Recommended reads #141


Don’t spend your holiday break writing.

Did you know about the Kentucky Meat Shower of 1876?

The power of transparency in teaching

Thinking about becoming a faculty member in a community college? People I know who have this gig typically love it, but here are some hard truths that you would want to be aware of so that you go in with your eyes open.

“Going to office hours is terrifying”

In recent years at the field station where I worked, we noticed some of the howler monkeys were starting to get blonde patches. We called one particular monkey “Blondie.” And to get all clickbaity, you’ll never believe what is turning these monkeys blonde. Actually, you’ll believe it, but it’s pretty shocking. Okay, I’ll tell you: it’s pesticides.

Did you year about T.M. Landry Prep’s scheme for admission into Ivy League schools? If you have, or if you haven’t, then this is an astoundingly insightful take.

NSF wants to hear what you think they should be doing about funding international research opportunities for grad students. They have a strong record of paying substantial attention to the scientific community, so, it’s quite possibly worth your time to offer feedback.

Writing papers on phones

Apparently, multiple members of Congress are diagnosed with dementia.

An unkind op-ed in the New York Times drags students who earn straight As. I agree with some fraction of the point, but the overall gist is yikes. (I’ve said here before that I am wary of taking straight-A students into my lab, but I still have brought some in and I don’t think you can paint about any human being with such broad strokes based on their report card.)

A monumental assault on science in the Department of the Interior

Some experimental evidence to validate the notion that sleep is more important for a test than staying up to study.

The Mysterious Phenomenon of Seals With Eels in Their Noses. Really.

Here’s a ten-best-science-books-of-2018 list. I admittedly haven’t read any of them, but I’d like to read a few.

Speaking of amazing science writing, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote this piece about philanthropy for The Atlantic back in August, which has quite a point.

An experiment shows some approaches can be effective at recruiting low-income students to apply to colleges that they think are probably out of reach. (As for serving these students once recruited? Now that’s a different matter.)

A new first-person perspective on institutional failures in the tenure process.

“Why does the scholarship of teaching and learning remain a hard sell to faculty?

I thought this was a particularly nice piece of sportswriting. (And if you’re a football purist who thinks MLS isn’t good enough for you, have you watched Atlanta play?)

The journal Diversity and Distributions experienced some editorial interference from the publisher, Wiley (who tried to dissuade the Editor-in-Chief from publishing a letter from the editorial board about concerns about switching to an open access model requiring high publication fees of authors). A lot of the editorial board resigned in response to this interference. Here’s a story about it.

While on the topic of bad things about journals, twitter was temporarily atwitter when a disaster of an article appeared in PNAS. The authors sought to understand how people trained with PhDs in STEM leave research careers. So, in a few fields, they picked some prominent journals that have been around for several decades. Then, they evaluated authorship in these journals as cohorts, and if a scientist hadn’t published in one of these journals over a brief-ish time period, they were labeled as a “dropout,” and if they didn’t do this much longer after grad school, they were classified as a “temporary scientist.” I took substantial umbrage to the conceit that one’s identity as a scientist is defined by publication in a very narrow set of journals, and the overt assumption that everybody is in grad school with the professional goal of becoming an academic. One can be a scientist without publishing in a narrow set of journals, so the entire foundation of this paper is build on a load of bull. The methodology just makes no sense in my field — some of the people who must be classified as “dropouts” from academic science are high-profile academics. And then — to top it all off — it quickly emerged that this study was plagiarized! A couple years ago, another scientist developed the idea and shared their dataset with them (in one field, astronomy, which hasn’t experienced the same journal proliferation as ecology), and then the authors went on to copy this work and publish it without even providing any credit to the person who developed the idea. So, on three counts (the elitist gatekeeping framing of the paper, the flawed methods, and the plagiarism), this should never have seen print, much less in a journal as selective as PNAS. I can see how they wouldn’t have been able to do much about the scientific misconduct before it came to print, but, they could have stopped this paper on account of the first two issues.

A Nature Communications paper came out saying that research teams with greater ethnic diversity end up producing work that gets cited more.

Neil deGrasse Tyson and the careers that weren’t. (And about his response that amounts to an admission of guilt.)

Proc B is going to start publishing peer reviews of the articles they publish. It’ll still be single-blind though, unless reviewers opt to sign their reviews, at their discretion. If they combined this with a double-blind review process, how awesome would that be?

Dan Bolnick tallied up how much has been spent in article publication charges for things he’s authored of late. It’s a lot. Here’s his take-home: “Now that I’ve seen the totals I am spending, I will certainly choose my target journals even more carefully based on financial and policy concerns, which is a shame because it steps away from my scientific ideals. And maybe I’ll hesitate about that extra little paper, and wonder ‘is it worth the APCs to write this’?”

How much do cookies boost your evaluation? In this study in Germany using chocolate drop cookies, the effect size was 0.68. That’s pretty big.

A model designed to visualize how very minor amounts of bias against women results in massive inequities at higher career stages. This is very well done.

Some senators write the US News & World Report to tell them they’re doing college rankings wrong.

3 thoughts on “Recommended reads #141

  1. Hi Terry, I’m interested to know what to keep in mind when considering a position as faculty in a community college, but your paragraph about an interesting text that came out on that doesn’t include a link! May I please have it? Thanks.

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