Recommended reads #117


When reviewers know the identity of authors, it turns out that famous names, prestigious universities, and top companies are far more likely to have their papers accepted. This effect was measured in an experiment, and it’s astounding. This is the new paper I will point folks to when they say that single blind or “open” review is more fair. It just isn’t.

A profile of the few people remaining in the US who depend on iron lungs to stay alive, a window into the history of manufacturing, medicine, and our failed social safety net.

By Scientists For Science — The Scientific Society Publisher Alliance. Scientific societies are designed to represent the interests of our own communities, and this new organization is designed to promote society journals.

I only learned about the SSPA moments after submitting this piece to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which I wrote with Andy Suarez, about the importance of supporting society journals. I’m particularly proud of this piece of writing and advocacy, and I think that the folks running academic societies are equipped to find pragmatic solutions for scientific publishing.

The New York Times published a story on the heritability of professions. It includes a search box where you can enter a job category, and it’ll tell you likely that your parents had the same job. What it says about science jobs — and some fields more than others — shows how we need to get better.

This story on sampling error and operator bias is really interesting (and troubling). It turns out that drug-sniffing dogs are far, far more likely to say that there are drugs present when they pick up on unconsciously signaled cues from their handler if they suspect a higher chance that the drugs are there.

A crowdsourced document of R statistics resources, compiled by Gina Baucom.

Brian McGill attempts to reclaim the meaning of the term “statistical machismo.”

I don’t want to go too meta in linking to a blog post about a blog post about blogging, but this short entry from John Hawks raises an important point to think about how discussion about blogs work nowadays. Blogs are bigger than ever, but discussion about what you find on blogs has shifted to social media, including on Facebook where the authors don’t even know about the discussion. Which is definitely a shift from the way things used to be.

A short and moving piece from a graduate student about the challenges of being an undocumented scientist.

A justifiably flattering NYT profile of dipterist Erica McAlister, and a review of her new book The Secret Life of Flies. 

How cartoons can help simplify complex issues

A beautifully created explanation of the science of the National Petroleum Reserve, lesser known buddy to the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.

Helping students make the right call on cell phones.

Why John Urschel chose math over football. This narrative contrasts with earlier accounts. Having looked back at earlier articles, despite the content of this piece, I am left unsure about the role that brain injuries played in his decision. This article says it was secondary at most, but on the other hand, there are plenty of direct quotes from him, but not about this specific central issue. I’ve seen enough agenda-driven journalism (and the title of this piece suggests as much) that might misrepresent the subject of the piece being interviewed. Was this the case here? I honestly don’t know.

Training programs and reporting systems won’t end harassment. Promoting more women will.

The myth of the male bumbler

About those YA novels that seem to have feminist characters, but not really.

The Nationalist’s Delusion. This is a well-considered look into history and the heads of Trump supporters. Since we can’t really just crouch into a hole and ignore all of this horribleness, this is one piece that helps provide some understanding.

Computational redistricting. The paper isn’t peer reviewed yet and evaluating it is not in my realm, but the interactive site showing redistricting is pretty cool.

Have a nice weekend!

6 thoughts on “Recommended reads #117

  1. Re: discussion of blog posts moving onto social media, discussion of Dynamic Ecology posts has definitely moved onto Twitter to a much greater extent, but it’s literally just in the last few weeks that it’s been happening. Not sure yet if it’s a blip (which I hope it is) or a trend.

    I’m not on Facebook so I have no idea if our posts get discussed on Facebook. Meghan said “no, not usually” last time I asked her (since she’s on Facebook), but that was a while ago so perhaps things have changed recently. I hope not, because I really, really do not want to have to join Facebook just to read discussions about our posts.

    Our comment threads are not as active as they were a few years ago, but my sense is that that’s because people are just talking about them less (e.g., because they’re reading on phones and don’t want to type on phones). Not because people are talking about them on social media instead of in our comment threads. But this is an anecdotal impression, it could be wrong.

    • I know there is some level of discussion on Facebook that I am not aware of. If only because from stats, there are sometimes referrals from Facebook, and I know it’s not the SPS Facebook feed. When I’m “friends” with on Facebook, I can see the discussions (of DE posts too, by the way), and they will tell you how many times the link has been “shared.” Which as John Hawks says, isn’t all bad that these conversations go beyond the reach of the blog post author. But the post itself isn’t the public square anymore, because often some of the important commentary doesn’t ever show up on the post.

  2. Yes, DE gets about 800ish pageviews/month referred from Facebook, out of 60,000ish total pageviews. Much higher in the rare months when a post goes viral and gets widely shared on Facebook. The majority of our posts get zero Facebook shares, but some get a few and the small viral minority get hundreds. The viral ones for us are mostly ones about gender and equity issues, and about people’s personal experiences dealing with challenges in their lives.

    How many of those shares on Facebook and pageviews from Facebook referrals are associated with substantive discussion on Facebook, I have no idea. Most tweets about our posts are non-substantive, just people retweeting or liking the tweet announcing the post (though as I said that’s changed a bit recently). I’ve always assumed the same was true for Facebook shares, that it’s mostly just people sharing links and clicking links. But maybe that’s wrong? You’re on Facebook–you tell me! :-)

    I’d be especially curious to know how Facebook discussions of our post differ from the discussions in the comment threads. I’d guess (?) that Facebook discussions about our posts mostly occur within formal and informal communities that also talk about other stuff. Groups of friends, Facebook groups devoted to [ecological/academic topic X], etc. In contrast to our comment threads, which are mostly discussions among the community of people who read our blog regularly. I can imagine all sorts of ways in which the resulting Facebook discussions would differ from those in our comment threads. For instance, I’d guess that Facebook discussions probably disagree with the post more often than our comment threads do. Or maybe not, since the minority of our posts that go viral on Facebook do so precisely because they resonate with people on a personal level, and get shared with others with whom they’re likely to resonate?

    However rare social media discussions that disagree with our posts are, I do wish I knew about more of them, because I’m sure I’d learn a lot from them.

  3. I should clarify, if clarification were necessary, that I’m totally fine with people discussing our posts with whoever they want to discuss them with, in whatever venue they want to discuss them. And obviously nobody’s under any obligation to share those conversations with me just because I happen to be curious about them.

  4. I get about the same amount of Facebook traffic as you, with similar level of idiosyncrasy. I’ve seen, both various blogs, including this and DE, on occasion some substantial discourse, the kind of thing we’d see in comment on the posts themselves. Sometimes, not much at all. (I also notice plenty of incoming links from webmail and university LMS pages, obviously I don’t see those discussions). Of course, in most cases, the discussion is invisible to me. Of course I want to be clear, like you, I’m totally cool with not being able to see these discussions. It’s just interesting and useful to observe this kind of evolution.

You can leave a comment anonymously, just don't give your name or email.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s