Recommended reads #158


A very nice paper on efficient teaching, showing how small tweaks can result in big educational gains.

“Dr. Kathryn Milligan-Myhre works in the field of host-microbe interactions. In this mSphere of Influence article, she reflects on the people and scientific ideas that influenced her journey from a small town in Alaska to a faculty position at the University of Alaska Anchorage.”

If you are, like me, someone who studies things that are not humans and you’re interested in studying humans, you absolutely need to talk to people who do that for a living.”

How google scholar is changing which papers get cited. (In short, folks are less likely to cite the broader literature, and more likely to cite papers that pop up first, which are also cited more previously)

Scientific research on how to teach critical thinking contradicts education trends (In short, the idea of teaching critical thinking as an abstract skill independent of content doesn’t seem to hold up. In other words, critical thinking is domain-specific, and teaching someone to think critically in one area doesn’t mean they can think critically in other areas. Of course, engendering a mindset that values critical thinking is wonderful, but may not actually teach critical thinking in general. Because critical thinking in general may be not be a thing to be learned. [highlighted read]

Why do people publish in predatory journals, and what do they think of the outcome? Here’s a study where 80 authors in predatory journals were asked about their experience.

Lesser known dplyr functions.  Perhaps very helpful.

The first day of the Cenozoic. (Some cores were removed from the ring of the Chicxulub crater, and are interpreted in a creative piece of science.)

Male geniuses are replaceable [highlighted read]

Reflection in science.

Why I reported my professor and how my university failed me.

An interview with good lines about the importance of basic research in the treatment of disease

The story behind this photo of a raccoon peeking out of an abandoned ’70s Ford Pinto.

The Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the year awards.

There’s a good chance that you heard about a recent study on student evaluations, which concluded that students who active learning not only improves how much students learn, but also students who are in active learning-rich classrooms underestimate how much they learn. Or, the other side of the coin is that students in lecture-rich classrooms overestimate how much they learn. This is well in line with earlier work, but this paper got a bunch of attention because of the catchy punchline and the institutional affiliation of the authors, and also because critics also were keen to point out the limitations and flaws of the study. The study was just fine, though obviously it’s just one study among many, and not the last word. (Just like any piece of research, we’re not intended to digest it as immutable facts, but an imperfect representation of the world in a given place and time, and more information will create a clearer picture. It’s funny how education research deniers are arbitrarily Popperian or Kuhnian, depending on how that best supports their previously existing position in any particular field.)

Does science advance one funeral at at a time? “While the flow of articles by collaborators into affected fields decreases after the death of a star scientist, the flow of articles by non-collaborators increases markedly.”

The case for climate rage.

Leaders of the world: Get your shit together [highlighted read]

More professional societies are adopting the American Sociological Association’s statement on student evaluations teaching. “While acknowledging the valuable feedback that student experiences in the classroom can provide, the statement discourages the use of such assessments as a primary factor in faculty promotion, salary increase, and appointment. Studies have shown that student evaluations of teaching are easily biased, particularly towards women and minorities, and weakly related to other measures of teaching effectiveness and learning outcomes. The ASA also provides recommendations of best practices for future collection and implementation of student feedback.”

I love this story about told by the parent of a middle schooler who ran the numbers on the fundraising drive based on student labor selling junk from an external vendor, and shared these numbers with their peers and the school.

Five steps for community college faculty to maintain an active research agenda

Widespread biases in ecological and evolutionary studies. This provides some numbers to tell you what people who work in the tropics have been telling you: temperate bias is a problem.

Now that some dust has settled on the exposure of misconduct by the director of an the Center for MSIs based out of an Ivy League university, here is a take-home lesson about the perils of favoring institutional interests over the needs and safety of people on campus. Which really could be about thousands of things that are happening right now that are not in the news.

Some tips for preparing an NSF GRFP, with popular links at the end of the post.

What college admissions offices really want

What the heck is going with NEON ever since the company hired to manage it dismissed the scientific advisory board, had the scientific director quit, and then they’ve scrambled to undo their screwups? Well, they’re up and running. There is a ton of utility and potential. Here’s the latest in a story in Science.

Which bird is Most Metal? One of my favorite lines: “We probably are suffering from a homonym problem with all those tyrants showing up. The tyrant flycatchers are not actually that metal (Fig. 5).”

I realize I’ve been using the image with this post for occasional recommended reads, and I’m wondering if the generational effect is so strong that some of y’all might not recognize what that image is:


EEB Mentor Match 2019


This is the announcement of EEB Mentor Match for 2019!

We are pairing up students applying for graduate school and graduate fellowships with more experienced academics who have been through the process. If you’re an undergraduate or recent graduate who feels that you could benefit from more support, this is for you! Continue reading

Recommended reads #156


An open letter about sexual harassment and retaliation at UC Irvine.

