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


Bottom-up creation of data-driven capabilities: show don’t tell

I’ve been writing lately on what to do when people who make decisions in an organization say they want data-driven capabilities but then ignore or attack the results of data-driven analysis for not saying what they think the data ought to say. Some of the most productive things you can do in that situation include automating your work so you can devote more time and attention to more important (and labor-intensive) projects, as well as building support among the organization’s weak actors as a means of garnering positive attention from higher-power stakeholders. Continue reading

Why do Jihadi Clerics become Jihadi?

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Jihadi terrorism these days. I do still pay attention to the conflict in Afghanistan, and off and on I’ve been able to help with some projects being undertaken by other researchers. But I don’t have much time to think about terrorism outside of a conflict zone. However, yesterday I saw a flyer in the elevator for a talk on “Jihadi Clerics” and my interest was piqued enough that I attended. Continue reading

More about the total mess that is the standard academic publication system

A while ago I wrote a post about the broken-ness of the current standard publication model for academic research – write a manuscript, submit to a journal, have the journal send your manuscript to about three somebodies who by someone’s standard have some sort of “expertise” in something related to some part of what you wrote, have those somebodies give a thumbs up or down along with minimal comments that may or may not be supported by evidence or even citations, repeat until you publish or give up. Paul reminded me of that post when he sent me this Note from the Editor of the American Political Science Review. Continue reading

The qualitative/quantitative divide is sort of useless. Focus on replicability instead.

I’ve decided to create a new “no longer useful” tag for posts about topics that social researchers seem to harp on a lot but for which it seems we have already derived all of the useful lessons to be had. I’ve gone back and appended this label to my post on the George Box quote that “all models are wrong but some are useful,” and to my most recent post on the lack of individual objectivity among scientists. I don’t think my posts will put these sort of assertions to bed, but I feel better adding my voice to those who think they ought to be put to bed. Continue reading