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.
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 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.
In the past decade, scientists in psychology and elsewhere have changed a lot in how we evaluate what makes research replicable, robust, and credible. New theories and findings in metascience and methodology – and repopularization of old ones – have given us new ways to think critically about research. But what do we do when these concepts and arguments are used poorly or bad faith – applied wrongly or selectively, or misused to sow broad doubt in science? In this episode we talk about what happens when people try to claim the mantle of open science to advance some other agenda. How can we distinguish good use of open-science arguments from bad? How can scientists who care about open science effectively call out these arguments? Plus: A letter about negotiating for a partner who has a non-academic job.
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.
Editors of scientific journals have a lot of power. For one thing, journals are the main way that scientific work is distributed, so editors’ decisions control the flow of information among scientists and to the public. For another, publications are probably the single most consequential product in evaluating scientists for jobs and career advancement. Simine just wrapped up a term as an editor of a journal, and in this episode she reflects on how much power she had, why it was probably too much, and what she could do next about that. Her big idea is to “flip” herself – dedicate her time and energy to posting open reviews of preprints. Preprints are a way for scientists to distribute their work outside of the control of gatekeepers, and we talk about the promises and the perils of open reviewing and how Simine plans to do it in a principled and ethical way. Plus: We answer a letter about talking to colleagues outside the “open science bubble.”
Research methods and statistics are a part of nearly every undergraduate psychology curriculum. They get dedicated courses of their own as well as coverage within other courses. In this episode we step back and reflect on how they should fit into an undergraduate curriculum and how we should be teaching them. Can and should we try to teach them important concepts without the underlying math? How do we integrate methodology into “substantive” teaching about psychology theories and findings? What should we do with the knowledge that many, probably most of our students will never calculate a correlation coefficient or run a t-test after they graduate? How idealistic versus pragmatic should we be about teaching these topics and what we’ll actually get across? Plus: We respond to a letter from a new-ish grad student about mentoring an undergraduate who is writing their first paper.
Many academics have flexibility in when, where, and how they get work done. In this episode we talk about the work habits we’ve developed to be productive, and the ones we’ve tried on that didn’t fit. What are the differences between working in an office, at home, at a cafe, or elsewhere? How do you create routines and protect your time to get things done? Is it better to work with other people or alone? How do you recognize when the advice that works for everybody else doesn’t work for you? Plus: With some help from sociologist Jill Harrison, we answer a letter from a first-generation college student who’s now in a Ph.D. program and having a hard time talking to family about what that’s about.
Most doctoral training in psychology follows an apprentice model: Grad students affiliate with a primary advisor and lab, and do most of their training under that one person. But what happens when grad students and professors develop professional relationships outside of that traditional model? In this episode we discuss the politics and etiquette of students and faculty interacting and working together outside of the advisor-advisee model. How much control do – and should – advisors have over their advisees? How should faculty go about supporting and criticizing the work of students from other labs? What are the issues involved when faculty intervene (or don’t) in other advisor-advisee relationships? Plus: We answer a letter from an early-career researcher wondering if they should withdraw from a paper that is less rigorous and less open than they would like it to be.
To users of R, it is more than just another way to analyze data – it goes along with a different mindset about the centrality of coding in doing science, a way of thinking about openness and reproducibility, an intersecting set of tools, and a community of users with its own culture and mindset. In this episode we talk about the rise of R within the psychology research community. How has the importance of statistical software changed over time? Should we be teaching R to grads and undergrads? What have our own experiences learning new software been, and can you teach an old goat new tricks? Plus: We answer a letter about how to address ageism on the academic job market.