Archive for the ‘fabio’ Category
A classic result in the social analysis of science is that most papers are poorly cited. For example, the classic deSolla Price paper in Science (1965) found that the modal citation count in his sample was zero. Low mean and modal citation counts remain the standard in contemporary studies of scientific behavior. So, what gives?
Scientific research is a type of creative pursuit. By definition, journal articles are supposed to report on what is new or novel. Once you buy that, the low citation rates in science make sense. First, creativity (or importance) is a scarce commodity. Anyone trained in a psychology graduate program can do an experiment, but few can do a novel experiment. Second, new results are themselves scarce. Fields quickly get covered and only obscure points remain. Third, even if you have a creative scientist who found a genuinely important problem, they might not have an audience. Perhaps people are focused on other issues, or the scientist is low status or publishing in a low status journal.
In principle, we should expect that few articles will deserve more than token citation. But still, why can’t journals just stick to important stuff? The answer is imperfect knowledge. Once in a while we encounter obvious innovation, but usually we have a limited ability to predict what will be important. It is better to over publish and let history be the judge. Considering that the cost of journal publishing is low (but not the subscription!), we should be ok with a world of many uncited and lonely articles.
Nathan Nunn has a paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics estimating the effect of slavery on long term growth:
Can part of Africa’s current underdevelopment be explained by its slave trades? To explore this question, I use data from shipping records and historical documents reporting slave ethnicities to construct estimates of the number of slaves exported from each country during Africa’s slave trades. I find a robust negative relationship between the number of slaves exported from a country and current economic performance. To better understand if the relationship is causal, I examine the historical evidence on selection into the slave trades and use instrumental variables. Together the evidence suggests that the slave trades had an adverse effect on economic development.
Check it out.
The media covered a new book by Lance Dodes called The Sober Truth. In the book, Dodes surveys the evidence on rehab and finds that there is literally no evidence that rehab, AA or other popular methods for kicking drugs are effective. From a recent Alternet article:
Peer-reviewed studies peg the success rate of AA somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. That is, about one of every fifteen people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober. In 2006, one of the most prestigious scientific research organizations in the world, the Cochrane Collaboration, conducted a review of the many studies conducted between 1966 and 2005 and reached a stunning conclusion: “No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA” in treating alcoholism. This group reached the same conclusion about professional AA-oriented treatment (12-step facilitation therapy, or TSF), which is the core of virtually every alcoholism-rehabilitation program in the country.
What I find interesting is that I was told this before by physicians and social workers. These programs work for very few people and this is common knowledge. But why didn’t I draw the logical conclusion? If it’s expensive ($200,000 for a stint in a fancy rehab center) and it doesn’t work, why not just stop doing it?
Two answers: The Robin Hanson answer is that it’s a signal of morality. We do it to show that we care, even if the evidence is dodgy. Another (not unrelated) answer is that charismatic orgs get less scrutiny. AA is trying to be nice to people and help them overcome serious problems, so I am less inclined to search for evidence that assesses their effectiveness. This is different than, say, a think tank that is pushing a policy that I don’t like. Then, I’ll search high and low for all the evidence I can find to fight them.
Bottom line: We should probably get tougher on organizations that claim to do good. We’re probably giving out too many free passes.
The great author Gabriel Marquez died and he left a treasure of great literature. Here, a few notes about the smallness of networks inspired by Marquez’ passing. One of my uncles was a lawyer and literature professor named Eduardo Pachon Padilla. He is probably best known for El Cuento Colombiano, an important anthology of Colombian fiction.
Throughout my life, he would go on and on about Marquez and I never understood why. One day I got the story. It turns out that Eduardo and Marquez where from the same region of Colombia, and they studied the same subject (law) in Bogota. The world of novelists and literary critics is small. They knew each other. This was before either had achieved much, but Marquez was competitive and smart and people knew it. So there was that. Later, it came to a head when my uncle was on the jury of a literary contest and, according to Eduardo, Marquez submitted this absolutely brilliant manuscript. Perhaps it was some version of Cien Años, or another work. It was about thirty or forty years after the fact, the memory was not fresh. Regardless, people could tell it was brilliant but still, the jury liked one other book a teensy bit better. He never did regret the award and always argued that, on some technical ground, this other book was better. Perhaps. I also wonder if the friction between Marquez and some his contemporaries was translated into the texts and that Eduardo and his buddies exists as characterization in one of Marquez’ short stories or novels.
