orgtheory.net

does asr, or any other very competitive journal, ever need to r&r ever again? probably not

with 3 comments

When I was a student editor of AJS, I took a little bit of pride in the fact that almost every manuscript went through a long and painful review process. My memory is that of the 300+ manuscripts we reviewed that year, only 1 (!) was accepted with minor revisions and the rest went into the long tunnel of revision. No pain, no gain, I thought back then.

Now that I’m older, I’d like to argue that this is a bit looney. My current view is that the most competitive journals probably don’t need to R&R any papers. They should hand out all accepts with minor or no revisions. Why? Here’s the argument.

The top social science journals now get 600+ papers per year, or even more. This includes our top general journals, like ASR or AJS, and many field journals. Let’s just say that in our model, every paper has a quality level called “Q.” Unless you are bonkers, you will believe that Q has a normal, or sort-of-normal, distribution.

If you are AJS or ASR, you are probably publishing about 40 papers per year. That is about 7% of 600 papers per year. Think about it. That is almost two standard deviations above the average of Q. Now, what would it mean that you have to a really high Q upon submission? Given that most authors are PhDs, papers are presented at conferences, and workshopped, you would expect most papers to have a lot of stuff going right for them. Also, since getting a hit in a top journal means getting tenure for a lot of people, then you’d expect that these papers have gotten a lot of love. So, then, to be at the top of the Q curve, you probably have a fairly clear argument, an interesting question, reasonable data and analysis, and a reasonable lit review. The only way you’d simultaneously believe that a paper has high Q and severe defects is if you have some weird model of paper quality where you put super high weight on some Q inputs and not on others.

So why on earth would these papers need to be massively revised? Is it the case that only 1 paper out of 300, or 600, is clearly written and well designed? Are professors so incompetent that their papers still need that much rewriting, after they’ve been rewritten a million times already? That strikes me as goofy. Maybe the paper with an average Q level needs massive rewrites to be ready for AJS, but why would one in the top 20 out of 600 need a complete make over?

One of the great lessons of Sociological Science (the journal) is that you can fill a good journal with papers that need very little revision. At that journal, you submit and they just give a “yes” or “no.”  Yet, without a system of massive R&R, they do just fine. This suggests to me that others journals can do the same.

I’ll conclude by addressing counter-arguments. First, you may say that some papers do deserve a shot, even if they need much revision. Fair enough, but my repost is empirical. Really, how many papers have an idea so golden that you would put author, reviewer, and editor through the painful revision process? Not many, I think. Best to save your R&R effort on a handful of papers each year. Second, you may say, aren’t papers improved through revision? Sure, but a. papers that are submitted have usually been presented at multiple workshops and conferences and b. peer review is a horrid place to help an author with really basic and structural features of a paper. So, editors, let’s really cut back on the R&R and accept more papers up front.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 17, 2019 at 1:01 am

Posted in uncategorized

new sociology rankings and it’s kind of interesting

with 6 comments

Shanghai Jiao Tong University runs an annual ranking of universities called the “Academic Ranking of World Universities.” They rank departments in the following way:

  • Articles in Web of Science
  • A normalized citation score/impact factor
  • International collaboration (i.e., people from different countries in author list)
  • Hits in their definition of “top journals”
  • Awards given to faculty

This all makes sense to me, except the international collaboration score. It’s interesting, but I am not sure why it should be counted toward an estimate of a program’s prestige or output. Maybe it is ARWU’s way to helping out non-Anglophone nations. We could kvetch about the exclusion of books, but ARWU does what it does. At least they are honest about it and I feel pretty good that an organization can scrape Web of Science, while chasing down books is hard to do.

Here is the sociology global top 25, based on their composite score. Sociology programs were not ranked in terms of awards.

soc Rank

Comments in no particular order:

