Evolutionary Biology Online Journal Club


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Reading for Tuesday, Oct 02

A gratuitous pretty picture of a social wasp to haunt your dreams until Tuesday (Vespula germanica; photo: Alvesgaspar (CC BY-SA) )

So voting has closed, and the paper chosen was the PNAS paper by Peter Nonacs on “Kinship, greenbeards, and runaway social selection in the evolution of social insect cooperation. It’s a pretty theoretical and conceptual paper, so it should make it for a fun discussion! As usual, if you can’t access it, just let me know and I’ll send it to you.

Another important thing is, as you can see, 20 people voted. Assuming all voters are people interested in discussing the paper, we’ll need to be pretty conscientious about rotation and letting everyone join in – unless you have alternative suggestions, if so add them below in the comments.

We will be meeting next Tuesday at 5PM EDT! See you then!

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Poll results and next reading

The people have spoken!

So we have a mixed decision about when to meet, and a clear one about how to choose the next readings. In light of the first result, I really like Lee’s idea about having a second meeting but in a date and time other than Tuesday 5PM EDT. I think it might be a good way of having meetings every week, so people that can’t make it on the time we’ve been using could chose a different time, and people can thus attend that if they can but still count on the bi-weekly one if not. We can talk about it next meeting!

Time to choose our next reading!

Based on your input, it’s clear you share my concern about simply deciding based on current ranks, given the spread of rankings. So I’m going to select two papers at random from the 10 best ranked ones (based on the median, excluding the first one which we’ve already read), and you can vote on which we should read on our next meeting Tuesday, October 2nd.

Well, look at that: looks like we’ll have a social insect showdown! Cast your votes! Poll will be open until Friday, to give us some time to read the paper before next Tuesday!


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#EBJClub participants: we want your feedback!

We had our first meeting earlier this week and I think it went pretty well! The discussion was interesting and I can’t wait for the next one. I’d like to ask you guys now your opinion on a couple things to make it better. I was going to do so at the end of the Hangout, but Google decided I had had enough and kicked me out =P . So if you joined us Tuesday for the discussion, or haven’t but plan on doing so for next meetings, please take a second and share your thoughts regarding the topics below. Also, if you have any suggestions not covered in this post, let us know in the comments!

(EDIT: please note you need to click the “vote” button for each of the polls separately to cast yours!)

Meeting frequency

The initial idea was to meet every other week, this way we wouldn’t overburden ourselves with commitment and the journal club would have a greater chance to survive. But a couple people suggested that having meetings weekly could also work, since we have a fairly big roster and people could rotate according to their interests, or just join every week (maybe an hour a week isn’t that much!); this way we could get a chance of reading all the suggested papers. I kinda like this idea, and myself would like to participate every week, but I fear this might burnout our enthusiasm over the journal club. What do you think?

Deciding on our next reading

The next important thing we need to go about is deciding our next reading. I did the poll before our first meeting and it was fairly easy to decide on the first reading, because it was such a clear winner – it had a median rank of around 3, whereas the next best ranked paper has a median rank of over 7.

However, as one should expect for a diverse group and an amazing list of reading suggestions, there was a lot of spread over the rankings for the next best ranked papers, as you can see in this quite ridiculously looking violin plot:

manuscript identities have been concealed to protect their anonymity and their families’ safety.

Because of this, I feel quite uneasy deciding on this alone what our next readins should be. Several papers are separated by a rank difference that is meaningless. So I thought about the following solution: we could discard the bottom 5 papers, and after each meeting I would select 2 papers at random and put them up for voting here. We would read the most voted amongst those two for the next meeting, and the lowest ranking one would be discarded. What do you think?

One more thing

Well, actually two:

  • it was brought to my attention that we should be more careful and attentive about the rotation of participants, given G+ Hangouts’ 10 person limit. I don’t think anyone tried to join but was left out (if you did, please correct me; knowing the extent of the problem is the only way to fix it). Again, if you have other videoconference solutions, let me know.
  • it was also suggested that we need some sort of moderator, someone to lead the discussion in some way – introduce the paper, think in advance about a couple of questions, and make sure that everyone, even the most shy, have a chance to give their opinions! so for each meeting I will be asking for volunteers to moderate, if that’s ok!

So please answer the polls above, and use the comments to let us know how to make this even better!


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Thoughts for improving our meetings

Now that we have had our first meeting I thought it would be good to start a post about what we thought worked well and what could be improved. Here are my thoughts:

Google + Hangouts:

If you are new to Google Hangouts here is a short intro video.