I was having dinner with a Team Fabio affiliate who was making the choice between two really excellent sociology programs. In discussing his choice, we got into the issue of who is now on top in terms of status. In Ye Olden Days, elite sociology meant the following: the Chicago/Columbia/Berkeley axis + massive public flagship schools (UNC, Wisconsin, UCLA, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana). Now, the landscape has changed a bit. The major change seems to be the rise of smaller private schools. While these schools have always been the home of good scholars, it is only recently that they’ve boosted their status by gathering critical masses of elite scholars, consistent publication in top presses and journals, and consistent placement of PhD students in competitive programs. Here the examples are well known – Princeton, Harvard, and Duke in the top ten. Slightly lower down the ranking would be Northwestern, NYU, and Cornell. Certainly well known, but not considered powerhouses of sociology 20 or 3o years ago. Similarly, there’s been sliding among the elites with Chicago and Columbia no longer at the top. The (flawed) 2011 NRC ranks also bumped some prominent flagships (Madison, Bloomington).
Why the change? There are many factors. There’s always complacency and in-fighting. But I think the change is more profound. First, the big flagships had the comparative advantage because 20th century American sociology was built on big surveys. No longer the case. Second, some programs “woke up.” My impression in reading history books is that elite private schools weren’t terribly interested in sociology. Deans were content to let a sociology program be dominated by one or two “big names,” but not invest in the infrastructure needed for high visibility sociology. For some reason, things just changed. Supporting sociology was on the agenda at these schools. Third, along the same line, my sense is that there’s been a real change in training. Princeton for example seems to fit the model. No graduate has ever described it as a fun, cuddly place, but almost every grad has reported that they have enough financial support, almost all students have an adviser, and there is *lots* of prof/student co-authorship. Not much falling through the cracks. That translates into jobs and high visibility.
I encourage older faculty to comment. Does this match your perception? Counter evidence? Alternative explanations?
The Atlantic has a new article called “The Confidence Gap.” Katty Kay and Claire Shipman review the academic literature to discuss one source of gender inequality – the systematic differences in confidence. Roughly speaking, Kay and Shipman suggest that one reason that men are more likely to rise faster through careers is that men are simply overconfident. The fortune cookie version of the argument is that women will apply for a job only if they are sure that they 100% qualified, while men will take a shot if they are half qualified.
A few comments: While I believe that sexism exists, the article is consistent with a “sexism without sexists” style argument as well. In other words, if A and B compose half the population but A applies for raises 66% of the time and B applies 33% of the time, you will very quickly get inequality even when bosses do not consider gender.
A policy observation from some of the experimental work. Kay and Shipman describe an experiment where men and women subjects try to solve a puzzle and initially men do better because they answer almost all questions. Women will try only when they are sure of the answer. When women are required to do the puzzles, the scores equalize. The policy implication is that raises and promotions should be routine. People are automatically considered for raises and promotions, or everyone will be considered if the situation arises.
The article has a lot to think about for folks interested in gender and inequality.
In political life, we tend to see a few strategies. First, we see partisanship, which is simply a word for “I do what my team does and fight my team’s enemies.” That sets up life a zero-sum status contest. Second, we see ideological politics. People argue for politics from an abstract argument about what is demanded by their belief system. It also leads to a sort of zero sum politics as well. Any deviation from your belief is a decrease in the value in the policy. Also, ideological politics is tough unless you happen to have an already popular ideology. Ideologies entail lots of consequences that other people might not buy. Third, there is incrementalism, which is to find small, moderate policy improvements that are hard to dispute. Success is likely, but you can easily miss the big issues.
There is a fourth approach to politics that people don’t seem to take often: “common grounds politics.” Here’s how it works – survey the range of ethical systems that you are likely to encounter, such as liberalism, socialism, etc. Then focus on important issues that are fairly straightforward consequences of many, or even all, of these theories. In other words, common grounds politics is when you focus on important issues that are logically consistent with the stated ethical systems of most people you will encounter.
Let me give you an example of a policy that is common grounds and one policy that is not common grounds. I think that open borders is common grounds. It is an obvious application of egalitarian theory because we allow poor people to decrease inequality by getting jobs in industrialized nations. It should also be intuitively appealing to libertarians who favor free markets. It is not hard to come up with arguments from conservative, socialist, and utilitarian perspectives. Also, you will notice that arguments against migration tend to invoke violations of most political belief systems. For example, should an egalitarian treat people differently just because they happen to be born in a different nation? Should a “social values” conservative support policies that make it hard for families to stay together? It’s not hard to see that open borders is a good candidate for common grounds politics.
