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
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
“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
There’s a bunch of funding from federal agencies to send faculty at teaching institutions to leave their own labs, to work temporarily in other research labs. Continue reading
I’ve griped about how undergraduates from wealthy private institutions and public research universities get the lion’s share of graduate fellowships. This happens for some obvious reasons of course, and I’m pleased to introduce a scheme that — with your help — can contribute to fixing this situation.
To get right to it: I’m teaming up with Meghan Duffy to pair up mentors with students from Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to give them guidance and support as they put together their fellowship applications. (Meg has been the leader on this.)
To participate, see this post from Dynamic Ecology where she describes the project. Continue reading
What most affects the quality of life for academics? I’ll put this question another way: at the end of the workday, when we go home, what is it that makes our day go well? What allows us to be happy and satisfied on a daily basis at work? How does this translate into long-term job happiness? Continue reading
I read an interesting piece from a computer science professor at Bucknell, who documented his path to discovering universities “in the middle” — where both research and teaching are valued. Continue reading
Many research strategies, developed inside large research institutions, don’t work well in small teaching-centered institutions.
One of these strategies, I suggest, is the use of a biological model system. Continue reading
A lot of federal agencies want to enhance the research environment at primarily undergraduate institutions and minority-serving institutions. Not all efforts hit the mark.
Consider the summer faculty research internships that a variety of agencies run. Continue reading
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
As this site continues to grow, the more I hear about issues that people face in teaching-focused institutions. There is one issue that I consistently hear about, but I have yet to mention: nonsensical tenure requirements for scholarship, especially in small liberal arts colleges. The most common one is: When an entire college or university uses the same publication expectations for all faculty. In. Every. Field. Continue reading
At the moment, I’m having an absolutely great time at the Ecological Society of America meeting. I’m learning new science, meeting old friends and a variety of folks who read this site, and formulating plans for my sabbatical that recently started.
This wonderful time has been punctuated with moments of my own frustration and annoyance. Why? Because this is a typical academic conference. And the status quo is often maddening. Continue reading
It’s not the time, it’s the people.
The popular conception is that scientists at teaching-focused institutions have lower research productivity primarily because they spend so much time teaching. I disagree. Continue reading
This post grows out of a conversation I was having about how scientists purchase supplies and equipment at smaller institutions. It would be helpful if you could leave comments with information and experiences you have. Continue reading
We should have double blind grant reviews. I made this argument a couple weeks ago, which was met with general agreement. Except for one thing, which I now address.
Some readers said that double-blind reviews can’t work, or are inadvisable, because of the need to evaluate the PI’s track record. I disagree with my whole heart. I think we can make it work. If our community is going to make progress on diversity and equity like we keep trying to do, then we have to make it work.
We can’t just put up our hands and say, “We need to keep it the same because the alternative won’t work” because the status quo is clearly biased in a way that continues to damage our community. Continue reading
My sabbatical officially started a few days ago. I was half-expecting a kind of weight to lift. But my brain isn’t letting me have any of that.
For the last year or so, I’ve been stockpiling things “for sabbatical.” Now, I’m looking at the weight of that list. Continue reading
As I was avoiding real work and morning traffic, there were a bunch of interesting things on twitter, as usual. Two things stood out.
First was a conversation among science writers, about how to find good science stories among press releases. I was wondering about all of the fascinating papers that never get press releases, but I didn’t want to butt into that conversation. Continue reading
It’s been argued that in ecology, like politics, everything is local.
You can’t really understand ecological relationships in nature, unless you’re familiar with the organisms in their natural environment. Or maybe not. That’s probably not a constructive argument. My disposition is that good ecological questions are generated from being familiar with the life that organisms out of doors. But that’s not the only way to do ecology. Continue reading
Conversations about “undergraduate research” often involve dispelling misconceptions.
Undergraduate research is not one thing.
