How would you feel if you were called a parasite in a respected scientific journal? If you’re Drs. Erick Turner and Kun-Hsing Yu, the answer is: elated.
The two scientists have each received an inaugural Research Parasite award, for which they’re honored in the latest issue of Nature Genetics.
The tongue-in-cheek honor comes from the mind of computational biologist Iddo Friedberg, and was brought to life by Casey Greene, a pharmacologist at the University of Pennsylvania. The idea was a response to a now-infamous editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine that referred to those who picked over the bones of previously published studies as “research parasites.”
The award has the serious aim of fostering “the craft of data reanalysis for novel ends.” And the particular brand of parasitism that Turner and Yu demonstrated shows just how useful the rehashing of others’ findings can be. ...
Data sharing is not a new idea. Since 2003, the National Institutes of Health has required grantees who receive at least $500,000 per year in funding to share their results. And many journals demand that authors make their data public as a prerequisite of publication, although those polices are often not enforced.
“Research parasites help to maintain the self-correcting nature of science,” Greene and his colleagues wrote in Nature Genetics announcing the winners. “Scientists who perform rigorous parasitism put scientific work to the test, and their results may support or challenge what we think we know.”
This year’s contest generated 41 applications and the group is already accepting applications for 2018. Greene says he’s pleased with the results so far, but he fears that some scientists may be turned off by the satire. “I’d like to transition to the positive framing of the award — awards for rigorous secondary data analysis — and to work harder to encourage members of underrepresented groups to apply,” he said.
Turner said science does not value secondary data analysis as much as it should. “My cynical sense is that one’s academic ‘success’ is largely measured in terms of how much grant money you bring in — not only for your work but also for the institution via indirect costs,” he told STAT. ”Funding agencies seem enamored with chasing the next big thing, even though the ‘gold in them thar hills’ often turns out to be fool’s gold. The research parasite who reveals that fact may be viewed by many as a party pooper.”
I've written more comments than most over the years. My first publication was a comment. Much of my research time over the past 6 months has been dominated by this one. And there's been this and this and this and this. Not all are reanalyses of the authors' data but the same jerkish behavior is evident in each. It seems that if something doesn't seem quite right then you should try to point it out.
This study shows that fans and people living in the region of 28 Football Bundesliga teams from all three divisions are willing to support their team financially. Survey respondents were asked for their willingness-to-pay to avoid a negative outcome (e.g., relegation) and to achieve a positive outcome (e.g., promotion). Fan bonds are applied as an alternative payment vehicle within the contingent valuation method. The results show that different factors affect the decision to support the team and the actual amount of willingness-to-pay—for attendees and nonattendees. Public goods are particularly relevant for reporting a positive willingness-to-pay. (JEL Z23, L83, H41)
Wicker, P., Whitehead, J. C., Johnson, B. K. and Mason, D. S. (2016), WILLINGNESS-TO-PAY FOR SPORTING SUCCESS OF FOOTBALL BUNDESLIGA TEAMS. Contemporary Economic Policy, 34: 446–462. doi: 10.1111/coep.12148
One of my favorite quotes from the Western meetings is that "the CVM is like Wal Mart...." I forget the rest but it kind of says it all, right?
*And athlete, here I am draining a three in the High Country Senior Games 3v3 basketball on Wednesday night. The without-their-big-man High Country 50+ lost to the Ashe Panthers 55+ by a handful of points. Three of us fouled out (huh?) and we finished the game with only two guys on the court. You gotta have a big man in Senior Games.
Unfortunately, I find the exposition of the paper rather to be substantially weaker than I would expect for an article of this type at any journal .... I found several aspects of the process for how the survey questions were assigned or presented to respondents, and how the analysis was conducted and interpreted, to be either opaque or at least sloppy in explanation. I would normally consider it a minor comment, but I also found the failure to use commas in a myriad of numerous instances (redundancy for emphasis) to contribute to a frustrating read, as well as occasional failures to recognize that the noun associated with a verb in the sentence (especially a second verb, such as following the word “and”) could not be relaying the meaning that the authors intended.
Guess the rejected paper based on this comment and I'll buy you a beer.
It's a good time to have a new Ph.D. in economics and be seeking a job in academe. Or outside of academe.
A new report by the American Economic Association found that its listings for jobs for economics Ph.D.s increased by 8.5 percent in 2015, to 3,309. Academic jobs increased to 2,458, from 2,290. Nonacademic jobs increased to 846 from 761. (Not all jobs are classified in the two categories.) Economics is a field in which new doctorate recipients have long been recruited not only by colleges and universities, but by government agencies, consulting firms, banks and other organizations.