In contrast, school privatization is not a common grounds issue. The reason, I think, is fairly obvious. The policy violates the principles of many ethical systems. For example, liberals are comfortable using the tool of taxation to redistribute resources in society and school spending is one way that is done. Conservatives are happy to use schools to promote religious values. You can come up with a utilitarian argument for why public schooling has positive benefits. I am not making a point about the validity of school privatization as a policy. I am only noting that you would need to do a lot of ethical argument in order to make most people buy into that policy.
I claim no originality for common grounds politics. In fact, this argument is a modification of Huemer’s meta-ethical position in The Problem of Authority. Huemer argued for radical libertarian politics from common grounds. He is trying to appeal a number of standard philosophical positions (e.g., Rawlsianism, Kantians, etc) to make a strong policy argument that is counter-intuitive to most people. I take a different approach. Start with people’s “folk morals” and then see what policies are consistent with that. There is no attempt to smuggle in an entirely new ethical system. Instead, look for that rare policy that is both important and obviously consistent with most people’s basic intuitions.
When I argue that we have too much college, people quickly fall on the well established fact that college graduates make a lot more than non-college graduates. But you don’t need to be an education skeptic to ask a sensible question: what’s the variance? Are some people not making the college premium? How many? Well, turns out that a firm has been calculating the rate of return for college and it varies a huge amount. There are folks who don’t make it back. Some college graduates are making a *negative* rate of return. From the economist:
A report by PayScale, a research firm, tries to measure the returns on higher education in America (see article). They vary enormously. A graduate in computer science from Stanford can expect to make $1.7m more over 20 years than someone who never went to college, after the cost of that education is taken into account. A degree in humanities and English at Florida International University leaves you $132,000 worse off. Arts degrees (broadly defined) at 12% of the colleges in the study offered negative returns; 30% offered worse financial rewards than putting the cash in 20-year Treasury bills.
None of this matters if you are rich and studying fine art to enhance your appreciation of the family Rembrandts. But most 18-year-olds in America go to college to get a good job. That is why the country’s students have racked up $1.1 trillion of debt—more than America’s credit-card debts. For most students college is still a wise investment, but for many it is not. Some 15% of student debtors default within three years; a startling 115,000 graduates work as caretakers.
In other words, before we rush more people into the college, we have to make it cheaper, much cheaper. And we shouldn’t facilitate degrees that massively bad consequences for your economic life chances.
On the Soc Job Rumor Board, there was a discussion of the non-replicability of ethnography. I think this is mistaken. Ethnography is easily replicable, it’s just that ethnographers don’t want to do it. For example, ethnographers could:
- Stop making everything anonymous so others can verify and check. Mitch Duinier is right about this.
- Group ethnography. Have multiple observers and do inter-coder reliability.
- Standardize data collection – how field codes are done and recorded.
- Encourage others to revisit the same population (which is actually done in anthropological ethnography)
Of course, no single study can strive for replication in the same way and some folks do a good job addressing these issues. But still, the anti-positivist framing of much ethnography probably prevents ethnographers from developing intuitive and sensible things to create standards that would move the field away from the solo practitioner model of unique and non-replicable studies.
Last year, we discussed a specific policy at the American Sociological Review (and me getting booted from the reviewer pool for complaining!). What appears to be happening is the papers are being sent out for 3rd and 4th reviews, to new reviewers, and then getting rejected after years of review. Since I haven’t submitted in about a year and a half, I have no idea – have things have changed? I ask in all seriousness. I’m just a believer in not jerking people around.
I am not well read in Benjamin’s ouevre, but I’ve always been semi-impressed. Moments of brilliance, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the big contribution. Well, Walter Laquer makes the argument that Benjamin is an over-rated thing. From the Mosaic:
Yes, his ideas (as in his best-known essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”) were often original, and there were flashes of genius. But in what precisely did his genius consist? Had he produced a new philosophy of history, proposed a fundamentally new approach to our understanding of 19th-century European culture, his main area of concern, or revolutionized our thinking about modernity? The answers I received weren’t persuasive then, and the answers provided in the vast secondary literature of the last decades have done no better.
