Amanda Murdie is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, with an appointment at the Truman School of Public Affairs, at the University of Missouri. She is the author of Help or Harm: The Human Security Effects of International NGOs (Stanford, 2014). Her main research interests include non-state actors, and human rights and security. In her spare time, she enjoys pretending to be a pioneer woman/doomsday prepper on her little farm with her goats and chickens. When asked why she blogs, Amanda indicated that it is nice way to start her word count for the day and get ideas out quickly to a larger audience.

Excluding Women from the Band of Brothers: the False Flag of Small Unit Cohesion

The following is a guest post by Kirstin J.H. Brathwaite, Postdoctoral Fellow at James Madison College, Michigan State University.

The graduation of two women from Army Ranger school last month along with the apparent intention of the Marine Corps to request an exemption to the Department of Defense’s plan to lift the combat exclusion policy has led to an outpouring of opinion pieces regarding the advisability of allowing women to participate in combat operations. Some argue that Capt. Greist and Lt. Haver’s success in one of the most demanding military training courses in the world proves that women are physically able to do the job. Others suggest that a few exceptions should not overthrow the rule. But a large number of those arguing against the inclusion of women in combat units accept that while some women may be physically capable of combat, their sex is a disruption to the most sacred of military institutions – the socially cohesive Band of Brothers.

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Gearing Up for the Academic Job Market: Getting Your Packet Together

It’s the last weekend in August, which means at least 1 of 2 things are happening:

  1. APSA drinking
  2. ABDs hurriedly working on their job market materials.

Since (a) is still a week away, I thought I’d take a second to offer some unsolicited advice on (b): job market materials. By job market materials, I’m referring to the CV, cover letter, writing sample, teaching portfolio, research statement, transcripts, and letters of recommendation that will make up the totality of what any academic hiring committee will know about you and your work.  It’s basically your academic life, condensed into something that can be sent easily in the mail or (increasily) uploaded to an HR website or sent over email.  It’s worth taking a lot of time to prepare these materials and to think about these materials as strategically important signals in the job seeking process.

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New Evidence on Gender Bias in IR Syllabi

The following is a guest post by Jeff Colgan, Richard Holbrooke Assistant Professor at Brown University, and is @JeffDColgan on Twitter.

It’s that time of year again, when professors are designing syllabi as fast as they can with deliberation and care. Recently I analyzed IR syllabi for PhD students. The data suggest a gender bias that instructors could easily correct.

The case that gender diversity is good for IR and political science has been made elsewhere, repeatedly and persuasively. According to APSA, women are 42 percent of graduate students in political science (in the US), but only 24 percent of full-time professors. If we assume that part of what it means to encourage female students to pursue academia in IR involves showing them examples of great research by women, early and often, then we ought to pay attention to our syllabi.

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Google Scholar Metrics and Scholarly Productivity in International Relations

The following is a guest post by Cullen Hendrix of the University of Denver.  

If you’ve read or seen Moneyball, the following anecdote will be familiar to you: Baseball is a complex sport requiring a diverse, often hard-to-quantify[1] skillset. Before the 2000s, baseball talent scouts relied heavily on a variety of heuristics marked by varying degrees of sanity: whether the player had a toned physique, whether the player had an attractive girlfriend, and whether or not the player seemed arrogant (this was seen as a good thing). Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics changed things with a radical concept: instead of relying completely on hoary seers and their tea-leaf reading, you might look at the data on their actual productivity and form assessments that way. This thinking was revolutionary little more than a decade ago; now it’s the way every baseball team does business.

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Gearing Yourself Up For the Academic Job Market: Before You Go on the Market

In our last installment, I indicated that this edition of Gearing Yourself Up would include a discussion of how to put together your job market packet.  I think I jumped-the-gun a bit, however.  Before putting together your packet, before trying to log on to APSA and navigate eJobs, before telling your family/friends that you are looking for jobs in academia[1], you need to do one crucial thing:

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Confidence and Gender in International Relations

The following is a guest post by Rachel Merriman-Goldring, Susan Nelson, Hannah S. Petrie at William and Mary’s Institute for the Theory & Practice of International Relations.

For decades, survey research has suggested that women lack confidence in their answers, responding ‘don’t know’ or ‘maybe’ at significantly higher rates than their male counterparts. Initially, this trend on political surveys was attributed to topic-specific political knowledge gaps between men and women.


However, recent research, including a study on the confidence gap between male and female economists, suggests that, while background knowledge matters, other structural factors, including gender-differentiated socialization, may contribute to women’s tendency to select ‘don’t know.’

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Gearing Yourself Up For the Academic Job Market: Waiting

It’s getting to be that time of year again – the time when a fresh not-so-fresh crop of ABDs/PhDs gear-up for the academic job market.  I’ve been there – it can make even the most self-assured academic have an existential crisis.[1]

As much as I hated being on the job market myself, I absolutely love looking up and providing job market advice for students at Mizzou. I think I received especially good advice when I was a grad student and I think the advice I received has been causally related to my present situation (which I love).  I’d like to “pay it forward.” On my first day as DGS, I wrote a 5,000 word memo on the job market process to all our grad students.[3] A lot of the advice I give is similar to what I received when I was a grad student.  As the season approaches, I thought I’d share some of it with you.

