Monthly Archives: October 2017

Three witches in the woods

Photos: witches’ butter © Daniel Neil CC BY 2.0; witch-hazel © Mike Peel CC BY-SA 4.0; witches’ broom © Scot Nelson CC BY 2.0.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Tonight, you’ll no doubt see neighbourhood children traipsing door-to-door in costume, shrieking and laughing along the way.  You’ll see superheroes and scarecrows, pirates and police officers, wizards and witches. Some costumes go in and out of fashion; but there are witches every year.

There are witches in the woods, too. Continue reading

Advertisements

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Latin names

Image: Gnorimoscheme gallaesolidaginis (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), © Tom Murray CC BY-ND-NC 1.0

 Warning: judgy and subjective.

 If you’ve been hanging around Scientist Sees Squirrel, you’ll know I have a strange and nerdy fascination with Latin names of plants and animals. People often think (my undergraduates always think) Latin names are long, obscure, boring, and unpronounceable.  But they’re wrong.  Latin names can be wonderful – and I have a series of posts saying so.  They can be delightful to say.  They can celebrate scientific heroes or pop-culture ones.  They can keep alive the memory of people otherwise forgotten.  Sometimes they can do all those things at once.  I think of Latin names as loose threads that, when pulled on, often reveal unexpected and fascinating stories.

But. Continue reading

The coauthors I’ve never met

As of two weeks ago, I’ve published 76 peer-reviewed papers, and I’ve published them with 114 different coauthors.  Among those coauthors are my graduate and undergraduate students, my colleagues, my friends, my wife – and quite a few people I’ve never met. Continue reading

Negative-news bias and “the disaster that is peer review”

Peer review is a dumpster fire, right?  At least, that’s what I hear – and there’s a reason for that.

Last month, I got reviews back on my latest paper.  Opening that particular email always makes me both excited and depressed, and this one ran true to form: a nicely complimentary opening from the editor and Reviewer 1 – followed by several pages of detailed critiques from Reviewer 2 – and Reviewer 3 – and, believe it or not, Reviewer 4.  Continue reading

Four unconvincing reasons not to crowdfund science

Image:  Crowdfunding, US Securities and Exchange Commission (no, really), CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Sometimes I hold an opinion that I’m almost certain has to be wrong, but I can’t figure out why. This is one of those times.  I need you to help me.

I’ve been watching the trend to crowdfunded science, and it bothers me.  I completely understand why it happens, and why it’s become much more common. The science funding environment continues to be difficult – indeed, in many places it seems to be getting steadily more difficult, especially for early-career scientists and those doing the most basic/curiosity-driven science.  At the same time, the rise of web-based crowdfunding platforms* has made it relatively easy to reach potential donors (at least in principle, and more about that below). For any given researcher at any given time, surely the science is better with access to crowdsourced support than it would be without.  And several colleagues I like and respect have crowdsourced part of their work.  So why am I so uncomfortable with the model? Continue reading

Reach and impact of science-community blogs in ecology (new paper!)

My latest paper just came out, and it’s unlike anything I’ve done before.  It’s called Bringing Ecology Blogging into the Scientific Fold: Reach and Impact of Science-Community Blogs.  Really, I’d be perfectly happy if you just went and read the paper – but for those who might like a bit of context and backstory, here are a few thoughts.

(1)  It was tons of fun to have, as coauthors, a bunch of terrific bloggers: Amy Parachnowitsch and Terry McGlynn from Small Pond Science, Manu Saunders of Ecology is Not a Dirty Word, Margaret Kosmala of Ecology Bits, Simon Leather of Don’t Forget the Roundabouts, Jeff Ollerton of Jeff Ollerton’s Biodiversity Blog, and Meghan Duffy from Dynamic Ecology.* If you’re reading me but not them, I don’t know what the heck you think you’re doing. Continue reading

Oral storytelling and my supposed superpower

Image: Der Grossvater erzählt eine Geschichte (Grandfather tells a story). Albert Anker, 1884 (Berlin Museum of Art) via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes I’ll meet with a grad student who’s feeling stuck on a piece of writing, and I’ll do something they find surprising.  It’s this: I’ll think for a moment, roll my chair away from the desk a bit, look up at the ceiling, and dictate the paragraph that’s needed, more of less off the top of my head.  (A very rough version, mind you.  And I can do it for a paragraph or two – not for a whole paper!)  A while ago, one student stopped me midway through dictation and asked me how I could possibly do that.  It seemed, to her, like a superpower.

That brought me up short, because I hadn’t consciously realized that when I do it, I’m using a writing trick.  Continue reading