Archive for the ‘blogs’ Category
1. The group blog Bad Hessian, which focuses on computational issues. Includes guest stars Alex Hanna and up and coming sociologists Dan Wang, Trey Causey, Benjamin Lind, Adam Slez, Matt Moehr, and others.
2. Todd Beer, a former Fabologist, teaches at Lake Forest College in Chicago. He now has a blog called http://sociologytoolbox.com/ that focuses on teaching.
The plaintiff: Andrew Gelman – fellow blogger and poli sci pugilist. The defendant: Nicholas Christakis – sociologist, physician, tweeter. The claim: Christakis wrote the following, which made Gelman, like, really mad:
The social sciences have stagnated. They offer essentially the same set of academic departments and disciplines that they have for nearly 100 years: sociology, economics, anthropology, psychology and political science. This is not only boring but also counterproductive, constraining engagement with the scientific cutting edge and stifling the creation of new and useful knowledge. . . .
I’m not suggesting that social scientists stop teaching and investigating classic topics like monopoly power, racial profiling and health inequality. But everyone knows that monopoly power is bad for markets, that people are racially biased and that illness is unequally distributed by social class. There are diminishing returns from the continuing study of many such topics. And repeatedly observing these phenomena does not help us fix them.
Gelman’s complaint? It’s a little hard for me to understand, but he doesn’t like the fact that Christakis said that we have really beat some topics into the ground and that maybe we should expand a little:
Regarding the question of illness being distributed by social class: Is it really true that “everybody knows,” for example, that Finland has higher suicide rates than Sweden, or thatforeign-born Latinos have lower rates of psychiatric disorders. These findings are based on public data so everybody should know them, but in any case the goal of social science is not (just) to educate people on what should be known to them, but also to understand why. Why why why. And also to model the effects of potential interventions.
Christakis is making a point about the maturity of research topics, not public knowledge of specific results. For example, the “SES gradient” is one of the most well established results in all of health research. It appears in every single sociology of health class and it is not easy (though certainly not impossible) to find a health condition where SES (or income or status) doesn’t affect the likelihood of contracting the condition or recovering. In other words, if you know anything about sociology or health, you know this finding and it is very, very, very well established.
Of course, within any field, there are notable puzzles, like the finding that immigrants (in the US) tend to be healthier than second generation people. I’m a bit puzzled by the importance of the suicide fact. Perhaps suicide is an exception, but I believe the SES gradient enough that I’d wager that for many important health conditions that (a) SES within Finland (or Sweden) makes a big difference or (b) that wealthy countries do better on the condition that poor countries (e.g., Finland v. Sweden is probably not as important as Finland v. Gambia or Guatemala).
Gelman raises the issue of causation, and once again, it seems like he’s missing the point. Christakis is not suggesting that people stop investigating causes. Rather, it’s about the relative amount of effort. Hundreds of papers have attempted to explain the SES gradient in one way or another. In fact, it’s come to the point that if I see a talk that is about SES and health, I can nearly always predict the tables and coefficients – and I’m not even a specialist on the topic. This suggests that the marginal benefit of yet another study on the SES gradient is likely to be small. Instead, maybe people should look into new areas of inquiry unless you have a really, really, really amazing way to get at causation.
Judgment: The Court of Orgtheory finds against the plaintiff and in favor of meeting some new people.
I will be on blogcation from July 1 to July 15. If you have ever wanted to write a post for a blog, send me an email. Topics: management, sociology, related social sciences, research methods, current events, jazz/metal/classical/West African or Ethiopian/alt- or psychedelic folk, academia/the profession, Finland.
Here they are, with comments in parentheses:
- Should I teach post-modernism? (140)
- An inconvenient truth about GRE scores (94)
- Investigating Regnerus (74)
- Protect yourself on the Internet – the Eszter and Brayden way* (72)
- How I pick graduate students (63)
- Is academia meritocratic? (58)
- Motivation, markets, and manipulation (58)
- World cup survey (57)
- Gladwell, when he is wrong, creates a tsunami of wrong (54)
- Sociology rankings and the Fabio effect * (54)
Other interesting ones in the top 20: A comparative look at ASA membership costs and benefits ** (53), How feminists killed feminism (50), and Walmart and the ASA (guest post by Chris Winship) (44).
* Graham inflated comment thread.
** This is also known as the “Dues are Too Damn High” post.
The website “Best Sociology Programs” has a list of 30 soc blogs. The list covers some of the usual suspects (like this blog, Kieran’s blog, or Phil Cohen). I also learned about some bloggers that are new to me, like Deborah Lupton (“This Sociological Life“), Zero Anthropology, which focuses on postcolonial communities, and Neuroanthropology, which is self-explanatory and run by PLoS One.