Recommended reads #106


The case against using Turnitin in your own classroom.

When teaching for understanding is pitted against teaching for doing well on the test.

Stop the presses!!! Here is a shocking new finding: A new meta-analysis shows that student evaluations of teacher performance are unrelated to student learning.

A rebuttal of the previous paper, “No, student evaluations aren’t worthless.

Stop pretending you’re not rich.

On a related note, here’s a job in the Chronicle of Higher Ed that, I imagine, will raise your eyebrows, not so much for the job itself, but for the fact it was in the Chronicle.

Here’s a stellar trio of posts about equity and inclusion:

-Equity and excellence are mutually conducive

-So you want to do something for diversity?

-The theater of faculty diversification.

This piece about how the Dutch are dealing with rising sea levels is fascinating.

This review/preview of How To Tame a Fox makes me want to pick up this book.

Here’s a cutesy story about liberal arts colleges, in Nature.

America made [Paulina Porizkova] a feminist.

Michelle Tong started a wiki about running a mouse lab at a small liberal arts college. She’s asking folks with this experience to contribute. I imagine she might be interested in hearing from folks who are outside R1s but not at SLACs, too.

The guy who started and shuttered Beall’s List of predatory publishers, who wages a chronic monomaniacal diatribe against open access publishing, just wrote a barnburning and factually challenged opinion piece, which to his disappointment (I presume) you can read without having to pay a subscription. Meanwhile, here’s a thoughtful piece from 2015 that discusses issues of predatory publishers with the nuance the issue requires.

A trashy satirized piece shaming students about reports of dead family members was published in the Chronicle of Higher Ed this week. A superb response came from Tenure, She Wrote. (I have one coming out in the Chronicle early next week, though it’s not as good as the one by Acclimatrix, which I just linked to.) And also, this week oddly enough this site had its busiest day ever, resulting from traffic to a 2014 piece about ‘the dead grandmother problem.’ (Which if you haven’t seen it yet, I think it’s one of my better pieces on this site.)

Gina Baucom asked folks on twitter what the crappiest thing they ever heard said about a woman academic. The response was overwhelming. It’s worth looking at some of them.

This looks like a very handy resource if you’re running GLMMs and want to understand how they work.

More good visuals and explainers for teaching and understanding stats

A paper about data fabrication in randomized control trials. And a blog post that puts it in perspective.

In defense of cultural appropriation

The unseen labor of mentoring

Please stop talking trash about administrators

I just learned that the owners of Leica optics ran a Schindler’s List-eque “freedom train” in the late 1930s, saving hundreds of people from the Holocaust.


What’s the divide in the US? (Is it ever so simple?) If you’re looking to split the country in half, then one way to do it is using who says home, and who doesn’t.

Some guy goes on NPR and pretends he’s a pioneer in applying active learning to humanities classrooms.

We are still in. Governments within the US doing what our federal government is failing to do.

The DEB blog explains what makes a successful CAREER proposal. Which has a 10% funding rate.

A professor at Montana State got non-renewed before he came up for tenure, and it may or may not have something to do with having the proper import permits for field collected samples at the university, and he’s lawyered up and it’s in the news.  (As with nearly all these personnel matters, it’s presumably about university politics.)

That story from some weeks ago, about the dean at a university in Connecticut who got fired for posting some unclassy review on Yelp, has now made it to the New York Times. (I reluctantly admit I’ve read some of her reviews, and one comically recurring theme is that she claims a superior knowledge about how rice should be cooked on account of her ethncity).

Apparently, there’s an army ant queen out there who is hanging on to sperm from 96 different males.

Have a nice weekend.

How bad is the loss of NSF dissertation improvement grants?


Last week, NSF announced they have stopped awarding DDIGs – the Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants in the divisions of Environmental Biology and Integrative Organismal Systems.

How bad is this decision? In the words of Jane Lubchenco:

Continue reading

Recommended reads #104


It’s been two weeks already!? Here’s some reads for what remains of the long holiday weekend, for those of us in the US.

