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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

Sending Iran Back Out into the Cold

Since the U.S. election Iranian-American relations have gone into a rapid tailspin, with Iran reacting to the triumphalist tenor of the Trump campaign and the improvised response of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn that sought to “put Iran on notice.” The arrival of his replacement in General H.R. McMaster offers the U.S. a fresh opportunity to tone down its approach to Iran, beginning with guarding against any dramatic escalation of the stakes.

For unless the Administration is actually willing to go to war with Iran, this confrontation actually won’t get the U.S. anywhere useful. What it will do, which is already under way, is strengthen the hardliners in Tehran and undermine moderates like President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif at a precipitous moment less than three months ahead of the Iranian election.

The Trump team does not have a strategic plan in place, regarding Iran or any other region/country of the world for that matter. But this matters most regarding countries currently in crisis accretion mode vis-à-vis the U.S., specifically Iran, Russia, North Korea, and China (in descending order). The danger of rapid escalation with Iran that could easily slip into spiraling conflict is acute. Therefore the first order of business for NSA McMaster is to get the U.S. on a more strategic track that militates against a burgeoning conflict with Iran. 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

Black History Month

Do you think this person is white?

If you are from Europe or North America, you might have said yes. If you are from Russia, you might have described this person as black. Most IR peeps are familiar with the fluid perceptions of whiteness and blackness that exist in the word: Sandor Gilman wrote, for instance, how Irish immigrants in the US in the beginning of the century were often considered black. The irony of blackness could not be more poignant in Russia: the famous Russian Armenian actor Frunzik Mkrtchan whose picture I put above is literally Caucasian, because he comes from the South Caucasus region in the European South of Russia. The ones who would describe him as black would also very likely to adhere to “Russia for [ethnic] Russians” slogan and in worst case scenarios would have tried to kill him because he “doesn’t look Slavic enough”.

Derogatory terms like ‘kavkazcy’ (Caucasians), and ‘chyornye’ (blacks) have become ubiquitous in everyday speech in Russia, while Russian mass media employs euphemisms such as ‘litsa neslavyanskoy vneshnoti’ (non-Slavic looking people) when it comes to the identification of crime suspects. A xenophobic discursive representation applies to non-Slavic looking individuals irrespective of their citizenship, even though former USSR citizens can seek Russian nationality under a simplified naturalisation procedure, according to the Federal Law on Citizenship. Apart from “Caucasians” who are often discursively connected to terrorism and ethnic criminality, there isn’t much love for former Soviet citizens from Central Asia. If you are not Ivan Drago or Natasha, you might have a lot of trouble even renting an apartment.

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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

Don’t Boycott: Let’s use conferences as organizational platforms and improve social impact

Just returning from an invigorating #ISA2017 where I was inspired by colleagues and new ideas and processing all the stimulating interactions and conversations I had. Last night at the fabulous Global Health Studies section (you should join!) business meeting, one topic of discussion was whether the section should take further action on the U.S. travel ban given that the ISA conferences are to be held in the U.S. or Canada through 2023 and the ban impedes participation by our colleagues from the targeted countries. This year some 170 colleagues did not attend the conference as a result of the travel ban for various reasons—they could not obtain required visas, felt too vulnerable traveling to the U.S. or were conscientious objectors. Inevitably, the idea of boycotting future ISA conferences was floated by several colleagues.

I think this is the wrong conversation to have and I made this point during the business meeting. Continue reading

Principles and Strategies for Bridging the Gap: Part I

At the recent ISA meeting, I had the good fortune to participate in a roundtable on bridging the policy-academic divide organized by Jim Goldgeier, the Dean of the School of International Service at American University. Fellow panelists included Bruce Jentleson and a powerhouse trio from American University, including Susanna Campbell, Nora Bensahel, and Jordan Tama. All of us in some capacity have participated in the Bridging the Gap project over the years.

I wrote my remarks up in a long form but I thought I’d roll them out in a series of six blog posts beginning with this one. I’ll come back and hyperlink to the others in this piece when I’ve finished the series. I may come back and film them as short videocasts in the coming weeks.

In the series, I talk about five different approaches that I have engaged in to make my work relevant to policy (and the world of practitioners including but not limited to governments). Those five approaches include: short-form writing for the public, long-form writing for policy audiences, policy-oriented courses, grants and consulting, and actual policy practice.

In this post, I want to back out for a moment and have us ask and answer some more fundamental questions.

What’s your theory or understanding of how policy changes? We live in a period described by Tom Nichols as the “death of expertise.” The transmission belt of information to decision-makers who read things and are persuaded by argument and data has been upended. Who are we writing for and what influence do we hope to have? Continue reading

We Have Studied the World. President Trump Should Too.

