On the need for public academic blogs

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Anybody can set up a blog and write a post, yet the reach of these posts varies dramatically.

Let’s say you have an interesting or important idea for fellow ecologists. For example, you want to report on a great symposium, or just read a really cool paper with a big idea and want to discuss those further. Or you want to review a book, or share safety tips for fieldwork, or write more broadly about a new paper of your own. Or perhaps a response to an absolutely horrid op-ed piece that you read in the Washington Post last week. You’re not going to write these in a peer-reviewed journal, but what would you do?

At the moment your options are:

  1. Post an email to ecolog-l
  2. Write on social media
  3. Write a post on your personal site
  4. Be friends with someone who runs a blog
  5. Do nothing

I think there’s a missing option, and I’d like to fix this. Continue reading

Recommended reads #117

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When reviewers know the identity of authors, it turns out that famous names, prestigious universities, and top companies are far more likely to have their papers accepted. This effect was measured in an experiment, and it’s astounding. This is the new paper I will point folks to when they say that single blind or “open” review is more fair. It just isn’t.

A profile of the few people remaining in the US who depend on iron lungs to stay alive, a window into the history of manufacturing, medicine, and our failed social safety net.

By Scientists For Science — The Scientific Society Publisher Alliance. Scientific societies are designed to represent the interests of our own communities, and this new organization is designed to promote society journals. Continue reading

Starting experiments with a “nut fig”

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The term “backwards design” is often applied to curriculum design. If you want your students to learn a particular thing, you start with identifying what that outcome should look like at the end of the semester. Then you design your class backwards from that outcome, to make sure your students have a way to get there.

I think we should be talking more about backwards design when when it comes to statistics and the design of experimental and observational research.

Journalists call the key passage of each story a “nut graf.” Shouldn’t we have a “nut fig” for each experiment, and know what the axes and statistical tests will be before we run an experiment? Continue reading

Time limits and test anxiety

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When the clock is going TICK TICK TICK, it can be hard to think clearly, because you’re anxious about the clock.

Math anxiety is well understood, and no small part of this comes from the pressure of timed tests. Ultimately, some people take tests faster than other people. I would hope that you want your tests to measure how much students have learned, not their ability to take tests under pressure. If this is the case, then everybody taking the test needs to feel that they have adequate time. Continue reading

Scientific identity crisis

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Well, all right, maybe identity crisis is a little overly dramatic.

identity crisis

However, I have been mulling over my science identity for a while now even if I’m not confused about what kind of science I want to be doing. It often comes up when you need to apply for grants or have that brief introduction at a conference and the like. But for me building that departmental webpage is a real act of defining who you are and what you do. Continue reading

Bringing ecology blogging into the scientific fold

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We’re co-authors on a new paper on “Bringing ecology blogging into the scientific fold: measuring reach and impact of science community blogs”. Of course we encourage you to go ahead and read the paper, because it doesn’t just have our perspectives but is the work of a collection of great bloggers. You can read what our coauthors make of our new paper, too: Manu Saunders of Ecology is Not a Dirty Word, Jeff Ollerton’s Biodiversity Blog, Meg Duffy from Dynamic Ecology, Simon Leather’s Don’t Forget the Roundabouts, Stephen Heard’s Scientist Sees Squirrel, and Margaret Kosmala’s Ec0l0gy B1ts.

If you don’t get to read the publication, our main take home is that there is a large group of people who do read science community blogs, and the influence of these blogs is larger than many realize. Continue reading

Are REU programs as amazing as their reputations?

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I know a lot of scientists who got their start from an REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program. One summer as an REU has the potential to be transformational.

Advancing science in the US (and elsewhere) requires us to fund undergraduate research, and ensure that undergraduate researchers have thoughtful and attentive mentorship. We already spend a lot of money on training students – and I’d like to make sure that these efforts have the biggest bang for the buck. We are focused on broadening representation, but we haven’t seen the changes we need. Can we make REU programs* more effective? Continue reading