Recommended reads #92


Caring isn’t coddling: “While I’m not without gallows humor and can enjoy an ‘it’s in the syllabus’ joke as much as the next person, I also feel deeply that the best teaching arises in faculty-student relationships that are mutually respectful and that mutually honor the worth each side is bringing to the table.”

A shark that was (maybe) choking on a massive chunk of moose was (maybe) saved by a couple guys.

A bunch of taxonomists got together to sign a paper saying that we should never describe new species using photographs. (For what it’s worth, I am agnostic on the matter. And I’ve chosen the word “agnostic” with purpose.)

Double-blind review gives less famous people a better chance at competing with bigwigs during peer review, says this paper.

On not fitting in academia, from a “white trash” background. The lack of breadth in the culture of grad school and the professoriate is unforgiving.

A couple months ago, there was a hideous piece in the Science career section from a guy who was trying to be cute about how science was making him horrible to his family. It was insipid and might have given folks the impression that you can’t be a responsible spouse and a dedicated scientist. A new piece in Science by Amanda Zellmer explains how science is family-friendly. By explaining her own experience, she’s adding a voice that I think is not uncommon, but doesn’t find it way to print that often. I’m able to be a more responsible spouse and a more hands-on parent because I’m a scientist.

A new huge paper in Nature just came out, with a meta-analysis of soil warming experiments, showing that warmer soils result in higher soil respiration, resulting in a big positive C flux. The positive feedback from warming the planet with carbon pollution is now causing an acceleration of C release from the earth. Yeah, that’s not good for us. A short and high quality explainer is here. I don’t see a particularly good reason to think that these smaller-scale manipulations don’t represent what we might expect globally in the future. (It guess it’s possible that large-scale interactions over a slightly slower period of time might change relationships between bacteria and fungi that would change rates of respiration and C mineralization, but that’s so beyond my realm. This is another indication that we’ve hit a tipping point after dumping millions and millions of years of sequestered C back into the atmosphere.)

Why would a poor kid want to work in academia?” This piece makes the all-too-common error of conflating the process of getting a PhD with the pursuit of a lifelong career in academia, but if you can get over that, there are some interesting observations.

Ten years ago, a book was published that explains how rich people with low-achieving kids bought their way into prestigious universities. Now, one of the people featured in that book, who bought his way into Harvard, is the consigliere of Trump.

5 ways modern movie directing has changed for the worse.

How students have a hard time distinguishing fake news and real news.

A fascinating interview with Zadie Smith. (And by the way, if you haven’t read her White Teeth or On Beauty, those are both great. I haven’t gotten to her more recent books yet but I’ve heard and read great things. I learned in there that she was 21 when she wrote White Teeth. Wow.)

From the US White House: “We’ve compiled some of what we’ve heard and seen work in creating a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable science and technology workforce.” This is a detailed, substantial, and useful document. Thanks, Obama.

The Astronomy community is continuing to get its act together to take action on the long-standing epidemic of sexual misconduct in academia. The latest news from the Australian CSIRO astro division explains there have been over a dozen investigations into sexual misconduct in recent year.

Here’s a Q &A with the former president of the American Astronomical Society, about sexual misconduct by astronomers.

9 tips for communicating science to people who are not scientists.

Ed Yong explains how there is a substantial pool of talented minority scientists who are inadequately recruited into the professoriate.

Hundey, E.J., et al. 2016. A Shifting Tide: Recommendations for Incorporating Science Communication into Graduate Training. Limnology and Oceanography Bulletin yadda yadda yadda. It’s a good paper that works for all of the sciences.

I am shocked — downright amazed — that the most prestigious and wealthy universities (in the UK) are employing contingent faculty at the highest rates.

Politics are always at play in our classrooms.

A study (that you saw linked here one year ago) is now in the Washington Post, about how co-authored papers count less for women (in economics).

Dear scientists: Our government needs you.

NPR had a story about the large numbers of people who view their religious leaders as experts on matters of science over actual scientists.

There was a series of attacks at Ohio State this week, involving a car and a knife. The assailant was killed on the spot. At the beginning of the year, he was featured in the OSU student paper in a “Humans of Ohio State” feature, in which he was reflective, smart, and measured. The person who interviewed him wrote about it in The Washington Post, and what he concludes about us is chilling.

It looks like British (and Canadian) money has animal fat in it.

It turns out that this time of crisis has resulted in some rather exceptional writing.

This section has what I think are exceptional reads related to the crisis in the United States. Seriously, there’s a lot of stuff here, but I think it’s all both important and of high quality.

If you want to read just one thing to get a handle on what happened in the United States, this is a particularly cogent postmortem on the election, explaining which narratives don’t hold up, which ones do, and why we should worry. You know all those vaguely formed opinions you hear from people, some of which make more sense than others? What to make of what just happened? In my opinion, this is the piece that sorts it out quite well. Seriously, it’s so good. It’s not short, but if you read it all the way through, you’ll see what I mean.

The New York Times has a story about the instability of western democracies in general, using historical data and describing the rise of autocracies. Did you know that the majority of people living in democracies don’t think it’s that important to live in a democracy anymore? This was an eye opener for me.

Ten ways to tell if your president is a dictator. This isn’t from buzzfeed or something, it’s from the rather serious publication Foreign Policy. When these people say that Trump is acting like a dictator, then well, I think they know what they’re talking about.

George Yancy in “I am a dangerous professor.” I was looking for the best line or paragraph to quote, but man, the whole piece is golden. [That gesture you make, putting your fingers to your pursed lips when you are delivered a dish from a master chef and it’s just delicious to perfection. That’s this piece of writing. Just perfect.]

The New York Times has started a “This Week in Hate” feature. Sign of the times.

Historian Kevin Gannon reflects on the electoral college. If you know your history of the period (or actually, especially if you don’t), this is wonderful.

Tressie McMillan Cottom writes about the election, “Hope in a Loveless Place” Everything she writes is great, and this is a few notches above her norm.

Scientists are really, really worried about Donald Trump. I think two media outlets that have handled this election quite well are the Washington Post (where this piece is from) and apparently lots of people are saying, Teen Vogue.

The Post has a very clear-eyed and downright terrifying piece, “Trump has already defeated the news media. And it’s unclear what we can do about it” that I strongly recommend.

Biologist and writer Barbara Kingsolver discusses what to do now after the election.

Consider the following scenarios: What if Venezuela held a presidential election and President Nicolás Maduro claimed victory with fewer votes than his main rival? Or if Russian liberals won the most votes in the country’s legislative elections but failed to secure the most seats in the Duma? Or if Iranian authorities tried to prevent members of the country’s largest minority group from voting? Can you imagine the howls of outrage from the White House press secretary? The pious calls from the State Department spokesman to respect the will of the people and protect minorities? Yet all of these undemocratic travesties occurred. Here in the United States, in front of our noses.”

Stay safe out there, and please, let’s protect one another. In the meanwhile, we’ve got to trust in our electors, and the Republicans in Congress, to not be horrible. I’m not holding my breath for them.

One thought on “Recommended reads #92

  1. Excellent links, as always! To nitpick slightly: the graphs from the NY Times article are showing the percentage of people who responded to the question “How important is it for you to live in a country that is governed democratically?” with a 10 on a 10-point scale (1 being “not at all important” and 10 being “absolutely important). A majority of people across all demographics rated it as 8 or higher. The change is still interesting, but much less dire than it looks in the graphs. This Twitter thread has some interesting follow-up discussion:

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