee that investigated Priyanga in March 2022. The investigating committee recommended a letter of censure and probation, for violations of confidentiality and procedural rules committed in the course of criticizing department policies and the conduct of her colleagues. The UCLA Chancellor overruled the investigating committee and imposed disproportionately harsh penalties. The documents seen by Nature also confirm that there were no accusations of academic misconduct or illegal behavior against Priyanga.

The 2021-22 N. American TT ecology faculty job market was a lot like the pre-pandemic market. Here are the data. (UPDATED with a bit of additional data)

I wasn’t planning to keep compiling data on the N. American tenure-track (TT) ecology faculty job market. But I did it one more time, thanks to a combination of procrastination on real work, and encouragement from ecoevojobs.net head honcho Anonymous Potato. Here are the data.

If you’re unfamiliar with how and why I compile these data, please read this paper I wrote about the pre-pandemic data. And see this post for last year’s mid-pandemic data. The tl;dr version is that I use public information to try to identify all ecologists who were hired into TT faculty positions in the US and Canada. I do this by checking every N. American TT faculty position on the nearly-comprehensive ecoevojobs.net listing that could possibly have been filled by an ecologist.

Here are the results for positions advertised on the 2021-22 ecoevojobs.net page:

  • I tried to ID a total of 482 positions. That’s far more than last year, when there were only 255 positions. It’s also far more than in pre-pandemic years (~300 positions/year). This isn’t because I cast a broader net this year–I used the same criteria as always when deciding which positions to check. I suspect that 2021-22 was just a really big year for faculty hiring, perhaps in part to make up for all the hiring that didn’t happen during the pandemic, when many searches were canceled or failed. A second, not mutually exclusive possibility is that ecoevojobs.net now lists way more positions than it used to–that it’s now a much more comprehensive listing than it was in pre-pandemic times. That second possibility seems implausible to me–were ecoevojobs.net users really overlooking, like, 40% of TT ecology jobs back in 2017 or whatever?–but I can’t totally rule it out.
  • I was able to identify 159 TT ecologists hired in the US and Canada during the 2021-22 job season. That’s far more than I was able to identify last year (56), but appreciably fewer than I was able to identify in pre-pandemic years (~170-190/year). The ratio of identified hires to positions checked was up a bit from last year, but way down from pre-pandemic years. I didn’t work quite as hard this year or last year to identify new hires as I did in pre-pandemic years (for instance, I didn’t email colleagues or department chairs for information). So that’s part of why I ID’d fewer hires. But I highly doubt that the modest decline in my own effort level is the main thing going on here. Speculating, my guess is that the pandemic severely disrupted faculty hiring, and that some of that disruption continued in 2021-22. Not necessarily disruption in the form of canceled searches in 2021-22 (again, there were a lot of jobs listed on ecoevojobs.net in 2021-22). But also possible disruption to the number of job seekers and their job-seeking choices (how many and which positions to apply to, willingness to accept offers, etc.).
  • The median hire during 2021-22 got a PhD in 2018 (mean was 2017.2, modal value was 2019). Range was 2007-2022. So in terms of number of years of post-PhD experience, post-pandemic hires were bang-on the same as mid-pandemic and pre-pandemic.
  • 2021-22 TT hires were 55% women, as inferred from pronoun use in social media profiles, personal websites, and university websites. Almost bang-on the same as mid-pandemic, and pre-pandemic (57%). (Aside: at one point about 2/3 of the way through the data compilation, it really looked like the % women was going to be down compared to mid- or pre-pandemic, but in the end it was unchanged. A nice little illustration of the importance of compiling the biggest sample possible.)
  • UPDATE: 2021-22 R1 hires were 54% women. Almost bang-on the same as mid-pandemic and pre-pandemic. /end update
  • 37% of 2021-22 TT hires were hired at R1 institutions or their Canadian equivalents. Almost bang-on the same as mid-pandemic (35%) and pre-pandemic (35%).
  • 16% of TT hires were moving from one tenured or TT position to another TT position. Almost bang-on the same as mid-pandemic (14%) and pre-pandemic (13%)
  • 19% of 2021-22 TT hires at R1 institutions were moving from one tenured or TT position to another TT position. Almost bang-on the same or a touch lower than mid-pandemic (25%), and similar to pre-pandemic.
  • Only 6% of TT hires in 2021-22 were employed by the hiring institution at the time of hiring. That’s similar to, or lower than, mid-pandemic (13%, a number which may have been a small sample blip), and almost bang-on the same as pre-pandemic (4%).
  • Only 3% of TT hires in 2021-22 got a PhD from the hiring institution, almost bang-on the same as pre-pandemic (~1%).
  • I was able to determine where 144 of the 2021-22 TT hires got their PhDs. They got them from 99 different institutions. That’s a bit less institutional diversity than mid-pandemic (50 hires with PhDs from 42 different institutions) or pre-pandemic (321 hires with PhDs from 147 different institutions). Not sure what to make of that, but it could well be a blip. It’s certainly not the case that lots of 2021-22 hires all got their PhDs from the same few “elite” institutions. 6 TT hires in 2021-22 got PhDs from Texas A&M, 5 got PhDs from UC Davis, 4 got PhDs from Georgia, 4 got PhDs from Florida, no more than 3 got PhDs from any other single institution. Yes, the majority of 2021-22 hires got their PhDs from R1 unis or their Canadian equivalents, just as in the past. But that’s only to be expected, because R1 unis grant the majority of all PhDs granted in the US and Canada.
  • Finally, here’s the only respect in which the 2021-22 ecology faculty job market may have changed modestly from pre-pandemic or mid-pandemic: the scholarly productivity of new hires, as crudely measured by Google Scholar h-index. The 2021-22 TT hires who had a Google Scholar page (which wasn’t all of them; it never is) had a mean h-index of 10.1 and a median of 9. The middle 50% was 6-14 and the full range was 1-28. If you restrict attention to new hires at R1 unis or their Canadian equivalents, the mean was 11.7, median 11, middle 50% 7-14, range 1-24. The bulk of the 2021-22 distribution is slightly but appreciably higher than mid-pandemic or pre-pandemic (mean 8-9, median 7-8, middle 50% ~5-12 for all institutions; mean and median ~10-11 for R1 hires). I suspect this is a real change rather than a blip, but I’m not sure to what extent it’s attributable to the pandemic, if any. There’s a slow long-term upward trend in ecologists’ h-indices, due to a slow long-term trend in publication rate of multi-authored papers. But I suppose it’s also possible that the pandemic contributed somehow.


