Saturday, May 18, 2024

Friday links: RIP John Damuth, Gates Foundation vs. article processing charges, and more (UPDATED)

EcologyFriday links: RIP John Damuth, Gates Foundation vs. article processing charges, and more (UPDATED)


Also this week: our commenters are the best (part MCCXIV), Darwin vs. Dickinson, scientist-politicians, Vinge’s Fork vs. Vico’s Singularity, mystery box seminar, and more.

From Jeremy:

Sad news: John Damuth passed away last month. He was a major figure in macroevolution and macroecology. He was best known for Damuth’s Law (population density scales with body mass raised to the -3/4 power), which when combined with 3/4 power scaling of individual energy use and body size, implies the energetic equivalence rule (population energy use is independent of body size). He was also a pioneer in ecological and evolutionary database design in the early 1990s. He designed the original relational database that eventually grew into the widely-used paleontological databases NOW and PBDB.

Hoisted from the excellent comment thread on Brian’s excellent post from earlier this week: Chris Mebane notes that the Gates Foundation will no longer mandate open access publication. Instead, researchers are free to publish Gates Foundation-supported research in any journal, and the Gates Foundation will no longer pay article processing charges. This is notable because the Gates Foundation is a pretty big and influential supporter of biomedical research; this isn’t some tiny random NGO changing its policies. Now I’m kind of curious to collect other recent examples of organizations making this sort of change, and not just with regards to open access mandates. Examples of organizations deciding “our well-intentioned policy isn’t achieving the goals it was intended to achieve, so we’re changing it.” Especially interested in examples in which there’s still significant support for the old policy within or outside the organization, as I suspect is the case for open access mandates.

Also hoisted from the comments on Brian’s post: did you know that a number of scientific societies either self-publish their own journals, or contract with a non-profit university publisher to do so? The SSE recently switched from a for-profit publisher to Oxford University Press. SETAC just switched to Oxford University Press as well, even though Wiley offered them more money. The Resilience Alliance’s Ecology & Society is self-published. The New Zealand Journal of Ecology is self-published. Finally, the Brazilian Association for Ecological Science and Conservation contracts with Springer to publish Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation, but seeks sponsors to make the journal free for both authors and readers. And of course, the ASN’s journal American Naturalist has long been published by University of Chicago Press. Here’s hoping the ESA and BES will think long and hard about OUP, UChicago Press, or another non-profit publisher the next time their contracts with Wiley come up for renewal. The examples of SSE and SETAC show that a switch is possible. And yes, I know that the ESA is a bigger society than SSE or SETAC, and spends more money on a wider range of activities than SSE or SETAC do. I’m just saying that, the next time ESA’s contract with Wiley comes up for renewal, it’d be worth having a serious society-wide conversation about what our priorities are. I say that as someone who supported the ESA’s long-ago switch away from Allen Press. Subsequent events have changed my mind. (update: reference to the wrong Brazilian scientific society corrected; thank you a commenter for pointing out the error./end update)

Environmental engineer Claudia Scheinbaum Pardo is running for President of Mexico and currently leads in the polls. If elected, she would become Mexico’s first woman President, and one of the most accomplished scientist-politicians in history. Her closest rival, Xóchitl Gálvez Ruiz, is also an engineer.

I was interested to read this news article on numerous data duplications and image discrepancies in papers from the lab of Nobel Prize winner Thomas Südhof. To his credit, he seems to be addressing the concerns with unusual speed and openness for someone with so many papers under scrutiny. Many of the issues seem to have been honest mistakes, but the investigation is ongoing. For better or worse (and you could argue it various ways), I think this case illustrates how scrutiny of scientific integrity is determined these days: via positive feedback loop. If you’re a prominent scientist, and any plausible concern about any of your papers is raised on PubPeer, it’s going to draw the attention of PubPeer users, so that every one of your papers gets the fine tooth comb treatment.

On the deep historical roots of our metaphors about AI. Insightful blog post, with many good lines.

Writing in Science, Kaitlin Mondello reviews Renée Bergland’s new joint biography of Charles Darwin and Emily Dickinson. It would not have occurred to me that this would be an informative juxtaposition, given that they lived on different continents, had very different careers, and never met or corresponded. But apparently it is informative! Now I know what to get Stephen Heard for his birthday.

Here’s a new registered report meta-analysis finding that increasing the diversity of a team can significantly raise the team’s expected performance on some tasks (depending on the dimension of diversity in question, and the nature of the task). But the mean effect sizes of diversity on team performance are tiny, so much so that it any particular real-world case you’d expect the diversity effect to be swamped by other effects specific to the case in question. And there don’t seem to be any identifiable moderator variables that explain a substantial fraction of variance in effect size around the mean. This interested me because I’ve seen a few individual papers from this literature widely cited and discussed online, but hadn’t ever seen a quantitative summary of the literature as a whole.

Economist Tyler Cowen does long, wide ranging, super-interesting interviews with guests from all walks of academia, the arts, and culture. He’s going to do one with science writer Philip Ball. Here’s where you can leave suggestions for what questions he should ask.

Statistican Andrew Gelman is giving a talk at Northwestern next week–but he won’t know what the topic is until it’s time to give the talk. The topic will be chosen by the audience in attendance, from among three options provided in advance in the form of titles and abstracts. I like this, it’s a fun idea.

New invasive species just dropped. 😉

Museum of Natural History Hysteria 🙂

p.s. In case you haven’t noticed, I just added sharing buttons for Mastodon and Bluesky to the bottom of each post. It only took me several months to accidentally discover I could do this. 🙂

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