Recommended reads #81


The underground network of folks self-medicating with gut parasites.

Reinventing biostatistics education for basic scientists.

A wiki to advise folks “How to prepare for grad school if you’re poor.” The section on Cultural and Social Capital is the move and tells it like it is about how to deal with people who grew up and are accustomed to having social capital. If you feel like you don’t fit into grad school because of your background, check out this document for support.

An oldie but goodie: How to publish a scientific comment in 1 2 3 easy steps.

The importance of field biology and natural history skills for teaching critical thinking.

Why America’s business majors are in desperate need of a liberal arts education.

Meg Duffy ran a survey about perceptions in senior authorship conventions among ecologists, and got well over 1000 respondents! She’s now writing up the results, which are fascinating. Here is Part 1 and here is Part 2.

How and why to cite museum specimens in research

LA Times critics opined on what book is “The Great American Novel.” (One author gets mentioned twice: Morrison.)

A journalist uncovered the paper trail at the University of Washington left by biologist Michael Katze in the wake of extraordinarily egregious sexual harassment. “When pressed about his treatment of employees, however, Katze told the university investigator: ‘My job is to get grants. I am singularly focused on training scientists. This kind of shit is completely unimportant to me.'” Once you cross the threshold that getting grants and training scientists is the exactly same thing, then you stop seeing the human beings, right?  Not long after this story was published, Katze sued the journalist.

While we’re on that topic, the harasser from the University of Arizona is now suing his former employer because word got out about him. Apparently he’s upset because he thought the report about his harassment was supposed to be confidential. You know, so he could go elsewhere and harass other scientists.

So why is it that we are naming names of serial sexual harassers? Why we publicize accusations of sexual misconduct.

Simon Leather looks ahead to retirement in a few years and sizes up that there are some projects that he’s not going to be writing up — and is proffering his data, in “Data I am never going to publish in peer-reviewed journals.”

Microbial mass extinctions were kicked off by human evolution.

The New Zealand Journal of Ecology has a scheme for more senior academics to mentor junior academics in the process of reviewing papers. Sounds pretty good. Also, I like it when Brit/Aussie/Kiwis use “schemes.” Bwa ha ha.

The PDF Alibi syndrome

The title of a recent paper in PLOS One: “Misperceiving Bullshit as Profound Is Associated with Favorable Views of Cruz, Rubio, Trump and Conservatism” Okay, then. In two months,  it’s been viewed more than a quarter million times. Not so bad for a scientific paper.

What are you going to do with your tool?

Dave Eggers went to a Trump rally and described the people there in a piece for The Guardian. It’s really interesting. If you’re disinclined to believe me on this because you’re as mentally done with even thinking about this situation as I am, then this is specifically addressed to you: really, it’s interesting.

A Buddhist temple to honor insects that died for science.

At Goldschmidt conference this week (which by the way I went to and wrote about a couple years ago), it was announced a huge helium field was discovered. Which is quite a relief, considering the prospects of a helium shortage.

“New research suggests that employees with a diverse Twitter network — one that exposes them to people and ideas they don’t already know — tend to generate better ideas.”

The American Society of Microbiology thought it was okay to develop a “explain science to your mom” campaign. They have since backpedaled. I thought it was funny and charming when Adrian Smith explained his own science to his own mom (who does not happen to be a scientist). But it would be foolhardy to generalize from that specific case, because lots of moms are scientists and obviously lots of scientists are moms. Which really shouldn’t have to be said, but apparently it does, because ASM didn’t realize it at first.

There was an uncharacteristically insipid piece about “oversensitivity” on college campuses in The New Yorker a month ago. I was glad when a buddy pointed me to this response, which explains that all of this stuff that people complain about on college campuses doesn’t really have anything to do with the undergraduate experience of most students. Is it really an epidemic that college students oversensitive to the concerns of other people? I mean, when we look at the average American voter, there is ample evidence that we are raising nuanced and well-reasoned people that are capable of respecting people from other backgrounds. Of course our campuses don’t need to promote increased sensitivity to the experiences of others.

