Recommended reads #103


Why academics need to focus on structuring their time

Superstar artist Ai Weiwei wrote a piece about how censorship works for the New York Times — gosh knows he’s had plenty of opportunity to gain expertise. It’s revelatory, and relevant for those of in the US more than ever.

On being broken, and the kindness of others. An alternative commencement speech by Kevin Gannon. (By the way, I’ve added his site, The Tattooed Professor, to the list of other blogs at the bottom of the page. Which come to think of it, I should have done that a long time ago!)

Headline from the LA Times90% of universities reported no rapes on campus for the year of 2015.

Science-ing as a new parent postdoc

As a woman in science, I need to conceal my femininity to be taken seriously. Holy crap this is a fantastic and illuminating piece of writing by Eve Forster.

In case this helps you: This happened to me while I was trying to become a paleoanthropologist. Brava.

500 women scientists is for all women scientists.

Matthew Inman wrote a comic that communicates about science, belief, and emotion really effectively. (And some folks have concerns he didn’t get the science right, just so you know.)

Is it okay to cite preprints?

NIH is capping the amount of funds a single PI can bring in. This’ll only directly affect big dough labs (the cap is about the equivalent of three R01s), but I’m sure there’ll be a variety of non-target and cascading effects. (There’s been discussion about this on twitter that I’ve marginally listened to, but I doubt I’ll be hitting NIH up anytime soon)

There is a short story that I read many years ago that just so compelling that it stuck with me. I thought it was only available in print, but I spent a bit of time searching, and see that the publisher had it online for a while (after it won the O. Henry award, which says something about how great it is) and I found it using the internet archive: So, I present to you The Ceiling, by Kevin Brockmeier.

MOOCs are accessible to everybody, so clearly, they must promote equity by providing equal access, right? No, of course not, and here is why.

A peer reviewed paper arguing that teaching quantitative courses can be hazardous to your career. (Though the claim that teaching evaluation scores actually affect the outcome of tenure decisions is not supported by any data in this paper.)

The New York Times hired a climate dismisser as a columnist. Which is a big problem. What to make of this? I think Teen Vogue puts this in useful perspective.

You might have noticed I used the phrase “climate dismisser” instead of “denier.” That was on purpose. I’m done with saying “climate denier.” Why? Ohmygawd please listen to this NPR interview with Katharine Hayhoe, and I hope you’ll join me in this change.

A peer-reviewed article about how grad students from underrepresented minorities don’t publish as much as their majority peers, and developing a highly structured agenda for support and mentorship at the start of the graduate program can help fix this problem.

“The Male Allies and Advocates Toolkit is intended to support workplace efforts to engage male allies and advocates in diversity and inclusion initiatives. These tools are designed to equip change leaders in two areas: 1) Setting the stage for success and raising initial awareness 2) Developing a plan of action for male advocacy efforts and evaluating success.” (Note, I haven’t scrutinized these materials, but at a glance they seem worth sharing.)

IMG_3002.jpgTo keep faculty happy, be nice to them. I think I might say this like a broken record (which FYI if you’re not a vinyl person, it’s when an album skips and plays the same revolution over and over), but I’ll say it again: In a university, your happiness and quality of life at work is probably structured by how nice people are in your department more than anything else. A place might be amazing in many ways, but if the people suck, the place sucks.

A Canadian professor in North Carolina was driven to leave her tenure-track faculty position because the racism experienced by her family was too much. There’s a lot to unpack here, and I’m not wholly up to it, but I don’t want to link to it without at least salting with a dash of opinion. One one hand, this is an entirely legitimate response to the circumstances, and if you and your family have the option of living in an environment where you are not subjected to the level of racism you find in Burlington, North Carolina, then more power to you. On the other hand, there are folks who have been living in this area for their entire lives who live with the daily burden and danger of racism on a daily basis, who don’t have the opportunity to pick up and move to Winnipeg where the racism is not as hideous. This says something about how things have changed in the US, but let’s not interpret this to mean that this country just became racist overnight.

A peer-reviewed paper showing how being connected to the editor of the journal helps you get published there.

A peer-reviewed listicle about making the most of your undergraduate research career. If you have a mountain of resources and opportunities available to you, then this is a good guide about how to make the most of what has been given to you.

Diversity in Physics: are you a part of the problem? This can easily be about all fields, not just physics. And this is very well written and worth your while.

Insects and ethics

Famous authors’ opening lines on Tinder.

The person who pioneered our understanding of implicit bias is now championing an agenda to end it, acknowledging that current approaches to bias training don’t work. This is a great read.

Where have all the insects gone?

NSF Funding: Myth, hyperbole, and luck: “We need to stop complaining about the process and continue to apply pressure in the only place that will fix any of this. Without additional funds, this continual flatlining of the NSF budget will continue to make consistent funding a pipe dream.”

Teaching biology in the field: importance, challenges, solutions

Winners and losers of the recent nuclear holocaust

Outrage has become the new truth.

Can science fairs be fair? Maybe.

The deaths of trees threatens the lives of thousands of Californians

let’s take a deep dive into that Times article on school choice

Living in a Philip Roth novel that he never wrote

battle of cuttlefish

This paper about the energy expansions of evolution by Olivia Judson, to my eye, seems to be paradigm-changing.

A journalist gets arrested for asking a question. For reals.

The tangled story behind Trump’s false claims of voter fraud. (This is a story about science, the process of research, and data, by the way. It just came out this Thursday night at this writing so I haven’t read it, and it’s not short, and it all looks great. I think Maggie Koerth-Baker is a helluva writer and this looks spectacular. And it has one of those cool interactive graphics, no surprise as this is on 538.)

Have a good weekend. Please pressure your members of Congress to apply all of the pressure they can for a special counsel to investigate Russian tampering of our executive branch. As of this moment, two Republican congress members have signed on to a bill to support this! We can, and must, keep resisting.

5 thoughts on “Recommended reads #103

  1. Nobody’s saying anything but I hope y’all are appreciating how I got the monkey driving the bananamobile in the header image this week.

  2. Re: the PLS piece on increasing NSF funding so as to increase success rates, the latter doesn’t automatically follow from the former. As illustrated by the doubling of the NIH budget back in the 90s. At the end of the doubling, success rates were the same or even down a touch from what they were at the beginning. Because if you make more money available, more people will chase it.

    There may be ways to reduce the number of people chasing the same amount of money. Removing grant deadlines for instance. I seem to recall NSF has a pilot program in which that worked? Or making it more work to apply. When the preproposal system came in, there was a big jump in applicants, because it’s easy to submit a preproposal. Just spitballin’.

  3. I’ve picked up a lot of interest/optimism about expanding the GEO pilot into other directorates, to remove deadlines to decrease the total number of submissions, which would increase funding rates. I think there are more things we can do, but I also agree with PLS that the bottom line is there isn’t enough funding, and we shouldn’t be focusing our ire on how NSF is (admirably) doing the best in a bad situation, and instead unite to focus on the source of the problem: inadequate congressional allocation.

  4. I completely agree that NSF and everyone involved in it (panelists, etc.) do an outstanding job and that getting pissed off at them because your grant didn’t get funded is misdirected frustration.

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