In mentorship, a sense of belonging may be most important

Getting past Bloom’s taxonomy in a way that focuses on the minds of the students

This online comic as struck a big chord with a a lot of women I know. It explains how many men don’t share the burden of parenting and running a household by simply thinking that doing stuff when asked is enough. The cognitive load of keeping track of domestic affairs is not a trivial matter. Continue reading

Making scientific conferences more engaging


In scientific conferences, the talks are often the least constructive part of the meeting. That’s my experience and opinion, at least. This is ironic, because at least in theory, the talks are the raison d’être of a conference.

When people fly in from great distances to be together, should we really be spending most of the day in dark rooms listening to canned talks from our colleagues? Should we be spending our time on things that we could just as easily do in a webinar? Continue reading

When scientists are dishonest


A case of scientific dishonesty has hit close to home and got me thinking. This isn’t a post of the details of the case (you can read more here if you’re interested) or the players involved (I don’t know them more than to say hi in the hallway) or to comment this particular case since I don’t have any more information than what is publically available. So if you’re looking for insider gossip, the following is bound to disappoint. Instead this example has got me reflecting in general about scientific dishonesty and what I can do about it. Continue reading

The deficit model of STEM recruitment


As we train the next generation of STEM professionals, we use a filter that selects against marginalized folks, on account of their ethnicity, income, gender, and other aspects of identity. This, I hope you realize, is an ethical and pragmatic problem, and constrains a national imperative to maintain competitiveness in STEM.

When we are working for equity, this usually involves working to remediate perceived deficiencies relative to the template of a well-prepared student — filling in gaps that naturally co-occur with the well-established inequalities that are not going away anytime soon. These efforts at mitigation are bound to come up short, as long as they’re based on our current Deficit Model of STEM Recruitment. Continue reading

An introduction to writing a peer review


I recently had an exchange with a colleague, who had just written a review at my request. They hadn’t written many reviews before, and asked me something like, “Was this a good review?” I said it was a great review, and explained what was great about it.  Then they suggested, “You should write a post about how to write a good review.”

So, ta da. Continue reading

I am complicit


My academic societies support the March for Science. So do I.

I’m familiar with the arguments for and against the March, from major newspapers and social media. If you’re not familiar, don’t worry, I won’t rehash them for you.

I think it’s possible for some people to have an ethical position to oppose something, and for others to have an ethical position to support the same thing. Nobody’s got a monopoly on being right. Continue reading

Recommended reads #101


When you study arctic glaciers that are rapidly melting away, and your samples at the Ice Core Archive melt away because of a freezer malfunction at your university.

A Neural Networks Approach to Predicting How Things Might Have Turned Out Had I Mustered the Nerve to Ask Barry Cottonfield to the Junior Prom Back in 1997

File this under, “No shit, sherlock”: A study finds that women do more departmental service than men, and that this harms career progression. Continue reading

So, you want to start a science blog?


I’ve been getting more requests for advice about setting up a blog — usually to elevate awareness about one or two particular issues. Now that I’m more than four years into this game, I’ll no longer call myself a neophyte. Regardless, I have no shortage of opinions, some of which might even be useful. Continue reading

Building a Network as an Introvert


Hello. I’m Ian, a shy introvert. And those two things are distinct. Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve worked out a way to network and build social capital that works for me even though connecting to people is not exactly natural to me, as I know it isn’t for many academics.

Being an introvert in a world that seems to favor the expressive and extroverted can seem daunting and unwelcoming. A lot of the usual advice is to just act against type*. In other words, be extroverted for as long as you can sustain it, especially at conferences or other events where connecting with people is the goal.

Part of favoring of extroverts is that they announce themselves and seem like the movers, shakers, and doers in the world. In the United States at least, taking (overt) action is favored over introspection or making the decision to do nothing even though taking that decision may well be the right one depending on the situation. Continue reading