28 September 2020

9 circles of hell of a scientific paper publishing

In this YouTube video, “9 circles of hell of a scientific paper publishing, or the world is full of non-elephants,” one of my less pleasant publication stories come up as an example of less than ideal publication processes.

Excerpt from video:

It took almost 3 years to publish an article compared to two years of doing the research in sand crabs. Unfortunately, I am even not able to to check out this article, as it is pay walled for ten dollars. Of course this case is extreme but sometimes even two, three, four months are crucial not only for scientists’ career but also for the impact and relevance of this research for the society that actually paid for it.
The video also features Bj√∂rn Brembs, who’s consistently been one of the best commentators of academic publishing.

External links

Related posts

1,017 days: when publishing the paper takes longer than the project

19 September 2020

Konrad Lorenz was a Nazi and a Nobel laureate

(This was written for a behaviour class I am teaching this semester.)

Konrad Lorenz was an important figure in the development of the science of animal behaviour. But I also want to acknowledge that he was a member of the German National Socialist party in the 1930s (Kalikow 2020). Which is to say, Konrad Lorenz was a literal Nazi.

Munz described his party affiliation as “an ugly mix of careerism and genuine enthusiasm for the Nazi regime.” Some of his writing (not necessarily his scientific articles, but his letters and the like) showed many anti-Semitic attitudes and arguments for eugenics.

Lorenz was never in the military during World War II. (Correction, 7 October 2020: Lorenz served as a military physician in Poland near the end of the war. Kalikow 2020.) He was not personally pushing people to their deaths. After the war, he said that he was never a party member. It’s not clear to me whether his attitudes ever changed.

I bring this up because there’s a tendency to talk only about scientists’ research contributions, and gloss over or ignore other things they’ve done, particularly when those actions are distasteful or horrible. We like it when people are consistent. We like it when people who create work that is useful, powerful, or enjoyable are also decent human beings.

That is, unfortunately, not always the case.

An author who created a world you love might be racist, homophobic, or transphobic. An actor you enjoy watching might end up doing a perp walk for some crime or misdemeanor. A song you love might be sung by someone who was abusive. And it can makes it hard to sing that song that you love.

But we do ourselves no favours by acting as though only the science matters. It matters when someone was a bigot or a bully or whatever. Real people suffer real hurt because of those attitudes. We have to grapple with the fact that terrible people can do good science.

Part of that is owning up to the dark corners of scientific history. That’s one small part of how we treat people in science better now and in the future.


Kalikow TJ. 2020. Konrad Lorenz on human degeneration and social decline: a chronic preoccupation. Animal Behaviour 164: 267-272. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2020.01.007

Munz T. 2011. “My goose child Martina”:The multiple uses of geese in the writings of Konrad Lorenz. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 41(4): 405–446. https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2011.41.4.405 

Sax B. 1997. What is a "Jewish Dog"? Konrad Lorenz and the cult of wildness. Society & Animals 5(1): 3-21. https://doi.org/10.1163/156853097X00196

07 September 2020

Notes from a pandemic: Empty parking lots are the best sign I’ve seen in a while

So across the US, university towns are quickly becoming COVID-19 hotspots because campuses reopened, with crummy plans, and despite warnings for months. Given that South Texas was alreayd a hotspot for COVID-19, with something like 20 deaths reported every day in the country during weekdays for weeks, I was convinced reopening UTRGV – mandated by the UT System very early on – would be a disaster.

Last week, I swung by campus in the middle of the day. This was the second week of class, and the university is nomiall open and holding face-to-face classes.

UTRGV parking lot with few cars

That parking lot was as empty as I see in the week after spring semester ends. Almost as empty as the week between Christmas and New Year.

I was incredibly relieved.

Somehow, our faculty and students have made this semster a de factor online semester for the campus. I don’t know how it happend, because there was no coordination, but I’m glad it did.