Ecology Open Access

The journal that I have selected is Ecosphere. It is one of the many journals that is put out by the Ecological Society of America. I do find it slightly humorous that Wiley is the publisher of it, given that they are one of the big bad publishing companies. The journal accepts all submission types that other ESA affiliated journals accept. This means they accept any articles that fall under the broad definition of ecology. They also accept interdisciplinary articles that pertain to ecology. They position the journal as an open access alternative to the other journals that are managed by ESA. They seem to be implying that the journal is just as prestigious, as it goes through the same review process as the others. The publication charge is $1500 for non-members and $1250 for ESA members. Compare that to their flagship journal, Ecology, where the cost is $75 per page. For the full price of publishing open access, one could potentially publish a 20-page manuscript.  The presence of Ecosphere seems merely be an acknowledgement of open access. There is nothing further about open access on their webpage.

Ethics Case

The cause that I would like to discuss is that of Frank Sauer. He was found to have falsified data. He got some good mileage out of the falsified data too, two publications in Science and five grant applications. There was also a follow-up to this case posted as well. Sauer tried to make the case that he was hacked, and his figures were altered by activists who don’t agree with his research. His evidence was found to be rather flimsy and potentially fake. His punishment was upheld by a judge.

Academic misconduct like this always begs the question as to why? I get that it is a highly competitive world in Academia, but is faking data really the solution? Especially if your intended target is Science. I do wish they would elaborate as to how the investigation was began. Was it a student of his, or did the peer review process catch him?  If it was student, that is a brave move. His actions likely have a trickle-down effect on any students of his. Will they be able to continue with their research or will they have to terminate their programs? It is possible that they will also be associated with the stigma of his forgery. Long story short, don’t fake data because other people are relying you for their jobs.

Don’t Stick Your Head in the Ground

We sort of broached the topic in class, about how we should attempt to address current events in the world. We can flat out ignore them, try to relate them to class, or maybe just have a full on discussion about them. It gets me to wondering what type of interaction I want to have with students. What level of involvement do I want to have with them about things not related to class? I do believe that it is important to important to at very least, acknowledge current events in class.  There are some things that are too important to be ignored. If events could be easily related to topics in the course, then all the better. However, what if there was a semi-logical and semi-valid reason for ignoring current events in the classroom? I’ve got some logic that might fit the bill.

As an instructor, you get a set amount of time, about 3 hours, each week for class. That is 3 hours each week over 15 weeks to try and guide students through various topics and ideas. That is a time when you get to have the majority of their attention. Why would you want to shift their attention to something else? One argument against ignoring current events could be that the student experience is everything that happens in and out of the classroom, so we, as academics, need to better address their experiences outside the classroom. Undoubtedly, outside issues will be on the minds of the students from time to time. Would engaging these issue bring their focus back to the topic of class or keep them off topic for class? What if by keeping it to the topics at hand, we can provide an escape from the outside topics that are on their minds. If the student showed up to class, there must be a little part of them that has some interest in learning about the topic. So why not try grow that instead?

I realize that the example is for only one class, but even when taking four class, that is a total of 12 hours a week devoted to class time. That is 12 hours a week when we can focus students on something else aside from is happening in the world. Please don’t read that as being trying to get them to ignore the world, but rather take a break from it. Personally, I find data analysis provides me with the break from the world I need. I realize that the world still exists and is on fire, but right now all I care about is making R work. I guess it all comes down to personal choice of the instructor, but there might be a good reason for sticking one’s head in the sand.


Dang that Ken Burns

I’d love to have a long rambling conversation about the new and improved academic logo that Tech has unveiled. However, that train left the station in class. Instead I will turn to a story on the Chronicle of Higher Ed. website about why historians dislike Ken Burns and his new documentary on the Vietnam War. There are a few ideas worth exploring with the article; but, I’d like to focus in on how Burn’s has managed to reach such a wider audience than academic historians. The author speculates that academics are merely jealous of the size of the audience that Burn’s can reach, as they are mostly limited to an academic audience. I don’t blame them for being jealous, I know I fall into a similar trap with entomology related articles I see in the mainstream media. As the author states, “He (Burns) is a simplifier; we complicate.” Every time I read an article about GMO’s or organic agriculture, that is always my first thought, it’s not that simple. Things are always more nuanced than a simple cause and effect relationship, but the burden of knowledge is what you get with investing your time and energy in graduate school. When you don’t worry so much about the nuance, you are more free to craft your message to connect with a lay audience. That’s not to suggest that there aren’t important details, but rather we need to carefully consider what is essential.

The biggest take away I had from the communicating science night is that an emotional appeal is a better strategy than a logical appeal to connect with people. For me, that is a hard thing to do. When I started my Master’s degree, the creative aspects of writing were beaten out of me with a red pen. Instead, I needed to focus on clear and concise sentences motivated by logic. It is difficult to then turn around and try to connect with people on an emotional level. I have this data that says you should do this, so why wouldn’t you do that? Maybe that’s what I need to realize about social media. I have forums to discuss my research with fellow academic using all the jargon I want. Social media is the opportunity to reach the lay audience and to craft my message in a way that still includes the details that are necessary, but has a better story than a publication. So,  I am asking myself the question, why should you care?