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.

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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An Open Letter from the New DGS

Greetings, PhD Class of 2019.  Welcome.   We are excited for your arrival on campus later this summer.  As you enjoy your summer, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write you with some advice for your next adventure.  My comments are just based on my personal experiences but I thought maybe they would be of use to you as you start your PhD.

My first set of comments all revolve around one basic point: this isn’t an extension of undergrad.  The early course work you do in preparation for your PhD should be thought of as something completely different from your past experiences.  Even though the campus might look like your undergrad institution, even though there might be a football team and drink specials on Thursday nights – your days as a high-achieving undergrad are over.  For some of you, you might be 10 or 20 years post-undergrad. You might have multiple master’s degrees and real-world experience.  For others, you might have graduated just this summer.  For everyone, however, graduate school – at this program – is just beginning.  There are going to be lots of differences from your past experiences.  Let me highlight a few:

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ISA – Midwest: Please consider submitting to this conference!

Please consider putting in a round-table, paper, or panel submission for the 2014 International Studies Association -Midwest Conference, to be held November 7th through the 9th at the Hilton-Ballpark in St. Louis.  The deadline for proposals is July 1st.

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What do we want? Labor Day! When do we want it? Soon!

I’m sure most of you have seen this nice Change.Org petition concerning the dates of the annual APSA meeting.  I really like all the reasons given for changing the date of the meeting and am glad we are having this discussion.

Any thoughts, Duck readers?  Is it worth changing the dates of the meeting?  If so, when would you recommend?

An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Negotiation

Sorry, faithful Duck readers, for the radio silence – I’ve been traveling for much of the last month and then – ugh – just started teaching a daily undergrad class.  I promise – real blog posts are coming!  In the meantime, I wanted to fill you in on some information I’ve been digesting in the last month.  The information should be enough for all of us to “rant” about.

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Dear Kansas Board of Regents, Part Deux

Dear Kansas Board of Regents,

Greetings.  I don’t know if you received my first open-letter to you in December.  My parents have pretty slow Internet in central Kansas so maybe the page is still loading.  Hopefully, you’ll read the letter once you get it.

In December, I wrote about your proposed social media policy and how it really would scare me if I was still faculty at Kansas State University or any of your other Kansas institutions.  Of course, I know not to post things that would go against existing federal laws (FERPA) and know not to incite violence in my social media posts.  However, like most young academics, I use Twitter and Facebook, mainly just as ways to promote the research which universities hire me to do.[1]  When I wrote you in December, what really bothered me was the little bit of your policy about not putting anything on social media that was “contrary to the best interests of the employer.”  Sadly, I learned today that this little gem was left in the revised policy, just surrounded by flowery but utterly meaningless words about your support of “academic freedom.”

This is a scary policy in a very scary time.  Just yesterday, a tenured professor at the University of Saskatchewan was “fired, stripped of his tenure, had his retirement benefits revoked and was escorted off campus by security” for a letter he had sent criticizing his university (Alamenciak May 14, 2014).  Regardless of your cheery faces during the Regents meeting, my former colleagues should be scared. Proposed restrictions on the free speech rights of academics seem to be coming from all sides.

In my opinion, Kansas has a real problem attracting and keeping top academics.  As Kirk McClure of KU’s Department of Urban Planning recently was quoted, this policy will hurt your universities even more:

“The social media policy makes it even harder to sell KU to top faculty candidates. A new faculty member can be disciplined, even terminated for a tweet” (quote in Rothschild, May 6, 2014). 

I’m hoping – really hoping – that my former students at Kansas State University listened hard when we discussed nonviolent dissent and advocacy in the courses I taught for you.  I’m hoping my former colleagues, mentors, and friends continue their fight. I’m hoping all of them are far less disillusioned with Kansas than I am and are willing to stay in your state.[2]  I’m hoping they give you hell.  And, I’m hoping they tweet about it every step of the way.


Dr. Amanda Hilley Murdie

Kansas State University ’03 BS and ‘05 MA

Kansas State University Assistant Professor, 2009-2012


[1] That and, of course, to post pictures of my kids and various cute animal pictures.  Is that ok?  Having a life outside of academia could go against the best interest of my employer.

[2] Although, given the recent downgrade by Moody, I’m not sure where any of my former students will work in your state.

An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Personal Information and Office Hours

It’s that time of year again: the magical time when my 10 page undergraduate research proposal deadline is enough to cause a health scare among the geriatric population of mid-Missouri.  As the semester comes to a close, my office is typically filled with both undergrads and grads coming to tell me a plethora of problems and stories.  Many times, these problems preface a request for an extension of some sort.  Can I please have an extra week? An extra day? An extra 20 minutes?

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National Day of Prayer, Political Science Edition 2014

It’s almost that time again: National Day of Prayer is tomorrow.  It’s a day for us to come together and pray for those who need praying for.[1]  Like last year, I have some political science related prayer requests:

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Call for Proposals: ISA Midwest 2014

Dear all,

I’m currently the program chair for ISA Midwest 2014.  The conference will take place from November 7th to 9th at the Hilton Ballpark in St. Louis.  This is a fabulous conference – one I’d really recommend for all scholars but one that is especially inviting for junior scholars.  Here is the call for proposals:

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