Perhaps you’ve noticed that scientists, like other humans, can hold very strong opinions about certain things.* Perhaps you’ve also noticed that those opinions are sometimes backed up by voluminous evidence (gravity points down; climate change is real and caused by humans; vaccines are safe and effective) – but that sometimes they are not. Here’s a great example related to preprints.
Last week, I wrote about lists of suggested reviewers (for manuscripts). Most journals require them, although authors sometimes resent it; as an editor I use them and appreciate them very much.. But there’s another list that puzzles some authors: the list of disfavoured reviewers. This is a list of people that you’re requesting not be asked to review your manuscript. As an editor, how do I use that list? And who (if anyone) should you put on yours? Continue reading
You know the feeling: you’ve spent many hours painstakingly massaging your manuscript into compliance with a journal’s idiosyncratic formatting requirements. You’ve spent another two hours battling its online submission system*. You’re almost there – ready to hit “submit” and go for a well-deserved beer or cinnamon bun – but there’s One More Screen. The system wants your list of five recommended reviewers. Does this really matter? What does an editor do with it?
Well, I can’t speak for every editor (and I hope some others will add their own thoughts in the Replies). But I can tell you what I do with them, and perhaps that can guide you when you get asked for that list. Continue reading
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for rose coloured glasses in biology. There’s the unfolding saga of paper retractions in social behaviour; and then there’s cite-my-paper-gate. I don’t have much to say about the former (beyond expressing my admiration for the many scientists who are handling their unintended involvement with grace and integrity). But the latter made me think.
If you didn’t hear about cite-my-paper-gate: someone (yet to be publicly identified) has been busted over all kinds of reviewing and editing malpractice. Continue reading
This is a guest post by Bastien Castagneyrol. This is an issue I’ve thought about (as have others), and like Bastien, I don’t quite know what action to take. I like Bastien’s climbing metaphor. In a related one, the journey from subscriber-pays paywall to author-pays-open-access crosses a very rugged landscape, with crevasses both obvious and hidden.
Disclosure from Bastien: what follows is not exhaustive and could be much better documented. It reflects my feelings, not my knowledge (although my feelings are partly nurtured with some knowledge). I’m trying here to ask a really genuine question.
The climbing metaphor
My academic career is a rocky cliff. Continue reading
Image: Experiment, © Nick Youngson via picpedia.org, CC BY-SA 3.0
I’m often puzzled by the reluctance of scientists to think scientifically and do science. “Wait”, you say, “that’s a bizarre claim – we do science all the time, that’s why we’re called scientists”. Well, yes, and no.
We love doing science on nature – the observations and experiments and theoretical work we deploy in discovering how the universe works. What we don’t seem to love nearly as much is doing science on ourselves. Continue reading
Image: a snippet of the (excellent) copyedit for my forthcoming book.
Over the last six months, I’ve had several pieces of writing go through the copyediting process: a few papers, and one book. Over my career, I’ve seen closer to 100 pieces of writing through copyedits. It’s a stage of publication that was, for a long time, rather mysterious to me, but contrasting two of my recent experiences provides a pretty good illustration of what good copyediting is, and what good copyediting very definitely isn’t. Continue reading
I don’t usually blog about my own papers, except in some rather meta ways, but last week saw the publication of a paper I’m really, really proud of. And it has some interesting backstory, including its conception right here on Scientist Sees Squirrel.
The paper is called “Site-selection bias and apparent population declines in long-term studies”, and it’s just come out in Conservation Biology. It started, back in August of 2016, with a post called Why Most Studied Populations Should Decline. That post made a very simple point about population monitoring, long-term studies, and inferences about population decline. That point: if ecologists tend to begin long-term studies in places where their study organisms are common (and there are lots of very good reasons why they might), then we should expect long-term studies to frequently show population declines simply as a statistical artifact. That shouldn’t be controversial – it’s just a manifestation of regression to the mean – but it’s been almost entirely unaddressed in the literature.
A bunch of folks read that blog post. Some were mortally offended. Continue reading
Image: Gandalf the Gatekeeper, CC 0 via goodfreephotos.com
Peer review is arguably central to what we do as scientists – to a considerable extent it’s what lets us recognize an authentic scientific enterprise. Consider, for instance, the distinction between peer-reviewed publications and hack pieces in predatory journals; or think about how peer-reviewed grant proposals differ from pork-barrel politics. Given this key role, it’s rather surprising to find a great deal of disagreement about what peer review is for, how it works best, or even whether it works at all.
Along these lines, I was very surprised a couple of weeks ago to see a flurry of tweets from some folks who wanted journals to give them a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down on their manuscripts. No comments, please, and no suggestions for improvement, thanks, just a writ of execution or an ennoblement. Continue reading
Image: This mobile, hanging in my office, was given to me by my friend Mary Harris when I got tenure. It’s driftwood from the Skunk River in Iowa. I’d just gotten tenure, and it’s made of dead wood – get it?
A rather poorly-executed and very poorly-communicated study made a big splash last week, with the claim that half of all ecologists “drop out” of the field within just 5 years. The many, many flaws in this way of measuring and communicating people’s career trajectories have been thrashed out in other places, so I’ll just note for the record that by the paper’s critera, I myself have “dropped out” of the field.* Continue reading