So you’ve finally received research funding to hire a research assistant….now what? Attaining resources to get research support is a wonderful thing, but figuring out who to hire and how to work with them can be a challenge. While I have been very fortunate to work with some excellent research assistants, I’ve also experienced difficult situations where I’ve hired someone with the wrong skill set, or clearly not mentored or managed the relationship well. These different experiences have taught me a few things about working with research assistants that I hope others find useful. Since I’m relatively new at managing a research team, I’d also love to hear some of your suggestions on this topic. So, here’s my list of frequently asked questions about research assistants:
1. Who do I hire? Once you have funds to hire a research assistant (RA) it can be exciting- and daunting- choosing the right person. If you are new to an institution, or you don’t know anyone who isn’t already working at their max, it can especially be challenging. Before you can choose the right person, it is important to determine what types of tasks you are seeking an RA for. I used to think that the most senior graduate students would necessarily make the best research assistants. I assumed that they would have the highest level of skill and maturity, so it made sense to seek out available PhDs, if possible. While PhD students are often excellent RAs, there are several types of tasks that aren’t necessarily suited to advanced graduate students. I’ve found that simple work like data collection, editing, entering information, and organizing data is better suited to advanced undergraduates. This is a huge over-generalization, but undergrads can be much less grouchy about doing some of the the more tedious work that some of us need RAs to help with. PhDs often want to work on more macro-level thinking, which could include synthesizing data or writing briefs. This makes perfect sense. In some cases, it is useful to hire both an advanced undergraduate and a PhD student to work together on different aspects of a project. Both get to build skill sets that are useful, and you get the results you need in less time.
2. How can I mentor while I get research assistance? This question is linked to the first one. I see hiring a RA as a form of mentorship. If you can figure out what skills different potential RAs have, and also what skills they want to refine and work on, it can help you not only hire the right person, but also to mentor them. Students who are working on a Masters degree who are looking to work for an NGO, for example, will want to attain different skills than a PhD student who wants to be associated with a potential publication. I have found that if students feel they are being mentored, they work better and are happier than when they simply feel like ‘employees.’ Continue reading
The old policy, dating from way back when Dan and Patrick were slowly expanding the blog:
The procedure for bringing on guest bloggers is one of those “salami factory” things… and strangers just aren’t very likely to make it through the process.
In other words, guest blogging happened by invitation only.
At first it happened sort of ad hoc and accidentally. We would scout new talent in the blogosphere and offer upcoming bloggers a place to build a profile. Or we would reach out to those in our social networks we wanted to encourage to blog, especially women and minorities; or offer a place to others who were interested in giving it a try but unready to launch their own blog (as Dan and Patrick once did for me). As we institutionalized it, we came up with internal norms for recruitment and rotation, and sought to increasingly diversify our recruitment pool.
It’s worked well, but we have realized that no matter how hard we try, our social networks are an insufficiently diverse representation of the discipline and so yield insufficiently diverse results. We think we’re missing a lot of important talent not able to access us through social ties. Plus it’s a lot of work to constantly recruit and we want to find time to blog ourselves.
So here’s the new policy: anyone with a PhD in IR, plus some expertise in some substantive global policy issue area, and a willingness to post at least 200-500 words, at least once a week, can apply to become a guest for a six-month rotation. If you’re interested in a guest spot, send one of us a letter of interest (just as if you were proposing a one-off guest post) and we’ll consider you for our next rotation. Cheers!
Leebaw examines representations of the natural environment in laws of war as they have evolved in four stages:
under Grotius, a conception of Nature as Property, with protections articulated in the same way that men were once protected from the rape of “their women” during wars
under early efforts to ban chemical weapons, the notion of Nature as Combatant, with chemical weapons’ development and prohibition internationally relying both on a notion that the weapons were too “inhumane” to use on humans in battle yet perfectly appropriate to use against insects domestically – insects being framed as ‘the enemy’ and later themselves conscripted into military service.
under the environmental movement of the 60s, the notion of Nature as Pandora’s Box, an untameable force preparing to unleash ecological consequences humans can’t predict or absorb – a yet-anthropocentric discourse which viewed natural disaster in consequentialist terms
Nature as Victim, a view more associated with the resurgent notion of “ecocide” as an international judicial claim – a perspective invented by Richard Falk in the 70s but ill-reflected in treaty law on environmental war crimes and revitalized in the post-Rome Statute era of international criminal law.
Reading this, and enjoying the many theoretical directions Leebaw maps out for scholars rethinking boundaries between national, global, human and planetary security, I was brought back to the NatureisSpeaking.org movement and the distinctively gaialogical way I Am the Ocean frames the planet – as fundamentally indifferent to the human race. Continue reading
There has been much focus, and deservedly so, on the economic sanctions hitting Russia hard. The problem is whether they hit those who support Putin or not, and whether they create economic opportunities for those who are good at evading the law (the police, organized crime) who also happen to be tied to Putin.
