Tag: academia (page 1 of 12)

Keep Your Political Interference to Yourself: A Case for Academic Freedom and Shared Governance

Hi, Ducks!  It’s me, Amanda.  It’s been a long time.  I’ve not blogged in awhile. There were many reasons for the break.  First, it was a busy spring: I finished up being the ISA Program Chair, got a new position I am excited about, and continued working on projects that I love.

It’s also been a very sad spring.  In fact, it was a pretty sad year at the University of Missouri, where I’ve worked for the past 4 years.

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Tweeted and Deleted by APSA: Gender and Race in the Academy

I’ve been wanting to write a Duck post about the experience of a woman with visible minority status in IR for quite some time now. I was waiting for the right moment.  So thanks to the American Political Science Association (APSA), the professional association for US-trained political scientists, the moment has come.

Yesterday morning, an email came from a friend with a screenshot.  The screenshot showed an attractive Asian woman in a frilly top who looks like she’s having a good time looking into the camera.  I was confused.  Then I read the blurb next to it: this was a promotion from PSNow, one of the official APSA dissemination bullhorns.  They were promoting my recent piece with Sarah Stroup in Perspectives on Politics on international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) and authority in global politics.  Instead of contacting us to request a photo, or choosing a stock photo that reflects the subject of our article, APSA decided to accompany this promotion with a photo of a random Asian woman.

I was stunned.

So it’s pretty obvious to me why this is offensive, but let me spell it out.

  • What does the Getty Image “Portrait of a young woman smiling” have to do with INGOs? Or authority?  Or politics?
  • What happened to my co-author?
  • What kind of search terms were being used to even generate such a photo that APSA found worthy of posting not just on PSNow, but tweeting?
  • Has all of my work on INGOs boiled down to some irrelevant stock image?
  • Is it that hard to Google “NGO” for images related to the work being advertised?
  • Yea, “all Asians look alike,” but REALLY?!

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PhD-in-Hand? Why?

Inside Higher Ed must be having a slow news week.[1] Today, they are reporting on the APSA 2014-2015 Graduate Placement Survey as if it’s brand new.  The report actually came out in early December.  Oh, well. When I read the report – and shared it with my grad students –in December, I was struck by something that the Inside Higher Ed editor highlighted today:

“More ABDs are starting full job searches, and fewer of those in the expanded pool are landing faculty positions, study finds.”

That finding is technically true.  About 32% of ABDs[2] were “not placed” in any job – tenure-track, non-tenure track, postdoc, nonacademic – in the 2014-2015 academic job cycle.  Of those with a PhD-in-Hand, only about 10% were not placed.

Upon reading the Inside Higher Ed story and some of the story’s comments[3], one could be left with the impression that all a student needs to do to get a job in political science is actually finish their PhD.  I mean, right?  Once it’s in hand, you are way more hirable!  I don’t think so.   I don’t think the correct conclusion is to advise students to finish their PhDs before going on the market.

Here’s what I think is happening:

  • The academic market is clogged. Lots of people are not placed or underplaced.
  • Universities are getting by with fewer tenure-track faculty.
  • ABDs are having trouble getting positions, of any type, but especially tenure-track positions in the current environment. While our advisors-advisors used to be able to get a position with just a phone call and a letter about how great a dissertation is, it now takes multiple top-tier publications to even make it to the long list.[4]
  • ABDs thus have to fight for a few VAP[5] or post-doc positions. The ones that get the positions then file their dissertations (receiving their PhD) and then go back on the market the next year with their PhD-in-Hand.  Hopefully, these individuals get (a) more things that make it through the peer-review process and/or (b) more teaching experience during this time period.
  • It’s the added stuff during this year – the added peer-reviewed publications and, for some positions, the added teaching – that makes those with a PhD-in-Hand way more likely to be hired than their ABD counterparts.

So, if my thoughts are correct, the PhD-in-Hand isn’t really making that much of a difference on the market.  It’s just the fact that the PhD-in-Hand is correlated with someone having more experience as a researcher/teacher. It isn’t that ABDs with experience as researchers/teachers are being ignored in favor of someone with a PhD-in-Hand that isn’t a proven researcher/teacher. And, letters of recommendation can definitely indicate that the dissertation is fully drafted but just not filed – I have seen it on multiple searches.

All of this brings me to an important point that I’ve repeatedly had to make to ABDs in my time as DGS:

In most circumstances, don’t file your PhD until you have to.

Of course, if you strike out on the market a couple of times and just need to have it to be done with the whole affair, then file.  But, if you plan on going back on the market in the next year and have no prospects for a job during that year, I don’t think you should file your PhD.  I don’t think it’s going to boost your job prospects in any real way. Instead, in many instances, it’s just going to make you an unaffiliated scholar, with limited access to any university library and with no chance of getting continued graduate assistant positions.  It also could make your student loan repayment countdown start.

