Ahead of their tenure clock

This is the conclusion of a new paper published in Biology Letters, a high-powered journal from the UK’s prestigious Royal Society. If its tone seems unusual, that’s because its authors are children from Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England. Aged between 8 and 10, the 25 children have just become the youngest scientists to ever be published in a Royal Society journal.

Their paper, based on fieldwork carried out in a local churchyard, describes how bumblebees can learn which flowers to forage from with more flexibility than anyone had thought. It’s the culmination of a project called ‘i, scientist‘, designed to get students to actually carry out scientific research themselves. The kids received some support from Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist at UCL, and David Strudwick, Blackawton’s head teacher. But the work is all their own.

The class (including Lotto’s son, Misha) came up with their own questions, devised hypotheses, designed experiments, and analysed data.  They wrote the paper themselves (except for the abstract), and they drew all the figures with colouring pencils.

One version of the story is here, which offers an excellent account and lots of background detail.  The experiment had not been done before.  The abstract was the one part of the paper they could not write on their own.

The paper is here.  There are no statistics and no references to previous literature.  The first paragraph of the introduction is this:

People think that humans are the smartest of animals, and most people do not think about other animals as being smart, or at least think that they are not as smart as humans. Knowing that other animals are as smart as us means we can appreciate them more, which could also help us to help them.

What economics project could you imagine eight-year-olds doing and publishing?

For the pointer I thank numerous sources on Twitter.

Comments

Lemonade stand?

"What economics project could you imagine eight-year-olds doing and publishing?"

The response writes itself.

Devising optimal begging strategies.

NCLB and Obamacare have something in common. They are the manifestation of the illusion that we aren't already experimenting on people. If we think we aren't experimenting, then what we are really doing is throwing data in the dumpster.

Alex's recent post on RCT get's the (Alex) post of the year award.

Anyway, Behavioural Experimental economics. It's virtually free. The problem is grad students are virtually free too.

From 12 years ago, the story of then-11-year-old Ellie Lammer, of Berkeley, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Girl Finds Meters Are Inaccurate

Ellie found that the meters' inaccuracy operated against the City of Berkeley, not the person paying the meter.

Thus, we learn four months later, State Gets New Parking Meter Law.

Economic science in action!

My first grader is too young. But he would certainly be interested in building a Starwars themed lemonade stand out of Legos.

Why do they write in American, using "smart" to mean "clever" or "bright"? Or is American just Old Devonian?

The economic impact of additional siblings - Malthus @ 10yrs
Monetarism, household inflation and increases in the weekly allowance - Friedman @ 7yrs
Volatility and Monopoly - maximising your rental options - Black,9; Scholes,8
Parental impact on children's spending patterns - Keynes @3 yrs - he was very bright!
Why parents should do all the housework - Ricardo @ 6yrs (tho' I believe he changed his opinion in later years..)

"Why do they write in American, using "smart" to mean "clever" or "bright"?"

I wondered the same. It seems smart meaning clever was once commonly used in England.

OED:

a. Clever, capable, adept; quick at devising, learning, looking after oneself or one's own interests, etc. In later use chiefly U.S.
1628 R. Le Grys tr. J. Barclay Argenis ii. 81 For he, a smart young man, and of great iudgement,‥held vp the Kings side.
a1656 J. Ussher Ann. World (1658) vi. 525 Being‥ loath to engage in fight with Fimbria, who was both a smart fellow, and a Conqueror to boot.
1709 R. Steele Tatler No. 26. 5 [He] is what we most justly call, a Smart Fellow.
1786 M. Cutler in W. P. Cutler & J. P. Cutler Life & Corr. M. Cutler (1888) I. 189 Those of my subscribers who are smart, able men, I have told shall have an equal chance with other proprietors.
1844 Mrs. Houstoun Texas & Gulf of Mexico II. 215 The Opossum is held in great respect by the Yankees, as a particularly 'smart' animal.
1888 J. Bryce Amer. Commonw. II. lxv. 484 In America every smart man is expected to be able to do anything he turns his hand to.

Or, alternatively, when you see what looks rather like that American habit of doing something sciencey and passing it off as the work of children, and you see the American use of "smart", you might be sceptical. And what do we find: "Beau ....received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in anatomy physiology, ..... and was a research fellow at Duke University." I rest my case, m'Lud.

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