This is an open letter signed by US international affairs scholars to their fellow citizens. If you hold a PhD in international relations or an extant field and wish to add your name to the list, please tweet #StudytheWorld with your name and institutional affiliation or send this information in an email to ir.scholars.openletter@gmail.com.

Dear Fellow Americans,

Recently, President Trump tweeted that people should “Study the world!” to understand his foreign policy. As scholars of international relations, we have studied the world, and we are concerned that the actions of the President undermine rather than enhance America’s national security.

We agree it is important for any President to protect US citizens from extremist violence, ensure America is respected abroad, and prioritize American interests. But our knowledge of global affairs, based on history, scientific fact and experience, tells us that many of the policies Trump has undertaken thus far do not advance these goals. Instead, they have made Americans less safe.

First, the President presented his temporary travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations (and all refugees) as a measure to protect the US homeland from terrorist attacks. Yet this move will make our country less safe, not more. First, the vast majority of terrorist attacks on US citizens come from “home-grown” terrorism and are carried out by non-Muslims: the ban does nothing to address this. Second, countering transnational terrorism requires transnational coordination, and this ban impedes our ability to coordinate with our allies abroad. Finally, studies show terrorists are strengthened when governments over-react: indiscriminate intolerance feeds radicalization by driving moderates into the arms of radicals. We are confident the travel ban will likely reinforce anti-American sentiment and strengthen terror networks while weakening US intelligence capacity.

Trump also indicates he wants America to be more respected by the world. But fear is not the same as respect. The President’s “go-it-alone” policy and disregard for international law and diplomatic relationships have confused and frightened those allies upon whose cooperation we rely to bolster our national security. Trump’s contradictory, ambiguous, and vague statements – about the U.S.’s commitment to NATO, arms control treaties, and friendly relations with Mexico, Australia, and other important partners – mean that foreign governments are now more likely to misperceive U.S. intentions. Unable to rely on us, our current friends might start looking for other allies – a situation that rival powers like Russia and China could easily exploit. This weakens our position in the global order.

The President has stated that he wishes to prioritize the home-front and reduce entangling commitments abroad. Yet America already spends only a tiny fraction of a fraction of our budget on foreign aid, and international economic cooperation benefits us far more than it costs. Global engagement has solved many other problems that threaten Americans, like stemming epidemics and closing the cancer-causing hole in the ozone layer. By contrast, periods of great power isolationism have led to global financial upheaval, instability, and war. When Americans ignore global economic, environmental, or social forces, they often entangle us in precisely the way Trump hopes to avoid.

Trump claims America should stay out of reckless wars. Yet several of his actions make war more likely, not less. Since the establishment of United Nations, the world has seen the lowest incidence of major war between states in centuries. On the other hand, research has shown nations that disregard the rights of women, minorities, political dissidents, and journalists are more likely to end up at war with their neighbors. By de-funding global organizations that keep the peace and weakening the domestic rule of law, Americans are far likelier to see catastrophic war at home during our children’s lifetimes.

We agree it is imperative that American citizens and leaders study the world and pay attention to facts, history, and scientific evidence. We have been heartened to see our fellow Americans – even many who voted for Trump – opposing these policies on fact-based grounds. New research shows that nonviolent resistance of this type works: when as few as 3.5% of a domestic population actively resist, it is possible to keep democracies strong and leaders in check. We strongly encourage our fellow citizens to hold our government accountable for creating evidence-based foreign policies that will promote rather than threaten America’s security.

This means pressing our leaders to avoid unnecessary wars and create the conditions for stability by supporting and improving institutions like the United Nations. We should encourage them to protect us by addressing extremist violence by all actors – including white supremacist terrorists, who have carried out a significant percentage of all attacks against Americans in recent decades. We should encourage leaders to study the world as the President enjoins, and consider the advice and knowledge of experts and scientists who understand global history, risk analysis, and national security processes. And, because history has shown it is in our national interest, we should urge the Trump administration to support global engagement where it is likely to reinforce our alliances, strengthen global institutions, and promote world peace.

