Author Archives: ScientistSeesSquirrel

About ScientistSeesSquirrel

I'm an evolutionary ecologist and entomologist at the University of New Brunswick. I think about a lot of random things... some of them appear here.

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

How to write, and read, a (manuscript) rejection letter

Several months ago, I wrote about how to write, and read, a job rejection letter.  I know a lot about those.  I also know quite a bit about manuscript rejections (as most of us do).  I’ve received so many I’ve lost track, and I’ve written as many or more as an editor.  Just as with job rejections, there are better manuscript rejections and worse ones. Continue reading

Poetry and Science – A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes (review)

Some time ago now, I raved about Caribou Run: a book of poetry about – no, not about, but heavily referencing – science*.  Ever since I’ve meant to write about another book of poetry that crossed my path around the same time: Madhur Anand’s A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes.  The books are totally unalike, except for two things: the way they explore connections between poetry and science (including scientific writing, a pet interest of mine), and the fact that I enjoyed each very much.

Caribou Run is the work of a poet fascinated by science.  A New Index is the work of a scientist who is also a poet.  The fact that I can’t decide whether this contrast makes a difference seems like good evidence that the boundary between the arts and science is porous from both sides. Continue reading