  1. Your school probably got bumped down just due to numbers. Even if we stick just to the Anglophone world, the inclusion of Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Toronto, and others will likely push down your school a few notches.
  2. Bizarrely, IU (my employer) shows that no matter what rank you use – NRC, USNWR, or ARWU – it loves hovering in that 11-13 zone. I’ve seen it as low #18 in some survers, like NRC 2010.
  3. My alma mater: Chicago – rank 20! This may shock some folks, but it is not a surprise to disciplinary insiders. A lot of star faculty left in the late 1990s and 2000s and these people were running big projects or were younger people who would go on to do big things at other places. The young folks at Chicago are A+ but they haven’t quite reached the age where they are helming massive projects that generate avalanches of publications (a la Laumann circa 1995 or Bob Sampson 2004).
  4. Aside from Chicago, Princeton is the other weird one. It makes sense that Princeton would be top 20 in the world, but they are usually considered the top of the heap in the US. If you look at the individual scores, you see they do really badly in “PUB” but have insanely high impact – “CNCI.” Makes sense since they have multiple star faculty who write occasionally, rather than in a stream like a demographer.
  5. The nice thing about this ranking is that aside from including international collaboration, there seems to be little weird about it. The NRC 2010 ranking was a huge failure in that it produced some utterly weird and bizarre outputs, like making Delaware a top 20 program (no offense!). Simply by counting cites and pubs, you get something that actually makes sense to insiders and the inputs have an internal logic.
  6. Finally, it is interesting to see that even with international collaboration, top non-US schools are Anglophone, except Amsterdam. It is a really interesting question why sociology has become so concentrated in Anglophone nations, while other fields have prominent non-Anglo schools. For example, in math, the top 25 includes Paris, Kyoto and the Hebrew University.

Add your comments!

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Written by fabiorojas

July 15, 2019 at 12:09 am

Posted in uncategorized

brother, can you take me to grooveland?

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Written by fabiorojas

July 14, 2019 at 12:14 am

Posted in uncategorized

#metoo, aziz ansari and justice

with 6 comments

Comedian and television star Aziz Ansari has a new Netflix special. This is notable because he was accused of sexual misconduct. Now, about a year later, he is on a “come back” and appears on the world’s leading television streaming platform. Ansari’s return, and the return of others accused of misconduct like Louis C.K., raises a hard question that has no easy answer. When is the accused allowed to continue on with their public life? The answer is very important because it helps one understand how #metoo relates to justice.

First, you have to recognize that #metoo is a form of justice in the sense that people who have been harmed are seeking an acknowledgment of harm and, in many cases, they want others to sanction the accused. Thus it is similar to criminal justice, where we want the state to administer punishments, or civil justice, which is when we seek compensation from the accused.

This first point is fairly intuitive, but the second point is not: #metoo does not have a agreed upon notion of procedural justice. Of course, if some misconduct is extreme, such as in Bill Cosby’s or Harvey Weinstein’s case, prosecutors can bring up criminal charges. But what about a case like Ansari? The accusation was made by an anonymous person and even some feminist writers have written that the behavior described was bad and harmful yet “normal” within the context of current American culture (see here for a news write up that discusses Jessica Valenti’s response).

This is why the distinction is important. If a behavior is judged within the criminal or civil justice systems, then you have some sense of when things are “over.” There is a set of procedures, good and bad, for processing the claim. Once the process is concluded and if the claim is upheld, more procedures kick in to set the parameters of punishment. People do the time, the result is public, and people in the future can decide if they want to interact with that person.

In contrast, consider a case like Ansari’s. The case was made in public but no claim for restitution was made. Both agreed that the event happened but differ on its character. Like many people, I have a presumption in favor of the accuser. At the same time, it is not clear what justice demands. In civil and criminal cases, we have many procedures and rules that try to balance the rights of plaintiffs and defendants. What would be the right procedure in the Ansari case? If you believed the accuser, how much restitution would be appropriate? How should the public respond? Should Ansari be permanently banned from performance? For one year? Forever?

At this point, you might think that I would throw up my hands and say the situation is hopeless. I don’t think that is warranted. Instead, we should realize that we are in a middle of a massive, society level transformation of gender relations and that will require a lot of experimentation. It is no longer the case that women could be harassed and little could be done. Because of that, we need to develop good practices, formal and informal, for adjudicating misconduct claims in a world with a lot more gender parity. This is similar to how criminal procedure began to develop hundreds of years ago as Western societies tried to improve and rationalize criminal justice.

I’ll finish by focusing on one aspect of #metoo and justice that I think often gets overlooked – restorative justice for victims. The sorts of sanctions that we are talking about are punitive – they try to hurt the predator. However, justice might also be accomplished by trying to make the victim whole again. We see little discussion of how that might happen.

