16 November 2019

The crackpot index, biology edition

Amanda Glaze wrote:

Can someone with some free time create a crackpot index for biology like the one that exists in physics?

At the very top of that index there needs to be a section for making arguments that foundational research in a field is completely wrong and using a clip art PowerPoint displaying your own theory based on no research whatsoever as a viable alternative.

Challenge accepted!

The likelihood of someone making revolutionary changes in biology:

  1. A -5 point starting credit.
  2. One point for every statement that already addressed in TalkOrigins.
  3. Two points for every exclamation point!
  4. Three points for each word in ALL CAPS.
  5. Five points for saying that “theories” are less likely to be true than “laws” or “facts.”
  6. Five points for every mention of “entropy” or “Second law of thermodynamics.”
  7. Ten points for each use of the words “Darwinism” or “Darwinist.”
  8. Twenty points for arguing a discredited individual should be taken seriously because they were “nominated for a Nobel prize.”
  9. Ten points for saying that “Scientists are the ones who aren’t following the evidence.”
  10. Ten points for arguing that historically documented events are “statistically impossible.”
  11. Ten points for saying a current well-established theory is “only a theory.”
  12. Ten points for calling the current theory “a theory in crisis.”
  13. Ten points for asserting that evidence only counts if personally witnessed, in real time, by a human being.
  14. Twenty points for saying that then things that current theories predict should not happen are huge problems for the theory because nobody has seen them happen.
  15. Twenty points for listing people - whether they have any training or experience in the field in question - who “dissent” from current ideas.
  16. Twenty points for finishing any claim or argument with the word, “Checkmate!”
  17. Twenty points for saying, “Darwin was wrong.”
  18. Twenty points for every other scientific discipline that must be wrong in order for your claims to be correct.
  19. Twenty points for asking, “Then why are there still monkeys?”
  20. Thirty points for asking, “Where are the transitional fossils?”
  21. Thirty points for suggesting that scientists on the brink of death recanted their ideas.
  22. Thirty points for calling any scientist an “industry shill.”
  23. Thirty points for claiming any scientist holds a view “just to keep the grant money coming.”
  24. Forty points for taking quotes of a famous scientist out of context so that it appears to support your position (“quote mining”).
  25. Fifty points for claiming that your views are being suppressed while writing on a social media platform, blog, or website that is not only discoverable, but lands on the first page of search engine results.
External links

The Crackpot Index

29 October 2019

Journal reviewing celebration

Recently, I completed a review for journal number fifty. Not fifty articles – fifty different journals I have reviewed for. Some only once and some multiple times.

Since you’re invited to review papers, and I usually say yes whenever possible, the list is kind of an interesting way to see what other people think I know. Mostly crustacean stuff, but I’m pleased that behaviour, evolution, nervous systems, and even internet stuff has worked its way into the list of thing I’ve reviewed.

Acta Ethologica
American Midland Naturalist
Aquaculture Research
Aquatic Invasions
Behavioural Processes
BioInvasions Records
Biological Invasions
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
BMC Evolutionary Biology
Brain, Behavior and Evolution
Bulletin of Marine Science
Drug Discovery Today
Environmental Management
Fisheries Research
Freshwater Crayfish
Herpetological Natural History
ICES Journal of Marine Science
Invertebrate Reproduction and Development
Journal of Coastal Research
Journal of Crustacean Biology
Journal of Ethology
Journal of Experimental Biology
Journal of Experimental Zoology, Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology
Journal of Medical Internet Research
Journal of Natural History
Journal of Neurophysiology
Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE)
Knowledge and Management of Aquatic Ecosystems
Management of Biological Invasions
Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology
Marine Biology Research
Nature Ecology & Evolution
Neuroscience Letters
North-Western Journal of Zoology
Open Journal of Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Physiology and Behavior
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Royal Society Open Science
Science Advances
The Biological Bulletin
Zoolgischer Anzeiger

24 October 2019

How academic publishing is like a really nice bra

In my jackdaw meanderings around the internet, I stumbled on this thread from Cora Harrington.

Sometimes I like to look at lace prices on sites like Sophie Hallette. It’s good for giving perspective on how, even if the cost of lingerie was just fabrics (and it’s not because people should be paid for their labor), many items would still be expensive.

She gives many examples, of which I will show just one (emphasis added):

The Chloris reembroidered lace is around $1600/meter.

And that isn’t the most expensive one. Cora concludes:

When someone says “There’s no way x could cost that much,” keep in mind that there are fabrics - literally just the fabrics - that can cost 4 figures per meter.

And the labor - the expertise - involved in knowing how to handle these fabrics is worth many, many times more.

This made me think a lot about academic publishing. Because I am always fascinated by people who say something like undergraduate textbooks or journal subscriptions or article processing fees for open access publishing costs “too much.” When someone says something costs “Too much,” that means they have some notion in their head of what the “right” price is.

But as this example shows, people don’t always have a clear conception of the costs involved. And people complaining about costs sometimes tend to assume that the labour involved is simple, quick, and not worth paying a decent wage for.

This is not to say prices can’t be too high. But at least as far as academic publishing goes, I’ve only seen one attempt to work out what costs are. That is, apart from publishers themselves, who have conflicts of interest in calculating and disclosing costs.

04 October 2019

Who co-authored the most read paper in JCB? Me.

Screenshot of Journal of CRustacean Biology advance articles and "Most read" list, with crayfish cell culture at top of "Most read"

Yes, I know there are all kinds of problems with mystery metrics. Yes, I know this reflects the new paper I co-authored being, well, a new paper with no paywall. Yes, I know that this won’t necessarily reflect the long time impact of the paper.

Still. It feels nice.

Far too often, publishing academic papers feels like shouting into a vacuum. Or the most agonizing of slow burns, where it takes years to know if other people will pick up on what you’ve done. So a little short term feedback like this is pleasant.

01 October 2019

Victoria Braithwaite dies

Victoria Braithwaite

I was saddened to learn about the untimely death of Victoria Brathwaite. Victoria was a pioneer in research on nociception in non-mammals (fish, specifically), culminating in her book Do Fish Feel Pain? (reviewed here).

I was fortunate to have her as one of the speakers for a symposium I co-organized for Neuroethology in 2012. She was a fine speaker, and I’m sorry I won’t get more chances to interact or learn from her.

External links

Penn State community grieves loss of biologist Victoria Braithwaite

30 September 2019

Climbing the charts

A new preprint of a forthcoming paper I collaborated on dropped in Journal of Crustacean Biology last week.

Today, it’s in the journal’s “most read” list.

Screenshot of Journal of Crustacean Biology advance articles page, with paper by DeLeon et al. highlighted in "Most read" sidebar at third position.

I have no idea how the journal calculates this list or how often it updates it. But this makes me happy. Not bad, eh?

The paper is open access, so anyone can read it. So please, help us bump off that Artemia eggs paper off the top position!


DeLeon H III, Garcia J Jr., Silva DC, Quintanilla O, Faulkes Z, Thomas JM III. Culturing embryonic cells from the parthenogenetic clonal marble crayfish Marmorkrebs Procambarus virginalis Lyko, 2017 (Decapoda: Astacidea: Cambaridae). Journal of Crustacean Biology: in press. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcbiol/ruz063