I’m back from vacation! Anyhoo, a funny thing happens to me every summer.
Campus has an eerie quiet. There are plenty of people around, but compared to the academic year, there are relatively few students. So if I’m walking from the parking lot, or buying lunch in the union because I was lazy, I might bump into someone. Because I serve on a semiplethora of committees, I know folks in lots of roles on campus.
There’s a pretty good chance they’ll ask me: “What are you doing here? Are you teaching a summer course?” Continue reading
I celebrated my 46th birthday last week by going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. It was bittersweet. I’ve been trying to process the experience, and I think I’ve found a measure of peace, but little comfort. Continue reading
I want to share a quick story about something slightly stupid that I did some years ago, while teaching. Continue reading
This week, the National Academy of Sciences released a report on gender harassment and sexual misconduct in our profession. There are a number of findings that might surprise you. Here are selected reads related to this report.
Does your institution foster a culture of sexual harassment? Continue reading
I don’t have a post for you today. Instead, please read some of the stories at MeTooSTEM.
It’s important for us all to understand the prevalence, mechanisms, and consequences of sexual harassment in our profession. Let’s hear about it directly from those who have been impacted. Continue reading
I’m in the field right now. Which means that I’m among many fellow academics, from a wide range of institutions, because we’re working out of La Selva Biological Station to do a short project. At the moment are faculty and grad students from a range of Latin American universities, and USian institutions including a regional state university, small liberal arts college, tribal college, HBCU, military academy, state research university, and some researchers from other kinds of organizations. Many of these folks are old friends, so being here is a great pleasure.
We’re here to run experiments to answer some specific research questions, but just as important, we’re here for the academic training of undergraduates. The two goals are quite complementary. You would think that what the students are getting is research training. They are getting that, but they’re also getting another kind of training: an introduction to the culture, conventions, and social mores of becoming an academic scientist. Continue reading
I’m back down at the field station in Costa Rica (missing my family quite a bit) and I had a very minor realization while having dinner among my students. It’s definitely a cliché of sorts, but I realized that the t-shirt I was wearing was older than some of my students.
I know this because the t-shirt had a specific date on it Continue reading
Apparently, there are some editors of academic journals who will readily send manuscripts out to “non-preferred reviewers” — the specific people that authors specify who they don’t want to receive the paper for review.
I think this is all kinds of messed up. Continue reading
I’ve noticed that junior scientists tend to be really picky about conflicts of interest, whereas senior scientists don’t tend to be sticklers. Continue reading
Once in a while, I look at the statistics for this site and I get to see some of the search terms that folks use to arrive here. Sometimes these are questions that may have gone unanswered. So, here are some of these queries, and my replies. (I’ve done this plenty before by the way, though it’s been a while.) For each search term, I provide a response. (The title, by the way, is an homage to MAD’s “snappy answers to stupid questions.”
how to destroy a bad graduate advisor
Tell them you’re planning to become a sales rep after you finish your dissertation.
how to get out of academic dishonesty
I guess you should lie? Continue reading
Some while ago, I wrote about experiences serving on NSF panels, just to demystify the experience for folks who haven’t been on panels. I received feedback that this was helpful, so I thought I’d turn some focus on one aspect of review that I think merits additional attention.
In science, we’re used to suboptimal methods — because of limited time, resources, or technology. But one of our biggest methodological shortcomings can be fixed as soon as we summon the common will. The time is overdue for us to abolish 5% as a uniform and arbitrarily selected probability threshold for hypothesis testing. Continue reading
I’ve learned a lot from listening to scientists on twitter, including grad students and undergrads. One thing I’ve picked up is that we need to actively fight against the reimbursement culture of academia. Continue reading
If your teaching is at least modestly informed by the scholarship of teaching and learning (and, I dare suggest, it should be), then you are probably aware that frequent assessments are a good thing. Students learn better when they have more opportunities to find out if they’re learning what is being taught.
But — as Meg Duffy pointed out last week — some teaching practices are effective but may not be sustainable because they might just require so much work from professors. This resonated with a lot of people. A lot of us apparently feel a genuine tradeoff between our capacity to teach effectively and the amount of time that we are expected to invest into teaching each of our courses. Continue reading
I realize that recruiting students from underrepresented groups in STEM is not the most popular broader impact when scientists are actually implementing federally funded research projects. That said, I see a lot of folks putting so much time and effort to recruit minority students. And folks working to provide opportunities to minority students. Continue reading
Do you love it when students waste office hours with questions that don’t help them learn? Do you want to cultivate anxious emails from students sent at 3 in the morning? Do you want your students to wager their grades by guessing what you think is the most important material?
Then don’t tell your students what is going to be on the exam.
Before condemning a job application to the recycle bin for want of a great letter from the dissertation advisor, please take a moment to consider: perhaps it’s the advisor who is the problem? Continue reading
On a Friday in mid-March, a student in my department was notified that they were just accepted into an NSF-funded REU program. (For more about REUs, here’s an earlier post.) It’s program with a fair amount of prestige, but definitely not in the highest tier among the folks who keep track of status. Which is everybody, of course.
They were told they needed to accept or decline by Monday. Continue reading
People often ask me what they might to read to get started with teaching science at the college level — or they ask for concrete suggestions about how to do active learning efficiently.
So, here are some book suggestions. Continue reading
I admit it, I don’t like using the LMS. (The LMS is “learning management system” — the software that universities use for the online component of courses.) My campus is a Blackboard campus. I’m not a fan. Maybe that’s because I haven’t used it a lot. Continue reading
This case study of search committees demonstrates how downright sexist conduct is pervasive in academic job searches.
When it comes to time management in academia, here is some highly condensed wisdom.
It’s well established that student evaluations of teaching performance are gender biased. Based on that fact, then, here’s an intriguing question: Are they illegal? Continue reading
Some people will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid dropping the H-bomb. (This’ll be a short and less-than-grand post because, well, I’m busy)
Let me recreate a conversation I’ve heard (or been involved in) dozens of times over the years.
“So, where did you go to college?”
“Boston.” Continue reading
A couple weeks ago, the students in our department bought lunch for the faculty. It was a nice catered takeout box. I had the Mediterranean Veggie. It reminded me of the time that the students bought us all bagels and coffee, for the departmental office.
But, these meals had a miserable aftertaste. Our students didn’t buy these meals for us out of gratitude. Every student was required to chip in a full day’s wages just for these sandwiches. These meals were brought to us by book reps, who are schmoozing us so that we will choose their textbook. Continue reading
I make a point to post at least once a week. Sometimes the blog posts are full essays, sometimes they’re just a less ordered collection of thoughts, such as this one.
One of the reasons I helped start Rapid Ecology is that I wanted to see a much broader range of voices in this medium. I think it’s great to get a casual perspective from people other than you, and I think in his field, we need more voices. So, I’m thrilled that it’s taken off so well.
I write about a range of issues here, but there are also a lot of things that I choose to not write about here, because it’s not a fit for the site or because it’s not a fit for my own experience. But there are so many things that I’d love to see other people share. For example: Continue reading
Is peer review broken? No, it’s not. The “stuff is broken” is overused so much that it now just sounds like hyperbole.
Can we improve peer review? Yes. The review process takes longer than some people like. And yes, editors can have a hard time finding reviewers. And there are conflicts of interest and bias baked into the process. So, yes, we can make peer review better.
As a scientific community, we don’t even agree on a single model of peer review. Some journals are doing it differently than others. I’ll briefly describe some peer review models, and then I’ll give you my take. Continue reading