Visualizing and Ranking Tourist Inequality

Go here to see the interactive maps and indices.

According to the World Tourism Organization, there were over 1 billion international tourists in 2012. Many, but not all, of those travellers began their trips by acquiring a tourist visa. So to a degree, tourist visas play an important role in determining where you can and cannot easily travel around the world. About a month ago, a friend and classmate of mine was planning to go on a Kennedy School trip to Israel and Palestine. She got her tickets and applied for her visa to Israel and was all set to go. But when she arrived at Logan Airport and tried to check in to her flight, she was told she wouldn’t be allowed on the flight. The flight was connecting through Canada, and she’s a citizen of India and didn’t have a tourist visa for Canada. Who knew you couldn’t land at a Canadian airport without a visa if you have an Indian passport!?

The privilege to travel internationally is an awesome one, and one that can be easy for citizens of wealthier countries to take for granted. So we decided to see if we could find some data to explore differences in requirements for tourist visas across countries. There’s an index of economic freedom, an index of corruption perceptions, and lots of others as well, so why not an index of tourist inequality?

You can see the interactive maps and indices here.

Improving Interpretation of Science Writing

Stories of recent fraudulent science seem uncomfortably common. In many of those cases the scientists are blamed, and rightly so. Sometimes criticisms identify more systemic problems like current scientific practice, or scientific institutions like the NSF or a university, or academia in general. Blame is also often laid on pop science and the popular science writers who try to tell a counterintuitive and interesting story, or who are under pressure to write frequently and under a deadline. Continue reading

Research at Disney

If the talk about a shortage of faculty positions is dispiriting, articles like this are energizing. Data science has emerged as a hopeful and interesting alternative to academic social science. But one of the biggest drawbacks has to be that many data science positions are shaped so exclusively by computer science, engineering, or some other area of science that isn’t primarily social. Those areas of work are great, integral and critical, but the result of the skew is that descriptions of “data science” can lose sight of the real human behavior and social phenomena behind the data being analyzed. Continue reading

What happens in society, stays in …the brain?

I finally had the chance to catch up on my reading this morning, and at the top of the list was this “We Aren’t the World” article. As Schaun pointed out in his last post, the basic narrative behind the piece (and a lot of the discussion around Henrich’s work) is that science is moving away from the view that humans have more or less universal cognitive faculties. This old view assumed everyone would respond similarly to basic stimuli. But then Henrich and others came along and showed that people respond differently to those stimuli. So now we know that cognition itself is shaped by “culture, environment, etc.” Continue reading

The Value of Reproducible Research: Sometimes the response matters more than the results

Yesterday I followed a tweet to a post by Jason Lyall responding to apparently widespread criticism of a new survey in Afghanistan done by the Asia Foundation. The post was the first I’d heard of the survey or of the response to it, so I don’t know anything more about the criticism than what Jason wrote, or much about the nature or arguments of the criticism. But the post did link to one criticism in particular, from Sarah Chayes, a journalist turned NGO-founder and regular ISAF-hired expert on Afghanistan. The general approach taken in her critique seems illustrative of something I find very valuable about systematic and reproducible research and analysis: it facilitates productive and progressive (though perhaps not always intentionally so) responses. Continue reading