Sociological Science

by Kieran Healy on September 17, 2013

I’m very pleased to see that Sociological Science is open for article submissions, and expects to start publishing articles early next year. The journal is designed to ameliorate several problems that beset academic publishing. It’s an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that promises a fast turnaround time in review. It’s common enough in some fields for authors to get stuck, literally for years, in Reviewer Hell. There, papers are subject to repeated rounds of review, new reviewers are added at each round, new demands are placed on authors, and later reviewers routinely object to content in the paper—e.g., further supposed theoretical development or methodological bells and whistles—that was added at the behest of earlier reviewers. Reviewer Hell is only one of the pathological forms peer review can take. but recently it’s become a real problem for some of the leading journals in the field. Sociological Science promises a 30 day up-or-down review process, with no “development” effort and no R&R process. They hope to accomplish this with a relatively large pool of Deputy Editors with authority to accept or reject articles.

As a properly open-access journal, they’ve chosen to fund themselves through submission and publication fees instead of signing up with a major journal publisher or soliciting institutional support from a university or a foundation. The fee schedule is graded by rank, so students pay least and full professors pay most. The incentive is that authors retain copyright on their work and everything published is available ungated and immediately.

All in all, I think Sociological Science is a really worthwhile effort to provide an alternative model for publishing serious peer-reviewed work in a timely and accessible way. I hope it succeeds.

Who got to design our uniforms?

by Harry on September 17, 2013

Maria’s post reminded me of this.

Some days are better than other days

by Maria on September 17, 2013

Ugh. Some days, no matter how many nice or exciting things happening in my personal and professional life, I just feel that we are all, quite simply, fucked.

As a mini-reward for getting a small work thing into my outbox by 0900, I read Russell Brand’s take on his recent adventure award-ceremony-land, when he reminded GQ that its main sponsor, Hugo Boss, used to do a nice line in Nazi uniforms. What’s that trick fiction writers are supposed to do, to make the day to day seem unfamiliar so you look at it with new eyes? Brand’s description of how it actually feels to be the male mega-star walking through a corridor of identically dressed and posed women-as-ornaments shows how messed up it is that anyone could ever think it normal. And it’s not even cool, just “a vision of what squares imagine cool people might do set on a spaceship”. In this instance, Brand is how you might like to imagine yourself if you were fabulously successful, clear-eyed about exactly how, and both brave and talented enough to write beautifully about it. And honest enough to see it’s not even all that brave to give the two fingers to the suits; it’s just somewhat unusual.

“I could see the room dividing as I spoke. I could hear the laughter of some and louder still silence of others. I realised that for some people this was regarded as an event with import. The magazine, the sponsors and some of those in attendance saw it as a kind of ceremony that warranted respect. In effect, it is a corporate ritual, an alliance between a media organisation, GQ, and a commercial entity, Hugo Boss. What dawned on me as the night went on is that even in apparently frivolous conditions the establishment asserts control, and won’t tolerate having that assertion challenged, even flippantly, by that most beautifully adept tool: comedy
.”

Walking up Oxford Street around noon, I saw an angry white man trying to pick a fight with a woman in hijab, and a white woman getting onto him for it. At least that’s how I interpreted the scene. A couple of minutes later, as I sat at my bus stop, the white woman came up to check which buses went from it, and the man followed, abusing her with various disgusting and shouted remarks about her appearance and how she shouldn’t dare to be out. I glared at him and made to get up and intervene, and he walked away. But with today’s Sun newspaper’s front page launching its campaign to ban Muslim women from wearing veils in schools, courts, hospitals, banks, airports and other ‘secure places’, but offering to ‘let’ them continue to be veiled in parks and on streets, I’m not surprised this particular bully feels he has a license to abuse and threaten women on Britain’s biggest shopping street.

On the bus home, I cracked open Colin Crouch’s Post-Democracy, feeling sick at the thought that it’s a long and useless decade ago that he wrote:

“… in most of the industrialized world (that), whatever the party identity of the government, there was steady, consistent pressure for state policy to favour the interests of the wealthy – those who benefited from the unrestricted operation of the capitalist economy rather than those who needed some protection from it.”