I’m interested what others think.  I posed this question on Facebook[6] this morning and got a lot of interesting responses.  One of my colleagues remarked that it’s not “’degree-in-hand” that matters so much as “publications-on-the-CV.””  Another colleague, this one from a small liberal arts college, remarked that they “care more about pubs than done [dissertation] assuming good progress and likely completion by start of the job. Oh, and the person should have actual (demonstrably good) solo teaching experience.”

Of course, my colleagues mentioned that getting a PhD and leaving graduate school can help one’s scholarship, like would happen if you had a postdoc or a research position and interacted with new colleagues with new ideas.  Key in this, however, is the availability of the postdoc or research position.

As one colleague summed it up, in this environment, “publication is king.”  That should be the most important thing you focus on, not on whether or not you file graduation paperwork this spring.

All else equal, I contend that a published ABD is going to beat out a non-published PhD at most colleges or universities in this country.  I wish APSA’s report had provided more information on publications and the likelihood of placement.

[1] What? No Mizzou stories today?  You could really do a special issue on us this year!

[2] Mom, that stands for “All But Dissertation.” It’s the last stage in the process to a PhD; it’s after classes, after comps, and typically after a whole committee of professors have approved your dissertation outline or prospectus. But, wait, seriously, Mom – why are you reading this blog?  Don’t you have something better to do in retirement? Aren’t there squirrels in the attic?

[3] This is something I need to learn not to do.  Reading comments about the Mizzou disaster this year has really made me question the sanity of my neighbors.  I had to step away.  And, join the adult coloring book craze.

[4] Mom, the “long list” is the list of about 10-15 possible candidates that a search committee wants to look it.  They’ll invite only 3-4 from this list for on-campus interviews.  That’s the “short list.”

[5] Visiting Assistant Professor.  Or adjunct.  Basically academic hell. There are a lot of people to blame for this.

[6] Friend me!  You’ll see cute animal pictures.  At least 30 a day.

Thoughts on DA-RT

For background on DA-RT, see Jarod Hayes’ post at the Duck of Minerva, as well as John Patty’s response to the petition to delay implementation (as well as its related website) and Jeffrey Isaac’s response to Patty and Isaac’s latest postRoundups and responses abound.

I drafted a longer piece on DA-RT, but now realize that I will probably never finish it. So, instead, some brief comments:

  • I have neither signed the DA-RT Journal Editors’ Statement (JETS), nor the acronym-challenged petition to delay it’s implementation. My basic reasons are straightforward. The journal that I edit, International Studies Quarterly,  is a publication of the International Studies Association (ISA). Given the structure of the ISA, I do not believe that I enjoy the authority to make this kind of decision—although I should note that my view is not universally shared among ISA journal editors. ISA does have a replication policy that ISQ follows, but it currently only extends to the archiving of statistical materials. ISQ will follow whatever transparency policy the ISA deems appropriate for its journals.
  • The dynamics of the DA-RT dispute share some similarity to those associated with “wedge issues.” That is, it “divide[s] [political scientists] through code words [and] labeling” in ways I find deeply troubling.

  • Participants in the debate over DA-RT need to make sure that they cultivate, or continue to display, intellectual empathy. In other words, opposition to DA-RT standards does not make you an opponent of social science understood correctly. Support for DA-RT standards does not make you a methodological puritan.
  • But the controversy does provide some people who hold these beliefs the opportunity to express them in unhelpful ways (cf. “wedge issue”).

  • This is particularly problematic, because there’s nothing wrong with agonistic and intense exchange on the issues.

Securitization Forum: Back on Tour With the Copenhagen School – Better to Travel Than Arrive

A full twelve posts in to the forum, the question posed by Jarrod and Eric about why securitization theory’s travels in the US have been so pedestrian compared to its extensive tour schedule in Europe and elsewhere has already been explored from a considerable number of angles, with various diagnoses made. Details differ, but the overall consensus appears to be that securitization theory (at least in its original theoretical form) is in all respects too alien to the disciplinary ecosystem of American IR to be able to gain any substantive foothold amongst the US discipline’s dominant conceptual and methodological species under current conditions. Furthermore, incentives for its import are lacking on the part of both buyers and sellers: the former argue that it doesn’t provide sufficient added value compared to existing options to justify its price, whilst the strong (mainly) European market for securitization theory has meant that there’s been little incentive to try and crack American IR/Political Science.

If this is the case, then why not just accept this stalemate? Does it really matter if much of American IR simply prefers to stick with its current conceptual toolkit? What’s really to be gained by insisting that all theories are present in all places?