For this post, I thought I’d bring attention to what most of the job market consists of  for most people:

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Organizing Collaborative Research Projects: Where Do I Begin?

The following is a guest post by Andrew Yeo at Catholic University of America.

Collaborating with friends, colleagues, and other scholars is a great motivator for research. But if you’re at a small research university with limited institutional resources, the hurdles to do collaborative research beyond co-authoring is higher. Small departments, limited budgets, the absence of relevant research centers/programs, and few ongoing sponsored research activities ultimately makes it harder for junior scholars to learn how to organize larger collaborative research projects.  If this sounds like your dilemma, read on!

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Submit your proposal – ISA-Midwest 2015!

After you have seen the fall foliage at ISS-ISAC, why not see beautiful St. Louis, MO in November?  ISA-Midwest – my FAVORITE conference – is November 19th – 22nd.  Deadline for submissions is July 1st.  This is a great conference for those interested in foreign policy or human rights themes.  It’s also a very inviting conference for junior scholars with lots of professional development opportunities.  Hope to see you there – I’ll join you for a drink at the amazing Three Sixty Bar.


Much Ado About Nothing (Very Intellectually or Politically Important)?

The following is a guest post by Jeffrey C. Isaac, the James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington.  


What constitutes important political science research? This question has been much discussed lately in connection with “When Contact Changes Minds: An Experiment on Transmission of Support for Gay Equality,” an article by Michael J. LaCour and Donald P. Green published in Science magazine.

The reason for the attention is straightforward: because the piece was apparently based on fraudulent data, the article has become a veritable scandal. In the face of strong evidence that the article’s lead author had engaged in repeated and willful misrepresentations, co-author Donald Green, a distinguished senior scholar, issued a retraction and dissociated himself from the piece, and Science magazine itself later followed with a retraction of its own.

Fraud is almost always a serious ethical infraction and in some cases it constitutes a crime. In social science, and in the scholarly disciplines more generally, fraud, plagiarism, and other forms of deliberate misrepresentation are particularly egregious.

Commentary on the scandal has centered on three questions: (1) how could LaCour behave in such an unprofessional manner, get away with it, persuade a senior scholar to sign on to tainted research, and have the work published in a top peer-reviewed scientific journal, without being exposed until after publication? (2) what kinds of collaborative research processes are involved in situations like this, involving scholars on opposite sides of a continent who are not well acquainted with one another, how common are such practices, and how common should they be? (3) what does this episode say about political science as a serious science that possesses the resources to critically evaluate and judge scientific contributions, to expose error much less fraud, and to credibly distinguish valid from invalid, and important from unimportant, knowledge claims?

Each of these questions is important. But I would like here to press a fourth: what is political science, such that its practitioners might believe themselves to have something interesting to say about politics?

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The Freedom to Speak Up As Academics: The Right to Make An “Ass” of Myself Personally

On Thursday, I became part of a growing group of academics that has had a letter like this written about them:

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Skype Academic Interviews – What (Not) to Do

Hi all!  File this post under “unsolicited advice from a newbie DGS.”  Here are my tips on how to not crash-and-burn on a Skype interview:

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Working in 25 Minute Stretches

Greetings, Ducks!  Thanks to Josh for such a wonderful facelift of the Duck website! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in New Orleans next week.

This is been a very service-intensive year for me – first year post tenure – and I’m still trying to figure out how to manage my time.  Unlike common “wisdom,” my colleagues and I in academia work an incredible amount of hours.  And, yet, we never actually feel caught up.

In an effort to work smarter, I’ve been looking into different time management techniques and tips.  Most of the tips you can find in the literature or from self-help gurus seem to be things I think a lot of academics are doing anyway: prioritize your day, limit distractions, set a word count goal, beware of perfection-seeking (“the only good dissertation is a done dissertation”).  Unfortunately, these techniques were not good enough for me this semester – I was still feeling like I was drowning, either in (a) mom guilt or (b) work guilt, at all times.

Thanks to my friend and co-author, Susanna Campbell at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding, I’ve recently become aware of the Pomodoro Technique.  I’ve been using this technique this semester and it’s been a life-saver.  Here’s the scoop:

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Science of Santa

The following is a guest post by Tenacity Murdie, age 12.  

Dear Readers,

Every year on Christmas Eve, Santa, a fat and happy man, takes off in a sleigh full of presents to go deliver gifts to the good boys and girls. We spend millions of dollars in preparation for Santa, but is this reasonable, or are we just throwing our money down the drain? Although many think that it is possible for Santa to travel the world in less than 31 hours (not 24 since we have time zones)[2] and successfully deliver presents to millions of children without violating any laws of physics, it’s just not possible. If Santa were to do this, he would be breaking multiple laws of physics. Some examples are: there are no known reindeer species that can fly, the actual Santa (St. Nick) is long dead, and, most importantly, there is not enough time for Santa to get to all the houses in one day. Let me explain.