The book is about how politics is no longer shaped in pro-democratic ways by an organised and engaged working class, among other factors, but is returning to its pre-twentieth century norm of being “something to serve the interests of various sections of the privileged.”

Having just witnessed what I’d guess from his accent was a working class Glaswegian man using a public space to target his presumed enemy, a woman from a minority religion, I couldn’t help feeling that we – the leftists, the progressives, or anyone who gives a political damn about more than their own venal and narrow economic interests – we’ve lost, we’ll continue losing in ever more – and then ever less – outrageous ways, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

But at least it will be entertaining, eh?

Back home, I spotted Cory Doctorow’s take on the Sultan of Brunei’s little brother who has blown almost fifteen billion dollars on tat. (Why, by the way, do the .1% have such awful taste in music? If you could rent almost any musician for a private show, would you really pick Rod Stewart?) Lest anyone think oiligarchs have absolutely anything to offer the rest of us, politically or culturally, we are reminded that;

“It’s a kind of pornography of capitalism, a Southeast Asian version of the Beverly Hillbillies, a proof that oil fortunes demand no thought, no innovation, no sense of shared national destiny: just a hole the ground, surrounded by guns, enriching an elite of oafs and wastrels.”

I’m not saying our crowd don’t have the best songs. And we for sure have the best writers and comedians. But we’re still losing and we will keep losing, while amusing ourselves to death.

Bookplugs

by John Quiggin on September 17, 2013

I’ll be at Brisbane’s Avid Reader bookshop this evening, helping at the launch of Pushing our luck: ideas for Australian progress, a new book of essays from the Centre for Policy Development. We’ve got a few years to reflect on policy ideas following the recent election win for the Murdoch-LNP, so this is a good time to get started.

While I’m at it, I’m going to mention a bunch of books I’ve read, and intended to write about, but haven’t had time (may do so later)

Earthmasters: Playing God with the Climate by Clive Hamilton, is about geo-engineering, often presented as the backstop alternative to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As the title indicates, this book is an argument that reliance on geo-engineering is a recipe for disaster. I agree, though I think it’s clear that sometime this century we are going to have to find a way to achieve, in effect, negative emissions, that is a situation where human and natural processes take more CO2 and methane out of the atmosphere than they put into it. That’s not exactly geoengineering, but it is a conscious intervention to change the atmosphere, or at least return it to an earlier state

Battlers and Billionaires: The Story of Inequality in Australia by Andrew Leigh, economist and MP. A great book on the looming end of the “fair go” in Australia. I’d put more emphasis on the role of policy and less on technology than Andrew does, but that puts me in a minority among economists.

The Infinite Resource by Ramez Naam. This is the book that Bjorn Lomborg ought to have written, instead of the silly and deceptive “Sceptical Environmentalist”. Naam doesn’t pretend that the risk of environmental catastrophe is spurious or that markets will fix the problem by themselves, but nonetheless has an optimistic take on the scope for innovation to allow the human race to not only survive but thrive.

Occupy the Future a volume of short essays arising from the Occupy movement. Lots of useful resources here

Masters of the Universe:Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics by Daniel Stedman Jones. Not a new topic, but a lot of new information and analysis – well worth reading.

The New American Economy:The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward From 2009, interesting in itself and because Bartlett is one of the most notable examples of the intellectual trend of conversion from right to left, evident since the late 1990s, and reversing the pattern of earlier decades.

Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway Another older book, but indispensable now that the merchants of doubt and delusion have gained political power here

Bankers, Bureaucrats, and Central Bank Politics: The Myth of Neutrality by Christopher Adolph. Makes the obvious but vital point that central bankers aren’t neutral bureaucrats. For many, central banking is a step towards, or an interlude in, a career in the financial sector, and the policies they advocate while in the public sector reflect this.

That hasn’t left a lot of time for fiction, but I think I have now read everything by the late and much-missed Iain Banks (including all the SF stuff written as Iain M. Banks).