Recommended reads #78


IMG_0092Who wore it better? David Bowie or nudibranch?  This is fabulous, in the classic sense of the word.

This is a compelling read about the most accomplished woman climber of Everest. And the compelling part isn’t so much about Everest.

Pros and cons of teaching in an active learning classroom.

The tighter the money, the less innovative the science. This is a convincing argument.

Here’s a critique of open peer review that I liked, from an interview in the Molecular Ecologist. Which is a great place to read stuff, if only for the cool design of their logo.

This from Bloomberg supposedly explains what the heck is going on over at National Geographic. Sounds credible enough.

Boston’s sidewalks are covered in secret poems.

So, there’s a new short book called The Slow Professor. Here’s the NPR story about it. From the little I heard about it, I had some skepticism. It seems like this reviewer shared my skepticism after actually having read the book.

Need an online teaching assistant for your course? You could just build a chatbot and it could do the job just fine. At least it did for this dude.

I kinda love this reflectiveness by Nate Silver in doing the hard work to understand how and why he was wrong on his projections for the Republican nomination. Would that all scientists are so reflective on their own statistical practices.

Social network algorithms are distorting reality by boosting conspiracy theories.

How college admissions essays talk about money.

The first substantiated case of trans-oceanic tortoise dispersal. This tortoise weighed 25kg. This paper is 10 years old, but news to me. Check out the barnacles on her legs!

The lie of liberal intolerance on campus.

Some Buddhists have a tradition of releasing captured animals  in a “mercy release,” because religion. Apparently there’s a huge trade involved with rearing non-native species for mercy releases in Hong Kong, and the net effect on karma might be not what was intended.

The pre-med curriculum is counterproductive:

We all want compassionate, well-rounded physicians to care for us. We want doctors who can work in teams and who put patients’ interests first. Yet our current pre-med system bears little relationship to the practice of medicine and encourages students to focus on their own success above all else.
We should look for budding doctors who dream of caring for patients and spend their college years developing diverse passions. Students who study the injustices of socioeconomic disparities, the intricacies of music theory or the beauty of poetry can also make great physicians.

The baby bison story is tragic. But a few orders of magnitude more tragic is the story about pupfish from the week earlier.

Here’s some good news – a species that was thought to be extinct, isn’t. Let’s hope that maybe, just perhaps, the frogcopalypse in Central America isn’t as bad as we had thought? Probably not. [the story is in Spanish, heads up.]

I’m all down for a critique of “Grit,” but if you’re going to tackle the job, could you be less insipid than this review? I bet we all could.

The University of Montreal cancelled all 2,116 of their Springer subscriptions. And had some strong words in their press release about it.

NSF just published a blog post with context and links to how they are reviewing the pre-proposal system in the Division of Environmental Biology, and much of the ideas translate across BIO. If you’re wondering what they think and know about the two-stage review process, here you go. Spoiler: they know what folks are annoyed about. I imagine their thoughts about it are kind of like that thing Churchill said about democracy, it’s the worst way to fund scientists, except for all the ways.

Are you not a climber, and wonder what the deal is with climbing, like how (and why) people do this, and how safe it is? This is a good FAQ for non-climbers. (I’m not a climber. I don’t trust my own judgment enough.)

David Wardle has some high-level snark about altmetrics published as an editorial in a peer-reviewed journal. I totally agree with him, I should add. I wish he’d have put this in a blog post, more people would be reading and talking about it.

Ta-Nehisi Coates explains how it sucks to be famous. More eloquently, of course, because it’s Coates.

Last rec reads, I pointed to an article about weight loss and metabolic rates that was rather compelling. Here’s a neurobiological explainer of that article that I think is equally compelling.

Cheryl Sandberg put a reflective and thoughtful post on Facebook that pretty much amounted to a retraction of her best-selling book: “In Lean In, I emphasized how critical a loving and supportive partner can be for women both professionally and personally—and how important Dave was to my career and to our children’s development. I still believe this. Some people felt that I did not spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they have an unsupportive partner or no partner at all. They were right.” In other words, she discovered that “leaning in” doesn’t work for people unless they’ve already got it relatively easy.

Why people pay to read the New York Times. This is really good and puts the evolution of journalism in context. All that money Buzzfeed was paying for legit journalists last year? Not exactly reaping as much as some folks would have thought. I think the frequency of NYT links in my rec reads have increased, and I have to say that I pretty much never go directly to their site. I just see cool links that people have socially shared. I think I’m going to sign up pretty soon. It’s easy to circumvent the 10-article-per-month situation, but I probably shouldn’t.

This might be the stupidest — or the most ignorant — things about academia from the New York Times. They’re just shocked — shocked! — that so many PhDs start working as postdocs. Duh. Okay, the NYT isn’t perfect.

It’s time to get over the Kuhn model of paradigms and scientific revolutions. Because it just doesn’t represent what actually happens.

Have a great weekend. I’m heading out to the field for a couple weeks!

2 thoughts on “Recommended reads #78

  1. Looking forward to reading a bunch of these!

    Re: Dave Wardle’s critique of Altmetric scores maybe drawing more eyes as a blogpost, I’m a bit puzzled. He doesn’t have a blog of his own that I’m aware of, and it’d obviously be silly to start one just to write one post. So it would’ve had to have been a guest post on some existing widely read blog.

  2. I mostly agree with the critique of open peer review, but the author assumes that journal editors are as diligent and good of editors as he himself is. In my field, some journal editors are essentially figureheads; their editorial assistants (who are not scientists and can’t evaluate the manuscripts) do all the work. They use algorithms to reject papers that get reviews that are too negative. That is a worst-case, but I do think in lots of journals, the editors do not read the papers themselves unless the reviews are contentious or disagree with each other. So bad reviews still get through, including comments that rely on erroneous information, reviewers who did not understand something or clearly did not read the paper, etc. I don’t know what the solution is, though. Reviewing is our unpaid labor; we can’t hold everyone to very high standards.

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