Category: Academia (page 1 of 15)

It isn’t just about Wæver and Buzan

In case you missed it, quite the IR controversy has broken out. In August 2019, Alison Howell and Melanie Richter-Montpetit (hereafter H&RM) published “Is securitization theory racist? Civilizationism, methodological whiteness, and antiblack thought in the Copenhagen School” in Security Dialogue (SD) OnlineFirst. The authors conclude, after a tendentious (my assessment) reading of Security: A New Framework for Analysis(1998) and Regions and Powers (2003) that securitization theory is fundamentally racist and, deemed unsalvageable, should be ejected from security studies—and this would include the word securitization. 

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Journal Submissions in Times of COVID-19: Is There A Gender Gap?

The following is a post by ISA journal editors Krista Wiegand (International Studies Quarterly), Debbie Lisle (International Political Sociology), Amanda Murdie (International Studies Review), and James Scott (International Studies Perspectives).

There has been a lot of talk in academia about the many negative consequences the COVID-19 pandemic has generated, ranging from declining enrollments, inability to travel for field research or conferences, and research productivity working from home. As editors of the International Studies Association (ISA) journals, we started noticing some new trends in submissions as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated. First, submission rates were up for almost all the ISA journals. When we checked the submission rates from March 13 – the average date that most universities shifted to online classes – to May 4 this year, compared to the same time period last year, most of the journals had a higher number of submissions, ranging from a 17% to 343% increase compared to the same time period last year. However, we also noticed that submission rates by female scholars were down — at least proportionally — in most of the journals. When we compared the submission rates by women to “normal” times, we saw a clear decline. For example, in International Studies Perspectives, the proportion of submitted manuscripts including at least one female co-author declined by over 19% compared to the same time period last year. 

This trend in increased submissions does not appear to be unique to ISA journals; we know from social media that several IR and political science journals have seen an uptick in submission numbers since mid-March. The editors of Comparative Political Studies and American Journal of Political Science noticed the trends as well. Outside of political science and international studies, other academic fields have started highlighting the same trends, getting attention in mainstream media like The Guardian. In economics, one study found that the productivity of women and mid-career faculty, as measured by submission of recent working-papers, was disproportionately down during lockdown. There have been similar discussions about women’s reduced productivity in journal submissions in the sciences. 

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Thoughts on Political Science in a Time of Plague

This is a guest post by Jeffrey C. Isaac, James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. You can follow him at his blog at Democracy in Dark Times.

The coronavirus has thrown the entire world into a terrifying crisis that challenges public health and the very possibility of normal social interaction.

If ever there were a time when scholarly research and relevant knowledge were needed, it is now. Public officials and journalists have clamored for new scientific and medical research, and universities and university-based scholars have answered the call.

And yet, while our situation presents not simply a crisis of public health but a crisis of public life itself, the demand for relevant scientific knowledge is strangely silent about the contributions of political science.

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Why are Egypt&Turkey sending medical equipment to the US? International Status and lazy explanations in IR

Like so much else in international relations, the answer to this question seems “obvious.” But, like so much else, it gets trickier when we really investigate the situation, and it reveals nuances to international relations that many scholars and policy analysts overlook.

About a week ago, Egypt sent medical equipment to the United States to help in the fight against Covid-19. The packages were printed with “From the Egyptian People to the American People.” This prompted many dark jokes, as Egypt is currently suffering a major Covid-19 outbreak it is struggling to contain. Then Turkey followed suit. Turkey sent a plane with medical equipment to the United States, despite also suffering a Covid-19 outbreak.

The “obvious” explanation is economic: Egypt depends on US aid, so they want to keep us happy. Turkey doesn’t, but its economy is struggling so maybe they want to ensure the United States will help them if needed.

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Bridging the Gap in National Security Studies

This is a guest post from Paul Johnson, who is an operations research analyst with the US Army. His personal research ranges on topics from political violence and militias to security force loyalty and design.  The views expressed here do not represent the perspective of the US Army or Department of Defense.

Given this forum’s focus as an outlet helping bridge the gap, this post discusses ways that academics working on national security-related topics can make themselves and their work more accessible to potential end-users, as seen and experienced from the author’s perspective as a national-security practitioner.

