Setting the record straight about Search Committees and Nature & Science articles.

In a recent Twitter thread I made a lighthearted post about how a search committee might write a script in R to select candidates, based on the premise that committees only care about Nature and Science articles.  I want to set the record straight and say, directly, that those of you who read this blog, and who follow me on twitter (or who follow any of those who re-tweeted the original tweet) deserve an apology.

The tweet was as follows:

I think that this is a problematic tweet for several reasons.  First, it implies that search committees are driven only to find applicants who have papers in Nature or Science.  I have served on a search committee before, and I know people who are on search committees, so I know that this is untrue.  The more problematic point is that this tweet also implies that members of search committees have no idea how to code in R.

It was not my intention to imply this, and if you are on a search committee who is currently reviewing me, I was talking about another search committee, one that is not nearly as nice as you, and one that I didn’t really care about in the first place.  I know that as a search committee you would be much more likely to code this properly as follows:

# We made everyone submit their applications as an R data object, because it was less complicated than using our website.
applications <- list.files('./JunkFolder')
all.apps <- lapply(applications, load)

short.list <- sapply(all.apps, 
                     function(x) regexpr('^nature$|^science$', x$publications$journal, = TRUE)>0)

You can probably work out the rest here (I don’t know where people are storing their contact information, you decided that), but I just felt bad and wanted to apologize for making it look like you didn’t know how to do a proper regular expression search and stuff. My original tweet wouldn’t have searched for any papers published in Science, it would have found people who published in “The Northern Manitoba Journal of Nature and Profiteering” and short listed them, which obviously wasn’t your intention.

So here we search for all journals that either start (^) and end ($) with ‘nature’, or (|) with ‘science’, and we ignore the case. Lets face it, even though Quaternary Science Reviews is a great journal that publishes high quality papers, they’re mostly written by riff raff.


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Assistant scientist in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Studying paleoecology and the challenges of large data synthesis.

5 thoughts on “Setting the record straight about Search Committees and Nature & Science articles.”

  1. And to support your point, my department is chock-full of excellent tenured faculty, and I don’t think one of us has ever published in Nature or Science.

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