What is undergraduate research? It is research that involves undergraduates. That’s all, nothing else. If you want it to mean something else, you might have to spell it out.
If you look at scientists in teaching-focused institutions who have robust research programs, there’s one thing they tend to have in common: They have active collaborations with researchers outside their own institution. Continue reading
Are you interacting with colleagues from research institutions that have misconceptions about your job? Heading to a conference? Here’s a bingo card:
Students who did their undergraduate work at elite universities are dominating access to federally funded graduate fellowships in the sciences. I pointed out this obvious fact at the beginning of this month, which to my surprise caught quite a bit of attention. I also got a lot of email (which I discuss here — it’s more interesting than you might expect).
A common response was: Okay, that’s the problem, what about solutions? Hence, this post. First, here are some facts that are are germane to the solutions. Continue reading
I’ll be soon be sharing specific ideas about what can be done about the disadvantages experienced by talented students who attend non-prestigious undergraduate institutions. But first, I thought it would be useful for me to share how this topic has affected my inbox.
I barely get any email related to this site. Aside from the site stats, and some interactions on twitter, I wouldn’t have any other indicator about readership. So when I receive the occasional email related to this site, it stands out.
In relative terms, I got several metric tons of emails about last week’s post about NSF graduate fellowships. Continue reading
Over the past week, I’ve been reading Moneyball, by Michael Lewis.
I’m not a baseball person (though I do keep tabs on
football soccer). I found Moneyball to be interesting in its own right, but particularly when considering how its lessons may be applied to academic culture.
Lewis tells the story of Billy Beane, the manager of a small-budget major league baseball team, who assembled a crew that was better than most big-budget competitors. How did Beane pull this off?
According to Moneyball, Beane saw through the intellectually inbred and reality-challenged worldview that permeated the baseball community at the time. Scouts were picking players — and offering them humongous salaries — on the basis of athletic traits that didn’t help teams win games. Continue reading
It takes time and effort to publish a paper. After all, if it were really easy, then publications wouldn’t be a workable (albeit flawed) currency in for success in the sciences.
I often have heard about how some labs experience a bigger or smaller MPU (minimum publishable unit) than others, as I’ve worked in biology departments with a lot of academic diversity.
For example, I once knew an immunologist in an undergraduate institution who spent five years of consistently applied effort, to generate a single paper on a smallish-scale project. This wasn’t a problem in the department, as everyone accepted the notion that the amount of work that it took to generate a paper on this topic was greater than what it would take for (say) physiology, vertebrate paleontology, or ecology. Continue reading
Authorship conventions are based around assumptions that research was done under the umbrella of a research institution.
It’s often just fine to assume that the first author did the most work, and the last author is the senior author who is the PI of the lab that enabled the project.
That’s a fair assumption, so long as the senior author and the first author are different people. In my circumstance, when a paper comes out of my lab, I’m typically the first author and the senior author. Continue reading
I’m periodically asked about the role of social media and blogs in my career and campus interactions. Here’s some information. Continue reading
I used to have Work-Study students doing research in my lab, when I was visiting faculty at Gettysburg College. Then I got a job somewhere else, and I couldn’t do that anymore.
The university where I now work does not assign Work-Study students to work with professors, just like my previous employer. There was a clear institutional policy that prohibited using Federal Work-Study awards to fill undergraduate research positions. Continue reading
Today, I’m submitting my file for promotion. It’s crazy to think I submitted my most recent tenure file five years ago, it feels closer to yesterday. Unless I get surprised (and it wouldn’t be the first time), I’ll be a full Professor if I’m here next year. And yet, throughout this entire process, there has been zero external validation of tenure and promotion. I think this is really odd. Continue reading
Last year, I had the dubious honor of chairing a search committee for two positions in my department. The speciality was open. I learned about my department and my university by seeing it through the eyes of applicants and would-be applicants. There’s a lot I’d like to say about the process that I can’t, or shouldn’t, say. But I do have some observations to share. Continue reading