Saturday, May 18, 2024

Friday links: evolutionary biology startup, the problem with specialized researchers, World Wide Web time capsule, and more

EcologyFriday links: evolutionary biology startup, the problem with specialized researchers, World Wide Web time capsule, and more


Also this week: remembering Estella Bergere Leopold, testing for editor bias at EEB journals, how to be more like Keynes, the most powerful source of energy in the universe, inevasive species, what Jeremy wants for his birthday, and more.

From Jeremy:

Pioneering paleobotanist Estella Bergere Leopold has passed away. She was 97. Link goes to a Nature obituary.

I’m a bit late to this. Writing in Functional Ecology, Srivastava et al. test for editor bias by reanalyzing data from a recent randomized double blind review experiment involving several EEB journals. Very crisp and clearly written. Some of the results make sense (basically: editors seem to be especially reluctant to overrule positive reviews of mss by male authors based in wealthy countries). Other results are rather puzzling, which does make me wonder a little about the robustness of the entire analysis. Srivastava et al. suggest the ecologists ought to study triple blind review: blinding handling editors to author identity. I agree this at least seems worth thinking about and discussing.

Arcadia Science is an evolutionary biology startup company. Sounds interesting, though I don’t know a thing about it, or how it differs from any other biotech startup.

“The most powerful source of energy in the universe is people who give a hoot.” Older but equally good piece on the same theme: “It’s not The Incentives, it’s you.“

This is several months old but it’s new and interesting to me. Guardian longread on Dutch farmers’ revolt against new Dutch government policies on nitrogen deposition.

Dan Gardner on how to keep yourself from doubling down when facing pushback or criticism. I liked this.

Dan Davies on the problem with intellectual division of labor (i.e. research specialization) in economics. Does this generalize to ecology? I couldn’t possibly comment on whether it generalizes to this blog in particular. 🙂 Key quote:

The thing is that economics gains this variety by having a lot more headcount than competing social sciences, and by being very specialised.  And that means that while “economics” as a subject can be so much more sophisticated and realistic, if you randomly select an economist and randomly select an economics topic, your most likely outcome is that you’ll be dealing with a level of expertise and sophistication that is exactly, identically equal to a half-remembered undergraduate textbook answer.

A necessary consequence of the division of intellectual labor is that outside their particular area of specialisation, economists’ understanding often falls away very sharply indeed…[I]n economics, you all too often come across people who don’t have a sufficient baseline of knowledge outside their specialty, but who either aren’t aware of this or don’t see it as a reason not to give advice.

A claim that children’s entertainment, especially animated cartoons, suddenly got much better in the 1990s and 2000s. I’m not the kind of nerd who’s into this topic, but I still enjoyed the post and found it plausible. I wish discussion of the reasons for this sudden shift hadn’t been deferred to a future post.

Evasive species. Scroll down. 🙂

Here’s what academic homepages were like in 1995, kids. After you click that link, take this poll:

And finally, I would buy this hypothetical coffee table book. Someone should make it, and then give me a copy for my birthday. And you kids should get off my lawn.

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