Here are links to some interesting looking articles I heard about today. Maybe Twitter is useful after all.
Lee Barrett Russell Garwood argues at Nature that uprooting researchers can drive them out of science.
2. Hung et al. have a new paper in PNAS arguing that extinction of the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) was due not only to extreme over-hunting but also possibly to population fluctuations inherent in the species, as driven primarily by acorn supply. But as is so common now, the article title (“Drastic population fluctuations explain the rapid extinction of the passenger pigeon“) does not follow the overall message of the article. The nosedive to extinction was surely a “drastic population fluctuation”, but clearly market hunting was an enormous factor in that, no matter if they have indeed found good evidence for an effect of natural population variation.
When I get the paper I’ll read their full argument, but I note here that it appears to be based on historic population fluctuations inferred from the genomic analysis of just four museum specimens, which is surely a red flag. I note also that although the PNAS article page says that the protein sequences analyzed have been deposited at NCBI, the link given returns a message saying “The requested page does not exist“. I find mainly mitochondrial nucleotide sequences for passenger pigeons there, one of which has been pulled by the original contributors. The supplemental material is available here.
GrrlScientist has an article on the paper at The Guardian, which is how I heard about it, and which includes this terrific watercolor:
3. Dan Kahan, who I find to be a perceptive, non-extreme sort of fellow, has a three part series (starting here) at Cultural Cognition on just what a consensus in science is really all about, and how it relates to what he terms internal and external validity (which roughly correspond to verification and validation in modeling). I haven’t read it yet, but it looks like he’s put a lot of thought into the issue, more than +/- anyone, so I surely will.
4. Lastly there’s this interesting looking study regarding very long distance dispersal of an Acacia species between the Hawaiian and Reunion Islands. But not by floating–the seeds won’t germinate after exposure to salt water–had to be via some other route, mostly likely avian.