Back in the pre-pandemic times, this would be the point in the post at which I’d offer all sorts of carefully phrased remarks, to prevent anyone from over- or misinterpreting the results. But I’m busy and I can’t be bothered this year. Plus, frankly I doubt all those careful interpretive remarks made much difference. Probably, most readers didn’t need them (or, in rare cases, needed them but consciously or subconsciously chose to ignore them.) So, here are the data, make of them what you will.

Personally, I’m slightly surprised that the pandemic didn’t make much difference to these data, besides to the number of hires I was able to ID and the ratio of ID’d hires:positions checked. To be clear, I didn’t expect the pandemic to cause massive changes to any of these variables. And I didn’t have any hypotheses as to what effects the pandemic might have on these variables. I just thought there might be some effect or other, simply because the pandemic affected a lot of stuff! But no, there’s almost nothing, and certainly nothing major. Maybe there’s been some major effect on some other variable I didn’t measure? I’m slightly curious if, post-pandemic, job applicants are putting more weight on personal considerations (and/or on different personal considerations) when deciding where to apply and what offers to accept. For instance, are more applicants conducting geographically restricted searches in order to live close to family? I have no idea; I’m just curious. But I doubt I’ll pursue that curiosity, because I think it would be hard to compile public data that speak to it.

Finally, because this blog is largely dormant, hardly anybody reads it any more or follows our automated Twitter feed. So please do bring these data to the attention of anyone who might find them interesting or useful.

So meta: Jeremy’s new ecological meta-meta-analysis is now published

Back when this blog was active, I avoided using it to promote my own work. Now that it’s largely dormant, shameless self-promotion is about the only thing I can still be bothered to use it for…

Anyway, in case you’re interested, I have a new paper out in Ecology and Evolution. It uses meta-meta-analysis–meta-analysis of meta-analyses–to ask “how much does the typical ecological meta-analysis overestimate the magnitude of the mean effect size?” Then answer is “by about 10%, but occasionally by much more if it’s a small meta-analysis”. Some of you will recall an old post in which I trailed some of the ideas in this paper. The comments on that post really helped me flesh out and implement my ideas, so thank you again to our commenters.

Coincidentally, there’s a new post at Data Colada criticizing a recent high-profile meta-analysis in psychology for being too broad–lumping together unrelated studies in the same meta-analysis, and so estimating a scientifically meaningless mean effect size. If this argument is right, it applies even more so to my new paper. After all, my meta-meta-analysis lumps together studies of almost every topic ecologists have ever studied! How could it possibly be scientifically meaningful, or statistically useful, to combine unrelated studies into the same analysis? That’s a very good question, for which I think I have a very good answer. You’ll have to read the paper to see my answer, and decide if you buy it.

p.s. It’s only after I thought of writing this paper that I remembered that there’s an xkcd cartoon making fun of it. 🙂

University of Calgary ecology faculty searches extended until Oct. 30. Please apply!

