What papers should be considered for the 2019 George Mercer Award? Nominations are due Oct. 18!

Nominations for ESA awards are due Oct. 18. Details here.

One of my favorite ESA awards is the The George Mercer Award. It is given annually to an outstanding research paper published in the previous two years (so, 2017 or 2018 for this year’s award) with a lead author age 40 or younger at the time of publication. The age limit is in memory of George Mercer, a promising young ecologist who was killed in WW II.

I love the Mercer Award. It’s great that the ESA recognizes outstanding work being done by up-and-coming ecologists. And thinking about potential nominees is a fun excuse to think about what makes for truly outstanding ecological research today. This would be a great topic for your lab meeting this week: ask everyone suggest a nominee for the Mercer Award and then talk about them.

I have an old post looking back on past Mercer Award winners to look for common threads (more specific than, you know, “being a great paper”). So have a look at that post, and the list of past winners, if you want help forming a “search image”. Broadly speaking, Mercer Award winning papers tend to be those that powerfully combine multiple lines of evidence (often including both theory and data) to really nail what’s going on in some particular system, but in such a way as to also have much broader implications (e.g.). But there are exceptions, plus there’s no rule that says future winners have to be the same sorts of papers as past winners. In particular, it’s notable that only one review/synthesis/meta-analysis paper has ever won as far as I know. One of these years, surely we’ll see the award go to an outstanding working group paper led by a young author, or to a paper from an outstanding large collaboration like NutNet. Maybe this is the year?

So, what papers do you think should be in the conversation for the Mercer award this year? Please add your favorites in the comments. And then follow through and nominate them! I already have. 🙂

How many first-authored papers in “leading” journals does an ecologist need to be hired as a tenure-track asst. prof at an R1 university? Not nearly as many as most ecologists think.

tl;dr: newly-hired TT asst professors in ecology and allied fields at N. American R1 universities have an average (and median) of 4.5 first-authored papers in leading journals, operationally defined as journals with two year impact factor >3. The range is zero (yes, zero) to 14 first-authored papers in leading journals. In a non-scientific poll, most of the respondents guessed that both the minimum and mean of those data are substantially higher than they actually are.

For details, read on.

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It’s ecology faculty job market data week! Here’s how, and why, I compile these data.

For the third year running, I’ve compiled publicly-available information on newly-hired tenure-track assistant professors of ecology and allied fields (e.g., fish & wildlife) at N. American colleges and universities. This week (and probably into next week) I’ll be running a series of posts summarizing the data. I’ve already updated several past posts with the new year’s worth of data.

For those of you who are new to this little exercise, here’s why and how I do it. Think of this as the Introduction and Methods; the Results and Discussion start tomorrow.

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Brief “lab lit” book reviews: As She Climbed Across The Table by Jonathan Lethem and Euphoria by Lily King

Here are my spoiler-free reviews of two books that came up in our epic “lab lit” post and comment thread: As She Climbed Across The Table by Jonathan Lethem and Euphoria by Lily King. As usual, I’m a scientist reviewing fiction about scientists. Which hopefully makes my reviews a useful complement to reviews by non-scientists. Scientists and non-scientists often react differently to fiction about scientists.

tl;dr: Euphoria is great, As She Climbed Across The Table is…odd. And I have some thoughts on the difficulty of dramatizing scientific research that pushes far into the unknown.

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How I write tenure and promotion letters

In the comments the other day, Meghan and I were remarking on the dearth of blog posts providing advice for post-tenure faculty. So I guess we’ll have to rectify that ourselves! Hence this post, in which I talk about how I write tenure and promotion letters, for North American colleges and universities (not sure if my advice generalizes to other continents…). I have general advice, plus some illustrative made-up examples.

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