Category: Academia (page 2 of 9)

For Will: Some Reflections on Sorrow

The following is a guest post by Jana von Stein, Senior Lecturer of Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington.  

Will Moore’s suicide carries with it a special sorrow that I can’t yet even wrap my head (or heart) around. I met Will when I was on the job market in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2008 that we became close. My comradery with him did not revolve chiefly around academics, although he was a tremendous mentor to me. Instead, it revolved around tragedy.

“Somewhere, my son’s brain is in a jar in a medical researcher’s office,” Will bellowed to a group of us at the 2008 Peace Science conference.

What a strange thing to announce in public, I thought. I needed to know more. I shared with him that I was 5 months pregnant, and that the baby had been diagnosed with very complex heart defects. The neonatologists were optimistic, and I wanted to believe them, but I knew it was possible that my firstborn, like his, would die far too young.

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Researcher Trauma and Our Discipline

The following is a guest post by Cyanne Loyle, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Indiana University. 

With the devastating passing of Will Moore, many of us in Conflict Studies have begun to discuss the impact of our work on our mental health. Talking is important. So is seeking help when needed. But there is more that we can be and should be doing.

In January, I wrote a piece on research-related trauma and conflict studies.  Will helped with this article.  He thought it was high time that the field and the discipline had a serious discussion of mental illness. In this article, Alicia Simoni and I talk about the risks of research, how to identity trauma in our friends and ourselves, and best practices for our field.

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Will Moore: A Student’s Perspective

This is a guest post by Joseph K. Young, Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs and School of International Service, American University.

The one piece of advice that my dad, an academic, gave me when I was applying to PhD programs was simple: choose based on who you will work with. With this in mind, I screened potential advisors like I was a TSA agent. I interviewed them. I asked them about their future plans, how old their kids were (thinking anyone with teenagers wouldn’t move while I was still working on my PhD), how they trained their students, and most importantly where their students got jobs. I read an article of Will’s when I was an undergrad, Repression and Dissent: Substitution, Context and Timing. This was the kind of work I wanted to do. These were the questions I wanted to ask: Why does repression work in some cases but not others? Why does repression sometimes lead to dissent and sometimes quiescence. And these were the tools I wanted to employ: rigorous empirical strategies using fine-grained data. I emailed to set up a time to meet with him. He replied within a few minutes. We then had several phone conversations, followed by a trip to Tallahassee to meet in person. Will passed all of my screening. Continue reading

Will Moore: A Fierce Friend

Will Moore decided to punch out, as he put it.  He left behind devastated friends, co-authors and students as well as family. I have been trying to put into words how I feel today.

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Let’s talk about mental health

There have been some high profile deaths in the profession among younger scholars, not just in IR but also comparative/American politics. Two notable examples of late include Will Moore and Mark Sawyer. I did not know either of them personally but through friends and social media, I was aware of them in life and death.

Moore’s death struck many in the IR community especially hard, as he was known to be a dedicated mentor to others, particularly junior scholars, in ways that go above and beyond just befriending and reading someone’s work. His loss has shaken many of them profoundly, and I think many of us on social media feel the loss in ways that are deeper than we care to realize. Continue reading

An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Service Discrepancies

There’s a new article today on Inside Higher Ed that talks about recent research in the journal Research in Higher Education on discrepancies in faculty service loads.  Not surprisingly, the article finds that “women faculty perform significantly more service than men.” I think this is known; it’s why a lot of women are counseled to just say “no” whenever possible.  As the article states, women are just more likely to “take care of the academic family.”  Groan.

What is, perhaps, somewhat surprising are the differences in the types of service that women and men perform.  Women are more likely to perform internal service (“participation on campus-wide committees, faculty councils, task forces, projects, etc.”) than men but there is not a similar gendered discrepancy when it comes to service work that relates to professional organizations (ie service on journal boards, program chairs, committees related to professional associations like APSA or ISA, etc) or service at the international level.

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The Trump Syllabus: Duck Input Needed!

Even though ISA provided some much-needed group therapy, in the end we still need to grapple with and teach about #45. I was inspired by some ideas in syllabi 1, 2, and 3, but I also needed some background information and topics that are geared towards a non-American audience. On top of it, I left the theme of one session open for the students to decide on.

So below is roughly what my students are  in for at the University of Bremen.  Any ideas how to improve it?

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Perhaps Our Incentives Are Not as Perverse as Believed: Are Citation Counts the Devil?

I have regularly seen stuff online or in academic publications complaining about professionalization and what it has meant for Political Science.  The basic idea is that things were great before people became focused on stuff like citation counts, which has led to all kinds of perverse incentives.  The main complaint, it seems, is that scholars will try to game citations and this will force them into bad habits and away from good work, like thinking big thoughts (grand theory).

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Friday Nerd Blogging Tribute to An Old Duck-ster

Robert Kelly used to blog here before he made the big-time on the BBC, so here’s a salute via Friday nerd-blogging.

 

 

Revisiting Trump’s Challenges to Doctoral Students: A Round of Trump Bingo

This is a guest post from Ariya Hagh, Andrew Szarejko, and Laila Wahedi. All three authors are doctoral students in Georgetown University’s Department of Government. Author order is alphabetical by last name.

