14 June 2022

End abstract sponsorship for the Neuroscience meeting

Logo for Neuroscience 2022 meeting
Tomorrow is the deadline to submit abstracts for the Neuroscience meeting (the biggest academic meeting in the world).

This meeting does something that I have never seen at any other meeting. Every presentation and poster needs a society member to “sponsor” the abstract. And a member can only sponsor one scientific and one “metascience” presentation.

“So just become a member.” Not that easy, because membership also requires you to be sponsored by two active existing members. So if you are in a smaller campus, there may be no existing member who can sponsor you.

If you are in a lab with three society members but want to present four posters, you’re stuck.

The problem is so obvious that the Society’s Twitter account has taken to trying to help people rustle up a member to sponsor abstracts by retweeting requests. Like this.

Desperate last minute request from a @UniLeiden postdoc! Would anybody mind sharing their @SfNtweets membership ID for me to be able to use as a sponsor? Much appreciated 🙃

Or this or this. Not to mention this and this.

This is a failure on a couple of levels. First, it’s a stressful waste of time for people who want to present at the meeting. Second, it’s clear that people are willing to sponsor presentations they had nothing to do with.

I suspect that this policy could also cause problems with around representation, which occur pretty much any time you create an obstacle that has anything to do with money.

And it shouldn’t be up to a social media account to try to fix a conference admission problem.

I can see three possible reasons for this policy – two okay and one bad.
  1. Keeps out cranks, kooks, and quacks who want to present crackpot ideas. I think there are better ways of achieving this.
  2. Limits the size of the meeting. Sorry, but that ship has sailed.
  3. Drives membership. This is the bad reason. Look, either make membership worth having or increase the registration fee for non-members to compensate for lost revenue.

The meeting has done this for a long time. I ran into the problem the very first time I submitted an abstract. And that was, as they say, a while ago now. It feels like the kind of policy that sticks around because “We’ve always done it this way” instead of serving any valuable purpose.

It is time for the Society to publicly say why they limit submissions this way, or get rid of the policy altogether.

External links

Neuroscience call for abstracts

06 June 2022

New podcast epiode for ABT Time

ABT Time podcast. The world never has to be boring.
My newest podcast interview is the ABT Time podcast, episode 39, hosted by Randy Olson.

Randy has featured on the blog a few times before, so long time readers may recognize that “ABT” in ABT Time is an abbreviation for “And, but, therefore” – the key words for making a concise narrative.

The ABT structure features prominently in the Better Posters book because it is an powerful tool for encapsulating a project in a sentence. 

The podcast mostly talks about narrative and posters, but because I’ve crossed paths with Randy a few times, our chat is more conversational than formal interview.

The ABT Time podcast should be available wherever you get your podcasts (Apple, Spotify, YouTube, etc.).

External Links

ABT Time #39 on ABT Agenda

30 May 2022

The big two oh blogiversary

Cake with "20" on the front
Happy blogiversary to me!

Twenty (!) years ago, I started blogging for the first time, right here on this blog. I can’t even remember the first title, though it certainly wasn’t NeuroDojo. 

Blogging became a habit. Besides this blog, I still maintain two other blogs that are updated regularly, Marmorkrebs and Better Posters.

And while many once active blogs have slowed down – including my own – I would never consider shutting down all my blogs. It has been far too rewarding. (I mean, I finally got to write a book because of blogging!)

For this blog, NeuroDojo, I have been proud of the times little things broke out of the blog and impacted other arenas. I am pleased that a horrible, sexist paper originally published on paper and retracted finally got a retraction notice slapped on its online version. I’m pleased that a journal worked on guidelines for presenting statistics because of something I wrote. The word “kiloauthors” took on a little life of its own.

And I want to say that for me, blogging still occupies a space that is still unmatched by social media. The longer format helps me clarify my own thinking on things. And once I have a post down, it’s so much easier to go back and find what I have written, when someone revisits a question on social media that I wrote about back in the day.

Thanks to Neil Gaiman for showing me the potential of the blog format.

Thanks to anyone who has stopped by to read anything here.

Photo by Kristine Hoepnner on Flickr.  Used under a Creative Commons license.

23 May 2022

RIP Robin Overstreet

I learned yesterday that Dr. Robin Overstreet died.

Dr. Overstreet played a small but important part in my research. When I realized that things I was seeing in shrimp nerve cords were not staining artifacts but were alive, my colleague Brian Fredensborg contacted Dr. Overstreet. Robin generously keyed them out to the genus at least. Polypocephalus, a larval tapeworm.

I think the three papers I co-authored about that animal would have been much harder to sell to editors, reviewers, and readers, if we’d had to write something like, “Unidentified parasite A.”

I met Overstreet at a American Society for Parasitology meeting in San Antonio in 2017 in front of my poster. I was glad I was able to thank him for helping me, my student, and colleague. We talked a little about potential for more collaboration, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

16 May 2022

New interview on Scholarly Communication podcast

Scholarly Communication podcast logo
I’m fortunate enough to be on the Scholarly Communication podcast with Daniel Shea! (I think it’s episode 91, but they don’t number them by default.)

While the ostensible reason I was on was to talk about the Better Posters book, the conversation ranged widely. Daniel and I talk about narrative, collaboration, and efficiency in the realm of academic communication more generally.

Here are a couple of posts I mention during the interview.

First, this is the post where I talk about my wariness anyone says, “We need to do a better job training Ph.Ds in...”.

Second, this is the post where I talk about how my writing class completely, totally, 💯 rejected the idea that storytelling has any place in science. So storytelling is dead, long live narrative.

You can listen at the New Book Networks website or probably any other place you get your podcasts (like Stitcher).

