Inexact Science

Scientific knowledge is always contingent and uncertain, even when it’s the best we have. Should that factor into how we communicate science to the public, and if so, how? We discuss a recent article about the effects of communicating uncertainty on people’s trust in scientific findings and scientists. When should and shouldn’t scientists communicate uncertainty, and how should they do it? How should scientists prioritize keeping people’s trust versus being up front about what they don’t know? What are the different sources of uncertainty in scientific knowledge, and how should scientists deal with all of them? Plus, we get a followup letter from someone who asked about career support for a nonacademic partner – and they share what they learned and how things worked out.

Link:

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at www.theblackgoatpodcast.com, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at facebook.com/blackgoatpod/, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at letters@theblackgoatpodcast.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on freemusicarchive.org under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 79. It was recorded on April 27, 2020.

COVID Operations

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating major and serious disruptions to just about everything, and higher education is no exception. In this episode we talk about how our work has been affected by measures to slow down the coronavirus. How have we adjusted to remote teaching? What effects have the social distancing measures had on our research? How are we mentoring students in light of such an uncertain future? What bigger changes and disruptions could be in store for academia? Plus: We answer a letter about when and how students should draw on their expertise when their advisor is in a different discipline.

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at www.theblackgoatpodcast.com, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at facebook.com/blackgoatpod/, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at letters@theblackgoatpodcast.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on freemusicarchive.org under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 78. It was recorded on April 7, 2020.

Joe Public, Will You Marry Me?

In recent years there has been a lot of talk about public trust in science – how much there is, in what ways, whether we deserve it or not. In this episode, we discuss an article by historian and philosopher Rachel Ankeny that asks whether “trust” is even the right concept to be talking about. What does it mean to trust an abstraction like “science”? When people argue about trust in science, are they even talking about the same thing – the findings, the people, the process, or something else? And we discuss Ankeny’s proposed alternative: that instead of the public’s trust, scientists should be seeking out engagement. What would an engagement model looks like? How would engagement benefit the public? How would it benefit science? And what about people who just wouldn’t want to engage? Plus: We answer a letter from someone who likes, but doesn’t love, teaching, and wants to know if that’s good enough for academia.

Links:

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at www.theblackgoatpodcast.com, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at facebook.com/blackgoatpod/, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at letters@theblackgoatpodcast.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on freemusicarchive.org under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 77. It was recorded on March 26, 2020.

Just Be Cause

Many important questions about cause and effect are impractical to answer with a randomized experiment. What should we do instead? In this episode we talk about doing causal inference with observational data. Has psychology’s historical obsession with internal validity led it, ironically, to think about causal inference in an unsophisticated way? Can formal analytic tools like directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) tell us how to do better studies? Or is their main lesson don’t bother trying? How do norms and incentives in publishing help or hurt in doing better causal inference? Plus: We answer a letter about applying to psychology grad school when your background is in data science.

Links:

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at www.theblackgoatpodcast.com, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at facebook.com/blackgoatpod/, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at letters@theblackgoatpodcast.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on freemusicarchive.org under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 76. It was recorded on March 16, 2020.

Auxiliary Turtles All the Way Down

The path from theory to study consists of a thousand decisions, big and small. How and how much do these decisions matter? We discuss a recent crowdsourced meta-study that tried to find out. Fifteen teams of researchers were given 5 different hypotheses and told to design a study to test them, then they ran all the studies and got widely varying results. What are the implications of this study for how we should think about the role of theory in study design? What does it say about the different functions of direct and conceptual replications? Is this evidence of hidden moderators? How predictable were the differences in results, and were they predictable because of differences in the study designers’ expertise, biases, or something else? Plus: We answer a letter about getting scooped on a systematic review.

Links:

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at www.theblackgoatpodcast.com, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at facebook.com/blackgoatpod/, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at letters@theblackgoatpodcast.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on freemusicarchive.org under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 75. It was recorded on January 30, 2020.

