Category Archives: Uncategorized

Do I work for the Class that pays me? (guest post)

Image: Kya Sands/Bloubosrand by Johnny Miller used with permission.

This is a guest post by Artem Kaznatcheev, a researcher in the Department of Computer Science at Oxford University and the Department of Translational Hematology and Oncology at the Cleveland Clinic.  Artem also blogs as part of the Theory, Evolution, and Games Group.  I’m pleased to have this post, which pushes back in a very interesting direction against one of my posts from last year.  Read on!

At the end of last year, Stephen Heard wrote that he doesn’t work for the people that pay him. He wrote in his usual positive tone and focus. A positivity that has me coming back to this blog regularly. In particular, he pointed out that his work as an ecologist has a positive impact all over the world. Thus he is not working for the taxpayers of New Brunswick, but for people all over the world. He generalized this to all of scientific progress:

There’s an implicit global contract, I think, that having science progress is good for us, and that having universities helps science progress. Also part of this implicit contract is the idea that this is best done by everyone funding universities and setting scientists loose – rather than by New Brunswick funding a university with scientists who work only on New Brunswick problems, and likewise for other jurisdictions. The phenomenal progress of modern science, and its international connectedness, suggest that this implicit contract has worked very, very well.

He concluded with a reflection on the dangers of taking this global focus away from universities. And that he is unapologetic about not working for the people that pay him. Stephen was positive about the good that science does for the everyone, not just those that pay him.

But in this case, he found this positive tone by focusing on geographic divisions and geopolitical boundaries. He suggested that science often transcends these. I think this is probably correct, but — given my curmudgeon nature — I don’t think it is the most relevant division. Continue reading

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Asking for feedback on job applications: attitudes and practices

Image: Feedback © Alan Levine CC BY 2.0

This post is jointly written by Steve Heard and Jacquelyn Gill, and appears in addition on Jacquelyn’s blog The Contemplative Mammoth

Early this summer, we asked for your experience and your attitudes about the practice of candidates’ asking for feedback on their (unsuccessful) job applications (with respect to university/college academic jobs). We polled both job candidates and search committee members, and here we’ll report the results and give you some of our thoughts.  We also hope you’ll leave your own thoughts and share your experiences in the Replies.

 

(1) It’s hard to write a poll Continue reading

Thoughts in memory of my father

My father, Douglas Heard, died last month at the age of 77.  I don’t think he ever read Scientist Sees Squirrel, and he won’t be reading this post. But he’s a presence in everything I do.

I have a friend, far outside of science, who once told me that my blog posts are like sermons.  Continue reading

Temporal trends in the Journal Diversity Index

Warning: astonishingly trivial

Three weeks ago I showed you my Journal Life List, and I invented the Journal Diversity Index (J/P, where my P papers have appeared in J different journals).  A lot of you liked that and calculated your own JDIs, and I don’t know that we learned anything profound, but it was fun and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But I can never leave well enough alone. Continue reading

Recent reading on the history of natural history

I’ve been reading a lot books lately on the history of natural history, as background research for a new book (the proposal is currently in review, and you’ll have to wait to learn more). Among the books, some are new, some are old; some are well known, some are obscure.  Here are my minireviews (in no particular order), in case you’re looking to add that pile of books you’ve been meaning to read. Continue reading

Thoughts from a room on the 13th floor

Photo: elevator buttons © Shane Adams via flickr.com CC BY 2.0

 Last month I went to my favourite conference (the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution), and checked into the conference hotel.  The desk clerk gave me room 1310, and I headed for the elevator and pressed the button for the 13th floor.  And then I did a double-take.  The 13th floor?  I don’t remember ever staying on a 13th floor; in North America, at least, buildings usually hop from the 12th floor to the 14th with only a mysterious lacuna in between.

Nothing untoward happened to me on the 13th floor, of course.  But my stay in room 1310 made me think about the 13-is-bad-luck superstition, and what it says about the human concepts of the universe.  What kind of thinking is behind our usual no-13th-floor convention?  First, we have to believe that the universe is constructed such that the 13th of something is disfavoured.  Second, there has to be some agency (whether natural law or supernatural) omniscient and omnipotent enough to keep track of what things are the 13th of something (floors, days, whatever), and to punish us for being on those things.  And third, that same omniscient and omnipotent agency has to be dumb enough to be hoodwinked by our labelling the 13th of something “14”.* Continue reading

A shelf of writing books

Some OTHER good books on scientific writing

If you’ve been hanging around Scientist Sees Squirrel, you’ve surely notice that I’ve written a guidebook for scientific writers.  I’m biased, of course, but I think The Scientist’s Guide to Writing is pretty good – and if you write at all, I think reading it can help.  (Why not go buy yourself a copy?  I’ll wait.)  But if you’re serious about your writing craft, I hope The Scientist’s Guide won’t be alone on your shelf.  It isn’t alone on mine.

Here are a few books that I think could profitably keep The Scientist’s Guide to Writing company.  (UPDATED: see the Replies thread for reader suggestions!) Continue reading