The association's annual jobs report is released in advance of the group's annual meeting, which opens Sunday in San Francisco.
Not all positions in economics are listed with the association. But the AEA study is generally considered a reliable indicator of the state of the job market, even beyond its own listings.
What may be most significant for the discipline is that the growth in open positions far exceeds the levels of 2008, when the most recent economic downturn hit. Many disciplines have been considering it a success to get back to 2008 levels.
Economics, like most disciplines, took a hit after 2008. Between then and 2010, the number of listings fell to 2,285 from 2,914. But this year's 3,309 is greater not only than the 2008 level, but of every year from 2001 on. The number of open positions also far exceeds the number of new Ph.D.s awarded in economics.
As has been the case in recent years, the top specialization in job listings is mathematical and quantitative methods.
That area was followed by (all regularly among the top five): financial economics, microeconomics, macroeconomics and international economics.
Working with residents of Flint, Mr. Edwards [a professor of civil engineering at Virginia Tech] led a study that revealed that the elevated lead levels in people’s homes were not isolated incidents but a result of a systemic problem that had been ignored by state scientists. He has since been appointed to a task force to help fix those problems in Flint.
Q. ... Do you see this as an academic success story or a cautionary tale?
A. I am very concerned about the culture of academia in this country and the perverse incentives that are given to young faculty. The pressures to get funding are just extraordinary. We’re all on this hedonistic treadmill — pursuing funding, pursuing fame, pursuing h-index — and the idea of science as a public good is being lost.
This is something that I’m upset about deeply. I’ve kind of dedicated my career to try to raise awareness about this. I’m losing a lot of friends. People don’t want to hear this. But we have to get this fixed, and fixed fast, or else we are going to lose this symbiotic relationship with the public. They will stop supporting us.
Q. Do you have any sense that perverse incentive structures prevented scientists from exposing the problem in Flint sooner?
A. Yes, I do. In Flint the agencies paid to protect these people weren’t solving the problem. They were the problem. What faculty person out there is going to take on their state, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?
I don’t blame anyone, because I know the culture of academia. You are your funding network as a professor. You can destroy that network that took you 25 years to build with one work. I’ve done it. When was the last time you heard anyone in academia publicly criticize a funding agency, no matter how outrageous their behavior? We just don’t do these things.
If an environmental injustice is occurring, someone in a government agency is not doing their job. Everyone we wanted to partner said, Well, this sounds really cool, but we want to work with the government. We want to work with the city. And I’m like, You’re living in a fantasy land, because these people are the problem.
A couple of later lines stand out:
"We are not skeptical enough about each other’s results. What’s the upside in that? You’re going to make enemies. People might start questioning your results. And that’s going to start slowing down our publication assembly line. Everyone’s invested in just cranking out more crap papers."
"Science should be about pursuing the truth and helping people. If you’re doing it for any other reason, you really ought to question your motives. Unfortunately, in general, academic research and scientists in this country are no longer deserving of the public trust. We’re not."
Welfare economics must adapt to the growing consensus over the assignment of rights to animals. We extend nonmarket valuation techniques to the study and measurement of the preferences of Chinook salmon regarding their aquatic habitat and the value of their existence. We find that these techniques are as valid for fish as they are for humans. Our applied study indicates that opportunities exist for Pareto-improving trades between salmon and California agricultural and hydropower interests. (JEL Q510)
And, as always, Matt Kahn makes a timely suggestion:
In the past, I've done some writing on social capital and civic engagement. I just put the theory to the test by volunteering to serve on USC Econ's PHD Admissions Committee. USC Economics is world renown for its excellence in econometrics. With Antonio Bento, Dana Goldman, me and Arie Kapteyn now all at USC (and many other research active Price School faculty), a talented student can take his/her knowledge of econometrics and apply it to the economics of aging, health, the environment and cities. There are many exciting possibilities and permutations here. I strongly encourage serious students to apply. I'm especially interested in attracting students who are graduates from U.S undergraduate institutions. Please contact me if you have any questions.
For those of you who already have a Ph.D., perhaps it is time for you to do a refresher course to see if you are still at the frontier. It is sunny and 80 degrees today on November 18th 2015 in LA. Can you say the same thing about where you are now standing?
