Serial bullies: an academic failing and the need for crowd-sourced truthtelling

I define a serial bully as somebody who repeatedly bullies new victims and never gets caught or stopped*. I don’t have exact statistics at my fingertips, but it is a definite 90/10 scenario (90% of the bullying is done by 10% of the people) – and it is that small fraction that are the serial bullies. Every campus has a PhD adviser (or three) who repeatedly abuses and victimizes his/her students. And you might have a senior colleague in your department who bullies everybody junior to her/him just because they can. Or you may have met a researcher who will do anything, ethical or not, to “win” at research, leaving behind a trail of people feeling used or abused. And although there are many unique aspects to sexual harassment, it most certainly involves bullying-like abuse of power against someone and it most certainly shares the trait that most offenders repeat over and over without getting called on it (as recent shameful cases to make the news show – just e.g. the Marcy case).You may or may not apply the word bully to all of these cases. But what all these have in common is somebody who is harming other people over and over again with little regard for the consequences, because, well, there usually are no consequences. And that is what I want to talk about.
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Good enough

Last year, when I wrote a post with advice on strategies (and reasons) for working more efficiently, the first strategy on my list was:

  1. Recognize what is “good enough”. As the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good. And recognize that “good enough” will vary between different tasks. It’s okay if the email you are sending to your lab about lab meeting isn’t perfectly composed.

In this post, I want to go into that idea more, since I think it’s really important (and since it’s one I need to continually remind myself of!)

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Guest post: Life as an anxious grad student

Note from Meg: This guest post (which starts below the break) is a follow up to my post on life as an anxious scientist, where I talked about having an anxiety disorder and some of my strategies for managing it. The post below was written by a graduate student who wishes to remain anonymous. It summarizes that student’s experience with an anxiety disorder, and includes information that I think will be useful to students and advisors. My plan is to have a follow up post in the future with more thoughts on the topic.
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Views on authorship and author contribution statements: poll results, part 2

As promised, here are the results of our recent reader poll on author contribution statements. See part 1 of the results for respondent demographics and their views on authorship.

Part 1 revealed widespread disagreement about what contributions merit authorship. Authorship standards also are changing. And science is becoming increasingly collaborative. All of which would seem to be arguments against the traditional practice of trying to summarize credit and responsibility for a paper solely with an ordered list of authors, and in favor of author contribution statements. That’s been my thinking for a few years: I like author contribution statements and routinely include them on all my papers, even if the journal doesn’t require one.

But it turns out there are widespread mixed feelings about author contribution statements. Which I now share…

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Ask us anything: how to be an ally

A while back we invited you to ask us anything. Here’s our first of these answers, to a question from Kevin Chase. (The question has been paraphrased for brevity, click through for the original.) What is the best way that I, as a white male scientist, can help women and non-white scientists? Most of the AUA replies will be joint posts, but I’m writing this reply on my own.

Disclaimer: I’ve read about this topic a fair amount, but am not an expert in this. So, I present this as my take on the topic, based on my experiences and readings to date, but with the acknowledgment up front that I certainly have more to learn about this area.

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What factors influence views on last authorship in ecology?

As summarized in my post giving the major results of our authorship survey, there seems to have been a rapid shift in views on last authorship in ecology. When I started grad school, the predominant view was that the last author was the person who had done the least work. (Indeed, I am last author on a paper from when I was a grad student because I did the least work on the project.) But the survey found that 43% answered a solid “Yes” to the question “For ecology papers, do you consider the last author to be the senior author?” An additional 43% answered either “It depends, but probably yes” or “Not sure, but probably yes”. Thus, 86% of respondents view the last author as the senior author.

As far as I know, we don’t have great data across time regarding views on this. The best comparison I know of is to a smaller survey done in 2010 by Ethan White. (I based the first draft of my survey on Ethan’s.) In that, only 19% of respondents answered “Yes” to the same question, with an additional 33% answering “Not sure, but probably yes”. (That earlier survey didn’t have the “It depends, but probably yes” option. That was added in based on feedback on the initial survey I drafted.) So, while it would be nice to have more data on this, it seems that views on last authorship in ecology have probably shifted pretty rapidly.

The goal of this post is to explore whether there are factors that are associated with views on last authorship.

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Last and corresponding authorship practices in ecology: Part 1

Who is the last author on a paper? Is it the person who did the least work? Or is it the PI of the lab where the work was done? When I started grad school in 2000, the norm in ecology was still that the last author on a paper was the person who did the least work. But, more recently, it has seemed to me that the norm is that the last author on a paper is the “senior” author (usually the PI). However, if you talk with other ecologists about the topic, it’s clear that there’s variation in views, and that not everyone is on the same page.

Similarly, my impression is that there’s been a shift in how corresponding authorship is viewed. When I was a grad student, the corresponding author was usually the first author, and mostly just indicated who had submitted the manuscript. But there’s been a shift to having the last author be the corresponding author. I am not alone in noticing this shift and in thinking that now corresponding authorship is used to claim leadership for the work.

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Poll: what are your views on last and corresponding authorship in ecology?

Recently, I had a series of tweets related to authorship order and corresponding authorship practices in ecology. There was a ton of follow up discussion on twitter, and it’s clear that there’s a lot of interest in and confusion about this topic. The goal of this post is to do a poll to collect data on current views on authorship practices in ecology. I’ll follow up with a post summarizing the results and giving my thoughts on the topic.

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DiversifyEEB: Introducing a new resource for ecology and evolutionary biology

Note from Meg: This is a guest post by Gina Baucom, a colleague of mine and my partner in creating DiversifyEEB. Here, Gina has written a guest post describing the initiative. We’re hoping to follow up with more posts in the future!

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