Author Archives: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

another step forward for open science

The esteemed journal Nature has issued new guidelines about code availability. Includes:

Nature and the Nature journals have decided that, given the diversity of practices in the disciplines we cover, we cannot insist on sharing computer code in all cases. But we can go further than we have in the past, by at least indicating when code is available. Accordingly, our policy now mandates that when code is central to reaching a paper’s conclusions, we require a statement describing whether that code is available and setting out any restrictions on accessibility. Editors will insist on availability where they consider it appropriate: any practical issues preventing code sharing will be evaluated by the editors, who reserve the right to decline a paper if important code is unavailable. Moreover, we will provide a dedicated section in articles in which any information on computer code can be placed.

geeks at war!


Yesterday Eszter got me started playing Ingress, which to paraphrase this good introduction, is sort of like Foursquare meets geocaching meets a sci-fi version of the Cold War.  The map above shows the current battle between the two teams: the Resistance (blue) vs. the Enlightened (green).  Also, as you can see, the places where war is afoot versus those where it is not also provides a good proxy for global digital inequality.

(If you do check it out, might I suggest Team Green?  Sure, “resistance” might sound more plucky, but it’s really all about keeping the world the way it is, whereas enlightenment is about making the world better.  Or at least that’s the lofty rationale we’re using to try to get you to join our team.)


Don’t these badges look nifty? You can display them girl-scout style at the top of your article if it fulfills various open science practices. Should quant sociology have something like this? (Nothing against my qual-pals, just harder to see how it would work.)

data disclosure checklist

Happened across the data disclosure checklist required by Management Science. So simple!

Indicate (e.g., by underlining) “Yes” or “No”:

Yes No - This manuscript includes analysis of data (e.g., field data, simulated data, experimental data, primary data, secondary data, public data, private data, etc.).

Yes No - If our manuscript is accepted we will provide the journal with our data so that it can be posted on the journal’s website. To promote additional research and to increase the credibility of a paper’s findings, data disclosure is encouraged but not required.

Yes No - A portion of our data cannot be disclosed due to a non-disclosure agreement or similar limitations on disclosure. If “Yes,” briefly explain which data cannot be disclosed and why:

For papers that report experimental data, please answer the following:

Yes No - We report how we determined our sample sizes, all data exclusions (if any), all manipulations (for experimental work), and all measures collected.

on sockpuppetry

Diederik Stapel, responsible for something like 50-some retracted articles due to academic fraud, was apparently commenting on stories about him on Retraction Watch using a pseudonym. I thought his reply was interesting:

I thought that in an internet environment where many people are writing about me (a real person) using nicknames it is okay to also write about me (a real person) using a nickname. I have learned that apparently that was —in this particular case— a misjudgment. I think did not dare to use my real name (and I still wonder why). I feel that when it concerns person-to-person communication, the “in vivo” format is to be preferred over and above a blog where some people use their real name and some do not. In the future, I will use my real name. I have learned that and I understand that I –for one– am not somebody who can use a nickname where others can.

ifcomp 2014

The 20th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition has begun, with 42 entries that pursue the unlikely premise of a prose-oriented videogame. Not sure I’ll actually get the chance to play any, but the preview blurbs are fun to read. I can’t decide if my favorite is:

Alec Baldwin gets what Alec Baldwin wants, and when he wants six gallons for a Milk Party, you better believe he’s getting six gallons. Includes 3 Endings.


Sigmund’s Quest is an homage to the classic point-and-click adventure games that inspired me so much as a child. It tells the first part of the story of the Völsunga saga, a Norse myth similar to King Arthur in some ways, albeit with more incest and werewolves.

Although probably the one that piqued my interest in terms of something I might check out was:

There is a house.
There is a room in the house.
There is a door in the room. The door is locked.
Some people are in the room.
Some people are transparent.


The Weather Channel is naming winter storms, and despite the fact that science has shown that storms are vastly more lethal when named after women than men, they are brazenly going ahead with naming some for women.  I hope the prospect sends a mysterious icy shiver up the spine of all the counterfactual people who will freeze to death because of this choice.

In any event, apparently “W” is to be decided by a reader poll, and one of the options is the super-manly “Wolf”, against opponents that include the peculiar “Wilda” and the milquetoasty “Warren”.  Who knows how many will perish if Wolf doesn’t win? Vote now.

[Sorry to breach the Scatterplot house rule about not using caps in titles, but I figured it was okay since lives are at stake.]

the revolution will not be invite-only

Still, an Ello invitation would be nice.