Yes, I'm definitely within the frontier. What could be a better challenge than applying to the PhD program in a top economics department and doing the whole g.d. thing all over again? Of course, I'll need to bone up on my maths. I stopped at integral calculus as an undergrad but it should be fun taking real analysis and whatnot from the folks in Walker Hall. After I get accepted I can only hope to get an assistantship that would allow me and my family to live in the sunny city of angels for 6+ years. But dang, I'm just so excited about thinking a dissertation topic that would apply my new world renown econometrics skills (I've always wanted to be able to write out my own likelihood function in "matlab" ... [is that what the kids call it?]) to some hedonic data!!! And then I could jump in the labor market and go for that R1 job that I've always dreamed about. But, I also have location preferences. I hear that the weather is always wonderful in southern CA.
Since that post was so six years ago, we thought it was long past time to update and expand that original list of resources, which we did both in our original post and now here for greater visibility.
Snopes.com - The Internet's premier reference for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors and misinformation.
Quackwatch - If it's medical or health-related and not for real, you'll likely find it here.
Climate Skeptic - Like Quackwatch, but aimed at the poorly supported aspects of global climate change science.
JunkScience.com - Steven Milloy's site surveying a number of highly questionable scientific claims made in today's media reporting. Update 19 September 2015: Over time, we find that the site's quality in critiquing a number of science reports is mixed overall, combining a number of valid analyses with others that fall somewhat short. For an example of the latter, see John Whitehead's recent discussion of the site's coverage on the topic of contingent valuation, where negative conclusions about particular studies would appear to have been reached without necessarily being backed by sound evidence, or without consideration that the scientists behind the studies being criticized had addressed their points of criticism.
Junkfood Science - Sandy Szwarc's blog covering ongoing issues with media reporting of nutrition-based junk science.
Mythbusters - did you think we'd create a list like this and forget the Mythbusters?
John Stossel - the media's leading questioner of questionable claims, from consumer issues through politics, who also blogs.
Bad Science - Added 19 September 2015: UK science columnist's Ben Goldacre's site on the topic of science that doesn't measure up.
Retraction Watch - Added 19 September 2015: An invaluable site that didn't exist when we first began assembling our list of resources. Retraction Watch focuses on the mistakes made by scientists who published erroneous results that subsequently required them to alert their peers and to wit
Don't miss the 9/19 update. I was writing my CVM dissertation when the Exxon Valdez thing happened and trying to get my paper published during the beginning of round 1 of the CVM debate (here is my presentation on Round 2). The high stakes of the Exxon natural resource damage assessment brought out some odd behavior amongst environmental economists. My papers, along with a number of others, received a lot of unfair criticism (on the other hand, the topic was hot and the pages of JEEM were filled with CVM). One result of that debate still today is that the CVM is either (1) purposefully or (2) naively misunderstood by an increasing number of economists* and others. My feeling was that junkscience.com fell into category (2) as a result of category (1). I appreciate Ironman's edits.
A nice paper by Carolina Castilla in the May AER gives us some insight into trust and reciprocity between spouses in India (gated version here, longer, more detailed working paper here). The premise is nice: where better to find trust than a sample of married couples?
Now the curious reader might be asking "Hey Tim, if your advisees are good enough to publish in the AER, why haven't you published there too?" I can think of a few reasons: 1) I spend all of my time training other to publish in the AER, 2) I prefer the JPE, 3) John hasn't come up with an AER-worthy paper to graciously attach my name to, or 4) My advisee obviously forgot the unwritten rule that the advosor should ALWAYS be included on big hit publications (really Carolina? You can include me on a piece in Applied Econ and one in the AJAE, but not the AER?).
Anyway, it's always good to see students succeed...it's really the main reason I do what I do.
And next time, don't forget where you came from...sheesh.
*Some may wonder how I ended up advising a Development Economist. Carolina came to me with interests in econometrics. After she realized I am a fake econometrician, she switched her interests to Development Economics but for some reason stuck with me as an advisor. Fortunately she has been successful despite her poor choice of advisor.
"This blog aims to look at more of the microeconomic ideas that can be used toward environmental ends. Bringing to bear a large quantity of external sources and articles, this blog presents a clear vision of what economic environmentalism can be."
Don't believe what they're saying
And allow me a quick moment to gush: ... The env-econ.net blog was more or less a lifeline in that period of my life, as it was one of the few ways I stayed plugged into the env. econ scene. -- Anonymous
... the Environmental Economics blog ... is now the default homepage on my browser (but then again, I guess I am a wonk -- a word I learned on the E.E. blog). That is a very nice service to the profession. -- Anonymous
"... I try and read the blog everyday and have pointed it out to other faculty who have their students read it for class. It is truly one of the best things in the blogosphere." -- Anonymous