The Dept. of Biological Sciences is hiring two tenure-track asst. professors (or in exceptional cases, associate professors), one in animal ecophysiology and the other in ecosystem services under climate change. Links go to the ads. The application deadline for both positions has been extended until Oct. 30–please apply!

I don’t have any inside info as to why the deadline has been extended. I do know that the search committees haven’t yet started evaluating applications. So if you’ve already applied, (i) thanks! and (ii) don’t worry. If I had to guess, I’d speculate that the deadline has been extended because we haven’t gotten that many applications yet. Whatever the reason for the extension, I’d encourage you to take advantage of it and throw your hat in the ring, even if you aren’t sure if you’re a fit, or aren’t sure if you’d take the position if offered.

I’m not on either search committee, but if anyone wants to ask questions about the positions, the department, the city, etc., email me and I’ll do my best to answer them (jefox@ucalgary.ca).

One thing I will say is that, while we’re legally obliged to give preference to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, that does not mean that others shouldn’t bother applying! I wasn’t a Canadian citizen or permanent resident when I was hired at Calgary back in 2004. Just last year, we hired a non-Canadian. And we’ve hired other non-Canadians over the years. So don’t take yourself out of the running on the mistaken assumption that we’re sure to hire a Canadian. You can’t predict what the applicant pool will look like–neither can we! So if you think you might want one of these jobs, apply!

University of Calgary hiring two tenure-track ecology profs

The Dept. of Biological Sciences is hiring two tenure-track asst. professors (or in exceptional cases, associate professors), one in animal ecophysiology and the other in ecosystem services under climate change. Links go to the ads. Application deadline is Oct. 3, 2022 for both positions.

I’m not on either search committee, but if anyone wants to ask questions about the positions, the department, the city, etc., email me and I’ll do my best to answer them (jefox@ucalgary.ca).

One thing I will say is that, while we’re legally obliged to give preference to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, that does not mean that others shouldn’t bother applying! I wasn’t a Canadian citizen or permanent resident when I was hired at Calgary back in 2004. Just last year, we hired a non-Canadian. And we’ve hired other non-Canadians over the years. So don’t take yourself out of the running on the mistaken assumption that we’re sure to hire a Canadian. You can’t predict what the applicant pool will look like–neither can we! So if you think you might want one of these jobs, apply!*

*p.s. If you want the job, but aren’t sure whether it’s worth the effort to apply, given how long it takes you to put together an application, well, are you sure you need to do all that customization of your application materials? We have an old post with data on how much customization EEB faculty job applicants do, and how much customization search committee members want EEB faculty job applicants to do.

Tenure-track faculty position in applied data science at UCalgary (with a super-short application deadline; sorry!)

The Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary is hiring a tenure-track asst. or assoc. professor in applied data science. The successful candidate will join whichever department within the Faculty they want. The search is completely open as to the field in which you apply your data science skills, so it’s definitely open to ecologists and evolutionary biologists. Here’s the ad.

The deadline is tomorrow (Aug. 25, 2022), but my understanding is it might be extended for a week. Sorry for the super-short notice, but I only just heard about it. If I’d heard about it earlier, I’d have posted the ad earlier.

Jeremy Fox seeking 1-2 graduate students to start in F 2023 or W 2024

I am seeking 1-2 graduate students (M.Sc. or Ph.D.) to start in F 2023 or W 2024. My lab does fundamental research in population and community ecology. We also have a new line of metascience research–science about science. See here for more on my lab.

I’m at the ESA-CSEE joint meeting in Montreal right now. If you’re interested and are at the meeting as well, please reach out! jefox@ucalgary.ca

Institutional investigation finds star marine ecologist Danielle Dixson guilty of serial data fabrication

Science news story here.

I’m struck by both the similarities and differences to the Pruitt case.

An incomplete list of similarities:

-repeated data fabrication across numerous papers over many years, often taking the form of duplicated sequences of observations indicative of copying and pasting data

-current and former trainees of the accused were crucial to the investigation, going above and beyond to reveal the truth.

An incomplete list of contrasts:

-Dixson was given away in part because of the physical impossibility of her methods. It just wasn’t physically possible for her to have collected the data she claimed to have collected, in the time frame she claimed to have collected it, using the methods she claimed to have used. In contrast, I’m not aware of any instances of the Methods sections of Pruitt’s papers describing any physical impossibilities.