Wherein lay its originality? The figure of the flâneur had been “discovered” earlier in the novels of Honoré de Balzac and others, and the main themes of Baudelaire’s poems had been studied even by German academics, some of whom had offered analyses not dissimilar to Benjamin’s. Were the Parisian arcades, with or without Baudelaire, the right starting point for a new understanding of modernity? Even the most detailed Benjamin biography, by the distinguished French professor Jean Michel Palmier, reaches no satisfying conclusion on this point. (Palmier’s mammoth book, almost 1,400 pages long, remains, like Benjamin’s work, unfinished—which is a comment in itself.)
Defenders – show me the Benjamins!
In case you were wondering, George Washington represents American positivist sociology and Jong-un represents critical realists, post-modernists, and the other counter-positivist forces. I’ll let you choose who Lincoln represents. In other words, orgtheory is up an running!
On Facebook, Vipul Naik asked the following question about research on crime rates of immigrants vs. natives:
It’s well known among scholars of crime that in the US, immigrants have somewhat lower crime rates than natives (both before and after controlling for ethnicity), whereas, in Western and Northern Europe, immigrants have somewhat higher crime rates than natives.
Various explanations have been posited, such as Western and Northern Europe being worse at assimilating immigrants.
But it seems to me that the simplest explanation is that the US has a higher base rate of native crime, so it’s easier for immigrants to “do better” than natives, whereas the native rate of crime in Western and Northern Europe is so low that the same immigrant crime rate looks worse in comparison. My impression (based on some quick look at the statistics) is that immigrants to Western and Northern Europe don’t have crime rates (substantially) higher than immigrants to the US.
This perspective doesn’t seem clearly articulated in discussions of the “do immigrants commit more crime than natives?” question. Why might that be so? And should we care about the relative crime rates, rather than whether the crime rates are high in absolute terms?
Bleg: What tricks do we have for increasing response rates for people working in organizations? The older literature suggests that org surveys have widely varying response rates. For example, this 1999 review in Human Relations finds that top management journals publish studies with an *average* response rate of 36%. This 2008 Human Relations article finds a response rate of 35%. So, how can we pop up the response rate? We have the Dillman method (letters), payment and multiple contacts. How else can we reach orgs?
I am an extremely strong believer in vaccinations. Vaccinations are low cost, low risk interventions that save millions of lives. After sanitation, you can’t find a procedure that is so effective and so important to our collective and individual well being. Still, there is a growing anti-vaccination movement, which is discussed in a recent Slate article about whether pediatricians should treat unvaccinated kids.
My answer: Sure, but pediatricians should parents of un-vaccinated kids the same way that professionals treat other “difficult” clients – a surcharge for being a difficult and increasing costs. In other words, by exposing other children in the clinic and at school to disease, you are increasing the costs of healthcare. Thus, the parent should bear the cost of healthcare. If each life of a child who dies from preventable infection is worth, say, a few million dollars, then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to charge a parent a few thousand extra dollars.
Bottom line: People are entitled to their own erroneous beliefs, but when it causes real harm to others, they should bear the cost. To do otherwise is folly.
This guest post on Federal government’s classification of sociology is written by Bogdan State, a doctoral student in sociology at Stanford University.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Sociology is not a true science. Among its many attributions, the Department of Homeland Security is in charge of separating, for immigration purposes, the imposter from the “real” sciences. Seemingly, our discipline does not pass muster.
The story is – by now – a familiar one. The DHS divides academic disciplines into two categories: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and non-STEM. The former get a lot of attention and dominate the immigration debate while the latter are relegated to marginality. The official list is available here [http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/stem-list.pdf]. Needless to say, the very idea of such a blunt distinction between science and non-science is problematic and misguided. Nonetheless, it’s a distinction that has very important consequences, which I am currently sorting through myself.
I am a doctoral student in a Sociology PhD program. About a year ago I decided to give industry a try and I was lucky enough to be offered a job at a major tech company, headquartered in the US. For someone who thrives on data and short publication cycles the job is a dream come true. And even though my title says I do “data science” (already derided by some naysayers as “not a science”), even though my days are spent defending the idea that Sociology can and should be a science at least as rigorous as Biology, Homeland Security seems to have a clear message: no way.
My problem is a common one for international students. I need permission to work outside of my University while in the US. Since my landing here for the first time in 2005 I have become ever more painfully aware of the difficulties involved in staying in the country post-graduation.
