Recommended reads #122

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This is wonderful: NSF is now requiring awardee institutions to report findings of sexual harassment by personnel on NSF grants, and to report when individuals are placed on leave related to an investigation. And they are prepared to take serious measures in response. Here’s the NSF statement, and related stories published by Nature and The New Republic. (How bout rounding up a few PIs and your Title IX coordinator, and schedule a meeting with the person in charge of post-award at your university, to make specific plans for implementing this, including the reporting mechanisms and training that NSF expects.)

In favor of “slow teaching.”

Intellectual property law 101 for academics Continue reading

When the trash gets passed

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The term “passing the trash” is commonly used to describe when sexually abusive K-12 teachers and priests get quietly shifted to new schools and parishes, where they assault more people.

We also use this term in higher ed, when professors who commit sexual misconduct are allowed to slink out of their universities with the approving silence of their administration, only to harm more students in their new jobs. Continue reading

If you love teaching, a research university might be perfect for you

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“I like teaching, and I didn’t want the same stress-packed life as the professors in my PhD program, so a faculty position at a teaching-focused university is a good fit for me.”

I’ve heard something like this more times than I can possibly count from grad students, postdocs, and professors. It’s something that I used to say myself. But now I think this statement is built on two big fallacies. Continue reading

Small Pond Science’s Greatest Hits of 2017

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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!)

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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

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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

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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

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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”

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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

Time limits and test anxiety

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When the clock is going TICK TICK TICK, it can be hard to think clearly, because you’re anxious about the clock.

Math anxiety is well understood, and no small part of this comes from the pressure of timed tests. Ultimately, some people take tests faster than other people. I would hope that you want your tests to measure how much students have learned, not their ability to take tests under pressure. If this is the case, then everybody taking the test needs to feel that they have adequate time. Continue reading

Scientific identity crisis

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Well, all right, maybe identity crisis is a little overly dramatic.

identity crisis

However, I have been mulling over my science identity for a while now even if I’m not confused about what kind of science I want to be doing. It often comes up when you need to apply for grants or have that brief introduction at a conference and the like. But for me building that departmental webpage is a real act of defining who you are and what you do. Continue reading