Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Peer Review On Trial

Peer Review Gone Wrong
or, A Cynic's Manifesto

This behavior should get your scientific knickers in a knot:

Essentially, 3M used perfluorinated chemicals in the production of some of their products (like Scotchgard). Research has demonstrated that such chemicals may harm humans, other organisms, and the environment when they seep into the ground water.

The State of Minnesota sued 3M for this; 3M settled the case for less than 1/5 the amount of the lawsuit, and all without admitting wrongdoing. And 3M had the gall to release a statement describing the settlement as "consistent with 3M’s long history of environmental stewardship."

With 'environmental stewards' like that, who needs polluters?...

Just as outrageously (perhaps more so, if you're an early-career researcher!), this article points out that Minnesota's lawsuit named a widely-published professor, Dr. John Giesy, who allegedly took money from 3M while putting obstacles to publication in the path of scientists whose work showed that perfluorinated chemicals can be dangerous.

State's evidence includes this e-mail, or this particularly damning one, which shows that Giesy knew quite well that he was protecting 3M and its interests.


Monday, January 15, 2018

In memoriam of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this date in 1929 (January 15), the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born.

To honor his legacy today, I'd like to share a couple of his important works. Here's a brief excerpt from "Letter From a Birmingham Jail:"
I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all'...We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was 'illegal.' It was 'illegal' to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.

The entire "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" is brilliant, insightful, and well worth a read! The full text can be found at

The "I Have a Dream" speech, an instant classic, was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington in 1963. Fortunately for posterity, his speech was recorded in its entirety. Here it is, via YouTube:

Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Though the man himself was mortal, his actions, his words, and his legacy of nonviolent resistance to injustice shine as brightly today as they did in the 1960s!

I would like to leave you with two other inspiring quotes from the Rev. Dr. King: 

Always remember Dr. King's principles and his commitment to fairness and justice. May we all work with tireless integrity to uphold these principles, in all times and places, and for all people.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

When Google Is Wrong (!)

Picture this scenario:

You're talking with a group of people, when somebody says, "I crossed the Mississippi River a couple weeks ago. You know, I was expecting it to be huge and impressive, right? But it really wasn't even that wide—it only took a minute to cross the old iron bridge, and I was on land again. Isn't the Mississippi supposed to be the third-longest river in the world?"

"Wait, I thought it was the fourth-longest."

"I'm pretty sure I learned that it was third-longest."

"Ok, let's look it up. How long is the Mississippi, anyway?"

"How do you spell 'Mississippi' again?..."

And people pull out their phones and Google "Mississippi river length." But maybe you shouldn't be so quick to rely on Google for your facts!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

...And the winner is! (Fall 2017)

...And the winner is... (Part II)

Which form of social media reigns supreme among college students today?

You may or may not have seen the results I shared here in April 2017. My Stats class at BGSU in Spring 2017 collected the data, and I used it to demonstrate the one-way ANOVA.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Lyon College, where I teach, participated in today's inaugural nationwide celebration of first-generation college students. This was orchestrated by the Council for Opportunity in Education, and designated for November 8th in honor of the 52nd anniversary of 1965's Higher Education Act.

Lyon's event, which involves collecting these cards and making them into a wall that demonstrates the experiences and values of first-generation college students. Since I'm a first-gen college student, I participated in this event by filling out a card.

You should be able to see my card above, but in case that doesn't work properly on some people's devices, I've also put the text below:

As a 1st-gen college student, I value the role of education in creating 
a better-informed citizenry and pushing the frontiers of knowledge. A liberal arts 
education helped me reach my potential, and now I'm going for a PhD!

Wondering about the social media usage of actual college students? 
Check out the results of this totally informal—but realsurvey.

In case you missed it, I review some fantastic, easy-to-use, and FREE stats programs here.
For more help explaining statistical concepts and when to use them, 
please download my freely available PDF guide here!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Is Wikipedia in crisis?

A week ago, WIRED published an opinion piece lamenting the decline of the pursuit of knowledge, and claiming that Wikipedia is in crisis.

I saw the headline, "Social Media is Killing Wikipedia," in an e-mail from LinkedIn. The link led to a brief summary of the article (not the article itself...) along with an extensive discussion chain, complete with the hashtag #WikipediaFuture.


I clicked it because I suspected the headline would prove to be an assertion that was either exaggerated or simply untrue. In essence, clickbait.

Alas, I wasn't surprised.