Archive for: September, 2011

slowin me down

Sep 28 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The other day I was minding my own business, when the ever-most-awesome Scicurious sent me a link to an article (SIDE NOTE: don't miss Sci blogging the Ignobles over at SciAm!). Now, before you get all excited, this isn't some super-cool-crazy-awesome science that Sci is so good at finding. Nope, instead it was something kinda infuriating. But first, some background.

Like Sci, I enjoy distance running. I'm not incredibly fast, but running is fun and keeps me from being a cranky person (too much). And I like reading about running, but not so much this: the IAAF (the world governing body for track and field) is going to require that all records for females be set in an all-female field. In other words, if there are boys running then your time doesn't count. Because the boys made you faster...because they were pacing you...or something.

THIS IS TOTAL BULLSHIT. Obviously. The IAAF doesn't have a problem with runners using pacers...unless the runners are women and the pacers are men. WTF? The IAFF is basically ignoring the women's world record (Paula Radcliffe, 2:15:25 at the London Marathon) because there were men on the same course. I have run with many people faster than me. Unfortunately, I was not able to magically suck the speed or endurance from these people. I could only go as fast as my own fitness and training allowed.

The Canadian record holder, and all-around awesome person from what I can tell, Silvia Ruegger, may also have her Canadian record stripped by the new rule (2:28:36 at the Houston Marathon in 1985). But Sylvie took it all in stride:

“I think all of us as women, we did it because we had a passion to do it in spite of all the odds, in spite of all the obstacles and people saying you shouldn’t do it and why are you doing it and all of that. But part of it was about leaving a legacy and being role models and examples and showing young girls what was possible."

There is a long history of trying to prevent women from running distance races. The most famous example is the Boston Marathon. Women were not allowed to register to run Boston until 1972 (though Bobbi Gibb ran the whole course in 1966 as a bandit). The first women to run Boston with a number was Katherine Switzer in 1967 (she registered as K.V. Switzer, and the organizers assumed she was female). Switzer was almost physically dragged off the course by race organizers, who did not take kindly to seeing a woman running on the course with a number.

AP photo of race organizer taking a wicked block from Switzer's boyfriend.

 I found the picture here.

It used to be that people thought women couldn't run 26.2 miles. They were wrong. But that doesn't stop them from trying to put up obstacles still (stay classy, IAAF). Luckily for me, there are women out there willing to prove them wrong. And men that are willing to make sure they had the chance to do that.


5 responses so far

For the new grad students

Sep 19 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Welcome to grad school! First off, you should totally take a few minutes to read the excellent advice that PLS and Doc FreeRide have put together for you. Go on.

OK. Now, I would like to add one thing. It is going to be very important for your future success that you quit acting like a fucking undergrad. Those days are past. Just because I didn't send you a pdf of a paper does NOT mean that you don't need to read it. If you are still sitting around waiting for someone to help you pick a rotation lab or trying to figure out "what is one the test" during your grad courses then YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG!

The only way you are going to get anything out of grad school is if you go in and fucking wrestle it away from the system. Doing science is hard. Dealing with the fucking bureaucracy of the MRU is a pain in the ass. But this is YOUR pain in the ass. Now is the time to take control of your education and career.

There are many of us that are willing to give you advice. Beware, it will not always be good advice. It is your responsibility to decide what advice you will follow (to an extent). Don't forget that we are all tired and dealing with a lot of shit that has nothing to do with you. Don't let that hurt your feelings.

Now find a bench and get to work!

78 responses so far

I wrote this post like a girl

Sep 15 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Holy crap, but Emily Hauser has hit it out of the park again. Everyone needs to go read her post about the phrase "like a girl". I think she summed it up best last night on the twitter:

As a person trying to raise a little girl (and being a grown-up girl myself), I ABSOLUTELY FUCKING HATE this stupid phrase. It is one of the insidious ways that our culture makes it clear that females are not quite so great as the males. There are no examples of when doing something "like a girl" is a compliment. This shit phrase, and the ability to throw it around in our culture without thinking about it, lays the foundation for other, less-subtle examples: "too pretty for homework" school wear (OH FOR FUCKS SAKE) and "hazing" of major league baseball pitchers by making them wear little girl's backpacks. (THE HORROR!)

If only there were more guys like the Sedin brothers. In response to an idiot announcer referring to them as "Thelma and Louise" during the playoffs last year, this was their response:

"I don't know how he looks at women. I would be pretty mad if I was a woman."


Fuck yeah.

So, if you haven't yet- click over to Emily's place to read her (much more eloquent) take on what it means to be "like a girl". Let's rid the vernacular of this idiotic phrase, so that hopefully when Mini-G is older she doesn't have to hear this shit every day.

19 responses so far

broken peer review

Sep 11 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

OMG academic peer review is totally fucked and it never works and the third reviewer is a stupid idiot asshole!!!11!!!1!

I am certainly guilty of complaining about the review process when my (uniformly awesome) work is the target. Today on twitter I learned that Leonid Kruglyak (@leonidkruglyak) and I have something in common in this regard. He complained:

Obviously, I don't know what the reviewer actually asked for*. And, though I don't often want to admit it, if I'm being honest, most** of the comments from reviewers do end up making the work better. The link in that tweet goes to a column by Hidde Ploegh published a while ago by Nature arguing that the peer review process is a "wasteful tyranny" and that it is worse the higher-up the journal food-chain you are. In this column, he proposes 3 steps to improve peer review:

First, they should insist that reviewers provide a rough estimate of the anticipated extra cost (in real currency) and effort associated with experiments they request. This is not unlike what all researchers are typically asked to provide in grant applications. Second, journals should get academic editors with expertise in the subject to take a hard look at whether the requests of reviewers will affect the authors' conclusions, and whether they can be implemented without undue delay. Third, reviewers should give a simple yes or no vote on the manuscript under scrutiny, barring fatal shortcomings in logic or execution.

I might be mistaken, but it seems to me that these steps would just push all the blame to the editors. I have not seen evidence that the peer review process is much different at places that use academic editors as compared to professional editors.

I think that part of the reason we all complain about peer review is that our papers get rejected. And this isn't going to change any time soon. Most journals, especially the "high-impact" magz, get far more submissions than they can publish. That being said, all of us that complain about peer review are the people we complain about. I am sure that there are times that folks would characterize me as a "third reviewer". I am not an evil asshole, trying to scoop a competitor, or lazy***. My goal is always to write a logic-based, thoughful review that I would be happy not be pissed off to read as an author. Do I make mistakes? Certainly. But I am trying.

In the end, the only way that peer review will get better is if we "peers" decide to change it. If there are established folks out there (like Drs. Plough and Kruglyak) that act like the "perfect" reviewer, and train the people in their labs to do the same, maybe the cycle of "look, I've read it, I can be as critical as the next dude and ask for something that's not yet in the manuscript" can end.

It will still suck if my paper gets rejected.


*IME, the author's paraphrasing of reviewer requests can be a little hyperbolic.

**I am not arguing that there are exceptions or that EVERY reviewer comment is worthwhile.

***Though these things may happen with some reviewers, I think that they are probably the exceptions, not the rule. Call me an idealistic dim-wit.

23 responses so far