In a December 2016 post here at the Duck of Minerva, we considered how a Trump presidency might affect doctoral students within our discipline. We necessarily relied upon statements that Donald Trump and his advisors made before the inauguration. Now that we are more than a month into the presidency, it is worth revisiting our claims to see what we got right and what we missed, while addressing what you can do about it.

We argued that a Trump administration would likely yield reduced access to government data, less federal funding, a tougher job market, obstacles to activism and teaching, and greater insecurity for international students. Unfortunately, many of these predictions are already coming true. To keep track of what has and hasn’t happened, you can use the handy bingo card attached here. When you win, everyone loses. Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Contingency (Part 2)

In my previous post, I started a discussion about full-time contingent faculty in the profession. Given that contingent faculty work is very much gendered, I wanted to continue that discussion today with a focus on how the discipline at large can better serve the growing ranks of faculty working off the tenure track.

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Girl Power

Women in academia do not enjoy an easy ride. Even though “manel” count at this year’s ISA was much lower, there is still work to be done. Not to mention the recent scandal about the epidemic levels of  sexual harassment at the UK universities. But let’s rejoice at the thought that a mere hundred years ago things were much worse. My university campus in Bremen has a Lise-Meitner-Strasse and the International Women’s Day is a good opportunity to share her story. In short,  Hidden Figures needs to have a German prequel.

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Ethical Robots on the Battlefield?

Every day it seems we hear more about the advancements of artificial intelligence (AI), the amazing progress in robotics, and the need for greater technological improvements in defense to “offset” potential adversaries.   When all three of these arguments get put together, there appears to be some sort of magic alchemy that results in widely fallacious, and I would say pernicious, claims about the future of war.  Much of this has to do, ultimately, with a misunderstanding about the limitations of technology as well as an underestimation of human capacities.   The prompt for this round of techno-optimism debunking is yet another specious claim about how robotic soldiers will be “more ethical” and thus “not commit rape […] on the battlefield.”

There are actually three lines of thought here that need unpacking.   The first involves the capabilities of AI with relation to “judgment.”  As our above philosopher contends, “I don’t think it would take that much for robot soldiers to be more ethical.  They can make judgements more quickly, they’re not fearful like human beings and fear often leads people making less than optional decisions, morally speaking [sic].”  This sentiment about speed and human emotion (or lack thereof) has underpinned much of the debate about autonomous weapons for the last decade (if not more).  Dr. Hemmingsen’s views are not original.  However, such views are not grounded in reality.

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Public Service: Part VI of VI in a Series

This is the final post in my series on bridging the policy-academic divide.In my first post, I laid out some principles for academic-policy engagement. In the second, I talked about short-form writing, and in the third, Iong-form writing. In the fourth, I discussed policy-relevant courses and speakers’ series. In my fifth, I wrote about grants and consulting. 

A final step that may be attractive is actual policy service, if only for a short stint. While proximity to decision-making does not necessarily equate to influence, many of us might like to be in the room where some decisions are made, if only for a while.

Here, this can be a stint in the U.S. government like those sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship (IAF) for younger scholars and their new fellowship for tenured scholars (TIRS). The APSA Congressional fellowship is another. You might also find other ways to serve by working for another government, an intergovernmental organization, or an NGO. For example, Hans Rosling, the famous Swedish health expert who pioneered data analytics on development, spent some time advising the Liberian government in the midst of the Ebola crisis.

You may also be in a position volunteer for a political campaign. And, there is, for as long as we have functioning democracies, the option of running for office. Many of the people who are serving are not better informed, more conscientious, or hard-working. I would urge readers, especially women, to consider running for office, because we are going to need talented people in power to defend democracy and stand up for pluralism, tolerance, and decency.

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Grants and Consulting: Part V in a Series

This is part V in a series of making your work relevant for policy. In my first post, I laid out some principles for academic-policy engagement. In the second, I talked about short-form writing, and in the third, Iong-form writing. In the fourth, I discussed policy-relevant courses and speakers’ series.

Beyond these other ways to engage public and policy audiences are grants and consultancies, two paths possibly proximate to policy.

I have had the good fortune to be part of a couple of multi-million grants through the Department of Defense’s Minerva Initiative , a $7.6 million 5-year grant from on climate change and Africa (CCAPS) and another 3-year nearly $2 million grant on complex emergencies in south and southeast Asia (CEPSA). I’ve also done smaller scale consultancies for USAID, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR),  and other outlets.

Here are some lessons learned: Continue reading

Trump Reminded Me Why I Am An Academic

This is a guest post by Idean Salehyan. Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Texas at Dallas

“Why did you become an academic?” is a question that I’m frequently asked.  For me, my path into this profession is pretty clear.  I was about fourteen and a freshman in high school in the early 1990s.  A few of my friends joined the school chapter of Amnesty International, and I figured I’d go along.  My world was changed.   I learned of people being slaughtered because their ethnicity; political activists imprisoned for their beliefs; widespread torture and sexual assault; and refugees flooding across borders in search of safety.  This was the era of massacres in Bosnia and Rwanda.  CNN broadcast murder while the world just watched.  The comfortable space of my childhood ended, and I began on a journey of human rights activism.