This is the story about Fisher vs. University of Texas that I’d wish opponents of affirmative action could read with an open mind.

There was a story that came out in the New York Times about how a study about how progressive family-leave policies weren’t working out and were helping out fathers too much and mothers not enough. Or something like that. Anyway, the interpretation of the original study got out of hand, and here’s a good blog post that explains the original paper itself.

Be sure to take the Queer in STEM 2.0 survey, designed to build on the findings of the first survey. (It’s not just for queer folk by the way.)

The mascot for the Brazilian Olympic delegation is a jaguar. They took this jaguar out on a parade (which apparently they’ve been doing regularly), then the creature got out hand, and they shot and killed it. Yes, Brazil just killed their own Olympic mascot. This does not bode well for the events in Rio this summer.

This long-form story on former soldier and American football player Nate Boyer won’t disappoint. Stories like this are a reminder that we are living in a time of excellent journalism.

Here is what I think — I hope — can be an important paper. I’ve put the whole abstract below: Fochler, M., Felt, U., and Müller, R. 2016. Unsustainable growth, hyper-competition, and worth in life science research: narrowing evaluative repertoires in doctoral and postdoctoral scientists’ work and lives. Minerva 54:176-200.

There is a crisis of valuation practices in the current academic life sciences, triggered by unsustainable growth and ‘‘hyper-competition.’’ Quantitative metrics in evaluating researchers are seen as replacing deeper considerations of the quality and novelty of work, as well as substantive care for the societal implications of research. Junior researchers are frequently mentioned as those most strongly affected by these dynamics. However, their own perceptions of these issues are much less frequently considered. This paper aims at contributing to a better understanding of the interplay between how research is valued and how young researchers learn to live, work and produce knowledge within academia. We thus analyze how PhD students and postdocs in the Austrian life sciences ascribe worth to people, objects and practices as they talk about their own present and future lives in research. We draw on literature from the field of valuation studies and its interest in how actors refer to different forms of valuation to account for their actions. We explore how young researchers are socialized into different valuation practices in different stages of their growing into science. Introducing the concept of ‘‘regimes of valuation’’ we show that PhD students relate to a wider evaluative repertoire while postdocs base their decisions on one dominant regime of valuing research. In conclusion, we discuss the implications of these findings for the epistemic and social development of the life sciences, and for other scientific fields.

If you’re thinking of making a career out of writing, this looks to be full of hard-won insight. Including this one: “It’s probably the only rule I really think of as a rule: to write well you must read books, a lot of books.”

In my job alert from The Chronicle, I saw that a department I used to work in is hiring another ecologist, again. Caveat auditor.

Atul Gawande gave the commencement address to CalTech. You know commencement addresses are pretty good when they end up getting published verbatim. It ain’t exactly David Foster Wallace, but still more than worth your time.

A few years ago, my “Introduction to the Bible” professor from way back when had an ancient papyrus wind up in her possession, which had a historic reference of the “wife” of Jesus. A large stink was created, as it passed a lot of tests to support its authenticity. Some quality investigative journalism just published in The Atlantic about its provenance has convinced a number of non-doubters to begin doubting. Here’s the response to that piece from the academic who introduced this artifact to the world.

“Open Data may be good for science, but it may be bad for scientists — especially early career ones. Not because the authors of open data will be scooped, but because the authors lose credit for their data relative to authors who do don’t make their data open.”

Have a great weekend!

One thought on “Recommended reads #81

  1. Thanks for the great link regarding gut parasites – it’s a topic that really interests me ever since I was asked to contribute to a short review paper on the topic a few years ago – see the last section of this old post:

    It’s a nice example of context-dependent outcomes of species interactions – are they really parasites if ultimately they benefit the host in unexpected ways?

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