International students have twelve months during which they can work in the US in a job related to their specialty under what is called Optional Practical Training. Past those twelve months their options for continued employment in the US usually revolve around the H1B visa, which allows them to work for a US company while seeking a green card through a lengthy and costly process of “labor certification” (which is supposed to ascertain the wholly-undecidable claim that the “alien” is not taking an American’s job). H1B visas are hugely controversial and their issuance has been capped at 85000 per year for most of recent memory (20000 of which are reserved for people holding graduate degrees). Last year the cap translated into the DHS refusing to process (and thus practically denying) about a third of H1B applications filed. This year the ratio may be closer to one in two.
Compared to what comes after, Optional Practical Training is a relatively benign period during which the “alien” can focus on doing their job rather than on learning the regulatory alphabet soup inflicted on them by contradictory and sometimes outright hostile acts of Congress. The Government itself recognized the self-defeating nature of forcing international students – otherwise content to stay and contribute to the US economy – out of the US after American entities had invested huge amounts in their education. As a stopgap measure, foreign STEM graduates of American higher education institutions were granted a one-time, 17-month extension to their Optional Practical Training.
Sociology falls on the wrong side of the arbitrary divide imposed by the DHS (examples of some disciplines considered to be sciences by DHS: Archeology, Social Psychology, Management Science). Interestingly, the NSF does consider Sociology to be STEM. This would be funny were it not the source of a lot headaches, dislocation, uncertainty and plain misery.
In my own case, this policy has meant that I have not been able to access these extra 17 months of headache-free OPT extension that typically serve as a bridge to the much-desired (and irredeemably broken) H1B visa. It is part of why I have to leave the US and go pay taxes somewhere else. But our discipline’s location outside the STEM divide may have far more important consequences in the future.
Specifically, there has been a lot of talk about “stapling” green cards to STEM degrees, or of other important facilities afforded to the immigration of STEM graduates. Presumably, Congress will eventually pass an immigration law, and Sociology will be left on the outside of an admittedly artificial divide.
Let me emphasize that I do not believe for a moment in the validity of a division of the academic world made by government bureaucrats. But while fighting the idea of this division would be quixotic (given the current fixation on STEM), I believe that there is a sufficient number of Sociologists who do not have US citizenship or permanent residency and who would be affected by this omission in the future.
The ASA has come up against this issue before (http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/feb13/vp_0213.html), but it does not look like they have ever addressed it on the immigration front. This is of course more than a matter of immigration policy: it also concerns our discipline’s being recognized as a bona fide science. As Sociologists we often deride the shortcomings of our methods, and that is certainly a healthy attitude. But we cannot let cocktail-party observations about “true” and “fake” sciences be enshrined into government policy.
I was recently asked about co-authoring. How does a graduate student co-author? Is it good to do so? What are the rules?
1. In general, co-authoring is a good thing. You’ll see that most successful graduate students publish with faculty or student co-authors. Brian Uzzi’s work shows that co-authorship (vs. solo authorship) is correlated with citations and impact. There are exceptions. For example, many hiring and promotion committees will want to see at least one article sole authored. Of course, much qualitative work is also single authored.
2. How to find co-authors: Usually, people in most fields are used to co-authoring. You can ask faculty for help, they might approach you, or you can recruit buddies. In general, c0-authoring is serious business. Research is time intensive and it can shape your career. So choose partners who are (a) reliable and (b) bring something to the table. With respect to (b), the co-author can have a technical skill, area of knowledge, or simple be a good “sounding” board that writes/co-writes the article.
3. How to do it: This varies a great deal. I’ve done the full range. In some cases, you write most of it and co-authors do a little extra work. Other cases, the work is equally divided. In yet other cases, you do a modest amount. But it really helps to lay it out early. For example, in my work with Michael Heaney, we always jointly work out the argument and data analysis, but the actual writing shifts back and forth.
4. Author order: Every discipline has different rules. These include alphabetical, by seniority, the biomedical model (lead author firsts, senior person last, and fighting for middle sports) and “higher is better” (i.e., the more work you do, the more toward the top you get). In sociology, we do “higher is better” unless it’s clear that it’s alphabetical. So it is important to not get buried as author #6. Though, in some cases, there is such a premium on top journals that even author #6 on an ASR or AJS article will get a huge career pay off.
Joeff Davis, Malachi Ritscher, Iraq War Protest, Chicago, 2003. Included in the project Malachi Ritscher by Public Collectors. Image taken from the Whitney 2014 Biennial Website.