For example, professor Roland Fryer was recently punished by his university, Harvard, by a two year suspension without pay and the shut down of his lab.  That definitely hurts Fryer but how does that bring back the career of students he may have harassed out of the academic profession? Even a cash settlement may not be proper restitution for a lost career. Thus, I think the next step is both procedural and conceptual. Not only do we need better norms for responding to claims of harm, but we should also expand our view of what happens post-claim: predators need to be deterred and sanctioned, but we should also think about mechanisms for promoting restorative justice.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 12, 2019 at 12:48 am

Posted in uncategorized

when austrian economists attack

with 6 comments

A few years ago, the late Sherlock Hibbs gave $5M to his alma mater, the University of Missouri. The intent was for Mizzou to hire six (!) professors and each needed to be a “dedicated and articulate disciple” of Ludwig von Mises. The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that the university got sued by Hillsdale College over this donation. Why? Hillsdale College claims that the terms of the donation were not met and the terms of the donation require that the gift, now valued at $9M would go to Hillsdale if the University of Missouri could not fulfill its terms.

Comment #1: This is a fascinating way to create some enforcement within the non-profit sector. It’s not full proof but in relatively simple donations, third parties would be willing to litigate if the reward was big enough and the enforcer could be written into the contract. Hillsdale is ideologically conservative and a small school so they would have both principled and financial reasons for trying to enforce the original terms.

Comment #2: The Columbia Daily Tribune lists four professors hired on this gift. So right there, you have an issue – they didn’t hire six. But most donors, or their estates, would probably be flexible if good faith efforts were made to complete the grant. And this leads to the heart of the issue. If you look at the CV’s of the professors who were hired, you will see some really excellent articles in top management journals – but zero (!) that mention Mises, Hayek, Austrian economics, or any of the topics favored by Austrians (e.g., socialist calculation, spontaneous order theory, non-equilibrium economics, etc.) Nor do you see many (any?) conference papers, working papers, or talks that might indicate that the professor was indeed an “articulate” follower of Mises. Mizzou’s spokesperson did say that the faculty supported by the gift had all signed a statement claiming that they were totally into Mises.

Comment #3: Why? One answer is simple financial. Maybe Mizzou’s business school simply couldn’t turn down the money and didn’t care about consequences. But I think a deeper issue may be at stake here: the ideological tilt of academia, even in business schools. If a business school would not care to hire free market advocates, or not be able to find them, it says something that is worth thinking about.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 10, 2019 at 12:15 am

Posted in uncategorized

electric vehicle ownership thoughts

with one comment

About two months ago, my hybrid vehicle – a classic green Prius – died. It turns out that some Priuses (Prii?) can accumulate sediment on the pistons, which can lead to engine failure. We weren’t quite there, but the mechanic made it clear that our old Prius was not long for this world. So we traded it in and got a Nissan Leaf.

I am slightly skeptical about electric vehicles. I believe that they will one day happen and be dominant, but I wasn’t going to be the first to buy one. Over the years, my skepticism was justified. They were quite expensive relative to similar cars and they had limited range. Some brands, like Tesla, also have very expensive repairs and, thus, higher insurance rates. Honestly, not a great deal, especially for someone who places low value on cars.

But that is now changing. Electric cars now have really good mileage and their prices are competitive. So it was a good time to make the switch. These are my thoughts so far:

  • Context matters: I live in a rural area so I need a car for lots of short rides but also one that can drive to the big city. Thus the electric car was not going to be my only car, as it still isn’t great for long hauls. Why? If you have a super long trip, you might not find a charger close by, or you may need to spend a bit of time on charging. But for an “in town” car, the electric vehicle is a no brainer. If your battery carries 100+ miles, you will not use it up going to work or the grocery store. If you travel long distance all the time, I’d stick with a combustion engine.
  • I do not miss gas stations: I was surprised at how quickly I forgot about gas stations. You won’t miss the smell. You’ll like saving the money. If you think oil companies are a blot on the world, this is your car.
  • The silence: Unexpected. An electric car makes almost no noise. I could hear my thoughts and I loved being able to hear my music again. A real delight.
  • Charging: If this the car you use in town, then charging is an after thought. You plug it in and just let it charge while you sleep. You will likely need to install a higher voltage outlet, but I suspect these will come standard in homes anyway.
  • Charging on the road: This is why I still have a combustion car. If you are on a long drive, you may or may not have access to a good charger. Why? Some charging stations may be broken. Or they may not have the charger that fits your car. About ten years from now, this will not be an issue but it is an issue today.
  • No fumes and other things: The car emits nothing, which means you can close the garage door while your favorite songs finishes on the radio. The car is also turned on by pushing buttons, which is so much nicer that turning the transmission on.

We won’t be in an EV world for a while, but if you need a car for lots of short range driving, or even medium range driving, this is it.

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Written by fabiorojas

July 8, 2019 at 2:22 am

Posted in uncategorized

max richter, on the nature of daylight

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Written by fabiorojas

July 7, 2019 at 12:21 am

Posted in uncategorized