If you are having trouble joining the Hangout read this.

Hangout Pros:

  • Video chat worked well
  • Recorded session creates a great record of our discussion
  • “Lower Third” app is a great way to add your name and institution to your video window

Hangout Cons:

  • Limited to 10 people
  • There seemed to be some issues with the queuing system
  • Sound quality affected for whole discussion if headphones are not used or microphone is too loud

How can we improve?

1. Headsets:

For those who do not own a headset, look into getting one. Try to find one that has noise-cancelling microphone. There are good headset options that are inexpensive. I picked up a Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 headset for $15 at Walmart on Monday and I found that it worked quite well. Lots of other options are available including wireless headsets.

2. Lower Third:

Install the Google Hangout “Lower Third” app. This lets people know who you are and where you are from. Also, this provides a great professional-looking nameplate on the video when that can be seen when the recorded chat is posted online.

3. Invite the paper’s Authors!

Let’s consider inviting one or more of the authors of the paper we plan to discuss. Corresponding authors invariably provide a contact e-mail on the first page of their article, and most have their own webpage anyway. I think there is a lot of value-added here. With an author present we can ask for clarification on points that we don’t fully understand, and we can get broader insights about the paper’s significance from an expert in the field! I think we could all benefit from some clarity about the topic and the analyses used. There is also great networking opportunities to be had here, not to mention the added promo for our group! If they don’t have Google + then we could always invite them to our Hangout via telephone.

4. Google Chat:

Don’t forget to open the chat window on the left during the Hangout! People might be making some interesting points about the paper in the chat window, don’t miss out!

What did you think? How did it go? How else might we improve our discussions?


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Details for today’s meeting

The alternative to G+ hangouts that I had in mind ended up not working so well – it’s based on p2p technology, which is blocked at several universities (including my own). This would mean that some people wouldn’t be able to join because of technical limitations, which seemed to us worse than not being able to join because it’s too full.

So here’s what we’re going to try today: since it’s too late to try yet another alternative, we’ll stick to the google+ hangout. This means that there can only be 10 people active in the discussion at a given time, but we’ll try to rotate in order to let everyone join chip in their 2 cents. I’m really excited to hear what you all have to say about this paper, so don’t shy out if you see the room too full! We’ll do the best we can to let everyone chime in during the hour. 

Google+ hangouts work like this: if it’s too full, it will start a queue of participants waiting to join. As soon as someone leaves, you are invited in. So if you want to join, make sure you enter the queue! Also, the discussion will be live streamed, so even if you aren’t in the hangout room, you can still follow what’s going on. We will have a comment thread that I will be constantly checking on, so if you are following the live stream and have a comment to make right away, I will read it in the discussion. 

I apologize for the limitations we’re dealing with, but it’s pretty awesome that they are arising from having too many people interested in the journal club! 🙂 Please don’t be demotivated to show up because of this. If you all show up with your ideas and comments, it will be a great discussion!

I’ll try to login and start the hangout about half an hour before the meeting time. See you soon!


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Reading for Tuesday, Sep 18

Hello everybody!

Grey Groshawk (photo: Aviceda, via Wikimedia commons)

I have finished organizing and analyzing the rankings for the papers that you have submitted, and there is a clear winner for the paper you want to read the most – the Nature paper by Hugall & Stuart-Fox on the “accelerated speciation in colour-polymorphic birds. (if you don’t have access to download the paper, please let me know in the comments). This paper was the clear best ranked one, independent of the criteria I used to rank the papers, so we’ll start with that. I want to wait for the first meeting to decide on which criteria we’re going to stick with to decide the order of the next papers. There was some expected spread in the rankings and the choice changes depending on how I proceed: there was a good number of voters (one third) that did not introduce themselves in the first post, but who are following the group page in Google+. I want to get a good sense of the participation before I decide on anything (if you can’t join for our first meeting but plan to join later on, please let me know in the comments).

So, we will be meeting this Tuesday to discuss the Hugall & Stuart-Fox paper, at 5PM EST! See you then!

IMPORTANT: It seems like Google+ Hangouts won’t work well for our meeting, because the interest in the group generated an amazing response and unfortunately G+ Hangouts are limited to 10 participants (yes, say it out loud: we are too big for google! feels good, doesn’t it? =) ). I think I have an alternative, which I’ve tested and seems to work great, but I want to test-drive it again Monday. More information tomorrow!