Today is World Wildlife Day, and species we think of as part of the fundamental awesome creatures of the natural world – elephants, rhinos, and sharks – face unprecedented risks of extinction, particularly as a result of rising demand from Asia and China in particular. I’m currently teaching a year-long class on Global Wildlife Conservation for which my students have been writing some excellent posts on the poaching crisis and what can be done. If you are not familiar with this problem, this brief post provides a bit of background.
Over the past couple of years, news of the global poaching crisis of iconic species like elephants and rhinos has spread. Elephant tusks are prized for ivory for carvings and trinkets, with increased purchasing power and greater China-Africa commerce and ties leading to surges in demand. Countries in Central Africa have experienced steep declines in elephant populations due to poaching, losing by one estimate 64% of their elephants in the past decade. Late last year, this culminated in news of involvement by China’s presidential delegation in ivory smuggling in diplomatic bags out of Tanzania in 2013. This week, China announced a one-year ban on imported ivory, which is welcome news, but this is a critical time for the global community to put pressure on the Chinese government to rein in domestic demand forever. Even as China announced this positive move, elsewhere aging Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe celebrated his 94th birthday by treating his guests to baby elephant. Continue reading
Last week the New America Foundation hosted its launch for an interdisciplinary cybersecurity initiative. I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend and speak, but the real benefit was that I was afforded an opportunity to listen to some really remarkable people in the cyber community discuss cybersecurity, law, and war. I listened to a few very interesting comments. For instance, Assistant Attorney General, John Carlin, claimed that “we” (i.e. the United States) have “solved the attribution problem, and the National Security Agency Director & Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) Commander, Admiral Mike Rogers, say that he will never act outside of the bounds of law in his two roles. These statements got me to thinking about war, cyberspace and international relations (IR).
In particular, IR scholars have tended to argue over the definitions of “cyberwar,” and whether and to what extent we ought to view this new technology as a “game-changer” (Clarke and Knake 2010; Rid 2011; Stone 2011; Gartzke 2013; Kello 2013; Valeriano and Maness 2015). Liff (2012), for instance, argues that cyber power is not a “new absolute weapon,” and it is instead beholden to the same rationale of the bargaining model of war. Of course, the problem for Liff is that the “absolute weapon” he utilizes as a foil for cyber weapons/war is not equivalent in any sense, as the “absolute weapon,” according to Brodie, is the nuclear weapon and so has a different and unique bargaining logic unto itself (Schelling 1977). Conventional weapons follow a different logic (George and Smoke 1974).
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s looming address to the United States Congress has me thinking about the nature of authority in security. I think this is an issue that often gets overlooked, especially in security studies where the materiality of power (i.e. the ability o blow things up) takes up most of our collective attention. Certainly, Netanyahu seeks to make a security claim in his argument against the possibility of a deal between the United States and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program. But in so doing Netanyahu is on relatively thin ground. In most domestic contexts there are speakers with institutionally-sedimented security authority, individuals whose ability to make security claims is much greater than others. In democracies, these are typically elected politicians and bureaucratic leaders of the elements of the national security apparatus. We often overlook these lines of security authority unless something occurs that imperils them, as was the case in the second George W. Bush administration in the wake of the disastrous invasion of Iraq.
But when a foreign leader visits an alien domestic political context, the importance of authority to speak security claims becomes obvious. This is certainly the case with Netanyahu and his speech before Congress. On what basis will Americans and their elected representatives, one assumes his target audiences, accept Netanyahu’s claims that a deal with Iran poses an existential threat to Israel and possibly the United States? On the Israel claim, Netanyahu’s security authority is stronger as the leader of that state. But on the claim of an existential threat to the United States, Netanyahu’s ability to speak security is much weaker—which draws our attention to the political conditions that facilitate security claims. Certainly shared democratic identity between Israel and the United States supports Netanyahu’s security authority, as does a long alliance between the two countries that helps generate shared beliefs about security. Continue reading
From 1997 to 1999, I served in the Peace Corps in the Andean country of Ecuador. Ecuador is rich with contrasts. With the Galapagos, the Andes, and parts of the Amazon, the country possesses stunning natural beauty. The people have an incredible generosity of spirit, yet the country is riven by racial and regional differences. Until recently, high oil prices papered over some of these differences, but the president, Rafael Correa, is a left wing populist in the tradition of Hugo Chavez. He has taken to castigating his domestic on-line critics through television naming and shaming efforts that are unbecoming for a head of state. John Oliver has a wildly funny take-down of Correa’s pompous self-importance, which prompted a vigorous response from Correa (some calling it an “international incident”) and another round of humor from Oliver. The original video is hilarious and worth a watch (I’m not sure if embedding worked on this video so here is the link here though I think clicking on the screenshot below will work).
John Oliver’s take-down of Ecuador’s mercurial president is hysterical, but the next video by Peace Corps volunteer Kyle King is extraordinary. Kyle created this video with Peace Corps Week approaching as a way to honor his counterpart host family, capturing their tremendous grace and humor but also the hardships and tragedies that families endure. It’s hard to talk about the video without sounding maudlin, but I found it to be really powerful film-making and brought back so many memories of my own Peace Corps experience.