UPDATE: Thanks to Tina Fetner, I’m now on Ello, as jeremyfreese.  Friend me or whatever the appropriate verb for that service is.


“Few things portend a protracted mess as powerfully as an insane person with a totally legitimate grievance about which little can actually be done.”

the jellybean problem

I’m not as big a fan of xkcd as many geekly friends are, but, in my mind, this cartoon remains the most incisive depiction of the basic problem of low-sigma null hypothesis significance testing in practice.

(Was reminded of it because of Matt’s comment yesterday about how he uses Twenty Questions as an example while teaching. While this use of twenty questions isn’t at all like what Matt was saying, the jellybean comic is the idea that you get to ask twenty hypotheses, the universe will probably lie to you once, and as long as you get one “YES” you can publish it like it is the only question you ever asked.)

replicating the future

Gelman post on meta-analysis of the Daryl Bem research on precognition (yes, precognition):

The ESP context makes this all look like a big joke, but the general problem of researchers creating findings out of nothing, that seems to be a big issue in social psychology and other research areas involving noisy measurements. … I have a feeling that the authors of this paper think that if you have a p-value or Bayes factor of 10^-9 then your evidence is pretty definitive, even if some nitpickers can argue on the edges about this or that. But it doesn’t work that way. The garden of forking paths is multiplicative, and with enough options it’s not so hard to multiply up to factors of 10^-9 or whatever. And it’s not like you have to be trying to cheat; you just keep making reasonable choices given the data you see, and you can get there, no problem. Selecting ten-year-old papers and calling them “exact replications” is one way to do it.

I think the parapsychology research is actually extremely useful, especially if one is willing to take as incorrigible the proposition that parapsychological phenomena aren’t real. Because then parapsychology serves as a kind of control group for science practice, and what’s striking about the Bem research is how much it looks like ordinary psychological science–even psychological science that goes above and beyond the norm–and yet the findings are what they are.


David Mitchell, author of the sublime Cloud Atlas and this new book that’s gotten mixed reviews but my wife says I would enjoy, on focus and writing:

The internet—it’s lethal, isn’t it? Maintaining focus is critical, I think, in the presence of endless distraction. You’ve only got time to be a halfway decent parent, plus one other thing.

For me, that one other thing is: I’ve got to be writing. I have a few ways to make sure I can carve out time. Continue reading

fun with a purpose: no longer fun enough?

From Kieran on Twitter, I learned that the Neal Stephenson Kickstarter project Clang! has been abandoned. The idea was to break out of existing videogame conventions and provide a realistic depiction of longsword fighting. As it turned out, apparently, the most fun thing about it proved to be the name. As Stephenson says, “I probably focused too much on historical accuracy and not enough on making it sufficiently fun to attract additional investment.”

I was reminded of the failure of Arden: The World of Shakespeare, which once upon a time was supposed to be an instructive MMORPG that was based on Shakespeare’s world and that would also provide a platform for behavioral scientists to run experiments (on things like, say, pricing of in-game goods). The project leader’s exegesis of the failure involved two things: (1) designing a videogame that can successfully compete for player attention involves a scale that is hard to imagine, but, more notably, (2) after building a big prototype, it became clear that “it’s no fun.”

Broader upshot that I wonder about is how society is evolving with not just increasing entertainment options but, with the implied competition, increasing refinement and specialization on being entertaining itself. In other words, if you aren’t in the first instance–and second instance, and third instance–entertaining, you are done. To take an entirely different example, I enjoy the weekly John Oliver clips that circulate on Facebook, but, man, that guy has to try really, really hard with all kinds of digressions just to be able to hopefully strike home with his main point.

david vs. goliath

A small woodland creature takes on the man responsible for the technique-revolution in competitive eating. Whatever, I found it inspiring. [HT: RCM]

does asa speak for sociology? do they even try?

Sociologists will often profess especial concern for inclusiveness and minority rights. So, when it comes time for sociologists to set up a democratic system of their own, how do they do it? The ostensible governing body of the ASA Membership, its Council, has 20 or so sociologists in the room. By the system that sociologists have devised, it is possible for 49% of voting ASA members to have voted for none of those 20 people. How can that possibly be morally defended?

(Note: in the United States, the winner-take-all system at least comes about as a by-product of the constraint that individuals only vote for one person in a particular election, so it’s hard then to see how the system could be changed without a radical overhaul of what being a Congressperson means. Sociologists have set up their systems so that multiple Council-Members-At-Large are elected via the same election, and sociologists have chosen to run the election so that voters each vote for X candidates and the top X vote-getters are chosen–the most “tyranny of the majority” method of doing so.)


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