Last week, while I was visiting CUNY, I made some time to get down to the Whitney Museum to see the Biennial. This year was notable because the show was split three ways. Each curator got her own floor and each took a wildly different approach. The fourth floor was given to Michelle Grabner, a professor and artist. That was probably the most jammed part of the show with art on the walls, floors, and ceiling. It was also the most educational. Basically, Grabner found artists who explored all kinds of materials. For example, Sheila Hicks, one of my favorite fabric artists made this huge rope column. There were also some interesting gems, like a few shiny abstract canvasses mottled with salt by Carissa Rodriguez. Each work was an education in what you could do with particular materials. The floors by Stuart Comer and Anthony Elms were about youth and what one might call “intellectual concerns:” ethnography, politics, etc. For example, there was some strong work dealing with gay subculture, such as Tony Green’s work, Paul P. ‘s watercolors and Elijah Burgher’s pencil drawings.
The critics constantly complained about the whole show. I think it is better to admit that art has massively expanded and that there are multiple centers of gravity. Overall, you’ll be overwhelmed, or bored by the spectacle. But if you slow down, you’ll find that there is a lot to be enjoyed depending on what you want from art.
For me, there was one very moving part of the show, an exhibit by the group Public Collectors dedicated to Malachi Ritscher. He was a Chicago resident who was an avid free jazz fan and antiwar activist. He was notable for two things. First, he created an extensive library of recordings from the Chicago creative music scene. Second, he killed himself in 2006. To protest the Iraq War, he lit himself on fire on the Kennedy Expressway. He recorded that as well.
Malachi’s life and my own crossed many times. I am also a free jazz fanatic and sat next to him many times. I would go to the shows that he recorded. I actually recognized some of the shows whose recordings are in the exhibit. I am pretty sure that I am at least in one them and I am certainly an audience member in many other recordings that are part of Malachi’s library. He documented me. A brooding graduate student, I never introduced myself. But still, he was part of my world.
Later, I would dedicate part of my academic career to recording the antiwar movement. I spent quite a bit of time going to major cities, like Chicago, and conducting surveys and long form interviews with activists. Malachi is probably recorded in my materials. Maybe he filled out a survey. Maybe he was interviewed by me or my research partner. Or, more likely, he is part of an audience that I documented with a photo or audio recording.
The Ritscher exhibit deeply moved me. Malachi and I cared about the same things. Malachi and I passed by each other many, many times over a nine year period. Our lives have been stamped by the city of Chicago and its culture. We were even employed by the same organization – the University of Chicago.
But our stories diverge. He chose a path that I find hard to understand. Faced with the brutality of war, he did something brutal to himself. I have not walked in his shoes, so I won’t pass judgment. All I’ll say is that I remain viscerally shocked by his death. I mourn the loss of him and his knowledge. I responded to the war in a different way. I became the documentarian, the recorder of events.
Ending this post is hard because there simply is no end. I just don’t know what to think of Malachi’s musical contribution, or his suicide, or the crossing of our paths. Perhaps all I can now is dig out my copy of Emancipation Proclamation, which of course, was recorded by Malachi Ritscher.
If you have an idea for a blog post, send it in. We’d like to hear about sociology, management, economics, political science, and related fields. If you have comments on the academic profession, we’ll consider those as well. But please read the archives and make sure we haven’t done it.
In a recent Bloomberg column, orgtheory gawd Jeffrey Pfeffer talks about how power persists in the “don’t be evil” culture of modern Silicon Valley:
Yes, I hear the stories about how companies want diverse opinions and diverse workforces, but the data belie this. Recent research shows that, despite the younger generation’s supposed egalitarian values and ready acceptance of workplace diversity, women from leading MBA programs continue to be offered lower salaries and to progress less rapidly in their careers than their male colleagues.
When status hierarchies exist, people naturally prefer to be at the top rather than the bottom. Rewards accrue disproportionately to those at the top—witness the recent pay kerfuffle over Larry Ellison’s package at Oracle. Control over one’s job also rises with hierarchical rank, and as British epidemiologist Sir Michael Marmot has found, job control is positively related to health and longevity. So there’s inevitably competition for promotions.
People like to think well of themselves and also want to be sure they triumph in contests for organizational survival. They tend to believe they are above average and seek to associate themselves as closely as possible with success—basking in the reflected glory of prosperous organizations and leaders. Therefore, what matters most in attracting allies and support is winning, or appearing to win and to be successful. Ends trump means. Witness among many other examples the veneration of Steve Jobs, even though the latter was well known for not being the nicest of bosses. And as for his truthfulness, just consider the phrase “reality distortion field,” as well as the FBI report released after his death that detailed his penchant for not telling the truth.
