Quicklinks: 16-22 January 2023

Let’s start off with something cute; wolves playing in the snow.

And here’s some good news for animals; New York became the 10th US state to ban the sale of cosmetics which were tested on animals!

I’ve seen this in quite a few places, it’s a piece arguing that PhD training needs to be reformed. Now I’m not saying that PhD training (or universities in general) are perfect, they’re not. There are many things that can be improved but I don’t think this article is on the right track. In my opinion, many of the sort of issues that the article talks about are neither failings of PhD nor university education but a failure of society and expectations. A degree at any level is not supposed to prepare people for jobs. It’s supposed to provide domain-specific knowledge while building general skills in critical thinking, research and learning. It’s up to employers to provide job-specific training. There is also a problem of credential inflation where even basic jobs now require a degree, no matter how unnecessary that is. Furthermore, while I fully agree that we should value PhD graduates and that they can help find solutions to various problems, I think framing that as a key role of PhD training is sorely misguided. I say that because we don’t need more solutions! Look at the biggest problem of today – global warming. We already have renewable energy options, we know how to build public transport, we know how to make food more sustainable, we know we can cut back on consumption. The problems are not scientific, they are political. There is no political will to make the necessary changes. Most other big problems, from Russia’s war in Ukraine, censorship, human rights, equality and so on, those are all political problems that we can, in principle, solve today.

Getting reviews back can really suck. Here’s something that perhaps isn’t said enough and doesn’t just apply to science. You don’t have to listen to every reviewer or critic. Consider what they say and then decide for your yourself whether to act on it or not. Different people will give you different, sometimes opposite advice. In the end, you are only accountable to yourself and need to stand up for what you think is right.

I quite like the following tweet. I get why people want representation and it’s not something to oppose but let’s not act like a role model has to resemble us in, especially in a superficial way. Anyone can be a role model for anyone else. Look at what a person does and how they do it, that’s what really matters. If they look like you or have the same background, that’s great. If they don’t, don’t let it hold you back. Sometimes you have to take that first step; if you wait for every role model to match you, you will always be a follower.

My former university is going through a very rough time with disaster after disaster There were all the leadership problems at the university (read the university’s response if you want a laugh), the fiasco of the university’s online high school (Part 1 , part 2 , part 3 ) and, now, there will be its first academic strike in history, over poor wages. Bare in mind that any raise that isn’t at least equal to inflation is actually a wage decrease.

Following up on last week’s story about Dr Rose Abramoff, who lost her job after she and Dr Peter Kalmus displayed a banner calling for climate change action at an American Geophysical Union meeting, there is an open letter that you can sign to support them. Over 1700 scientists have signed so far.

Here’s an article about the huge fine that Meta got in the EU for violating GDPR rules. Leaving aside all those issues, the part that astounds me is the sheer amount of money involved! The €390 million fine is insignificant when Meta has reported a € 72,5 billion income from advertising in the EU!

Related to the Hamline University controversy in the US, Jacob Mchangama wrote a short piece on the history and current state of blasphemy in Islam.

This is tweet gives a sad example of the state of women’s rights in Afghanistan; the Taliban is even covering up the faces of mannequins.

One last bit of parody. Or is it…

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