Among the many layers of horrible events In These United States, the dismantling of the USDA, via translocating the agency to Kansas City (though where in Kansas City, they have no idea), is not getting much attention. Here’s a recent update on this from the Washington Post.

A big meta analysis is showing that, as the ocean warms, fisheries decline. Every degree celsius corresponds to a 5% loss in biomass. Continue reading

How much should student registration cost at conferences?


Let’s say you’re a grad student heading off to the annual 5-day conference in your field. You’re giving a poster, you are scheduled to have coffee with a person whose work you admire, you’ll be seeing a some old friends, and you’re there to learn about the newest work in your field.

Then, you get contacted by the people who run the conference. They’re wondering if you want to work — during the conference — at a rate of $14 per hour. Continue reading

Massive editorial failures harm authors and readers


Have you heard of the newly published misogynist paper in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine? Here’s the start of the abstract:

It is unknown whether female physicians can perform equivalently to male physicians with respect to emergency procedures. Endotracheal intubation is one of the most critical procedures performed in the emergency department (ED). We hypothesized that female physicians are not inferior to male physicians in first-pass success rate for this endotracheal intubation.

There has been much outrage. But hold on. This might not be what it might look like.
Continue reading

Recommended reads #154


53 essential tech-bro terms explained (It’s like the Devil’s Dictionary)

Computer-based and bench-based research [in course-based research projects] produce similar attitudinal outcomes

In ecology and zoology, the number of women authors on papers with male senior authors is shockingly low. I mean, yeah, you’d expect an effect of gender, but, I mean, wow, this is worse than I would have imagined:


Figure from Salerno et al. 2019, comparing proportion of women authors in papers with male or female senior authors

Pay the USWNT a bounty Continue reading

Being a professor is too many jobs, perhaps?


Some while ago, a colleague mentioned how his job as a professor was a “triple position.” Teaching well is a full time job. Doing research well is a full time job. And the service that we do, if done well, can or should be a full time job. We professors have three jobs rolled into one salary (and a 9-month one at that)!

This has been a lot of food for thought. I’ve come to realize that for nearly everything I do for the university on part-time basis, there are people who do that work on a full-time basis with a higher degree of specialization. Continue reading

Recommended reads #152


A wave of graduate programs drops the GRE application requirement, with biology programs leading the way.

Can you really do humanities research with undergraduates?

Taiwan considers going double blind for grant review

“If you’ve ever been at a wedding or conference or on board a United connection from O’Hare, and been cornered by a man with Theories About It All, and you came away thinking, ‘That was a great experience,’ have I got the book for you.” So begins what I think is a generally Important Review of the most recent Jared Diamond book. It’s important, for the broader academic community, because it puts stark light on the absence of fact checking of popular academic nonfiction. It’s also an entertaining review to read, unless you’re uncomfortable with scrutiny of the more specious ideas forwarded by Jared Diamond. Continue reading

We need distributed power structures in grad school


For most grad students in the sciences, their doctoral advisor has an extraordinary level of power over their professional and personal life. This is long overdue for an overhaul. No single person should have that much power over another, particularly in academia where institutions chronically overlook and enable misconduct. Continue reading

Recommended reads #151


If you haven’t read this editorial about “What ‘good’ dads get away with,” please do. It’s about the the “Myth of Equal Partnership.”

The best (and worst) ways to respond to student anxiety

Someone measured the disregard that natural scientists hold for research in the social sciences. You can imagine how this article is being received by the people they studied. Continue reading

Are some people just innately smarter?


I don’t know about you, but I’m used to hearing academics talking about how some people are just inherently brilliant. That there are people with oodles of raw talent, that just needs to be molded, and it’s our job as academia to find them and raise them up. Continue reading

Recommended reads #150


One hundred fifty. I’ve done this 150 times! How ’bout that, eh?

8 ways to teach climate change in almost any classroom

This review of a new book about Joy Division by Henry Rollins is not Everything, but it’s Quite A Lot. (And here’s a blog post about the science of the cover of Unknown Pleasures, which you’ve definitely seen in t-shirt form.)

A survey of female undergraduates in physics found that three quarters of them experience some form of sexual harassment, leaving them alienated from the field. Continue reading

The conversation I often have with PhD students


When I visit other universities and chat with grad students, I love fielding questions about career stuff. I realize that’s part of why I was invited. Since I often get the same questions, I suppose I should also answer those questions here, too. Because if I get asked a question every time I visit an R1 department, it must be a really common question. Continue reading

On sickness and teaching and respect


This is my ninth day of being sick. I think it was a flu. (Yes, I had this year’s flu shot.) It caught everybody in my home.

I’ve been back at work for a couple days, though I’m still coughing regularly, and my brain remains foggy. I’ve dropped so many balls. Fortunately, none of them are glass, though there are enough of them bouncing that I can’t quite keep up. There are a few things I am waaaaaay too late on. Continue reading