A Wide Variety of Vital Contributions

Previous articles on this topic (e.g., see here and here) have pointed out a variety of contributions that scholars can make to applied work, including:

  • Theory, which provides an idea of how to view an emerging event or string of events, helping users “see the forest for the trees.”  From an analytical perspective, being able to point to a solid body of social-science literature backing up a framework — especially a literature with fairly settled empirical findings — increases the credibility of that framework for application to real-world problems.
  • Data, which may be quantitative or qualitative.  Publically accessible social science datasets often find their way into analytical usage in national-security settings as the best available data on a topic of interest.  Similarly, the perspective of area specialists, also known as subject matter experts (or “smees”), on a given country or set of countries can provide highly valued information.
  • Forecasts, which can be as simple as a most-likely-outcome statement.  Bonus points for willingness to take a stab at a probability point-estimate for that statement, and more points for being explicit about uncertainty.
  • Advice about what to do in a given real-world situation.  Since most empirical scholars focus on establishing ceteris-paribus relationships across a large number of cases, practicing applying that work to a specific case usually requires a bit of a mindset shift, but adopting that mindset is necessary for any applied work.
  • Analytical methodology, which finds its way into applied work through a variety of means. Some of these means include PhD students being hired into federal government, ongoing professionalization for current civil-servant analysts, and academics working as government contractors or other forms of participation on a per-project basis.
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Doing PhD Research While Staying in Place

Last night, I taught another session of our Dissertation Proposal Workshop class, and the topic was the methodology section of one’s proposal.  That is, how am I going to research this question and how do I justify the choices I made?  This is after going through the other pieces–the question, the proposed answer, what other folks have said about this or have said about other stuff that you want to bring to this project, the theory, and the hypotheses.  How does one test the hypotheses was the question du jour (or nuit). 

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Public Health Research in Mainstream International Relations Outlets

Steve Saideman’s recent Duck piece on international relations scholars’ relative silence on issues of pandemics, and public health more generally, has ruffled feathers[1]and generated a lot of discussion: about marginalization of certain research outlets and methodologies, about the value of interdisciplinary work in a self-identifying-as-such-but-still-not-all-that-interdisciplinary discipline, and about what it means to say “IR as a field has little to say” vs. “individual IR scholars having said quite a bit.”

This all hits pretty close to home. As an IR scholar whose main area of specialization—climate change and conflict—has not received much purchase in mainstream political science and IR outlets, I can sympathize with feeling marginalized. And I’m sure I would bristle at the idea of someone saying “why don’t IR scholars study climate change”, though I’ve always read these pleadings as supportive of a broader platform for work in this area, not a failure to recognize the work that’s already being done. But I think the data are pretty clear: comparatively speaking, public health is not a widely published on topic in mainstream IR journals.

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Covid-19, remote learning and work-life balance

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many useful discussions about public health, social responsibility, and tips for online learning. See the many great posts that have gone up here. One thing that hasn’t been discussed enough, in my opinion, is work-life balance. Given all the pressures of the modern University, how do we ensure the expansive demands of remote learning don’t swamp us and–for those of us with families–undermine our commitments to our kids or an equitable marriage?

I’ll start with my situation. My wife has been home with our kids (2&4) and was actually planning on going back to work outside the home this spring. So technically I could be working full-time, but out of recognition of the difficulties of never leaving the house, and to be there for my family, I switched to a 1/2 time schedule. I work 10-3 with a break for lunch, so I can help get the kids ready in the morning, put them down for nap, and play with them in the afternoon. It’s stressful, and I feel like I barely have time to get work done even as I barely have time to be with my family.

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Why Have Mainstream IR Journals Largely Ignored Pandemics*

* I have changed the title as I got plenty of pushback on twitter–that there is plenty of IR on Pandemics, not just in the major journals. And I will add an update at the bottom later to address the criticisms later.

People are wondering why there has not been much scholarship on the international relations of pandemics in the mainstream journals.


Not a scientific survey of the literature, but it gives you the basic idea.  I can’t really name any scholars that come to mind that are the pandemic experts, except strangely enough Dan Drezner thanks to his book Theory of International Politics and Zombies (the origin of that book was the blogging community reacting to a study by public health types who were wondering if countries would cooperate in the face of a pandemic and they used zombies as a placeholder for … something like this)  Which really is about IR theory and cooperation and not really about pandemics.  It is just the closest we got.  Which ain’t much. Why?

