Academics receive a lot of unsolicited contact (cold calls) from students of all education stages, seeking advice or opportunities. I try to reply to most, but often I can’t – because it’s unclear what the student is asking and why they are contacting me.
Note, here I’m talking about students at other institutions that I’ve never met or have no prior connection with, not my existing students or students enrolled at the institution where I teach.
I don’t often find relevance in the articles published in the Nature Careers section because they tend to be too US/UK centric. But this recent piece on The Great Resignation in academia resonated a little. To be clear, I love my job and I have no intentions of joining the great resignation. But, we’ve all thought about it in the last couple of years.
I haven’t written here for a while because I’ve been busy hanging out with my new baby. I’ve also been busy thinking about how we still haven’t achieved a normalised work culture that truly supports parents/carers to build a career around their family. I’m writing from my perspective as a woman and a mother, but most of these points also apply to other parents and carers.
It’s well-documented that academia has entrenched problems with gender diversity at senior levels, partly because of women leaving/being forced out of academic careers due to their choices around having children. A lot has been done to address this, but there’s still a lot more to do.
We need systemic change, not piecemeal initiatives and more cupcakes. We need to normalise ‘having a family/life priorities’ at work. Instead of trying to help parents to maintain pre-baby levels of work productivity, academic work expectations have to change long-term to enable parents to truly find some work-life balance.
Forcing women to choose between relying on childcare to continue working vs. quitting work to care for their child is not equitable.
I watched The Chair and did not like it. Sure, there were some good moments and important themes, but overall, I found it cliched and frustrating to sit through. North American academic stereotypes and norms already dominate global discourse on academia, even though they don’t always reflect the reality in other parts of the world.
I was excited when I heard about the show. Academia narratives are rarely portrayed on TV, which I think is a missed opportunity to familiarise general audiences with a sector that is so often misunderstood. But it was just another version of the same clichés – university faculties are backward and stagnant, most academics are nasty, stupid, out of touch, or inappropriate, and social and cultural progress is just not possible in academia.
Imagine a different show reflecting the positive lived experiences of academics around the world, stories showing university departments can be progressive and supportive workplaces. Places where inspiring academics like Professor Kim and Dr McKay succeed in throwing out old stagnant systems and galvanise the next generation of citizens, thinkers, and leaders.
A fairly typical peer review process goes like this*. Author submits their paper to a journal. If it’s suitable to send to review, the handling editor sources a minimum of 2 or 3 relevant independent experts to review the paper. Very few papers are suitable for publication at first submission, so their review comments are returned to the author for consideration. Author revises the paper in response to the comments and resubmits the revised version. If the revisions are very minor and the response appropriate, the editor might make a decision immediately. Otherwise, this revised version is sent back to the original reviewers, who assess whether the authors have addressed the original comments appropriately and potentially pick up any new issues. The editor then makes the decision whether to accept (or reject) the paper or continue with further revisions.
This process can obviously take many months, but is fairly straightforward when it all goes smoothly.
The ‘boycott peer review’ hot takes are reappearing on social media. Long-time readers of my blog may remember my post on why I think boycotting peer review is unreasonable, written the last time this hot take was doing the rounds. In that post I mostly focused on the impacts on the system and the editors, which are important reasons not to boycott peer review.
But refusing to review papers also impacts the authors. This is obvious and should not have to be said, but it seems that it is often forgotten when academics shake their fists at Big Publishing.
Our new paper is out in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (open access). We used a combined search of peer-reviewed literature and iNaturalist observations to determine what evidence is available on the use of natural cavities and hollows by feral (wild) western honey bees (Apis mellifera). Our paper addresses an important knowledge gap on how invasive honey bees compete with native species in their introduced range.
The western honey bee (A. mellifera) is one of the world’s most successful invasive species. It has spread far and wide beyond its home range in Europe and the Middle East, and is found on every continent (and most islands) except Antarctica.
This week, a syndicated article appeared across a number of online media platforms under various different headlines. It covers the doomsday insect apocalypse narrative and appears to cast doubt on the issue of insect decline, largely blaming media and ‘activists’ for promoting the hype. The author links to my blog posts on the insect apocalypse, my BioScience paper co-authored with Jasmine Janes & James O’Hanlon, and my American Scientist article as evidence against the hype, and some sections paraphrase or directly quote from my work. To the average reader, it could appear that I have talked to the author, and that I endorse the article. I did not, I do not, and I was not aware the article was being written.
A few recent panels on insect conservation I’ve contributed to:
Off Track – great program on ABC’s Radio National (Australia) telling stories of nature. This week, the program featured myself and a couple of other Aussie invertebrate experts, Kate Umbers and Nick Porch. We talk about insect conservation in Australia, as well as challenges facing conservation policy and action in Australia more generally.
LISTEN to Off Track: Conserving small things on a big scale
British Ecological Society – the society recently ran a number of events as part of National Insect Week and the Edinburgh Science Festival in the UK. I contributed to an excellent panel discussion on the Insect Apocalypse and insect conservation, along with Adam Hart, Nick Isaac, and Ashleigh Whiffin.
WATCH the panel: Insectageddon: is global insect extinction real?
The windscreen anecdote has been doing the rounds on social media again.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about why this anecdote is not reliable evidence of insect population trends.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it goes a little something like this. “When I was a kid we would drive long distances for holidays and get bugs all over the windscreen. I don’t see any bugs on the windscreen anymore, therefore….” The interpretation, whether implied or stated explicitly, is that this is yet more evidence that a global insect decline is happening.
There are obvious flaws in this assumption, but the anecdote still strikes a chord with so many people, perhaps through some kind of confirmation bias. We know that biodiversity is in trouble, we know humans are having damaging effects on the environment, so it must be true, right?