External links

Scholarly Communication podcast home

Scholarly Communication: Better Posters

13 May 2022

This one is for Doctor Rubidium

This video of American woodcocks cropped up on Twitter, and Raychelle Burks asked for a mash-up with “Drop It Like It’s Hot. ” Who am I to argue?

Update, 15 May 2022: And here’s the second part of the request. Going back to 1969 with The Meters...

03 May 2022

Newest podcast interview

Lecture Breakers logo
I’m on the Lecture Breakers podcast this week!

I saw host Barbi Honeycutt on a YouTube video, and heard about her work with teaching in alternative formats besides lectures. I reached out to see if she was interested in chatting about using posters for teaching without realizing she had already a great blog post on the topic herself.

I had a blast talking with Dr. Honeycutt, and I hope the fun comes through on the show.

In preparing for the interview, I listened to a few episodes of the podcast, and I am now a regular listeners. If you are an educator, do yourself a favour and subscribe to this podcast. The enthusiasm is high, the questions are smart, and the guests are thoughtful educators. It’s a great listen for anyone teaching in higher education.

Related posts

Using poster assignments in courses

External links

Lecture Breakers #121

6 Ways to Use Teaching Posters in Your Course to Increase Student Engagement (2019)

04 April 2022

The NSF GRFP problem, 2022 edition

I am not even in the US any more so should not care about this, but...

The National Science Foundation announced the 2,193 awardees of their Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) awards and yet again, some single institutions outperformed entire American states.

83 awards went to students from one institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

61 awards went to students in the entire University of Texas system.

This seems biased. But I don’t know what the applicant pool looks like because NSF don’t release that data.

I don’t have bandwidth to do more analysis, but check out the links before for some previous years.

Related posts

NSF GRFP award skew in 2021
The NSF GRFP problem, 2020 edition
The NSF GRFP problem continues (2018)
Fewer shots, more diversity? (2016)




28 March 2022

Sand crab podcasting

Sand crab (Emerita analoga) digging into sand

I’m on episode #56 of the Western Outdoor News podcast for a segment called “Sand crab 101”!

It was fun to reach back into my scientific roots and talk about one of the first species I got to do research with.

This is I’ve done a couple of podcasts I’ve done recently. I hope to do some more!

20 January 2022

Ghoulish university administrators

In the last few years, Tressie McMillan Cottom has been persistently reminding academics that institutions won’t love you back.

Somewhere in maybe the last year, though, university administrators have moved somewhere from at least pretending to care, or perhaps indifference, to outright hostility.

Here’s just a couple of examples.

Rachel Anderson posted:

State of the world: raging pandemic with my university experiencing the highest case rates yet, and I’m teaching 5 days/week in person. My university’s email this morning: Have you considered including a gift to us in your will? We’d love to talk to you about estate planning.

Katie Kennedy posted:

I'm required to put a statement in my syllabus saying that if I die during the semester, the college has a replacement for me. It was written in first person--by the administration. It says I've been consulted in who my replacement will be. None of this is true.

It feels like administrators are not only expecting their faculty to die, but are busy looking for how to that into an opportunity. Silver linings and all that.

And let’s not forget that one institution all but wheeled out a coffin to teach a class.

And don’t get me started on the foot dragging and jumbled reactions on return to campus when many areas are experiencing the biggest number of cases and hospitalizations yet.

The tone deafness and failure to navigate these problems is just astonishing. All of these things are just eating away at trust.

Even if the current wave of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is the last major one in many places (which I doubt), things are not going back to normal in higher education soon. Too many cracks have been exposed. Too many cracks have already turned into breaks, and more are undoubtedly coming. The consequences of these sorts of bad leadership are going to continue for years.

Related posts

Classes taught by the dead and copyright


05 January 2022

The predictability of “accelerated publication”

Academic publisher Taylor & Francis are offering a new service: “accelerated publication.” expedited review.

Choose your publication route

An example:

Publish in 3 – 5 weeks from submission

  • Submission to acceptance: 2-3 weeks
    • 1-2 weeks for peer review
    • week for author revision
  • Acceptance to online publication: 1-2 weeks, with proofs within 5 working days and 48 hours for author review
  • Cost per article: $7000 / €6200 / £5500

Of that $7,000 (US dollars, presumably – hey everyone, currencies of many nations are called “dollars”), a small sliver of that goes to reviewers: “In recognition of the time constraints required of them, reviewers of Papers taking the 3-5 weeks option are paid an honorarium of $150.”

Of course, there are some people who will complain that 5 weeks to publication is still too long because there are a lot of academics with unreasonable expectations of how long peer review should take

So now we enter the cycle. 

Step 1: Academic publisher says something about journal operation that involves money.

Step 2: Academics complain. 

In this case, there’s good reason to complain. This scheme has issues. But I’m not  going to do a detailed analysis of problems with paying for “accelerated publication,” because other people are going to do it better.

Instead, I want to point out that this is a 💯 percent predictable outcome of the pressures on academics.

There are a lot of academics whose publishing strategy is, “Send it to someplace with high probability of acceptance and get it out anywhere as fast as possible.” Heck, I see questions on Quora almost daily: “What is a journal in [field] with high acceptance rates, fast publication, and no article processing charges?”

(I’m surprised they don’t ask for a pony, too.)

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Taylor & Francis “accelerated publication” scheme looks like MDPI’s publishing model. I think both are being driven by the same forces.

I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect that many of these academics prioritizing high acceptance and fast turnaround are not in G20 countries. This might explain why discussions of things like “accelerated publication” and MDPI on the Twitter community I’m in (G20, English speaking) are so negative, but publishers keep acting like there is high demand for this kind of publication.

If publishers are responding to demands from academics, we should be asking why customers want the things they want. Who are the authors who are freaking out so much over a few extra weeks in review and why?

Hat tip to Alejandro Montenegro on Twitter.