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Over 1000 U.S. Political Scientists are Worried about Democratic Elections in November: Here’s Why

This is a guest post from Jeffrey C. Isaac and William Kindred Winecoff who both teach political science at Indiana University, Bloomington

Last Wednesday the two of us circulated an open letter from U.S. political scientists, expressing concern about how the crisis surrounding the COVID pandemic could endanger the November election, and declaring that “We Must Urgently Work to Guarantee Free and Fair Democratic Elections in November” (posted at bottom). The letter endorsed the excellent report produced by legal scholars at the Brennan Center for Justice, entitled “Responding to the Coronavirus Crisis.”

Within 6 hours 500 of our colleagues had signed. Within 48 hours over 950 had signed. Among the signatories were some of the most distinguished political scientists in the U.S.; many past-presidents of the American Political Science Association (and the current president as well); and hundreds of the most dedicated teachers of American politics in U.S. higher education. This is a pretty striking response. As the political scientists who circulated the letter, and who are in a sense “participant observers,” we think it is important to explain this phenomenon—the rather phenomenal worry of so many people who study and teach about politics for a living.

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no, Realism cannot explain the international Covid-19 response

As the world rushes to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, international relations scholars have a lot to say. We are not public health experts, or pathologists. But we can speak to the way states respond to common threats and the political process needed to formulate an effective response. One common reference is the realist idea of self-interest driving state behavior and undermining collective action. Yet, while realism as an inclination can explain what’s going on, Realism as a scholarly theory cannot.

Many scholars and general observers of international relations have reacted with frustration at state responses to Covid-19. The Trump Administration delayed testing and has provided insufficient information or help to states and communities. Britain’s Boris Johnson vacillated from doing nothing to locking down the country. China failed to be sufficiently transparent during the early stages of the pandemic.

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Duck podcast episode 3: Catherine Sanger

The third episode of the podcast is now live. Luke discusses with Catherine Sanger (Yale-NUS) the challenges and opportunities of moving teaching online as a result of measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. Both Luke and Catherine encourage listeners to leave thoughts and suggestions in the comments section on their own adaptations to online teaching.

For the article Catherine references in Times Higher Education, click here.

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What matters most for teaching in the age of coronavirus?

This is a guest post from Dr. Rebecca Glazier, who is an Associate Professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She has over 10 years of experience teaching online and her pedagogical research focuses on improving online retention.

Many of us are in the middle of teaching triage—scrambling to put our classes online, adjusting assignments, and responding to panicked students. What should we prioritize in this time of crisis? Lucky for us, there is not only a wealth of academic literature about best practices for teaching online, but there is also a great network of scholars willing to share it through blogs, articles, and Twitter.

My overarching recommendation, from over 10 years of teaching and researching online, is to prioritize. If you are interested, there are extensive lists of best practices, detailed descriptions of all the neat technological tools you can use, and thoughtful articles on how to carefully design an online course for the first time. But this is a pandemic and many of us are moving our classes online with only days or maybe weeks to prepare. There is nothing best about this situation. Under these circumstances, we can be happy with good enough.

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Thinking about Corona and Academia

The Duck has been covering Corona in a variety of ways over the past several weeks with posts including Josh’s coverage of the early outbreak, the early international dynamics, past and present epidemics, the role of money and of international cooperation, how different types of political systems are handling the crisis, and so on. But thus far, we Ducksters haven’t considered here what it means for us. As the resident narcissist, my time has come.

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Practicing Academic Kindness in the Classroom

This is a guest post by Philipp Schulz, who is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS) at the University of Bremen. Philipp’s research focuses on the gender dynamics of armed conflicts, with a particular focus on masculinities and wartime sexual violence. His book ‘Male Survivors of Wartime Sexual Violence – Perspectives from northern Uganda’ is forthcoming with University of California Press. 

Academic competitiveness and pettiness is alive and real. From expediting demands of the competitive academic job market, disrespectful peer review comments, to micro-aggressions and open hostilities at conferences – in particular to early career, women and/or people of colour scholars – there seem to be countless examples for an acute absence of kindness and empathy in the academy. Probably most of us, although to varying degrees, have been confronted with the unkind aspects of academic environments. In many ways, of course, these problems are embedded in wider structural problems of racism and sexism within the academy at large.

Fortunately, there seems to be increasing (albeit slow) recognition of the toxic practices of academic work cultures. As an early career researcher, I am particularly excited about some of the kindness that many of my peers are extending and the horizontal generosity that is beginning to spread across conferences, workshops and social media. Yet, I do believe that the (sub-)field of feminist international relations is particularly unique in that way, perhaps not unrelated to some of the disciplinary sanctioning and marginalizing that the field still experiences in the discipline more widely. 

