Recommended reads #32


  • “A sixth-grader may have stolen credit for marine biologist’s lionfish research.” I think the phrase “may have” is there to avert a lawsuit, because I don’t see much room for doubt. The big news outlets, including NPR, initially brought this to the public’s attention with reporting that was somewhere between shoddy and false. If you read through both links, you’ll wonder about the quality of fact-checking apparatus at NPR, or wonder if such a thing exists. [update 29 July 2014: NPR has an update on this linked article, in which they correct their biggest errors in the story.]

  • These things are related. This link is a very short summary of the status of misogyny and institutional sexism in science. I kept some of these things in mind while I’ve been at conferences over the past two weeks. (International Union for the Study of Social Insects, and the Association for Tropical Biology, if you’re curious.) I’ve made a point to observe how junior scientists have been treated by senior scientists. Especially in the latter conference, I’ve noticed a disturbing pattern about how women are far more likely to have senior scientists interject during the question period, to explain the science on behalf of the speaker. The speakers were just left standing at the podium while a senior scientist was explaining things from the audience. But I never saw this happen to any of the speakers who were guys, not at all. Supportive senior colleagues need to let junior scientists represent themselves when they are giving presentations, and if they feel the speaker isn’t up to fielding questions, this should be handled privately after the talk. You would hope this is obvious, but I’ve seen some of the leaders in my field undermine the professionalism of junior scientists, some of whom don’t even realize that they’re doing so. As a community, we need to do much, much better.

I hope you’re having a great summer (for those of you in the temperate northern hemisphere).

4 thoughts on “Recommended reads #32

  1. I enjoyed the paper on editorial rejections. Sadly I doubt if it would cut much ice with the editors themselves, It seems to me that papers that were ‘justly’ rejected would be more likely to be revised. In addition I would have been more likely to respond to this request for information if my resubmitted paper had been published – to confess to a couple of rejections might feel a bit humiliating. That said, I suspect that a lot of decisions are pretty arbitrary. Perhaps the best strategy is to put them down to misunderstandings, clarify and submit to a higher impact journal.

  2. The editorial rejection paper is missing an important point… there are lots of reasons an editor-in-chief might reject a paper without review, and quality is only one of them. Goodness-of-fit, I would think, would be a big concern. Looking at the table of papers that were rejected and then submitted to another journal of “similar quality”, some examples pop out. It’s sort of silly to say that a paper rejected from Ecological Applications and then accepted at Proc B is an indication that the editor at Ecol App didn’t recognize the paper’s quality. Ecol Apps and Proc B don’t have a similar focus, and if the paper’s content was more basic and less applied, then the quality of the paper doesn’t matter – Ecol Apps is still going to reject it because they have specific aims. What proportion these content mismatches make up of the total number of rejections I’m not sure, but I think the study’s inability to tell content-based rejections from quality-based rejections makes it much less interesting.

  3. My point was basically that these papers are unlikely to be a random sample of those rejected. Pat’s point is also true to my eyes.

    And I omitted to say, that in my particular bit of Norther climes, the weather is lovely at the moment.

  4. My comment is on the Deresiewicz New Republic article on elite education. My first reaction, like Terry’s, was also “umm,, really? Reed et al. ‘second tier’? “. But then I kept reading. He makes some excellent points about the pressures on young people for over achieving and career prep. Most of us reading Terry’s blog agree that “learning how to think” is one of the most important things you can do during college, and one that people are unlikely to pick up later in life. Deresiewicz makes a strong argument that the U.S. must invest in publicly funded, equitable, high quality higher education. “We have tried aristocracy. We have tried meritocracy. Now it’s time to try democracy.”

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