Bad science is selected for

5 08 2016

As a career scientist, it’s near impossible not to follow the siren call of the P value even when you know it’s wrong, just because it’s so well rewarded.  Now a new paper models the effects of such ‘selection pressures’: The Natural Selection of Bad Science“. Good coverage here too. (Thanks to Misha for this nice find!)


I am a man

1 08 2016

Why aren’t (other) women citing themselves? That is crazy!!

(With thanks to Maria for this nice find)

Fearfulness and SB are linked in people

1 08 2016

Nice find from Jamie (err, not that I’ve read the whole paper yet).

How do people classify cat faces?

1 08 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 4.53.49 PMI was keen to take this new quiz from the “cat pain faces” team, but the instructions were too vague for me to feel confident I was doing it right (I did Quiz 2; A and C looked almost the same to me, and the other ‘guide faces’ varied in proportion, ear size and whisker position … so which did they want us to attend to when the cat photo only resembled one?).

42 images was also too many. So I gave up half way…

Hope people aren’t as lame as me when they eventually take our own “cat affect” faces quiz…

Quantifying hens’ startle reflexes

1 08 2016

Misha got some nice data for 12-15 hens in the forceplate experiment he finished about a month ago. The first challenge is now to describe this reflex, as one goal was just to characterise it properly (no-one having done this before for this species).


Looking at vertical forces only (a typical response being sketched above), to mimic what’s obtained in rodent studies, he found that everything happened within about 300ms (= good; what we expected), but that pattern and the duration both differed a lot between birds, total duration varying by about an order of magnitude (= not good; this is supposed to be a very stereotyped response).

We then realised that looking at vertical forces only was naive: these are free-moving, bipedal animals who may well spring forwards or backwards as well as upwards, depending on how they happen to be standing when the flash goes off. So now we’re looking at both z and y forces, trying to work out how to fit them together. This means brushing up on vectors…: slightly intimidating, but maybe also nerdily fun (at least according to “maths is fun”).


Mike and Andrea ready to defend

1 08 2016

In possibly the easiest parturitions yet, Mike and Andrea have essentially finished their theses and are ready to defend at the end of August. Mike’s PhD (below) is all handed in, with his exam being scheduled for Aug. 29th; while Andrea is just waiting for some last comments on her MSc chapters, and is all set to defend on Aug. 31st.  I couldn’t be prouder –  their writing-up was so painless!


Screenshot 2016-08-01 13.57.14


Special edition of PLoS One: Mammoth epi study of zoo elephants

1 08 2016

The IMLS elephant work was published a couple of weeks ago in a special mutli-paper edition of PloS One. The first one here gives a good overview.  This one, on stereotypic behaviour, is the paper I was involved with, ably led by Brian Greco.  There is also good coverage in Science Daily here (along with animal rights criticism here).