Social science research in Madagascar: it’s a jungle

The chair of sociology at the University of Antananarivo leans across the table. “I’d really like to talk about Max Weber,” he whispers. As session chair, I weigh my options. I could say “no” and risk a minor academic diplomatic incident. I could feign an apology, claim it is time for the coffee break and hope he doesn’t remind me later. Instead, I do the tactful and (in hindsight) the right thing: “But of… Read more

Failure in Science Is Frequent and Inevitable–and We Should Talk More about It

Science has an inside secret: we fail all the time. I first met major failure in my third year of graduate school when I discovered my entire thesis project hinged on an experimental anomaly. Early on, I had stumbled on a single, promising finding that could have meant the end of neurodegenerative disease. But try as I might, I could not reproduce that result. Instead, I had uncovered an unanticipated, uninterpretable… Read more

The Materiality of Research: ‘Thinking and Writing in Time and Space’

Thinking and Writing in Time and Space Academic work never ceases to amaze me: it is the result of individual achievements and accumulations of knowledge across time, place and academic fields. It is tied to, and carried out by, human beings at a certain point in time and space, and yet it is free from these dimensions, able to extend vast distances and travel beyond the author’s control to reappear in multiple locations… Read more

The scientific method is your friend.

Recently the internet’s been afire with psychologists panicking about the news that the Baumeister and Tice experiment involving Ego Depletion has been found to be sorely lacking in accurate reproducibility and the consequent experiments citing their experiment as a basis are flawed. The research community is divided on whether or not this particular glass is half full or half empty. On the one hand, Baumeister… Read more

Article review: Sustainability within the Academic EcoHealth Literature: Existing Engagement and Future Prospects

Lisitza and Wolbring took on a significant task when they decided to map the instances of Sustainability in the Academic EcoHealth landscape. 647 academic articles were tracked and qualitative and quantitative data was taken, and the results can be found in their report here. Two things struck me about the findings in this report: 1) Unsustainability: Lisitza and Wolbring state The term “unsustainable”… Read more

Breaking the traditional mould of peer review: Why we need a more transparent process of research evaluation.

Jon Tennant takes a look at the transformations underway aimed at tackling the widespread dissatisfaction with the system of peer review. He provides further background on the platform ScienceOpen, which seeks to enable a process of transparent, self-regulating, peer review, where knowledge sharing is encouraged, valued, and rewarded. By adopting a more transparent process of research evaluation, we move… Read more

Sean Phelan: The corporate university and its threat to academic freedom

Neoliberalism has facilitated the emergence of the ‘corporate’ university, which dangerously prioritises market rationality and public relations over academic freedom. The principle of academic freedom is increasingly regarded with institutional indifference, if not contempt, across the world. One recent example was the revelation that New Zealand Police effectively tried to censor the gang… Read more

An antidote to futility: Why academics (and students) should take blogging / social media seriously

Before I started teaching at LSE in January, I had the impression that the academics and researchers around the school were totally social media savvy – prolific tweeters like Charlie Beckett and top blogs like LSE Impact are high up on my follow list. It turned out the impression was, ahem, a little misleading. A good proportion of the people I have come across may be brilliant in their field, but when it comes to using… Read more

Toward a sociology of living death

Daniel Drezner once wrote about how international relations scholars would react to a zombie epidemic. Aside from the sheer fun of talking about something as silly as zombies, it had much the same illuminating satiric purpose as “how many X does it take to screw in a lightbulb” jokes. If you have even a cursory familiarity with the field, it is well worth reading. Here’s my humble attempt to do the same for several… Read more

Integration of Social Science into Research is Crucial

Social scientists must be allowed a full, collaborative role if researchers are to understand and engage with issues that concern the public, says Ana Viseu. Funders and institutions increasingly prioritize research that addresses the challenges and opportunities of an inherently interdisciplinary world. Policymakers and influential voices in science — including Nature — have also warned of a worrying… Read more