-Pruitt had no public defenders of any consequence, save for his own lawyers. In contrast, Dixson has–indeed, continues to have!–very vocal public defenders, including her own doctoral and postdoctoral supervisors and other prominent marine ecologists. Those defenders have defended Dixson not by addressing the specifics of the allegations against her (e.g., “Here’s why duplicated data X in paper Y don’t actually indicate fabrication”), but rather by (i) imagining that the whistleblowers have bad motives and attacking them for those purported bad motives, and (ii) talking about how hard-working, dedicated, and smart Dixson is. It’s immensely to the credit of Pruitt’s many former friends, trainees, and collaborators that all of them followed the evidence where it led.

-The University of Delaware’s institutional investigation into Dixson was much faster than McMaster University’s investigation into Pruitt.

I don’t know what larger lessons to draw from these similarities and differences, or even if any larger lessons should be drawn. I just find them striking.

#pruittdata latest (and last?): Jonathan Pruitt resigns from McMaster University (UPDATEDx2)

Science news article here.

In the unlikely event that you have no idea what this is about, start here and say goodbye to your day.

I may blog about this later, or maybe not.

UPDATE: Nature has a new piece on the ongoing consequences of the Pruitt case for Pruitt’s trainees and collaborators. The linked piece illustrates that institutional investigations of scientific misconduct and other bad behavior aren’t designed to give closure to the main victims of misconduct (here, Pruitt’s current and former trainees and collaborators). I wish I had good ideas about how to change that, but I don’t. The piece also contains a bit of news that’s surprising to me–McMaster is going to continue the formal hearing process that surely would’ve resulted in Pruitt being fired, even though Pruitt has already resigned. The linked piece also has some new details on Pruitt himself, in case you care (personally, I don’t). Apparently he’s a high school science teacher at a Catholic school in Florida now. If you feel the urge to joke sarcastically about what he’ll do if he catches a student cheating on a test, well, you’re not alone. And, hilariously, Nature claims that it’s still investigating Pruitt’s Nature paper. That paper has yet to be retracted (it carries an expression of concern), despite overwhelming evidence of data fabrication. Yeah, sure you’re still investigating. /end update

UPDATE #2: To my mild but pleasant surprise*, Nature just retracted Pruitt’s paper. Better late than never. But come on, Nature, what did you know about that paper yesterday that you didn’t know, like, two years ago? I know the Nature editors are busy and all, but so are the editors at many other journals, and they found time to retract Pruitt’s fake papers ages ago.

On another note, can’t resist quoting this bit of comedy gold from the retraction notice: “Jonathan N. Pruitt disagrees with this retraction.”

*I’m mildly surprised because, not all that long ago, Robert Trivers had to go to extraordinary lengths to get Nature to retract a fraudulent paper on which Trivers himself was one of the authors. Pruitt’s co-author Charles Goodnight passed away soon after the #pruittdata scandal broke, and so wasn’t able to request retraction. So Nature doesn’t like retracting papers, even when they’re obviously fake and a co-author has requested retraction. Hence my surprise that Nature would retract an obviously fake paper without any of the authors requesting the retraction. /end update #2

Shameless self-promotion alert: my lab’s new Ecology paper shows that the truth does not “wear off” in ecological research (at least, not usually)

Back in 2010, Jonah Lehrer wrote a big New Yorker feature called “The Truth Wears Off“. In it, he called attention to anecdotal observations that many of the effects and phenomena scientists study seem to shrink over time. Lehrer’s article popularized the term “decline effect” to summarize this pattern. Recently, some striking examples of the decline effect have been reported in ecology, such as in the declining effect of ocean acidification on fish behavior. Further back, Jennions & Møller (2002) found that decline effects were ubiquitous in the (relatively few) ecological and evolutionary meta-analyses that had been published at the time.

Outstanding undergraduate Laura Costello and I decided to revisit the prevalence of decline effects in ecological research, using my quite comprehensive compilation of all the data from 466 ecological meta-analyses. We’re very excited that the paper is now online at Ecology. You should click through and read it (of course, I would say that!). But the tl;dr read version is that the only common decline effect in ecology is in the decline effect itself. The truth no longer “wears off” in ecology, if it ever did. Decline effects might’ve been ubiquitous in ecological meta-analyses back in the 1990s, but they aren’t any more. Only ~3-5% of ecological meta-analyses exhibit a true decline in mean effect size over time (as distinct from regression to the mean, which happens even if effect sizes are published in random order over time). Read the paper if you’re curious about our speculations as to why decline effects are now rare in ecology.

This is the third paper of mine that grew out of a blog post, which is my tissue-thin justification for sharing news of the paper in a blog post. 🙂