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When 70% is good enough

When I was a grad student, I had the privilege of student teaching with political theorist Eric MacGilvray. Eric was—and I’m sure still is—a brilliant teacher. He was always in motion, but in a way that felt deliberate. He often perched on an elevated windowsill while listening to students debate amongst themselves. He made even the most archaic and dense texts accessible. (The class was Classics of Social and Political Thought.) He also had a unique approach to grading. Rather than marking on a scale of 100, where 94 is an A, he introduced a seven-point scale. Actually, it was a ten-point scale, but when he introduced it to students, he explained that seven was what they should aim for. A ten on this scale was publishable work. At their level, students weren’t meant to be doing publishable work. They were meant to be learning. Seven was good enough. 

At an elite American university where too many of the students aimed for perfection, the idea that you didn’t have to be perfect was liberating. It allowed students to take up and internalize feedback. Even though we translated the seven-point scale back into US-based grades at the end of the semester, it opened a space for learning. I found Eric’s system brilliant. Only it turns out that it wasn’t Eric’s system.

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It’s Duckies time!

This is a guest post from Kindred Winecoff, current Chair of the Online Media Caucus for ISA.

The Online Achievement in International Studies Reception and Awarding of the Duckies will take place on Wednesday, March 25th at 7:30pm. As always we’ll feature three speakers in the Ignite series and enjoy honoring our winners together.  The ISA Online Media Caucus (OMC) appreciates the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation, the Mortara Center for International Studies of Georgetown University, and the Canadian Defence and Security Network of Carleton University.

Now is the time to submit your nominations for the 2020 Duckies. Please send these nominations to onlinemediacaucus@gmail.com by February 15, 2020. Self-nominations are encouraged! Note that the OMC decided last year to change the award categories, in order to reflect the evolution of the online media environment. We now award Duckies in the following categories:

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Audit Culture in UK Higher Education

In 2016 I took a job at university in the UK. As an American, British academic culture was new to me, especially its ‘audit culture’. The key elements of audit culture are mechanisms for the evaluation and measurement of teaching and research. The vast majority of UK higher education is delivered by public institutions, regulated and funded in large part by the government. The UK government justifies its use of oversight mechanisms on democratic grounds. They argue that since higher education is funded primarily, though not exclusively, by the central government, academic staff should be held accountable to the public through the evaluation of the relative ‘excellence’ of a university’s research and teaching. However, as I will explain, government-mandated reviews are only the tip of the iceberg. The practice of oversight is woven into the day-to-day administration of teaching and research.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a national review of research quality and productivity that takes place approximately every five years (the upcoming REF is in 2021, the previous one was held in 2014). The process is taken very seriously by university administrators because it informs the allocation of around £2 billion per year of public funding for universities’ research. At my university we have already begun preparing for the next cycle with what is known as the “rolling REF”, an ongoing internal assessment exercise where we all read and assess one another’s published work. What this means, in effect, is that it feels like there is no end to the REF review process. As one colleague put it, “after the REF is before for the REF.” 

The rules of the REF are baroque and shift with each subsequent cycle. Under the current rules, as a scholar on a research and teaching contract your aim should be to produce four, four-star research outputs every five years. This is because, at least for the 2021 cycle, no one researcher can submit more than four items, but universities have to submit at least something from all eligible staff it employs (just determining eligibility requires a flow chart–see p. 36). There is also an “impact case study” element to the REF used to assess the role research plays outside academia. To give you an idea of the scale of the REF audit, here are the stats from 2014:

https://www.ref.ac.uk/media/1021/guide-to-ref-2021-for-research-users.pdf

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The sneaky rise of “common wisdom” in Middle East studies

We’ve all spent the weekend processing the killing of Iranian official Qassim Suleimani by a US airstrike. While this is obviously very important, we should think about a secondary implication of this act–how this undermined the apparent Middle East analyst consensus that America was pulling back from tensions with Iran, and how this consensus even emerged in the first place.

A few months ago I noticed something interesting. Saudi Arabia, after adopting a hostile foreign policy on Qatar and Yemen–motivated by its fears of Iran–seemed to be getting nervous. They’d issue warning signs about the impact of a war, and their UAE allies actually seemed to be trying to calm things down. I noted this on Twitter (I’m not going to look up my tweets, but you can find them), and thought I was onto something.

