Recommended reads #105


David Attenborough regrets spending so much time away from his family. (I should note that I’m writing this from a field station in Costa Rica, missing out on the duties and joys of parenting. It’s my shortest summer research trip down here ever, for this reason.)

Open science has an image and behavior problem.

With funding rates below 5% in the US for many federal programs, you can bet that Macron’s Make Our Planet Great Again grant program will attract some attention, especially for people in the US looking for 4 years of postdoc funding. Brain drain from the US is getting substantial.

“Why Alex Honnold’s free solo of El Cap scared me.” In case you hadn’t heard, a legendary guy climbed up El Capitan, without ropes, in less than 4 hours. “I hope others are inspired by Alex’s dedication to excellence and ability to live without fear, and less by his willingness to accept risk.”

Christie Bahlai wrote a piece in the American Scientist about the long road to getting a faculty job, pointing out that we in academic are selecting for the relatively well-buffered academics who are positioned to withstand a job application process that involves a sustained effort over several years. If we want to address inequities in science, the road to the tenure track position shouldn’t necessarily be tortuous.

“Every being cries out silently to be read differently.”

When an award for teaching was a Kiss of Death. (Is it still?)

College isn’t for everyone.

Include is a verb. Practical steps for professional societies to convert strong statements of inclusion into actions that truly make a difference.

A tale of sixty trees.

My anthro colleague Jerry Moore knows how to tell an engaging story, and the most recent evidence of this is his new book, Incidents of Travel: Recent Journeys in Ancient South America. It’s a set of anecdotes about travel, ancient cultures, field research, and getting to know one another. It sounds like a perfect nonfiction summer read, and I’m looking forward to it.

Here’s a reminder that there are resources out there to help ecologists teach with the same analytical rigor as we apply to our science.

“We describe an online, open-access educational module that we have developed that harnesses the power of collections-based information to introduce students to multiple conceptual and analytical elements of climate change, evolutionary, and ecological biology research.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has some hideous rules about permitting research, collections, and educational use of insects. Which might keep me from teaching an insect biology course this year.

Most days, Jerry Coyne is an effective parody of Jerry Coyne.

Another great article in the New York Times by Amy Harmon, about climate change education.

On the other hand, the NYT has created this dopey College Access Index, which attempts to show compare how colleges are accessible to low-income students, but oddly enough chooses to exclude a boatload of institutions that serve low-income students. Really, it’s a list of prestigious institutions that are choosing to support a slightly larger minority of low-income students, that pretends that universities serving most low-income students don’t exist.

Meanwhile, the New York Times writes an ode to grit, placing the extradorinary efforts of underserved students on a pedestal. How about for every time we elevate the efforts of students who overcome huge obstacles, we shine some sunlight on those who are placing those obstacles?

A lot of folks were impressed by Rebecca Solnit’s essay about the loneliness of 45. (the autocrat, not the age. But hey, I’m turning 45 this month, and not so lonely.)

Publons – the startup that was designed to allow folks to count up how many manuscripts they review to create some kind of credit system for reviewing – just sold out to an analytics firm. If there’s a for-profit that says it wants to improve academic publishing, then they’re probably doing it a) to make big bucks and b) take advantage of the free labor of the academic community.

UC Santa Cruz launches a campaign to tout their first-generation faculty.

NSF decided to end funding Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants (DDIGs) in the Division of Environmental Biology. Here’s the explanation from the DEB Blog. Thanks to Meg Duffy, here’s a post-and-enlightening-comments. My first two thoughts are: 1) it’s a tragedy that Congress is continuing to allow NSF to wither, and 2) with the proposed massive cut to the GRFP program, it’s getting harder for doctoral students to find federal support to conduct their own work, which means more students will be relying on being paid by their PI to do research, which will make it harder for students to build an independent professional trajectory — and make it harder for students to be proactive about planning for their career options once they receive their PhD. If NSF wants to fund more great science at relatively low cost, then doctoral students are probably the best bang-for-the-buck, and funding them through research assistantships granted to their PIs is not the best route for their professional development.

Brian O’Meara is suggesting a new approach to cutting down on NSF overhead for running the DDIG program (which was cited as a reason the program was nixed): administer a grant program to fund professional organizations (academic societies, centers of excellence, whatnot) that will distribute DDIGs in a responsible fashion.

What the heck is going on at Evergreen State College? If you haven’t heard, there have been protests and threats of violence that have shut down the campus. I haven’t written about this more, because I haven’t had the chance to learn enough about it. The basic picture is here from The Stranger, and here’s the take from Inside Higher Ed. Here’s a report from a student about “the truth” that in my view is more embarrassing than enlightening, here’s a followup story from the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and a by-the-numbers report from The Washington Post This might be enough to help you make up your mind. My general read, based primarily on the links above, is that the protests are misdirected and mistaken. (And, please, get off my lawn.)

The tale of a progressive professor who forgot to hide her racism and got her ass fired

Let them eat cake,” said the biotech elitists.

In another story about Boston-area exceptionalism, a bunch of students accepted to Harvard created a group on facebook and started sharing a bunch of memes that, to put it mildly, were sexist and racist. And they had their acceptances revoked.

Excerpts from James Comey’s opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee or from Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day?


Have a great weekend! (Oh by the way, I’ve refreshed my lab website:

2 thoughts on “Recommended reads #105

  1. Re: Publons being bought by an analytics company: years ago, I was pushing the idea of PubCreds to oblige people to review in appropriate proportion to how much they submit ( A publishing consultant told me that it was a good idea but that it, or something like it, would only take off once someone found a way to monetize it.

    I think he was right, though I freely admit I don’t have much more than gut feeling and anecdotes like the buyout of Publons to go on.

    Your mileage may vary on whether your reaction to his statement is “Cool, let’s figure out how to monetize credit for peer reviewing!” or “Crap, monetizing credit for peer reviewing would be exploitative.”

    Re: ranking the accessibility of colleges, back in 2013 I recall (but now can’t find) a great interactive figure from Pew plotting private colleges and universities on two dimensions: effective price paid by students who would qualify for Pell Grants, and proportion of Pell Grant recipients in the student body. The idea is that you don’t want to reward colleges that don’t admit many needy students. But you also don’t want to reward colleges for playing the game of claiming to have “need blind” admissions but then cleverly choosing the tuition and financial aid packages so that many needy students decline the offer of admission or have to take out massive loans. As I recall, Amherst came out quite well on this chart–the neediest students pay nothing, and relatively speaking they’re a fairly high proportion of the Amherst student body compared to other private colleges and universities. Though whether they’re as high a proportion as they ideally could or should be is a different question.

  2. Re: the new California permitting requirements for invertebrates, I confess to perhaps not being as sympathetic as I should be. As a vertebrate biologist, I’ve always been jealous of how easy entomologists have it with respect to permitting, ethics, etc. Sampling aquatic vertebrates required permits that allowed me to capture (not even collect!) all possible species I might encounter and in the highest numbers I might encounter them. Teaching activities that might involve vertebrates need to be planned out months in advance to get the proper permits in place. And then there’s IACUC – I’ve had colleagues who needed IACUC approval to watch wild animals through binoculars.

    Now we just need these rules to extend to the microbiologists …

Leave a Reply