Please nominate colleagues to be selected as ESA fellows


This one is for the ecologists.

There are a lot of people who have made outstanding contributions to the field of ecology — in education, research, outreach, and policy.

Do you think that any of these outstanding contributions came from ecologists in teaching-focused institutions? Continue reading

Let’s nominate folks for NSF’s Waterman award, including women


Every year, the National Science Foundation gives an award to the most bestest early-career scientist in the US. It’s up to the scientific community — that’s me and you — to make sure the pool really has the best. Which means it has to have a lot of women in it.

Months ago, we had a small spike in traffic here at Small Pond because we joined the chorus wondering how NSF can manage to go thirteen years without giving the Waterman Award to a woman. Continue reading

NSF’s Water Man award


When I was a tween, a cutsey feel-good book was a bestseller: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. If we learn to solve problems as kids, that should help us solve similar problems as adults.

Let’s do a kindergarten-level exercise in math and pattern recognition. Can you figure out what shape comes next?seriesa

If you said star, you’re right! Congrats!

Let’s do another one. What shape do you expect to find next?


If you said star again, then that means you’re two for two. Good job!

Let’s look for another pattern:


What do you think comes next? If you guessed 2016, then you’re right! Your pattern recognition skills are fantastic! Continue reading

The folly of expecting institutionalized funding


When a child is raised, we provide them with a home, food, education, love and encouragement. Within a couple decades, give or take, the kid grows up and is expected to care for itself.

You can’t really expect the same of federally funded ventures.

Yes, sometimes research and education ventures support themselves after the funding runs out. But it doesn’t often work like that. Organizations are not people. (Even if Mitt Romney and the Supreme Court attempt to claim otherwise.)

If an agency wants something, then they can fund it. But when they stop funding it, then they’re saying that they don’t want it anymore. But it’s a grandiose hope that a funded venture can somehow exist in perpetuity because it was funded for a while. Continue reading

NSF mostly overlooked teaching institutions for Presidential Early Career Awards


The PECASE awards from NSF were announced as a Christmas present for 19 scientists.

These Presidential Early Career Awardees are picked from the cream of the crop of the CAREER awards. The CAREER award emphasizes an integrated research and teaching career development plan. Hearty congratulations to all recipients! This should make the holiday even nicer.

This year’s recipients of NSF PECASE awards work at the following institutions. Undergraduate institutions are in bold.



Berkeley (x2)





Georgia Tech





Santa Barbara


Univ. Puerto Rico at Cayey (classification here)


Virginia Tech


According to NSF:

Selection for this award is based on two important criteria:  1) innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology that is relevant to the mission of the sponsoring organization or agency, and 2) community service demonstrated through scientific leadership, education or community outreach.

This year, if you round up, then 11% of these PECASE awards from via NSF went to scientists at primarily undergraduate institutions. If you browse the institutions with CAREER awardees, it’s clear that this nonrandom subset has a bias against the awardees from teaching institutions. There are far more than 11% CAREER awardees from teaching institutions.

Is this bias based on merit? That’s an interesting question. How is merit quantified by NSF when picking PECASE awards from among the CAREER awards? I have no idea how to answer that question.

I don’t find any of this surprising, but thought that I should put this fact out there. Those of you are applying for CAREERs from teaching institutions have a good shot at getting one, but, well, don’t make the mistake of thinking you have a fair shot at the PECASE. For the two of you who cracked that very hard nut this year, congratulations!