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Policy-Relevant Courses and Speakers’ Series: Part IV of a Series

This is part IV in a series on bridging the gap between policy and academia. In part I, I wrote about principles of engagement. In part II, I wrote about short-form writing and in part III long-form writing. In this post, I turn to teaching and speakers’ series.

You may also be able to organize policy-relevant courses and host outside speakers, both of which can bring you in closer contact to the policy world and give you an opportunity to develop policy-relevant work for them.

Policy-Relevant Courses

I teach at a school of public affairs. We regularly have year-long courses for MA students on a policy topic where a client provides us resources to support student travel and other costs. After tenure, I decided that I wanted to work on issues that I cared passionately about. Several years ago, I ran a year long course on climate mitigation in the major economies. Continue reading

Teaching Democratic Erosion

This is a guest post from Rob Blair and Jeff Colgan of Brown University.

Since Donald Trump was elected last November, there has been no shortage of commentary warning that he represents a unique threat to the quality and longevity of democracy in America. (For just a few examples, see recent articles in the New Yorker, Atlantic, New York Times, and NPR.) Like many scholars and concerned citizens, we have been asking ourselves what we can or ought to do to help prevent this threat from materializing.

Although we do not wish to professionally engage in partisan politics, as scholars we are alarmed by Trump’s willingness to transgress long-standing norms of democracy, tolerance and civility. We find reflections on defending democracy by fellow social scientists Josh Busby, Timothy Snyder, and Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stepan very helpful.

We want to push a little bit further, especially as we think about our obligations in the classroom as political scientists. We have noticed historians and scholars from other disciplines creating mock syllabi, including Trump 101 or Trump Syllabus 2.0. We applaud these efforts, but believe political science has something distinctive to offer.

For us, the ball got rolling when Jeff publicly shared a reading list he was developing to inform himself about democratic erosion. Rob suggested that we teach an actual course on the topic, collaborating with scholars at other universities who were interested in doing the same. We brainstormed about how to design the course and make it happen, and Rob is now leading the effort. His work has begun to gather steam, with over a dozen (tentatively) participating institutions so far, including Brown, Penn, Stanford, Boston University, American University and UCLA, among others. Our initial syllabus, still a draft at this stage, is posted here, and the version Rob submitted to Brown (before the collaboration took shape) is here.

We are very excited about this fantastic group of institutions. We are also hoping to recruit a few more, which is why we are writing now. We include more details on the course below; please contact us if you are interested in joining. (Most of the participating faculty are comparativists, which makes sense given the nature of the course, but we strongly encourage faculty from other subfields to join.) We also provide some resources on democratic erosion that professors can incorporate into their own courses, regardless of whether or not they participate in the collaboration. Continue reading

Long-form Writing for Policy Audiences: Part III of a Series

This is the third in a series of posts about bridging the gap between policy and academia. The first focused on principles for engagement. The second on short-form writing, including blogging.  

Another way to engage the policy world is writing long-form papers for think tanks. I’ve written for a number of think tanks and held fellowship positions at several (I’m currently a non-resident fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs). Most of them fell in my lap where a think tank approached me because they were already familiar with my work or I knew folks who were there.

Think tank writing can be an interesting complement to your peer reviewed publications and can occasionally provide some money. Again, it is not a substitute for peer-reviewed publications and will not get you tenure, but you can develop expertise and a reputation in the policy community as a serious person on a topic through long-form writing.

Can I Retain Credibility in Academia and Write for Policy Audiences?

Writing for think tanks is challenging in a couple of respects. First, there is always the need to sharpen your argument to explain why the readers should care, which could be U.S. foreign policy practitioners or some other target audience such as multilateral donors, what have you. In so doing, there is always the temptation to make more dramatic or clearer claims than the evidence suggests.

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Short-Form Writing for the Public: Part II of a Series

This is part II of a series on bridging the gap between policy and academia.

In my last post, I laid out some principles for thinking policy engagement as an academic. In this post, I’ll talk about one such strategy — short-form writing for the public — which includes blogging, Twitter, and other social media. In subsequent posts, I’ll review some others.

I’ve been blogging on and off since the mid-2000s and since 2011 here on the Duck of Minerva. I’ve also contributed to the Monkey Cage a fair amount in recent years, among other outlets, and have a pretty active social media presence on Twitter and Facebook.

All of these things take time and energy so you have to ask yourself, what purposes are served by engaging in those activities? Are you merely doing this because you get some gratification from having a bunch of pageviews, retweets, or likes? It’s easy to fall in to your self-esteem being driven by these metrics, but unlike citation counts, you won’t get tenure based on retweets.

In its early days, blogging provided a number of folks with more visibility for their work. I often think of blogging as akin to a public platform for a rough draft of my work, where I’m puzzling through new ideas and topics. I’ve often seen blogging as a way to better understand a topic through the act of writing and engaging with readers.  Continue reading

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