Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The first science blogger?

I nominate Johannes Kepler as the first science blogger. Dedre Gentner, in her paper Analogy in Scientific Discovery: The Case Johannes Kepler (2001) writes that
[Kepler] provided a running account of his feelings about the work, including the kind of emotional remarks that no modern scientist would consider publishing.

As an example she offers the following quote from Kepler's Astronomia novae
If I had embarked upon this path a little more thoughtfully, I might have immediately arrived at the truth of the matter. But since I was blind from desire I did not pay attention to each and every part [...] and thus entered into new labyrinths, from which we will have to extract ourselves. (Kepler 1609, pp. 455-456)

Gentner provides a few other choice quotes too - hence I think that if Kepler were around today, he'd be blogging.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Predicting the future

This is good.

Don't Transform

One of my pet peeves about my ecological colleagues is their tendency to transform binomial data using arcsine of the squareroot of the proportion in order to use a linear model. OK, once upon a time, it might have made sense to do this. But we have better tools now, honestly! Travis Hinkelman brought a great paper by David Warton and Francis Hui to my attention this morning. I'm just going to quote one line, which sort of says it all:
The most striking result in power simulations was that logistic regression and GLMM always had higher power than untransformed and arcsine transformed linear models ...
So, don't transform your binomial data. And please, if you are collecting proportion data, write down both the numerator and denominator! This will be required reading in my Ecological statistics class next fall.

Understanding Government

Here's a bit of a fun (or maybe disturbing) read. It reminds me of something I have to remind myself often - that I was NOT a representative example of an undergraduate student - critical to keep that in mind when evaluating student work! Brigitte Tenhumberg and I were having a conversation about what we should be trying to get our undergraduate students, especially non-biology majors, to understand about ecology. Like Pielke on politicians, we concluded that it isn't reasonable to expect undergraduate students to become experts in ecology, and therefore it isn't possible for them to determine the validity of claims made in the media (including on the internet), about ecological consequences of various events. It seems as though we ought to be teaching them to evaluate the credibility of the people making the claims - but wow! what a can of worms that idea turns out to be.
So, as an "expert" (not sure in what!) offering my opinions up on the internet via this blog, perhaps the most important thing I can do is provide access to evidence that allows readers to evaluate my credibility on a particular claim.
Hmmm, from my bio in the top right corner it takes 3 clicks to reach an (outdated! oops) copy of my CV - and probably only because I know where to look. Googling my name gives access to that same 2 page vitae (2nd hit) and also my Facebook, linkedin, Academia.edu, Mendeley and Flickr profiles. All that tells someone is that I'm addicted to social networking sites ...