Both talks are part of symposia with other interesting speakers.

August 18: Student Organic Seed Symposium, NY Finger Lakes Region

October 28: minisymposium (with Emma Marris, author of "Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World") on "Saving Nature and Improving Agriculture: Where does Nature's Wisdom Lie?" Washington State University, Pullman

... is hosted by Bjorn Ostman, who deserves much of the credit for keeping the monthly Carnival of Evolution alive. I mostly like his scoring system:

-1 for saying "develop" or "development" when meaning "evolve" or "evolution"
+1 for attracting any comments [seems low, though I've given up on spam filters and blocked comments; email me if you want to add something to a post]
-7 for agreeing with Lynn Margulis that everything is endosymbiosis
+25 for reports on rabbit fossils from the Cambrian [seems awfully specific -- wait, Cambrian?]

Several of the contending blog posts look interesting, including an analysis of topics at the recent Evolution2014 meetings. Talks on adaptation outnumbered those on speciation 4 to 1, but phylogenetics was a close second. Talks on selection outnumbered those on drift about 20 to 1.

... is hosted by Bjorn Ostman, who deserves much of the credit for keeping the monthly Carnival of Evolution alive. I mostly like his scoring system:

-1 for saying "develop" or "development" when meaning "evolve" or "evolution"
+1 for attracting any comments [seems low]
-7 for agreeing with Lynn Margulis that everything is endosymbiosis
+25 for reports on rabbit fossils from the Cambrian [seems awfully specific -- wait, Cambrian?]

Several of the contending blog posts look interesting, including an analysis of topics at the recent Evolution2014 meetings. Talks on adaptation outnumbered those on speciation 4 to 1, but phylogenetics was a close second. Talks on selection outnumbered those on drift about 20 to 1.

I keep getting emails claiming that a colleague is "inviting me to join ResearchGate" to "claim" one of my papers. The emails actually come from no-reply@researchgate.net and are apparently generated automatically for any member who hasn't gone through a cumbersome opt-out process.

Whatever benefits I might get from joining couldn't possibly make up for the negative effects of spamming my colleagues.

I guess the name ResearchGate (reminiscent of Watergate) is a clue. As an occasional punster, I regret that there's ever been a major scandal at the International Rice Research Institute.

[They accept] "the doctrine that educational credentials... are required in order to improve labour-market chances. . [but] are not thinking that they should be acquiring knowledge or skills which will make them better at their jobs" -- Fevre, Rees, and Gorard (1999)

A recent article in the New York Times argues that the higher salaries of college grads make college a good investment, despite high tuition. David Autor, writing in Science, reproduces estimates from Avery and Turner that male college grads can expect a lifetime earnings boost of $590,000 (only $370,000 for women!), after subtracting public-university tuition and assuming a 3% interest rate. So if you can live at home, attend a state university, and get a 3% loan, this looks like a no-brainer.

But what if you aren't all that brainy yourself? Maybe smart or hard-working people make more money and are also more likely to complete college. In 1999, Cecilia Rouse compared earnings of identical twins differing in education and found a 10% income gain for each year of education. That would predict 40% higher income from completing 4 years of college, whereas the actual difference is 80%. So maybe half of the difference in income between college grads and high school grads is due to differences (not necessarily genetic) between people and half an effect of the education itself.

But is it really the education, or is it the diploma?

Hungerford and Solon (1987) reasoned that, if knowledge and skills are key to income, then 3 years of college would be 75% as good as 4 years of college. But if the diploma is what matters, the fourth year would give a much bigger income boost. The latter seems to be true, with interesting differences among races and genders.

As a professor, I am not happy about this, especially since we professors can't even claim credit for all of the non-diploma gains. After all, students are making useful contacts in years 1-3, polishing their social skills, etc.

One last question. If much of the income boost for college grads comes from the diploma, rather than anything they learned in or out of class, why do employers pay college grads more? Surely the knowledge and skills acquired in college must count for something, for some employers. Is graduation a reliable indication of a smart or hard-working individual? Is it a reliable indication of potentially profitable contacts? Are personnel responsible for hiring just taking the easiest approach? A review by Bills considers seven different hypotheses, and bemoans the lack of data. Here's a hint, from Dale and Krueger: correcting for differences among individuals, more-selective colleges don't boost income any more than less-selective ones.

If diplomas are used to determine who gets the better jobs, but education doesn't enhance worker productivity, then college would be a good investment for individuals but not necessarily for society.

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