Everybody Act Normal

Scientists have to follow a lot of rules. We have IRB rules, journal submission rules, university rules – lots of rules. But some of the most important rules in science aren’t rules at all – they are norms. Guiding principles that shape the work we do. In this episode, we discuss a classic paper by the sociologist Robert Merton on 4 norms that govern scientific work. Are these norms an expression of scientific values, or just a means to an end? How well do scientists follow them, individually or collectively? Is science doing as well today as Merton thought it was back in 1942 – and is following these norms really the way to make science work right? Plus: We answer a letter about question to ask a prospective PhD advisor.

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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 67. It was recorded on October 8, 2019.

For the Lulz

In a previous episode we talked about making small talk in academic life and in general. In this episode we continue the theme, taking a break from our usual Very Serious Topics to answer the ultimate small-talk question: What do you do for fun? We talk about what a week in our lives is like outside of work. How do we spend time when we’re not “on the clock”? What is the right amount of socializing? (spoiler: not everybody has the same answer) How do our hobbies and avocations reflect back on our work – or give us a break from it? Plus: A letter about getting a mystifying cold shoulder from a senior colleague.

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 66. It was recorded on September 27, 2019.

Who Do You Serve?


The three pillars of academic work are research, teaching, and service – in that order. But service is incredibly important for universities and professions to function well and for academics to contribute to their communities. In this episode we talk about how we think about service. How do decide what service to do, and how much? How do you manage service in relation to your other work? What are different kinds of service, and what do you get out of them? What should we do about colleagues who get less service because they won’t do it or will do it badly? Plus: A letter about getting credit for open peer reviews.

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 65. It was recorded on September 16, 2019.

A Friend You Haven’t Met

Part of academic life means talking to new people about yourself and your work – whether it’s on a job interview, at a conference, or casual conversations outside of academic settings. In this episode we talk about talking to strangers. How do you answer default academic small-talk questions like “tell me about your work?” How do you shake out of them to move a conversation somewhere more interesting? Should you prepare or practice an elevator pitch? And when, if ever, is it safe to take off your headphones on an airplane? Plus: We try to answer a letter about how the academic job market in the U.S. views doctoral degrees from Australia.

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 63. It was recorded on July 17, 2019.