If I’d only known…

by Eszter Hargittai on June 7, 2007

I am working on the Introduction to an edited volume on the nitty-gritty behind-the-scenes work involved in empirical social science research (to be published by The University of Michigan Press in 2008). While each chapter in the book gets into considerable detail about how to approach various types of projects (from sampling online populations to interviewing hard-to-access groups, from collecting biomarkers to compiling cross-national quantitative data sets), I want to address more general issues in the introductory chapter.

One of the topics I would like to discuss concerns larger-level lessons learned after conducting such projects. The motivation behind the entire volume is that unprecedented things happen no matter the quality and detail of preparation, but even issues that can be anticipated are rarely passed along to researchers new to a type of method. The volume tries to rectify this.

I am curious, what are your biggest lessons learned? If you had to pick one or two (or three or four) things you really wish you had known before you had embarked on a project, what are they? I am happy to hear about any type of issue from learning more about a collaborator’s qualifications or interests, to leaving more time for cleaning data, from type of back-up method to unprecedented issues with respondents. If you don’t feel comfortable posting here, please email me off-blog. Thanks!

Profits and Loss

by Daniel on June 7, 2007

I think I speak for every single reader and contributor to Crooked Timber when I say that we haven’t had nearly enough posts on the subject of heterodox economics recently …
[click to continue…]

Academic Freedom, Continued

by Scott McLemee on June 7, 2007

Cary Nelson, the president of the American Association of University Professors, came by the Inside Higher Ed offices for lunch earlier this week. The organization is having its annual meeting, starting today. He agreed to do an interview for a podcast, and spent about an hour talking to the editors and staff with a microphone there on the table, amidst water bottles, sandwich wrappers, and chocolate-chip cookies.

Though I’m not sure he could yell on-message one-liners in the manner required to make it on cable TV, Nelson seemed otherwise quite well-spoken. He fielded a pretty hard-edged question about the Ward Churchill case, and talked some about the idea of a major campaign to raise public awareness of the meaning of academic freedom. (“Major” as in requiring a budget of $30 million, which would mean funding from other than AAUP coffers.) And he addressed the topic of academic boycotts and the AAUP’s attitude toward them.

A selection of highlights from the hour is available here as an mp3. Mentioned only in passing is the fact that AAUP will be issuing a major statement on academic freedom in September — in large part, it sounds like, because of a perceived lack of understanding of the concept even by university professors.

Meanwhile, another AAUP member named John K. Wilson has published a manifesto complaining that the organization is “fading in importance” due to its “calcified traditions.”

Boycotting the boycotters?

by Chris Bertram on June 7, 2007

I try to avoid commenting on the material posted on Norman Geras’s site. But today he posts “a letter from Professor Daniel Statman”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2007/06/dark_days_for_t.html to “a colleague” in the British Society for Ethical Theory explaining why Statman feels unable to attend the forthcoming “BSET conference”:http://www.bset.org.uk/conference.html at Bristol (my institution). Statman — who specializes in writing on the ethics of war and whose “oeuvre“:http://philo.haifa.ac.il/faculty_pages/statman.htm contains a philosophical defence of targeted killing in the so-called WoT — is clearly a political animal and not just a wounded academic. You can read the whole letter at Normblog, but I thought I’d just comment on this paragraph:

bq. As you surely recall, in the past I used to come regularly to the meetings of BSET, which I always felt were among the highest-quality conferences in ethics worldwide. For the last two years, I haven’t been able to attend the meetings, but I did plan to do so this year and I sent the registration forms to Bristol two weeks ago. But after learning about the UCU resolution to promote an academic boycott of Israel, I have changed my mind. In the present circumstances, I don’t think I’ll feel comfortable at an academic institution or conference in the UK. I don’t feel like sitting down to dinner with people some of whom may have voted to boycott me and my colleagues. Nor do I feel like having dinner with people who, though against the boycott, nevertheless believe the offensive and absurd claim that Israel is an “apartheid state,” which makes all Israelis, academics in particular, morally polluted. And maybe, above all, I’d rather avoid the heightened self-consciousness which I fear will be inevitable in the circumstances. (Which of these folks voted to boycott me? Was that a friendly smile or the opposite? Is he being nice to me in spite of my being Israeli, because of, or regardless of? Was that political comment a provocation or just innocent small talk? And so on and so forth.)

The first thing to say is that Statman is, of course, free to associate or not with whoever he chooses, and thereby to _boycott_ whoever he likes (including people he suspects, without evidence, of beliefs he might find offensive). The second is that just 158 people voted for the motion at the UCU conference, so it is very unlikely that Professor Statman would indeed face the prospect of dinner with anyone who voted to boycott him and his colleagues. In fact, since the motion passed is at best construed as being a vote to “promote” the boycott (that is to require discussion of it in branches), a point he acknowledges in his initial formulation, it seems certain that he won’t have to dine with such a person. The third is that it is hard to imagine why the claim that Israel is an “apartheid state” (absurd or not) is particularly morally polluting for Israeli _academics_ , as Statman states. He worries that even non-boycotters might have beliefs he finds offensive — I wonder if he is so fastidious about avoiding people who might have morally offensive beliefs elsewhere (Haifa, for example?). I suggested in my last post on this issue (to remind people, I was opposing the boycott) that one effect of the proposal is to facilitate we-are-the-victims grandstanding. Statman’s letter, and his use of Geras’s website to publicize it, would seem to be just such an instance.