The Expertise of Death

How important is expertise in conducting replications? Many Labs 4 was a large, multi-lab effort that brought together 21 labs, running 2,220 subjects, to study that question. The goal was to compare replications with and without the involvement of the original authors to see if that made a difference. But things got complicated when the effect they chose to study – the mortality salience effect that is a cornerstone of terror management theory – could not be replicated by anyone. In this episode, we talk about the implications of Many Labs 4. What does and doesn’t this study say about the importance of expertise and “secret sauce” in conducting replications? Should we necessarily expect that the effect of expertise is to make effects larger or more likely to replicate? What does this replication mean for terror management theory, which has been the focus of hundreds of studies and a 2010 meta-analysis that concluded that mortality salience effects are real and substantial? What place does terror management theory hold in the history of social psychology, and how is that similar or different from ego depletion, another theory that was supported by a meta-analysis but not by multi-lab replications? Plus: we answer a letter about weaponizing tenure if you get it.

Links:

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at www.theblackgoatpodcast.com, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at facebook.com/blackgoatpod/, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at letters@theblackgoatpodcast.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on freemusicarchive.org under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 74. It was recorded on January 22, 2020.

Going Off the Record

The Graduate Record Exam – the GRE – is widely used in graduate school admissions. In recent years however, a number of graduate programs, including a few in psychology, have stopped requiring it in a movement that has been dubbed “GRExit.” In this episode we discuss the arguments around using the GRE in graduate admissions. What is the evidence for and against its validity? For and against the presence of bias against various groups? How much do we know about validity and bias in the other materials routinely considered in admission, like grades, undergraduate institution, research experience, and letters of recommendation? Are arguments over the GRE just a proxy for larger and more difficult arguments about the purpose and social value of graduate education? And for programs that are dropping the GRE, what are they doing instead, and how will we know what the effects of that are? Plus: we answer a letter about giving authorship to undergrads who made minimal contributions to a project in order to help them get into grad school. 

Links:

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at www.theblackgoatpodcast.com, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at facebook.com/blackgoatpod/, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at letters@theblackgoatpodcast.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on freemusicarchive.org under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 73. It was recorded on January 6, 2020.

The Year 2019 in Review

In our annual end-of-year episode, we talk about noteworthy reflections and events from the year that just passed. Alexa reflects on breakups, and wonders why we don’t take them more seriously as a significant disruption to other people’s lives. Sanjay talks about hitting a low point and deciding to finally do something about it. And Simine talks about starting a new relationship and finding a new job that will take her halfway around the world. Plus: we answer a letter about whether scientists should mix advocacy and science.

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at www.theblackgoatpodcast.com, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at facebook.com/blackgoatpod/, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at letters@theblackgoatpodcast.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on freemusicarchive.org under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 72. It was recorded on December 10, 2019.

Letting Loose Your Inner Reviewer Two

Peer review is a major part of how science works today. In this episode we talk about how we approach doing peer reviews. How do you distinguish between differences in approach or preference – “I would have done it a different way” – versus things that you should treat as objections? How much weight do you put on different considerations – the importance of the research question, the novelty, the theory, the methods, the results, and other factors? What’s your actual process – do you read front-to-back, or jump around? How much do you edit and wordsmith your reviews? When there are appendices, supplements, open code and materials, and preregistrations, which things do you read and how do you factor them in? How do you think about your potential biases and how to mitigate them? Plus: We answer a letter about deciding whether to pursue a postdoc versus other options.

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at www.theblackgoatpodcast.com, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at facebook.com/blackgoatpod/, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at letters@theblackgoatpodcast.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on freemusicarchive.org under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 71. It was recorded on December 6, 2019.

Doctorpiece Theater

To get your PhD you have to do a dissertation. For some this is an important product that demonstrates your ability to produce original research. To others, it’s a vestigial ritual and a waste of time on the way to becoming a productive scholar. In this episode we discuss dissertations – what they’ve been in the past, what they are today, and where they might go in the future. Is a dissertation necessary for the kinds of work that someone might do with a PhD? As graduate training has evolved, how well has the dissertation kept up? Are oral defenses a valuable part of the process or an elaborate hazing ritual? Are they better if they’re public, private, or don’t happen at all? And most importantly, should all defenses involve swords? Plus: We discuss a letter about escaping from a toxic and abusive advisor.

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at www.theblackgoatpodcast.com, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, on Facebook at facebook.com/blackgoatpod/, and on instagram at @blackgoatpod. You can email us at letters@theblackgoatpodcast.com. You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Stitcher.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on freemusicarchive.org under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license. Our logo was created by Jude Weaver.

This is episode 70. It was recorded on November 20, 2019.