Signed (in alphabetical order)

Deborah Avant, University of Denver
Gordon Adams, American University
Fiona Adamson, University of London
Rachel Anderson Paul, Western Washington University
Peter Andreas, Brown University
Bentley Allan, John Hopkins University
William Ayres, Wright State University
Michael Barnett, George Washington University
Taylor Benjamin-Britton, Lehigh University
Andrew Bennett, Georgetown University
Nora Bensahel, American University
Michele Betsill, Colorado State University
Phillipp Bleek, Middlebury Institute of International Studies
Mia Bloom, Georgia State University
Matthew Bolton, Pace University
Daniel Braaten, Texas Lutheran University
AC Budabin, University of Dayton
Joshua Busby, University of Texas-Austin
Sarah Bush, Temple University
Daniel Byman, Georgetown University
Ami Carpenter, University of San Diego
Charli Carpenter, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Austin Carson, University of Chicago
Ralph Carter, Texas Christian University
Chuck Call, American University
Rosella Capella, Boston University
Daniel Chong, Rollins College
Erica Chenoweth, University of Denver
Jeff Colgan, Brown University
Patrick Cottrell, Linfield College
Mark Copelovitch, University of Wisconsin
Jesse Crane-Seeber, North Carolina State University
Timothy Crawford, Boston College
Renee De Nevers, Syracuse University
Thomas Doyle, Texas State University
Brent Durbin, Smith College
Daniel Drezner, Tufts University
Thomas Doyle II, Texas State University
Amy Eckert, Metropolitan State University
Ali Erol, American University
Tanisha Fazal, Notre Dame University
Laura Field, American University
Martha Finnemore, George Washington University
Page Fortna, Columbia University
Rosemary Kelanic, Williams College
Volker Franke, Kennesaw State University
Louis Furmaski, University of Central Oklahoma
Chip Gagnon, Ithaca College
Nick Garcia, Otterbein University
Stacie Goddard, Wellesley College
James Goldgeier, American University
Ryan Grauer, University of Pittsburgh
Ryan Griffiths, University of Sydney
Alan Gross, New York University
Tamar Gutner, American University
Maia Hallward, Kennesaw State University
Ron Krebs, University of Minnesota
Jarrod Hayes, Georgia Institute of Technology
Virginia Haufler, University of Maryland
Denise Horn, Simmons College
Natalie Hudson, University of Dayton
Glenn Hunter, Pennsylvania State University
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, American University
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Juliet Johnson, McGill University
Sean Kay, Ohio Wesleyan University
Margaret Keck, Johns Hopkins University
Khavita Khory, Mt. Holyoke College
Sarah Kreps, Cornell University
David Kinsella, Portland State University
Barbara Elias Klenner, Bowdoin College
Sarah Cleveland Knight, American University
Ari Kohen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
James Lebovic, George Washington University
Ned Lebow, University of Minnesota
Daniel Levine, University of Alabama
Meredith Loken, University of Denver
Tom Long, University of Reading
Andrea Lopez,  International Studies Susquehanna University
Julia MacDonald, University of Denver
Paul MacDonald, Wellesley College
Joseph Mahoney, Seton Hall University
Daniel McIntosh, Slippery Rock University
Marijana Milkoreit, Purdue University
Katherine Millar, London School of Economics
Ronald Mitchell, University of Oregon
Alexander Montgomery, Reed College
Sara Bjerg Moller, Seton Hall University
Layne Mosley, UNC Chapel Hill
Will Moore, Arizona State University
Daniel Nexon, Georgetown University
Julie Norman, American University
Joel Oestreich, Drexel University
Joseph Parent, University of Notre Dame
Susan Peterson, College of William and Mary
MJ Peterson, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Maggie Peters, University of California-LA
Evan Perkoski, University of Denver
Manuela Picq, Amherst College
Michael Pozansky, University of Pittsburgh
Susan Raines, Kennesaw State University
Andy Reiter, Mt. Holyoke College
Laura Reed, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Hilde Restad, Bjorkes College
Maria Rost-Rublee, Monash University
Molly Ruhlman, Towson University
Heather Roff, Arizona State University
Joseph Roberts, Roger Williams University
Stephen Saideman, Carleton University
Thania Sanchez, Yale University
Wayne Sandholtz, University of Southern California
Brent Sasley, UT Arlington
Todd Sechser, University of Virginia
Cathy Schneider, American University
Ami Shah, Pacific Lutheran University
Jack Snyder, Columbia University
Jelena Subotic, Georgia State University
Megan Stewart, American University
Jennifer Sterling-Folker, University of Connectict
Sarah Stroup, Middlebury College
Michael Struett, North Carolina State University
Brian Taylor, Syracuse University
Peter Trumbore, Oakland University
Stephen Walt, Harvard University
Barbara Walter, University of California-San Diego
Jason Weidner, Universidad de Monterey
Jon Western, Mt. Holyoke College
Meredith Wilf, University of Pittsburgh
Robert Williams, Pepperdine University
Wendy Wong, University of Toronto
Amanda Wooden, Bucknell University
Brandon Valeriano, Niskanen Center

To sign this letter, tweet this link to @charlicarpenter #StudytheWorld with your name and institutional affiliation or send that information in an email to ir.scholars.openletter@gmail.com.

