Recommended reads #208


Socioeconomic roots of academic faculty: “We show that faculty are up to 25 times more likely to have a parent with a Ph.D. Moreover, this rate nearly doubles at prestigious universities and is stable across the past 50 years.” The most striking thing about the data in this paper is that this phenomenon hasn’t improved in recent years, it’s actually gotten worse.

Women in leadership face ageism at every age

When people assume you’re not in charge because you’re a woman

Continue reading

Recommended reads #207


Higher education’s other diversity crisis (the article is about Oxford, but really, it’s about everywhere)

Insect decline gets the Elizabeth Kolbert treatment in the New Yorker.

American teens are unwell because society is unwell.

Confidence. highlighted read

Women have been misled about menopause

The intersections of identity and persistence for retention in ecology and environmental biology with personal narratives from Black women – yes, this is an article that you can cite when you’re putting in your grant why you need to provide more support for Black women in field sciences. But more importantly, it’s a paper to read and digest!

Available evidence still points to covid originating from spillover. What up with certain US government agencies saying that covid was a lab leak, but without providing any evidence for this? So weird. Anyhow, here’s the take from a couple virologists that explains what we know and what we don’t know.

Did you know how extraordinarily out of date California water laws are? Maybe you can imagine, but if you want to know the details, here you go.

I think it was well established that Pablo Neruda was probably killed by poisoning, but now there’s more data for this.

Recommended reads #205


A couple more research articles showing how teaching valuations are sexist. And the interaction effect with age is quite something. If you’re involved in teaching evaluations in any way, this is important to know about.

book: The Guidebook for the Engaged University

“Do I really want to be a professor?”

What a frog pandemic tells us about humans

It’s not too late to bid on items from Joan Didion’s estate

book: Women in Field Biology

Continue reading

Recommended reads #203


An article in Slate about how folks in the humanities aren’t doing the off-campus volunteer academic service like they used to.

Profiles of faculty who made major career pivots because of the imperative to do more about the climate crisis. This really hit home for me. Two of their four subjects left faculty positions for other roles. So this article is 50% “quit-lit.”

This one is 100% quit-lit: I Left Academia to Work in a Pub Because I’m Working-Class.

Continue reading

Recommended reads #201


Since it’s been quite a while since the last post, I’ve accumulated a particularly good crop of reads.

Trees don’t rush to heal from trauma and neither should we.

A math professor from Columbia applied his own skills to demonstrate the extraordinary and counterproductive measures that his own institution has gone to in order to game a ranking system run by a magazine. Absolutely bananas. This is absolutely damning. Here’s the executive summary and here’s the long-form version. (And here’s the NYT article, but I haven’t read it, but I’m linking to it because it’s the local paper.)

Continue reading

Recommended read #200


Welcome to the “what he said” edition of rec reads.

I have one link for you: An essay by Dr. Jeremy Yoder about the response of the evolutionary biology community to a poorly crafted essay about the legacy of E.O. Wilson.

I could excerpt bits but really, the whole thing is a must-read, so just go on and read it.

Not only does Dr. Yoder have valuable things to say about how our scientific community has allowed a destructive person to remain in their community as a peer, this also is a gorgeous piece of prose. I didn’t write about this whole affair because I wasn’t sure if I could hit the mark just right, and I’ve seen others miss the mark. Here goes Jeremy getting it right with tone, context, kindness, clarity, and strength. It takes time to write so well and I think he’s done a public service to give us a lodestar as we move forward.

Recommended reads #199


Hi, it’s been a while. I hope you had a nice holiday break? I think there are some real gems in here.

The Professor: “Maybe the most powerful person is the one who dares to refuse the gift.”

Lessons from Dr. Henley’s PhD

Why the science of teaching is often ignored

Note the date on this article and you’ll find it was quite prescient: The Pandemic Movie of Our Time Isn’t Contagion. It’s Jaws.

A nice bit of science blogging from Brian Enquist about Yoda’s Power Law and the origins of macroecology.

Continue reading

We know exactly what to do about sexual misconduct in the field


Last Thursday, many months of investigative reporting culminated in a comprehensive and detailed article about the prevailing atmosphere of sexual misconduct in the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The article describes the tolerance of multiple serial offenders, and how STRI has not shown any sign of yet attempting a substantial process to repair this culture. Many survivors came forward for interviews, and yet this is only a tiny fraction of those who could have come forward. And there are even more who have stayed away because they were forewarned.

If you haven’t read this article yet, please do so. Here’s the link again.

This story hit close to home for me in a few ways: as a tropical biologist, as a person who personally knows a few of the survivors in the article and more who were not in the article, as a PI who has regularly sent students to work in tropical field stations, and as a director of a field station who is responsible for developing a healthy and safe institutional culture.

There’s one thing I want everybody to know about this situation: We know what should have been done. It is easy to know what needs to be done. There is a clear literature for this situation. The National Academies released a major report in 2018 that specifies clear steps that leaders must take to address the epidemic of gendered misconduct in STEM. Just weeks ago, the Workshop To Promote Safety In Field Sciences produced a report that provided “52 recommendations targeted at improving field science culture change, as well as misconduct accountability, policy, and reporting.”

Continue reading

Recommended reads #198


On the origin and development of the Birds Aren’t Real movement.

How learning feels now (after so many months of COVID)

preprint: Gender Imbalance in the Editorial Activities of a Researcher-led Journal [which happens to be eLife]

A Giving Pledge for Rural Public Universities

And yes, it’s been a month since the last one of these posts, but honestly that’s all I’ve got for the moment! I haven’t been reading much journalism of late. But in other reading, I’ve been enjoying the trilogy of the Third Body Problem by Cixin Liu and the Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin. And I’ll be starting on Klara and The Sun soon.


Recommended reads #196


A short quiz for my students in lieu of asking about their vaccine status or requesting that they wear masks

You do not have to be a revolutionary to see that some kind of [climate] upheaval has already started and that it can only really be delayed or mitigated than stopped entirely. If the goal of the Biden era is to slow history down, he needs to admit that this new, dangerous era has already begun, and that the old solutions no longer work.”

Continue reading

Recommended reads #195


These recommended reads are all about reviews.

A review of an essay: The problem with rigor. “The rhetoric of rigor turns pedagogy into pathology.”

A review of a tv show: the chair is peak jeans in church culture – I think there is something for absolutely everybody in Brandon Taylor’s review even if you are one of the academic who have yet to watch The Chair. I thought it was insightful about the what TV is and what TV isn’t.

A review of a book: How not to talk to a science denier.

A review (the other kind of review) of Long COVID.

A review of the geographic distribution of GBIF records: “Sampling biases shape our view of the natural world

and lastly a historical review of the ethnocentric origins of the myth of learning styles, which I had absolutely no idea about and this is something that I wish I knew many years ago. Here’s a link to the journal article but here’s one you can read.

Recommended reads #192


Ten simple rules for productive lab meetings

I Signed Up to Write College Essays for Rich Kids. I Found Cheating Is More Complicated Than I Thought.”

What The ‘Return To The Office’ Fight Is Really About – I thought this was a fascinating explanation about how people want to use the office environment as a way of exercising their soft power over others.

Continue reading

Recommended reads #189


Hey there, Beronda Montgomery’s Lessons From Plants is now out! (indiebound | amazon). Her articles and blog posts are often the most-clicked links on here, so I thought you’d want to know about this.

Cultural capital in undergraduate research: an exploration of how biology students operationalize knowledge to access research experiences at a large, public research-intensive institution. In this new research paper, we learn why some students get access to research opportunities and why others don’t. Guess what makes the difference?!

Preprint: Trends in the representation of women amongst geoscience faculty from 1999-2020: the long road towards gender parity

Audubon has hired a union-busting firm. I don’t think people realize this is where their donations are going?

Resisting the call of exceptionalism. So many great pull quotes that could be taken from this essay from the perennially wise Tressie McMillan Cottom, but I’ll share the kicker: “Sometimes clear writing is a sign of clear thinking, and sometimes clear writing is just a sign of brightly drawn battle lines. You gotta know the difference.”

Here’s a well-done popular article about the discovery of horizontal gene transfer from plants to animals. Specifically, from plant to whitefly (which is not a fly, by the way), who use a plant gene to dextoxify some gunk that plants make to dissuade them from eating. Pretty sneaky, eh?) Here’s the original article in Cell. Wait, have I ever linked to a Cell article before? I doubt it.

Happy birthday to Adelaide! She seems absolutely charming.

Recommended reads #183


Has more than a month passed since I’ve done a rec reads post? My gosh. Which in 2020 time, is, like, 27 years? This is a relatively condensed list of things I’ve bookmarked since the last one. And there are no takes on the election. (Though if you do find a 10,000 word insider’s view of exactly how the Four Seasons Total Landscaping thing went down, because oh man, this will be such a hilarious and pathetic story, please let me know? Because I don’t want to miss that.)

From panic to pedagogy: Using online active learning to promote inclusive instruction in ecology and evolutionary biology courses and beyond

The science of learning vs. proctoring software

Our HyFlex Experiment: What’s Worked and What Hasn’t

The pedagogy of anxiety

Continue reading

Recommended reads #181


The author of the infamous Carreira letter just became the Editor-in-Chief of the flagship journal of the American Chemical Society. (This month, he issued another nonpology. He says he regrets writing it. I sure bet he does!)

An American teenager who doesn’t speak Scots wrote many of the Scots Wikipedia entries. Now Wikipedians are figuring out what to do.

It took divorce to make my marriage equal.

Continue reading

Recommended reads #180


A detailed account of how Eunice Foote conceived the role of atmospheric gases in climate warming in 1856, and how she designed and conducted her experiments. It’s pretty cool.

Is lecturing racist?

What is the effect of Article Processing Charges on the geographic diversity of authors? Are paywalled journals more accessible to publish in for people in the Global South? This preprint manuscript is about a study takes advantage of a “natural experiment” in publishing space, and if you have thoughts about equity and access in scientific publishing, I bet you’ll find this fascinating. Last author Emilio Bruna explains this paper in a concise twitter thread.

Continue reading

Recommended reads #179


Here’s a big list of ways to convert typical active learning approaches to a physically distanced classroom, asynchronously online, and synchronously online. It looks supremely helpful if you’re thinking, “I want to do more active learning while teaching in the pandemic, but how?”

Ten simple rules for successful remote postdoc

How the grad students at the UMass Amherst Geosciences department redesigned their seminar series to enhance DEI

It looks like immunity to COVID isn’t so ephemeral, which is good.

Continue reading

Recommended reads #176


An extremely helpful guidebook to HyFlex teaching. (Which is when courses are delivered both in person and online at the same time by the same faculty member. And which is what some of us are being expected to do in the Fall!?). This Georgetown site also has other helpful guides to prepping for remote teaching in Fall 2020, too.

When professors hit on students, it harms their academic performance. We know this because a series of experiments have now been published. How can you ethically do an experiment on this? Looks like you gotta read the paper.

Some folks did an experiment with a randomized design to find out whether tweeting about scientific papers improved their citation rates.

A meeting report from the Gordon conference on undergraduate biology education research. A lot of great stuff in there.

Continue reading

Recommended reads #175


‘Keep the volume low’: Being black on campus

“The world has never been fundamentally fair and decent for most people in most places, and yet they manage to build lives full of meaning and suffering and joy.”

I shared this not long ago, but it seems that not everybody is yet aware of or talking about this landmark paper in PNAS. The summary says: “By analyzing data from nearly all US PhD recipients and their dissertations across three decades, this paper finds demographically underrepresented students innovate at higher rates than majority students, but their novel contributions are discounted and less likely to earn them academic positions. The discounting of minorities’ innovations may partly explain their underrepresentation in influential positions of academia.”

Continue reading

Recommended reads #174


Here is a piece of educational research on the relationship between undergraduate research and depression, another product Brownell lab at ASU. The article includes specific recommendations for those doing research with undergraduates to promote inclusive research experiences for students with depression. Sounds like a must-read for all of us with undergrads in our (currently virtual) labs.

When universities start teaching in the Fall, what choices does the pandemic give us? Here’s a full taxonomy of fifteen options. (Including HyFlex, which seems to be popular even though it’s also perhaps the most difficult for faculty to pull off well?) What is your university saying it will do, and what do you think they will actually do when the Fall arrives?

As if you didn’t know this, but: Colleges that are reopening are making a big mistake.

Continue reading

Recommended reads #173


Teacher evaluation form for Spring 2020, from McSweeney’s

This is a very handy and straightforward resource to help you create an accessible online course.

Asking little kids to “do science” is substantially more impactful than asking them to “be scientists.” Just in case you wondered whether words matter, and whether subtle differences can have a big impact.

Continue reading