Observed from this perspective, the question of whether we need a theory of securitization even in American IR is too easily dismissed. Certainly Juha provides an excellent overview of what sort of insights securitization theory can generate and effectively dispels some common criticisms which may (hopefully) prompt some in the US to (re)consider their view of securitization theory as a result. Many, however, will remain unconvinced and untroubled. After all, an affirmative answer to the question of whether we need a theory of securitization carries a hefty burden of proof, especially when you’re trying to convince a skeptical audience (mainstream American IR) that they need something that they’re sure they don’t need.

It’s still premature to conclude that American and European IR need to agree to differ, however, and exploring a question that follows on from Juha’s can provide new insights into the curious case of securitization theory’s lack of traction in the US: What is lost, omitted or even prevented as a consequence of securitization’s very limited Stateside travels?

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

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

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

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

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Academia isn’t Baseball

PTJ

PTJ’s Essential Player Statistics

This is a guest post by both Nexon and Patrick Thaddeus Jackson. Standard disclaimers apply.

Cullen Hendrix’s guest post is a must read for anyone interested in citation metrics and international-relations scholarship. Among other things, Hendrix provides critical benchmark data for those interested in assessing performance using Google Scholar.

We love the post, but we worry about an issue that it raises. Hendrix opens with a powerful analogy: sabermetrics is to baseball as the h-index is to academia.  We can build better international-relations departments. With science! Continue reading

Google Scholar Metrics and Scholarly Productivity in International Relations

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

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

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

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

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What’s an expert?

Yesterday’s post Confidence and Gender in International Relations got me thinking. The post draws on the excellent survey data from the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) project at William and Mary’s Institute for the Theory & Practice of International Relations and notes that in the snap polls conducted by the project over the last year, women international relations scholars choose the response “I don’t know” more often than their male counterparts. They conclude that structural factors such as socialization might explain this “confidence gap” between female and male respondents who possess similar levels of knowledge and expertise.

Full disclosure: I have dutifully completed several TRIP snap polls, I have often selected “I don’t know” and I am a woman. I do not lack confidence in my expertise, but I do know the limits of it, which is why I respond, “I don’t know” when asked about topics outside my realm of expertise. Continue reading

Confidence and Gender in International Relations

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

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

 

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

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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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What We Really Need is a Slice of Humble Pie

This is a guest post by former Duck of Minerva blogger Daniel Nexon. The views that he expresses here should not be construed as representing those of the International Studies Association, International Studies Quarterly, or anyone with an ounce of sanity.

We now have a lot of different meta-narratives about alleged fraud in “When Contact Changes Minds: An Experiment in the Transmission of Support for Gay Equality.”  These reflect not only different dimensions of the story, but the different interests at stake.

One set concerns confirmation bias and the left-leaning orientations of a majority of political scientists. At First Things, for example. Matthew J. Franck contrasts the reception of the LaCour and Green study (positive) with that of Mark Regnerus’ finding of inferior outcomes for children of gay parents (negative). There’s some truth here.  Regnerus’ study was terminally flawed. LaCour and Green’s study derived, most likely, from fraudulent data. Still, one comported with widespread ideological  priors in the field, while the other did not. That surely shaped their differential reception. But so did the startling strength of the latter’s findings, as well as the way they cut against conventional wisdom on the determinants of successful persuasion.

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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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Thinking about the intellectual future of higher education

Recently, articles have emerged in both the United States and the United Kingdom concerned over the current politico-intellectual trend toward diminishing the importance and funding of the humanities and social sciences (HSS). For all the reasons the authors indicate, this trend is problematic. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines are of course incredibly important. But they are only part of the collective agenda of intellectual inquiry, and cannot be made to dominate universities without intellectual, economic, and political costs. In this short post, I will leave aside arguments about the intrinsic or societal value of HSS, not because they are trivial (they are not) but because the current wave of humanities and social sciences demotion speaks in terms of global competitiveness and economic productivity. I don’t accept that these arguments should define the boundaries of the debate, but if a case can be made on those or related grounds, then at least parties to the ‘debate’ will not be talking past each other. Continue reading

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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Normative dilemma of writing policy?

This week, courtesy of my colleague Adam Stulberg and the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy, our department hosted Matthew Kroenig. When I first learned of Kroenig’s visit, my initial thought was that it would be a great opportunity to do (yet another) take on his arguments regarding the possible use of force against Iran. But I think there is little value added to such an exercise. It has been done, not only here on the Duck but in other venues as well. What I think might be a more fruitful way to take advantage of Kroenig’s visit is to think about some of the challenges of bridging the gap between academics and policymakers.

