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Organizing your library

I finally managed to organize all my printed articles into folders. Quite a tedious task, but maybe worth sharing my experience in more detail. First the background and the objective: I had probably around 400 printed journal articles, kind of sorted into piles and lying around my office threatening slowly to engulf me. The articles had accumulated over the last few years and featured both rather extensive collections on well-defined topics (like policy responsiveness) and scattered individual pieces that I liked for some reason on topics I mostly  don’t keep track on (like regime collapse).  Obviously, I would want the articles organized  into folders so that 1) they look neat, 2) I have quick access when I need them, and 3) I am able to do quick surveys of particular topics. The solution I opted  for is organizing the articles into approximately 30 topics and, within each topic, alphabetically.  The more common way of using only alphabetical  ordering doesn’t work well for libraries without a catalog because you need to remember the author of an article in order to find it.  And making and keeping a catalog would be too tedious. Unfortunately, one cannot rely on tags to organize  physical objects like printed  texts. Discovering tags (as used in blogs for example) has been a real revelation for me and  my efforts to put order to the world around me. Tags out-compete hierarchical classification any time. But for my folders,  I had to settle for non-overlapping classification into a small number…


William Niskanen, author of Bureaucracy and Representative Government, dies Does sugar make kids  hyper-active? (No) Testosterone and entrepreneurs (via Chris Blattman) New genetic loci related  to schizophrenia The complexity behind obesity Margaret Thatcher’s £500,000 expenses claim revealed  Dice sculptures (fragment used for the banner of this blog)

Academic fraud reaching new heights

Academic  fraud is reaching new heights lows. Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel (Tilburg University)  is the culprit this time. A commission looking into the issue came up with a report [in Dutch] on Monday saying that “the extent of fraud is very significant” (p.5). Stapel fabricated data for at least 30 papers published over a period of at least nine years (the investigation is still ongoing, the number can rise up to 150). Entire datasets supporting his hypotheses were made up from thin air. He also frequently gave fabricated data to colleagues and PhD students to analyze and co-author papers together. Diederik Stapel is was an eminent and ‘charismatic’ scholar whose research made global news on more than one occasion. He has been awarded a Pioneer grant by the Dutch National Science  Foundation. He is the man behind all these sexy made-up findings: Power increases hypocrisy Sexy doesn’t always sell Messy surroundings promote stereotyping and discrimination (published in Science!) Meat-eaters  are anti-social What a painfully ironic turn of events for Stapel who also  published a paper on the way scientists react to a plagiarism scandal. The whole affair first came to light this August when three young colleagues of Stapel suspected  that something isn’t quite right and informed the University. What is especially worrisome is that on a number of previous occasions people have implicated Stapel in wrongdoing but their signals had not been followed.  In hindsight, it is easy to see that the data is just too good to…

Course on Research Design

I am teaching again the Research Design class for the MSc in Public Administration at Leiden University. It is a rather challenging course since the  background of the students is so diverse (from Religious Studies to Psychology to International Relations) and because most of the students have very little training and a certain dislike for any formal method of data analysis. Here is the course outline that we prepared (with my colleague Brendan Carroll). All comments and suggestions are more than welcome.

Governing by Polls

The study of policy responsiveness to public opinion is blossoming and propagating. Work published over the last two years includes the 2010 book by Stuart Soroka and Chris Wlezien (Canada, US and the UK), this paper by Sattler, Brandt, and Freeeman on the UK,  this paper on Denmark, my own article on the EU, Roberts and Kim’s work on post-Communist Europe, etc.  The latest edition to the literature is this article by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips from Columbia University (forthcoming in AJPS). “The Democratic Deficit in the States” takes a cross-sectional rather than a dynamic (time series) perspective and analyzes both responsiveness  (correlation)  and congruence between policy outcomes and public opinion in the US states for eight policies. In short, there is a high degree of responsiveness but far from perfect congruence between majority opinion and policy. More salient policies fair better, and having powerful interest groups on your side helps. Altogether, this is an interesting and important study that adds yet another piece to our understanding of policy responsiveness. What starts to worry me, however, is that the normative implications of the policy responsiveness literature are too often taken for granted. Lax and Phillips seem to equate the lack of correspondence between public opinion and policy to democratic deficit(similarly, Sattler, Brandt and Freeman speak of ‘democratic accountability’). But there is quite a gap between the fact the a policy contradicts the majority of public opinion and the pronouncement of democratic failure. And we need to start unpacking the normative implications of the (lack of) policy responsiveness.  Of course, at a very general level no political system can be democratic unless…

Veto players and policy making (UK style)

 The concept of ‘veto players’ (developed initially by George Tsebelis) plays a prominent role in research on policy making, legislative production, policy implementation, etc. All these analyses need to be revised, however, because the measure of the number of British veto players has been revealed to be wrong. Everyone forgot to include ….. Prince Charles. Here is the story from the Guardian: Prince Charles has been offered a veto over 12 government bills since 2005. Ministers sought prince’s consent under secretive constitutional loophole on bills covering issues from gambling to the Olympics…Ministers have been forced to seek permission from Prince Charles to pass at least a dozen government bills, according to a Guardian investigation into a secretive constitutional loophole that gives him the right to veto legislation that might impact his private interests.  Plus one (veto player) for the UK. Minus one for democracy.