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The Perils of a M/W/F Class

Greetings, fellow Duck readers.  I realize I’ve been MIA this semester – DGS duties and ISA-Midwest stuff took too much of my non-research time.  Another factor in my absence, however: a Monday Wednesday Friday schedule. And, it sucked.[1]  Like large-tornado-near-my-hometown sucked.  Today marks the last Friday class of the semester – thank god.[2]  Even though I should be getting back to research this morning, I wanted to write a little bit about why I think 50 minute/3 day a week classes should be banned in our discipline.

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A Strategy of Appeasement: Winning the Revise and Resubmit

You hear the “ping” of an incoming email and quickly check the subject – oh, crap, it’s from a journal![1]  This could make or break your day.  You open the  email and quickly scan for the word “reject.”  Wait? What!? No “reject”?  No “Unfortunately, their assessments do not provide us with sufficient support to continue the review process”?  Does this mean what you think it means?  You now read the letter closely, your pulse starting to rise.  It is!  A revise and resubmit!

I remember when I started sending things out for review – I didn’t actually realize that the goal of a first round submission was not an “accept” but a “revise and resubmit” – an “R&R” in professor-speak.  Acceptances on the first round are extremely rare.  An R&R is the decision you should be hoping for; it’s the first step – and the hardest step – in the process to a peer-reviewed publication in our discipline.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a step we talk about much or actively advise graduate students on.  I’ve been shocked to find out that some of my students have resubmitted things without their advisor’s input at all.  An R&R is not just an intermittent stop on the road to a publication.  It’s a crucial junction: a misstep can cost you years of further anguish at getting the manuscript published.

After dealing with almost 30 R&Rs[2], I think there is a method or a strategy that works for revise and resubmits: appeasement.  The goal of the R&R stage is to make at least two reviewers 100% convinced that the manuscript is worthy of publication while not angering the other reviewer(s).  I know this advice is unsolicited – however, I thought I’d share 5 tips to ease in converting R&Rs into acceptances.

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The First Year on the Tenure-Track: Wanting to Give the White Whale Back

As a grad student, I used to the think longingly about the day when I would finally hold a tenure-track job.  I could almost taste the thrill of the teaching and the joy of faculty resources.  You mean, someone will pay for my copy of [insert software you’d like to use legally]?  And, textbooks will be free? I also fantasized about how wonderful it would be to not be under the thumb of my advisors.  Of course, I thought I could live like a queen on a faculty salary, too.  The tenure-track position was my white whale.

Three months into the job, however, I wanted to give my white whale back.  Everything in my life seemed like a mess – my relationship with my SO was rocky, I hated teaching, I just knew I would never get anything published, and I felt like I had no time for anything fun, ever.  I’ve talked to other first year professors over the years and I think this is a common position to be in during the first year on the tenure-track.  And, like all the other loads of unsolicited advice I’ve doled out on the Duck, I thought that I’d spread the word about the “first-year” blues.  Although everyone – EVERYONE! –  I’ve ever met is so thankful for the tenure-track position, a lot of us feel the learning curve is pretty steep.  Perhaps if I had had realistic expectations about what to expect that first year, I would have been better able to deal with all of the changes that come that first year.

There are some strategies I’ve heard for improving your transition from grad student to professor.  Here are a few of them.  Michael Flynn, a current first-year professor at Kansas State University was extremely helpful in providing me comments on this post.  His suggestions are also included below.  Hopefully, others can leave their advice in the comments section.

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Human Rights Research and Researchers in IR: Are We REALLY that Odd?

Before APSA last week, I had the privilege of attending a small conference put on the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) Project at William and Mary.  The conference was a chance for researchers in different research areas to write about the policy-relevance of their issue area and compare research and researchers in their area to the larger IR community.  It relates to the discussion going on the last couple of weeks on ISQ’s blog.  All of the participants had the opportunity to use the TRIP project data on journal articles in top-IR journals and survey data from IR researchers around the world.  I learned lot about how interactions with the policy/practitioner community differ across issue areas.

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The Academic Arrogant Self-Important Snooty Quiz

As I was traveling back from APSA on Sunday, I completed all of the journal reviews that I had on my desk, ran some regressions for new projects, and then completed all the revisions my coauthors are requesting from me currently.[1]  With the remaining few hours I had on the flight, I noticed a Cosmo magazine[2] in the seat-pocket next to me and quickly went to work finding out what kind of female I am and how much I really know about Beyonce.  The quizzes got me thinking: we don’t have a lot of personality quizzes for us as academics but – based on my participant observations at this past APSA – we really need some.

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Non-Academic Job Searches in DC – What to Know

Many graduate students are expanding their job searches outside the academy.  As an advisor, I’m horribly underprepared at offering job advice outside of the academic job market – besides work you can get off of Craigslist, I’ve never held a real job.  Recently, I had a student come to me with questions about finding a job in the DC policy world.  I asked my great friend (and former student) Kate Kidder for her thoughts, which she agreed to allow me to post at the Duck.

For academic jobs, I really like Michael Flynn‘s thoughts at The Quantitative Peace.

Kate’s Advice:

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