2015 junior theorists symposium – call for abstracts

I’m happy to post the Call for Abstracts for the 2015 Junior Theorists Symposium. JTS is a one day mini-conference held before ASA each year. Bloggers are well represented in this year’s program – Scatterplot’s own Andrew Perrin will be part of the after panel on “Abstraction,” alongside Kieran Healy.
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the hociological imagination

A story about sociology’s past from Ralph Turner’s son [HT: Brayden]:

At the San Francisco Hilton in 1969, as Ralph stepped forward for his ASA presidential address, the crowning moment of a storied career, an energetic group of radical sociologists streamed down the aisles and took the stage. They announced that Ho Chi Minh had died that day and instead of listening to mainstream sociology we would have a memorial for Ho! Ralph handled the crisis with surprising grace: tipped off in advance, he had booked another ballroom. Thus Ho Chi Minh in one room, Ralph Turner in another.

overheard

“I sense a lot of good intentions around the room on these issues. That said, I would like to remind everyone how the road to hell is paved.”

what do drug tests actually measure?

Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle’s The Secret Race is a very detailed account of Hamilton’s (and, e.g., Lance Armstrong’s) doping during his bicycle racing career. Here’s one bit I found particularly interesting:

Journalists often used the term “arms race” to describe the relationship between the drug testers and the athletes, but that wasn’t quite right, because it implied that the testers had a chance of winning. For us, it wasn’t like a race at all. It was more like a big game of hide-and-seek played in a forest that has lots of good places to hide, and lots of rules that favor the hiders. So here’s how we beat the testers:

• Tip 1: Wear a watch.

• Tip 2: Keep your cell phone handy.

• Tip 3: Know your glowtime: how long you’ll test positive after you take the substance.

What you’ll notice is that none of these things are particularly difficult to do. That’s because the tests were very easy to beat. In fact, they weren’t drug tests. They were more like discipline tests, IQ tests. If you were careful and paid attention, you could dope and be 99 percent certain that you would not get caught.

(Note: Any analogies to academia, say for example for plagiarism detection or even for research fraud, are left as an exercise to the reader.)

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!

ingressmap

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.)

ello is now a public benefit corporation

As part of our continuing discussion over the ethics of Facebook’s emotional manipulation study, Philip Cohen advanced the idea that we should simply declare FB a public utility and regulate it as such:

But Facebook is too big, and they own irreplaceable archives of hundreds of millions of people’s stuff. I figure just nationalize it or regulate it as a public utility – call it critical infrastructure. Then let private companies out-innovate boring Facebook.gov if they want to and win people away.

This notion struck me as a bit extreme, but provocative in just the right way. What kind of a service is a massive social network and in whose interests should it be run? We need better answers to that question.

Enter Ello.co. Continue reading

badges

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.)

asa renewal – now with social media

Look! When you renew your ASA membership, there are now fields for you to enter your Twitter, handle, blog address, or other social media info.

asa member

This is something that we requested on the Task Force on Social Media (now the Task Force on Engaging Sociology) that was begun by President Annette Lareau last year to improve the ASA’s engagement with social media. If you input your Twitter handle here, for example, the ASA can include the info on our nametags at the conference, create a list of sociologists’ blogs, etc.

It is all optional, of course.

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.

reflexive anti-geneticism

This is my contribution to the ongoing symposium on genetics,race, and sociological theory as well as its twin on that other blog. A quick disclaimer: I was in graduate school with J. Shiao, lead author of the paper being discussed, and we talk occasionally at conferences.

My view of the original paper is that its contribution is real but quite modest in the scheme of theory. The best way to read it is as a social-constructionist “friendly amendment” to constructivism’s tacit, yet stubborn, insistence that there is no biological basis for racial categorization. Genetic information can be used “to distinguish race/ethnicity from the existence of genetic clusters” (emphasis mine). Shiao et al. suggest that constructivist approaches to race need not cling to a strong no-genetic-clustering claim in order to maintain most of the findings of constructivism (“In sum, relatively little of the empirical explanations made by sociologists of race/ethnicity require the claim of biological nonreality traditionally associated with racial constructionism.”). In short, race is a

social reality that is historical, processual, stratified, and analytically multilevel but that is also entangled with biological inputs inherited from the geographic distribution of humans in genetic watersheds over the past 50,000 years.

While I’m no fan of genetic essentialism, I don’t think that’s what’s actually going on in the Shiao et al. article, and overall I find the critiques in the special issue quite disappointing because by and large they respond reflexively to something else instead of engaging the article’s actual contents. I actually think the most important criticism of Shiao et al. is that it’s not really all that important of a finding: the idea that minor, generally meaningless, and ancient genetic variations produce phenotypes that then become inputs to the social construction of race and ethnicity is a minor correction to social constructionism. It becomes important enough for an article in ST because of the sheer symbolic importance of race and the reflexive anti-geneticism in the field. And the character of much of the responses provide further evidence that the objections are to the symbolic affront of the article instead of to its content.

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granovetter rejection!

You may think I’m talking about the Nobel. But I’m not. Here is the 1969 rejection letter and reviews of an early version of Granovetter’s “the strength of weak ties” paper. It was rejected by ASR.

I asked Mark if I could share this; he agreed. He also wrote, “I’d note also that this rejection illustrates the importance of framing. I framed the original draft, which I wrote in grad school, as a treatment of “alienation”, more or less in response to the ideas of Louis Wirth and others that the city was an “alienating” place. The editor therefore sent the paper to reviewers who seemed to be European-oriented alienation theorists, who rightly saw that I was not talking about alienation as Marx did, but failed to imagine that there might be any other valid way to talk about it, as you can see from their comments. When I later revised the paper for AJS, I pulled all references to alienation out, and it obviously fared much better.”

I figured many of you would find it interesting — seeing the early reviews of a classic. It’s also slightly heartening. Even our discipline’s most cited papers have been rejected! Perhaps you have a classic in your drawer you should dust off?

symposium on the genetics of race in sociological theory

The most recent issue of Sociological Theory contains a four part symposium on the genetics of race. More specifically, three of the pieces are responses to a 2012 article in ST by Shiao et al., The Genomic Challenge to the Social Construction of Race, and the last is a reply by Shiao. The debate is an important one for both sociology and the broader public. Every advance in biology and genetics seems to trigger a new round of scientists, and social scientists, trying to justify widely-held beliefs about race in essentialist terms. Shiao et al. offer a new, sophisticated argument in a very long tradition.

Fortunately, sociology – especially sociology informed by the science studies (STS) tradition – is well-equipped to engage with the guts of the genetics underlying Shiao et al’s claims. Continue reading

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.

big data hubris

A not-very-important, yet instructive, series of events on Friday offers a cautionary tale about the allure of big data and the fashionable mistrust of local knowledge.

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