The first “tweets/votes” paper established the basic correlation between tweet share and vote share in a a large sample of elections. Now, we’re working on papers that try to get a sense of who is driving the correlation. A new paper in Information, Communication, and Society reports on some progress. Authored by Karissa McKelvey, Joe DiGrazia and myself, “Twitter publics: how online political communities signaled electoral outcomes in the 2010 US house election” argues that the tweet-votes correlation is strongest when people compose syntactically simple messages. In other words, the people online who use social media in a very quotidian way are a sort of “issue public,” to use a political science term. They tend to follow politics and the talk correlates with the voting, especially if it is simple talk. We call this online audience for politics a “twitter public.” Thus, one goals of sociological research on social media is to assess when online “publics” act as a barometer or leading indicator of collective behavior.
My friend Colin Jerolmack and scatterista Shamus Khan have a new article in Sociological Methods and Research that criticizes the way many social scientists use interview data. From “Talk is Cheap:”
This article examines the methodological implications of the fact that what people say is often a poor predictor of what they do. We argue that many interview and survey researchers routinely conflate self reports with behavior and assume a consistency between attitudes and action. We call this erroneous inference of situated behavior from verbal accounts the attitudinal fallacy. Though interviewing and ethnography are often lumped together as ‘‘qualitative methods,’’ by juxtaposing studies of ‘‘culture in action’’ based on verbal accounts with ethnographic investigations, we show that the latter routinely attempts to explain the ‘‘attitude–behavior problem’’ while the former regularly ignores it. Because
meaning and action are collectively negotiated and context-dependent, we contend that self-reports of attitudes and behaviors are of limited value in explaining what people actually do because they are overly individualistic and abstracted from lived experience.
Overall, I find much to like in the article, but I wouldn’t get carried away. First, interviews and surveys vary in the degree of bias. I probably trust a question about educational history more than I do, say, racial attitudes. On a related point, you can also assess the quality of questions. Political scientists have definitely found biases in survey questions and that tells you how good a question is. Second, in some cases, you don’t have any choice but to work with interviews and surveys. For example, interviews are crucial for historical work. So when I do interview research, I use with caution.
March 16 is Open Borders Day, the day where we draw attention to the right to peacefully move across national borders. The Open Borders position is that borders are unethical and have harsh consequences. March 16 was chosen because the Open Borders web site opened for business on that day two years ago. If you are interested in Open Borders Day, you might want to participate in the following way:
- Tweet about Open Borders. #OpenBordersDay is our hashtag.
- Write a blog post.
- Use the image above as your banner image on Facebook.
If you participate in some other way, please email me and I’ll link to it.
I’ll wrap up this post by talking a little bit about why Open Borders is such an important issue. First, it is massive. We could easily and quickly lift millions of people out of poverty with the simple policy of not stopping people from migrating. Second, this is a policy that is consistent with most political beliefs. Hate inequality? Open the borders. Hate racism? Open the borders. Want to help abused women? Open the borders. Like free labor markets? Open the borders. Want to encourage families to stay together? Open the borders. Liberals, conservatives, and libertarians should all stand united for freedom of movement. Open borders!
My colleague Johan Bollen was featured in Nature because of his proposal for a new funding model for science:
What got you thinking about funding models?
A lot of people are unhappy with the current system. When you submit a proposal, you are like a contractor, but science does not work like that — it works best by generating ideas and gifting them to society and other scientists.
How did your idea take shape?
Some friends and colleagues had a Christmas party in 2012, and as soon as alcohol started to flow, so did commiseration. Guests talked about reviewer comments on proposals, marvelling that one person can have that much power. The disgruntlement is a by-product of how the review system works. I started by saying, “Why not just take all that money and distribute it evenly?”. The goal was to see if we could, with as little administration as possible, distribute funding so that researchers have the freedom to explore the topics that they think matter most.
Briefly, what is your plan for science funding?
All scientists would receive a base amount — for example, US$100,000, which roughly corresponds to the US National Science Foundation’s 2010 budget divided by the number of senior researchers funded that year. Each scientist would be required to distribute a predetermined percentage of their funding to the researchers whom they believed would make best use of the money.
Read the whole thing.