Friday links: caption contest!, nuance vs. social sciences, when relevant research isn’t relevant, and more

Also this week: bringing sexy everything back in sociology, times are changing and so are tenure and promotion criteria, Bitcoin vs. university finances vs. bushels of wheat, statistics vs. the Millennium Village Project, and more.

From Jeremy:

Why politicians campaigning for election mostly don’t draw on directly-relevant political science research telling them what works and what doesn’t. Basically because most “relevant” research actually isn’t relevant. Good accessible piece; I bet the same issues crop up any time scientists in any field try to do policy-relevant research.

I’m late to this, but here’s how capitalism saved the honeybees. Yes, the title’s clickbait, and yes the source has an agenda (that it’s up-front about). And I don’t know enough about the pollination industry or alternatives to commercial honeybee pollination to either endorse or reject the linked article’s broadest claims. Hopefully more informed readers can comment. But as someone who had the casual impression that the entire US commercial honeybee population was in imminent danger of complete collapse, creating an urgent need to reduce our dependence on it (e.g., via encouraging crop pollination by wild pollinators), I found the article thought provoking.

Galin Jones on how the School of Statistics at the University of Minnesota changed their tenure & promotion criteria to reflect changes in the field. They want to be better able to hire candidates who contribute to (and influence the direction of) the field in non-traditional ways. Do others have similar stories to share?

Everything old is new again in sociology–but only fairly recently. Interesting text-mining exercise showing that since the mid-to-late 90s sociologists have increasingly been trying to bring back old, purportedly-neglected ideas. Apparently Hollywood isn’t the only place that’s really into remakes these days. I have two questions. First, to what extent is this just an artifact of increasing total numbers of papers being published these days? Second, assuming it’s not an artifact, is it a Good or Bad thing? Also, the rvest package they used to do this looks like a really powerful and fun tool. (ht @kjhealy)

New School professor of political and social theory Andrew Arato has been banned from campus and had other restrictions placed on his professional activities for bullying his colleagues. He denies the accusations but agreed to the restrictions. (ht @kjhealy)

American Economics Association statement on an AEA officer candidate who has apparently been accused of creating a hostile work environment and is the subject of an ongoing institutional investigation. In future, AEA plans to ask potential nominees if they are the subject of ongoing investigations. (ht Marginal Revolution)

The Millennium Villages Project sounds like good potential fodder for an intro biostats course. Many of the criticisms of the study design and analyses, especially in its early stages, are basic issues accessible to intro biostats students.

This is a bit old but still good: the social sciences are becoming more nuanced.

Remember back in the the olden days, when you could pay your college tuition in, like, grain or farm animals? (yes, really, though I think I read somewhere that this practice was common much earlier?) Here’s the modern equivalent. Or maybe not, if back in the 18th century or whatever colleges received grain and farm animals all the time and knew what to do with them.

And finally, what’s the best caption for this? 🙂 (some options below quoted from the linked Twitter convo)


8 thoughts on “Friday links: caption contest!, nuance vs. social sciences, when relevant research isn’t relevant, and more

  1. Re: that next to last link about a guy donating a bunch of Bitcoins to his alma mater: given that his alma mater immediately sold them for cash, why didn’t they just tell him to sell them himself and give them the cash? Why go to the trouble of learning to handle Bitcoins? Was it just to indulge a rich alum?

    • I don’t think university development offices so no thank you very often. They’d rather say yes and then convert it afterwards. Universities end up with all kinds of weird donations – houses, farms, islands, etc. If they’re worth money they will take them.

      Also with anything investment oriented lock stocks of bitcoins I think the universities figures they can maximize their returns by taking them and choosing when/how to cash out.

      • Yeah, good point. I guess I was kind of thinking of Bitcoins as fundamentally different because in my imagination there are just three standard things that people donate to colleges and universities–cash, publicly-traded stocks & bonds, and real estate. So that in my imagination, colleges and universities have routine standardized ways to handle donations of any of those things. But really, those categories aren’t exhaustive, plus there’s probably more heterogeneity within each of the latter two categories than I realize. So yeah, for University of Puget Sound, “an alum wants to give us Bitcoins” probably isn’t a qualitatively different problem than “an alum wants to give us his farm” or “an alum wants to give us her collection of Impressionist paintings” or whatever.

        But what do I know? I’ve only ever given cash to my alma mater! And I’ve never likely to be in a position to give them anything else.

  2. The person that gave bitcoin to UPS is a bitcoin entrepreneur. His intention was as much about creating the process of giving bitcoin as it was about the gift itself. Washington state is a bitcoin mining and software hub, so it was probably worth the trouble to set it up on UPS’ part.

    • BTW, the reason for not selling any investment before giving is that the gain on the investment would be taxable and the owner would pay transaction cost, both of which reduce the gift AND the givers charitable deduction. If the receiving org accepts as is, they pay no tax on the accumulated gain.

  3. That honey bee article is a reasonable over view of what’s known about CCD, highlighting the fact that honey bee numbers are not going down in the way that many imagine in the US (and in fact globally they are going up at an alarming rate). However there’s a fundamental error in what is said that undermines the whole premise of the argument: honey bees are NOT responsible for “about a third of what we eat”.

    Opinions differ but the most robust statistic is that about one third of the 100 most important crops, globally, require animal pollination at least in part. Now some of that is done by honey bees (Tom Breeze at Reading estimated that it’s about 30% of agricultural pollination in the UK) but the majority is not, though it certainly depends on the crop and the region. But arguments that we need to save honey bees because they are vital for human food security are just wrong.

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