 

Specifically, I am thinking here about the possible parallels with Jef Huysmans’ examination of the normative dilemma of writing security. Like myself, Huysmans is writing from a social constructivist perspective, and as such understands “the creation of a security problem as a social phenomenon.” Security then is the “result of a practice of definition: security is what agents make of it.” These insights inform discourse-oriented constructivist approaches to security like securitization theory. Turning issues into security then involves, among other things, “…a particular kind of knowledge (security knowledge)”. This is where the dilemma comes in: by analyzing and writing about the practices and discourses of security, scholars may in turn reinforce and reify those practices and discourses. This occurs not only through the repetition of the security claims, but also through the legitimacy imparted through association with the authority of academia. As Huysmans points out, in this discursive interpretation, “speaking and writing about security is never innocent.”

 

What if the normative dilemma of writing is not constrained to security, but to the larger interface between the academy and the policy world? That is, in seeking to influence/provide value to policymakers, scholars unavoidably shift themselves from the position of analyst to the position of political actors, and in the process create and reify policy dynamics. Which brings me back to Kroenig. A skim of his CV quickly reveals that he has built his career in a substantial way on bridging the gap between academia and policy. While I suspect that Kroenig does not accept the epistemological or ontological precursors to Huysmans’ arguments, I thought it worthwhile nonetheless to ask Kroenig what he thought of the dilemma. He answered, more or less, that he felt there was a substantial amount of misinformation regarding US policy (and policy options) toward Iran’s nuclear program, and he sought to rectify that misinformation. Therein I suspect lies a substantial part of the charm for academics regarding bridging the academy-policy gap. By contributing to the policy discussion, academics improve the marketplace of ideas that underpins policymaking. That is a powerful lure, and in some ways gets scholars out of the dilemma by reversing the normative dilemma into a normative imperative: it is a socially good and normatively desirable for scholars, with their carefully considered arguments, deep knowledge, emphasis on analytical and theoretical thinking, and focus on linking theory with empirics to enrich the public/policy discourses and as a consequence improve the store of ideas from which policymakers make their withdrawals.

 

I don’t know if there is an answer to the dilemma of writing policy or security. And perhaps the dilemma for policy broadly is less problematic than for security specifically. Or perhaps the dilemma of writing security does not translate at all to policy writ large. Nonetheless, I am left with a nagging concern. As I watched Kroenig’s public talk (which is impressive) I found myself analyzing him as a securitizing actor. How was he making his arguments about Iran as a threat to the United States? What social and discursive tools was he drawing on? Therein lies the source of my concern. In bridging the gap, at least on this security related issue, Kroenig (perhaps unavoidably) goes from being a security analyst to a security actor. He is in his own way creating a specific security knowledge, of Iran and its nuclear program (and possible nuclear weapons) as a threat to the United States. I suspect for Kroenig that is not a problem because he does not share my or Huysmans theoretical orientation. But for those that do, it becomes very challenging to think about how to bridge the gap without becoming a part of the very security/policy practices we seek to examine, uncover, and problematize.

Under Review: Cite This!

The boon and bane of our academic enterprise is that we get feedback all the time on our work.  Our work is better for it–that the hack-iest stuff I read is always stuff that is not submitted to any kind of refereeing process and relies instead on editors who seem to be blind to the hack-ness.   The bane is that, well, rejection and criticism can not only delay publication but also hurt feelings.  When well done, reviews further the enterprise.  However, sometimes, reviews seem to make the authors dance in relatively unproductive ways.  There have been lots of tweets and posts complaining about robustness checks–that reviewers have been asking authors to submit dozens (sometimes hundreds) of additional analyses.

My grievance du jour is something else–reviews that focus on stuff that one “should have cited.”

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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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“and Elinor?”: when winning a Nobel Prize isn’t enough…

This is a guest post from Leslie Johns, an Assistant Professor of political science at UCLA. 

The Public Choice Society—an academic organization of scholars who study the interaction of politics and economics—recently announced that it has created a new award for scholarly research: the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Prize.  The announcement of this prize is provoking an intense reaction because of its name: “The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Prize”?

Elinor Ostrom was well-known to political scientists, policy analysts, and economists.  As a graduate student during the 1960s in the Political Science Department at UCLA, where I work, Ostrom overcame tremendous odds and blatant discrimination to earn her Ph.D.  Her reward for this work was being offered a job as a secretary.  After decades of climbing the academic ladder and publishing path-breaking scholarship on the regulation of shared resources, it seemed as though Ostrom had finally been recognized for her courage and intellect.  Despite the fact that she never received a degree from or a faculty appointment in an economics department, Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009. She was the first, and remains the only, woman to win this prize. Continue reading

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