We gave out the Online Achievement in International Studies (OAIS) a.k.a. the Duckies, Thursday night, in a wonderful reception sponsored by SAGE. Given that this is Oscar night, we should say that there are no winners, just that the Duckies went to:
Yesterday at ISA, I participated on a panel on technology and international security. One of the topics addressed was the “successfulness” of the Obama administration’s decapitation/targeted killing strategy of terrorist leaders through unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones.” The question of success, however, got me to thinking. Success was described as the military effectiveness of the strikes, but this to me seems rather wrongheaded. For if something is militarily effective, then is so in relation to a military objective.
What is a military objective? Shortly, those objects that “by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to the military action and whose partial or total destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.” One may only target legitimate military objectives with permissible means. But even this requires knowing what the military advantage will be, and as such, requires a clear and identifiable strategy.
Welcome to sunny and warm New Orleans (or at least sunnier and warmer than wherever most of us have come from!). If you are stepping away from conferencing for a bit, here are a few good reads on the security front. I’ll likely come back in the new few days with one on energy/environment and health. Here I link to work from Alan Kuperman, Jay Ulfelder, Phil Hazlewood, Paul Staniland, and Graeme Wood, covering Libya, body counts, insurgencies, and ISIS. Enjoy. Continue reading
Yesterday, the Governing Council met for 17 days and nights …. or about six hours to discuss the various issues on the agenda. I will not get into the details of the meeting (I live-tweeted the highlights). The key bits of news are this:
I learned how to do emoji on my Ipad.
The blogging issue from last year produced a report by the Professional Responsibilities committee, and the recommendations which became policy essentially said that we ought to expect everyone to be professional and treat each other with respect and dignity.
This applies to not just ISA journal editors who were the focus last year.
They deliberately chose not to ask bloggers to put disclaimers on their blogs since everyone would have to be disclaiming pretty much everything they do.
A clear win for the social media folks.
The Online Media Caucus sailed through. Through a clever bit of agenda-setting that I had nothing to do with, it was the penultimate issue considered and exhaustion was our friend. So, come to the business meeting on Saturday at 12:30 in the Hilton’s Elmwood room as well as the Duckies Thursday night at 7:30pm at the Quarterdeck rooms in the Hilton
This is a guest post from Brian J. Phillips who is a research professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City.
A number of studies in recent years have systematically examined terrorist groups, exploring lethality, longevity, and other outcomes. However, much of this research does not explicitly indicate what it means by a “terrorist group.” When definitions are offered, they differ considerably. These differences have empirical implications and matter for how we think about terrorism. Continue reading
The annual meeting of the International Studies Association kicks off on Tuesday and runs through Saturday, Feb 17th-21st. The program is chock full of all kinds of IR. Of course, there is much to do and see during and after Mardi Gras in New Orleans beyond the panels. Using my power here as Duck-ster, let me point out a few ones that you might want to consider attending/joining:
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:
Steve Walt weighs in on Ukraine, suggests spiral model more appropriate than deterrence model and therefore arming risks escalation
Mearsheimer (he of one name now) makes a similar case and calls for Ukraine to become a buffer state like Austria to which Dan Drezner and Steve Saideman note that Ukrainians may not be all that happy about being buffered
National Security Strategy
Tom Wright weighs in on the Obama Administration’s new national security strategy and contending views on how bad the international situation is
The Policy-Academy Gap – Once More Unto the Breach
Frank Gavin and Steven Van Evera revisit bridging the policy-academy divide on War on the Rocks: let’s get interdisciplinary and practical
Will Inboden – Why won’t the academy show George Schultz some love?
In advance of this year’s ISA convention and the OAIS awards, we’re happy to launch a new and improved Duck of Minerva with a revamped look and feel. You will notice automatically a direct link to duckofminerva.com which should make access more straightforward. The new site is also responsive so will resize automatically on your phone or tablet. We’ve also added a new set of topics to classify posts by subject so you can find them easily. The Twitter feed and blogroll have been updated.
We wanted to thank permanent contributors Robert Kelly and Vikash Yadav who have decided to step down. In addition, we wanted to thank a number of guest contributors, Edward Carpenter, Adrienne Le Bas, Burcu Bayram, PM, and Cynthia Weber who are cycling off. We will be bringing some new guest contributors on so be on the lookout for more news on that front. Special thanks to Lori Lacy from mod.girl.designs for carrying out the web redesign.
Thanks again for your readership and contributions to the blog, which we hope continues to provide an eclectic source of analysis on all things international and political and beyond in 2015.
This is a guest post by Grant Dawson, assistant professor of social science and international politics at The University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China and Cyrus Janssen is an American expat based in Asia.
The global order established by the West and led by the US since 1945 is gradually changing. China and the ‘rising Rest’ are catching-up to the US and the West in terms of economic and political power. Unfortunately, as was clear during the Hong Kong protests, the West’s ideas and attitudes about China are not keeping pace, and may lead to misunderstandings that undermine political relations during a crucial transitional period for everyone.