Dynamic Ecology escapism week: who is ecology’s nearest equivalent of Paul Erdős?

You’ll have to click through to find out Meghan’s answer to the question in the post title (and to find out who Paul Erdős is, if you don’t know). But don’t get too excited: even ecology’s nearest Erdős equivalent isn’t all that near in an absolute sense. Like, as far as I know, he’s never shown up unannounced at any other ecologist’s house with all his possessions in one suitcase, expecting to stay for some indeterminate length of time. 🙂 Whereas Erdős famously made a habit of that sort of thing.

Dynamic Ecology escapism week: fun ways of deciding authorship order

For various reasons, it’s not looking like Brian, Meghan, or I will be able to write anything new this week. So we’re going to re-up some fun old posts. Today, Meghan’s extensive research reveals the most fun way to decide authorship order: brownie bake-off. Yes, really. 🙂

Scientific fraud vs. financial fraud: the “snowball effect” and the Golden Rule of fraud detection (Or, should we be suspicious of any researcher who publishes a lot?)

Recently, I started a little series of posts of thoughts about scientific fraud, inspired by a book about financial fraud, Dan Davies’ Lying For Money.

In the first post in the series, we talked about how the optimal level of financial fraud, or scientific fraud, isn’t zero. Because the only way to have literally zero financial or scientific fraud is for no one to ever trust anyone else. Which leaves everyone much worse off than if they all default to trusting each other, and tolerate the resulting non-zero level of fraud as a price worth paying.

In the second post in the series, we talked about the “fraud triangle”: the three preconditions for a financial or scientific fraud.

Today, we’ll talk about Davies’ argument that the “fraud triangle” isn’t a complete basis for preventing financial fraud. You also need to consider that financial frauds tend to snowball. Which in turn motivates Davies’ proposed “Golden Rule” of financial fraud detection: be suspicious of anything that grows unusually fast. An analogue of Davies’ “Golden Rule” has been proposed in the context of scientific fraud detection, but I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Because I’m not sure that scientific frauds are subject to the same “snowball effect” as financial frauds.

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Scientific fraud vs. financial fraud: the “fraud triangle”

Recently, I started a little series of posts about scientific fraud, inspired by a book about financial fraud, Dan Davies’ Lying For Money. In the first post in the series, we talked about how the optimal level of financial fraud, or scientific fraud, isn’t zero. Because the only way to have literally zero financial or scientific fraud is for no one to ever trust anyone. Which leaves everyone much worse off than if they all default to trusting each other, and tolerate the resulting non-zero level of fraud as a price worth paying. To paraphrase Steve Randy Waldman, you can have a trust-based economy that admits some level of financial fraud, or you can herd goats. Analogously, you can have a trust-based scientific research system that admits some level of scientific fraud, or you can do alchemy.

Today, let’s think about the causes of fraud. Davies suggests a simple framework for thinking about this: the “fraud triangle”.

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How should comment-reply exchanges be structured? Thoughts inspired by a recent exchange of comments on a high-profile conservation paper. (UPDATED)

Writing in Science, Lambert et al. report that they were unable to recreate the results of Scheele et al., attributing declines in many amphibian species to chytrid fungus, based on a synthesis of various lines of evidence. Scheele et al. reply. I’m interested in this exchange itself. But I’m more interested in a broader issue it raises, regarding how to structure comment-reply exchanges in the scientific literature.

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While you’re stuck at home, why not participate in a live natural history trivia quiz on Twitter? (UPDATED with improved link)

UPDATE: probably should’ve linked directly to the original tweet. Here it is: