rejection mug

The one kind of review that really gets my goat

Photo: Journal of Universal Rejection coffee mug (crop), by Tilemahos Efthimiadis via flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Peer review gets a lot of grief.  It’s one of the things we love to say is “broken”.  It takes too long, or at least we think it does.  Occasionally a reviewer completely misses the point, goes on an ad hominem attack, or produces some other kind of idiotic review.  But for all the flak aimed its way, I’m convinced that peer review – overall – is fantastic; volunteer reviewers and editors have vastly improved nearly every one of my papers.

But there’s one kind of review that really burns my bacon.  Continue reading

upgoer-five-data

What is UpGoer Five for? Poll results, and thoughts on polls

In my last post, I asked what UpGoer Five (along with its constrained-vocabulary ilk) is for.  Survey says:  UpGoer Five is a toy.

At least, that’s what my readership poll (data above) says.  The sample size is small, and it’s an utterly unscientific poll (more about that later).  But 63% of respondents believe UpGoer Five is a kind of stunt writing, something we might do for fun, but having no connection to actual science communication/outreach (“SciComm”).  Continue reading

up_goer_five crop attributed

Does anyone else find “Up Goer Five” a bit condescending?

Image: just a portion of the original “Up Goer Five” cartoon, diagramming a Saturn V rocket.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been enjoying the “Up Goer Five” phenomenon.  If you don’t know about it (unlikely!), it started as an xkcd cartoon in which Randall Munroe labelled a diagram of a Saturn V rocket using only the thousand most common words in the English language.  Munroe followed it up with a book along the same lines, Thing Explainer, and the idea really took off, with scientists in all disciplines trying their hands at it.  It came up most recently for me because the 2016 meeting of the Ecological Society of America had an Up Goer Five session.  I wasn’t able to get to any of it, but I got a taste via Twitter and via titles and abstracts posted online and around the convention centre.

Up Goer Five is fun – tons of it.  But I have the unsettling feeling that I’m missing something, because I don’t quite understand what Up Goer Five is for.  Or at least, I can see three things that people may think it’s for, but they seem at odds with each other, and I’m not convinced that any of the three does more good than harm. Continue reading

A snippet of my 37-page CV

Why I have a 37-page version of my CV (and why you should too)

Image: just the first six pages of the stultifying detail in my 37-page CV

A while back on Twitter, someone asked which details she should keep track of on her CV – in particular, I think, with respect to multi-authored conference presentations.  All the details, I replied, which answer was promptly and rounded derided.  Why, a bunch of people asked, should anyone care about the 13th of 17 authors, the month or date of the conference, or the city it was held in?  Why bother?  Why keep the 37-page version of one’s CV – the version that’s (metaphorically) clogging up my hard drive*?

I couldn’t convince those who were deriding me, and to be fair, they had a considerable advantage: common sense and logic were entirely on their side. Continue reading

stephen-heard-with-text-vexed-muddler-small

SciComm, and who should do it

Image: From Science Borealis’ project “100 Voices for Canadian Science Communication”; © The Vexed Muddler, reproduced with permission.  That’s me as a Cobblestone Tiger Beetle, Cicendela marginipennis – a beautiful beetle, vulnerable because of its locally rare and very scattered distribution in riverbank cobble habitats from Alabama to New Brunswick.

 

Some months ago, the Canadian blogging aggregator Science Borealis solicited thoughts about what lay science communication, or SciComm, is and why it’s important.  I sent in the thoughts above and promptly forgot about it.  Last week I was startled, pleased, and just the tiniest bit uneasy to see my quote making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook (wonderfully illustrated by The Vexed Muddler).

Why uneasy?  Continue reading

summer lake attributed

Summer flashbacks

Has anybody asked you yet how you spent the summer you had “off”?  Did you see red?

My summer was busy.  I went to three major conferences (a major feat for someone who conferences as an introvert.  I read and commented on an endless river of thesis chapters and manuscripts.  I did some writing of my own.  And finally, since it was the summer “break”, I took two weeks of vacation – during which, controversially, I did a little bit of work.

I also posted a few things on Scientist Sees Squirrel, and if your summer was as busy as mine, you may have missed some of them.  Here’s a selection.

Welcome to the new academic year!

© Stephen Heard (sheard@unb.ca) September 8, 2016

Sign: "No texting while learning"

How do we make students into professional learners?

Photo: Original by Whispertome via wikimedia.org; released to public domain; clumsy modification by yours truly.

Last fall I was 1/3 of a “teaching triangle”.  This meant I teamed up with two other instructors for reciprocal classroom visits – not for assessment, but as an opportunity for observation and then discussion of different personalities and different teaching approaches working with different students in different classrooms.  I picked up some useful ideas from seeing differences among my colleagues in how they approach teaching.  But much more importantly, the experience crystallized for me something I now realize I’ve been seeing for years: the astonishing differences among students in how they approach learning. Continue reading