International Affairs Scholars Talk Back to Trump at #Duckies2017

Trump told us we should study the world.  IR scholars had something to say about that. Earlier I promised to turn some of these quips into a special blog post, which also happens to be my Ignite talk at this year’s Duckies’ Awards in Baltimore. Happy #ISA2017.

You have plans tonight at ISA! The Duckies at 7:30pm

Hi all,

Today’s the day! The ISA Online Media Caucus (OMC) Online Achievement in International Studies Awards Reception is TONIGHT.  It’s the best party in town with the best people.  Food and drink will be tremendous. If you miss it, SAD.

Seriously, 7:30 pm in Holiday 1.  Come to see your friends win prizes, watch some AMAZING ignite-style speakers, and hobnob with a whole host of people who use social media to tell the world about their work.

And, if you don’t have plans this afternoon, come to the Online Media Caucus – Live Tweets for (Political) Science panel.  We’ll be chatting about the utility of online media for promotion of scholarship and tweeting out about the awesome experience that is ISA.  #ISA2017 #TC04

Are You Ready for Some ISA?

Many of us are Baltimore bound for ISA, and other than the Duckies this Thursday night, what are you looking forward to? What panels, receptions, events, new books have caught your attention?

Mike Horowitz winning the Karl Deutsch prize? PRIO folks, Ida Rudolfsen and runner-up Jonas Nordkvell,  winning the Jacek Kugler paper award on demography and geography for work on food price shocks and unrest and rainfall and conflict? Exciting stuff.

(I mostly want to use this post to test our new Facebook auto-post image, but serious responses, including self-nominations most welcome).

I’ve got an 8:15 bridging the gap panel on Thursday morning led by Jim Goldgeier that includes Nora Bensahel, Susanna Campbell, Bruce Jentleson, and Jordan Tama.

I’m also excited about being on a Saturday 1:45 panel on the strategic use of norms that has been organized by Jennifer Dixon and Jennifer Erickson. Fellow panelists include Adam Quinn, David Capie, Courtney Fung, and John Gentry.  I’ll be presenting updated research on shaming from my long-time joint project with Kelly Greenhill.

What are you excited about?

Fighting, Dancing and Thumb-Biting: Developing a typology of citations

This is a guest post by Paul Beaumont, PhD Candidate at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). Previously, he worked as an academic writing advisor at NMBU and as a Junior Research Fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).

Some time ago, back when Duckpods still happened, Nicholas Onuf talked to Dan Nexon about the impact of World of Our Making (WOOM). Onuf’s masterpiece is rightly credited with founding Constructivism in International Relations. Yet as the two reflected upon the course 1990s constructivism embarked upon, Onuf acknowledged that his linguistic constructivism had not quite fostered the sort of research he had envisioned. While glad of the recognition he received for WOOM, Nick jokingly laments that his book had become “widely cited but never read”. Victim of “drive by citations”, Nexon remarked, “we could do a whole podcast on those alone.”

Continue reading

Perverse Incentives and Academia

What’s wrong with the current use of metrics in academia? This is the best summary that I’ve ever seen.

I will be discussing the publishing part of the equation on my Saturday panel at ISA.

Academic Freedom

President Trump tweeted this on Friday. Even before he issued this egregious tweet, I had prepared a thread on Twitter of my observations from a recent trip to DC. This builds on my post from earlier in the week on how to defend democracy from the perch of the Ivory Tower.

After my trip to DC, it occurred to me that academics, particularly tenured ones, have the freedom to resist this administration and speak out in a way that many NGOs and think tank folks cannot. We should exercise our liberty while we can.

I was really inspired to write this thread when I read a series of tweets from Paul Musgrave on how liberalism has embraced data and facts as the way forward  when it is not at all clear that is the moment we are living in (says the guy writing a blog post). Storify below after the jump.

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The Downsides of Burden-Sharing

Abe Newman and I have a piece in Vox on Trump’s attempt to pressure allies into spending more on defense. You should ignore the title. The gist of the argument is that, first, there are upsides to having wealthy and technologically advanced allies dependent on the US for their security needs; second, while it would be great to get NATO allies to spend more on defense, this is a very dangerous way to go about doing it; and, third, the benefits of burden-sharing are likely overblown.

Since it went live, I’ve had a few interesting exchanges. One of the claims that we make is that Trump’s calls for burden-sharing are a bit odd. If we want to derive economic benefits from burden-sharing, we need to reallocate defense savings into more productive sectors. Trump’s own plans for military spending suggest he has no intention of doing this. But Raymond Pritchett points out that the alliance has major recapitalization needs—including the SSBN-leg of the nuclear triad—and so some in the Pentagon might hope that burden-sharing allows reallocation.

Regardless, please give it a read.

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