Small Pond Science’s Greatest Hits of 2017


Happy Christmas! I hope you’re having a pleasant break.

This is the 90th post of 2017. It’s been a horrible year for scientists and academics based out of the US, and for democracy in general. But Small Pond Science continues to grow. Here’s a look at the Top 5 posts of 2017. And also 5 more posts that we’re proud of, that didn’t make it into the Top 5. Continue reading

Skype A Scientist (Skype a Classroom!)


It is time to sign up for skypeascientist. This is a program connecting scientists with classrooms. It gives students and teachers a chance to talk to real living scientists and scientists a chance to chat with students. This fall I met with a class in England and hope to be matched again.

If you are curious how this works here are some thoughts on my experience: Continue reading

Academia selects against community ties


Academics tend to harbor a conceit that our job is really different from other jobs.

This might not be as true as folks like to believe, though we have flexibility and freedom to do almost whatever we want. Another thing that makes us really different from most people is that we move around a lot. Most of us are close to or well past 30 before we move to the city where we’ll set down some serious roots. And, there’s a decent chance that we’ll move again.

I think one consequence of academics being so mobile is selection against involvement in the local community. Continue reading

On the need for public academic blogs


Anybody can set up a blog and write a post, yet the reach of these posts varies dramatically.

Let’s say you have an interesting or important idea for fellow ecologists. For example, you want to report on a great symposium, or just read a really cool paper with a big idea and want to discuss those further. Or you want to review a book, or share safety tips for fieldwork, or write more broadly about a new paper of your own. Or perhaps a response to an absolutely horrid op-ed piece that you read in the Washington Post last week. You’re not going to write these in a peer-reviewed journal, but what would you do?

At the moment your options are:

  1. Post an email to ecolog-l
  2. Write on social media
  3. Write a post on your personal site
  4. Be friends with someone who runs a blog
  5. Do nothing

I think there’s a missing option, and I’d like to fix this. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Starting experiments with a “nut fig”


The term “backwards design” is often applied to curriculum design. If you want your students to learn a particular thing, you start with identifying what that outcome should look like at the end of the semester. Then you design your class backwards from that outcome, to make sure your students have a way to get there.

I think we should be talking more about backwards design when when it comes to statistics and the design of experimental and observational research.

Journalists call the key passage of each story a “nut graf.” Shouldn’t we have a “nut fig” for each experiment, and know what the axes and statistical tests will be before we run an experiment? Continue reading