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The Same but Different: US vs UK Higher Education

Four years ago I accepted a job at a university in the UK. When I took the job I didn’t think a whole lot about how working in the UK might differ from my previous academic posts in the US. I’m an American, and though I have British friends who work at UK universities–one of whom warned me “not to be fooled by the fact that we speak the same language”–I was woefully underprepared for just how distinct the two higher education systems are. Brits and Americans do speak the same language, but there are significant differences in their use of terminology. It’s not just that we use different words to mean the same thing, it’s that we use the same words to mean different things. For instance:

Are you alright? 

Let’s start with the simple stuff. If a Brit greets you and asks, “You a’right?” it is the equivalent of an American saying, “Hey, how are you?” However, I spent my first couple weeks in the UK wondering if there was something wrong with how I looked. I would immediately check to see if I was bleeding or if I had spilled coffee on my shirt.

Dissertation vs Thesis

In the US the dissertation is what you write to earn your PhD. In the UK it’s what an undergraduate or master’s level student writes as a capstone assignment. I learned this fact only after a couple of rather confusing conversations with my advisees. To sum it up: A dissertation is a thesis and a thesis is a dissertation.

Course 

In the US what would be called a “course” is called a “module” in the UK. So, for instance, where students select their classes from a course catalogue in the US, they browse a module catalogue in the UK. However, this use of terminology becomes extra confusing because in the UK they use the word course to describe what in the US would be a degree program. In other words, a module is to a course in the UK as a course is to a program in the US.

Lecturer 

When I was hired on in the UK, I was hired as a lecturer. I knew it was a “permanent” position. Yet the fact that in the US a lecturer is usually a contingent or adjunct employee caused confusion for my friends back home. In the UK a lecturer is the first rank on the academic promotion scale. In some ways it is equivalent to being hired as an assistant professor in the US, except that in the UK there is no up-or-out tenure system. Once you pass a cursory probation period you are hired on an open-ended contract. Though rare, technically, you could spend your entire career as a lecturer.

Reader

In the US the term reader is generally used to describe someone who enjoys reading. In the UK it is also a rank on the academic promotion scale. The rank of reader does not have a US equivalent in the sense that there are three rungs on the US promotion ladder, whereas there are four rungs in the UK. The promotion ladder in the UK is lecturer, senior lecturer, reader, professor. A senior lecturer is generally considered to be equivalent to an associate professor. A reader is equivalent to the junior ranks of what would be a full professor.

Professor

Adding to the confusion is that in the UK there are differences in title attached to the differences in rank. In the US all tenure-track and tenured faculty are addressed as “professor.” In the UK, until you reach the rank of professor you are addressed as “doctor” rather than “professor.” My students call me Dr. Harrington, or at least that’s how I ask them to address me. I still get plenty of emails that start out with “Hi” or, more unfortunately, “Miss Harrington.”

Staff 

In the UK the term staff refers to all academic and administrative employees. In the US “staff” usually refers to administrative support and “faculty” denotes the academic personnel. Moreover, rather than working directly for academic faculty who have taken on administrative positions, as they usually do in the US, administrative staff have a career track and promotion hierarchy that sits parallel to the academic track. This then touches on another, broader point about the extent of UK bureaucracy, but that’s a story for another time.

Marking

Marking is what in the US is called grading. This is not a particular source of confusion as marking and grading are more or less synonymous terms in the US as well, but I am including it here because the culture of marking is quite different than it is in the US. It is a much more involved process which includes the practice of moderation in which a colleague reviews a sample of the marked essays and comments on the consistency of the grades and the quality of the feedback.

Scheme 

What in the US would be called a program or plan Brits call a “scheme.” There’s a scheme for almost everything in the UK. There’s a pension scheme, a postgraduate funding scheme, a publication scheme. To an American it manages to make even the most banal plan sound like an underhanded plot. Take for instance the Beacon Scholarship, which my university’s website describes as “a lucrative scheme..open to all undergraduate courses,” or my university’s bicycle scheme. I pictured a bicycle theft ring, but it turned out to be a completely above-board program to purchase a bicycle on a tax-free installment plan.

This catalog is far from exhaustive, and it only scratches the surface of what are much deeper structural and cultural differences. I’m sure that there are many more terms that one could add, but for now, as they say in the UK, I wish you all “Happy Christmas.”

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