Recommended reads #48


Allen Orr wrote a masterful review of DS Wilson’s latest book on the evolution of altruism.

Jeremiah Ory has some spectacular advice non-advice for managing dual careers.

Quiz: Did a computer or a human write this?

How Eric Grollman came out of the liberal arts closet.

My 11-year old son Bruce just told me about the Hawkeye Initiative, in which the absurd sexualization of women in comics is highlighted by substituting particularly egregious images of women with sarcastic dude Hawkeye. (Who is Bruce’s favorite comic character, by the way.) Here is a two-year old article about the Hawkeye Initiative. (If you’re like, “which one is Hawkeye?” then he’s the one who was played by Jeremy Renner.)

According to a recent study, African Americans see little advantage from graduating from elite universities.

“I think we instead start to see in ecology what have already seen in other disciplines – rather than leave science, people will just leave. The US. I fear an ecological brain drain may be around the corner for the USA.” This is a really informative, link-filled, and important post by Emilio Bruna.

The chilling effect of mandatory reporting of sexual assault. An important read, especially if you are in a position to influence policy on your campus. (Actually, everybody is in a position to influence policy, but some have more individual power than others.)

Fundamental ecology is fundamental.

Why do we send so many of our best stories to journals whose editors are not accomplished, experienced, practicing scientists? Why do we give professional editors of journals that are not directly responsible to our community the authority to set the standards of our fields by deciding what gets published in top-tier journals? Most importantly, why do so many people serving on faculty hiring-and-promotion committees and grant review panels give these editors so much influence over who gets hired, promoted, and funded? Wouldn’t we, and science, be better served if we entrusted our best stories to journals with peer-editors whose authority is well founded, who have earned the respect of their peers, who are qualified to set the standards of the field? [and then this editorial goes off the rails and argues that journals should then be ranked based on the h-scores of the editorial board.]

5 Lessons Education Research Taught Us In 2014.

How misguided science fandom hurts actual scientists. This is pretty awesome.

Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others. People can be called out for statements and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and the list goes on. Because call-outs tend to be public, they can enable a particularly armchair and academic brand of activism: one in which the act of calling out is seen as an end in itself.

For more and different weekend reads, Jeff Ollerton has started posting, “Something for the weekend”!

Here’s a nice piece with “career advice to young scientists” who are not planning to stay in academia. I’m not big on advice which is overtly labeled and construed as such, but this is a good list.

You might have heard that Sweet Briar College is closing up shop. This is a long-established, not-badly endowed institution that just couldn’t make ends meet. This does seem to be a cautionary tale, especially for small, private, rural institutions.

Did you hear the one about how humans have evolved tolerance to arsenic-rich water?

At every university, to the best of my limited knowledge, academic misconduct sanctions are handled on a case-by-case basis, and often subject to the preferences (or even whims) of faculty and administrators involved in the process. But not so at the University of Arkansas. They have a very detailed point system that standardizes how academic misconduct is handled throughout the university, ranking some kinds of misconduct as worse than others. I have no idea how often faculty go rogue and don’t use this system, but the fact of its existence is pretty striking, and maybe a broader model. Do other places have a system like this, or is Arkansas unique?


I picked up some of these links from the social media of Arvid Ågren,Meg Duffy, Auriel Fournier, Neil Losin, and Marianne Peso. Anything else of interest, please add to the comments! (People do follow links in the comments quite a bit.)

6 thoughts on “Recommended reads #48

  1. Thanks for the link to my post Terry…glad you liked the essay, which has actually been sitting as a draft for over 3 months until I finally got the courage to post it. Must…write…more…blog posts…..

    Dynamic Ecology linked as well, but I wanted to clarify one thing based on Jeremy’s read of the essay. Here’s the comment I left over there.

    “I don’t think I was necessarily arguing there will be an huge migration, in fact as I say in the post the US continues to be the primary global destination for scientific talent. By “Brain Drain” I also meant the potential for star scientists who in the past would never have considered leaving – even a few of these more per year could be a big deal in terms of where the global academic hotspots are (see, e.g.,

    The TLDR summary is that I think we might see in ecology what has become an emerging trend in biotech fields — a willingness on the part of people, including major stars, to consider places previously off the radar. Sure, there have always been people who would consider leaving a position in the US for one at ETH Zurich. But what about for one in Singapore or the XTBG? 15 years ago I think not. Today, the financial resources available at those institutions (along with the increasingly global community of scholars and quality of life there) means many would consider it seriously, at least IMO.”

    Thanks again for the shout-out.

    • Thanks! I actually spent a few minutes trying to track that one down but couldn’t find it! (My google-fu was weak last night, apparently)

      • A further, serious thought on that topic: insofar as people ogle science rather than loving it, that’s at least in part because of scientists inviting ogling. For instance, there’ve been recent studies showing that hype in news reports about science usually comes straight from press releases, which in many cases are approved by the scientists involved.

  2. Yes thank you for the link on why making everyone a mandated reporter is a terrible idea! I volunteer as a rape crisis counselor, and also as a public educator for my local rape crisis center, teaching people in settings like universities how to respond to disclosures. This is a huge pet peeve for me. You don’t bring about justice, or safety, by stepping on people who have been assaulted and further taking away their ability to make their own decisions.

    To everyone reading this: If you are a mandated reporter on your campus, try to make sure that people on your campus know that as soon as it looks like they might disclose to you, before they say anything that would require you to report. Heck, I wouldn’t be averse to stating it on the syllabus. Letting them know that you’re a mandated reporter allows them to make informed decisions about whether to disclose to you. It’s respectful. And if possible, provide the contact info for a non-mandated-reporter-in-the-college-context support person – an off-campus resource, if there’s nobody at the school. And see if you can get the policy changed!

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