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Bisphenol-A  (a  chemical found in plastic bottles) linked to anxiety and hyperactivity  in young girls Childhood  poverty can reset genes A beautiful map of economic complexity A  rant against (American) liberal art professors (and  Anthropology in particular) Andrew Gelman exposes (again) a lying pollster

More than you ever wanted to know about compliance with EU law in Europe

I  spent the last week finalizing a  review of the literature  on compliance with EU  law at the national level. It was a rather masochistic experience which I had promised  myself never to repeat but alas… This time at least somebody will take note it since I am going to present it next week to a small workshop in Berlin. Here is the abstract: This article introduces two bibliographical databases that provide systematic overviews of the existing statistical and qualitative academic research on (non)compliance with EU law and takes stock of the state of the art of the literature. Reviewing more than 35 statistical analyses and 80 small-N studies, I find that a small but coherent set of inferences emerges from the scholarship: transposition and practical application of EU law is limited by administrative capacity and prone to domestic conflicts spurred by the adaptation to the European rules. Political institutions influence the potential for such conflict while co-ordination and oversight mechanisms can enhance compliance. Beyond this core account, scholars disagree about the influence of policy misfit, individual preferences of domestic actors and a myriad of other variables being analyzed. I discuss matching, multi-level modeling and better case selection for qualitative studies as ways to move beyond these controversies and deliver more policy-relevant knowledge about the causes of (non)compliance with EU rules. If you want to read more, here is a link to the full version and a link to a very short summary.

Concentration of control in the global economy

All conspiracy theorists know that the global economy is concentrated in the hands of a few. But even they will be blown away by this paper which maps the network of global corporate ownership and control. Here is the (somewhat understated) abstract: “The structure of the control network of transnational corporations affects global market competition and financial stability. So far, only small national samples were studied and there was no appropriate methodology to assess control globally. We present the first investigation of the architecture of the international ownership network, along with the computation of the control held by each global player. We find that transnational corporations form a giant bow-tie structure and that a large portion of control flows to a small tightly-knit core of financial institutions. This core can be seen as an economic “super-entity” that raises new important issues both for researchers and policy makers.”  (Vitali, Glattfelder and Battiston) Some of the findings: – almost 40% of the economic value of transnational companies in the world is in the hands of a group of 147 tightly-interconnected companies “which has almost full control over itself” (p.6) – “[N]etwork control is much more unequally distributed than wealth…[T]he top ranked actors hold a control ten times bigger than what could be expected based on their wealth” (p.6) – 10 companies control 20% of the network; 50 companies control 40% of the network (!) – 35 of these 50 companies belong to a strongly connected core, meaning that they are all “tied together in an extremely entangled…

How to get more citations: red hot new evidence?

Wanna get more  citations to your papers? Start with the title. No colons, no question marks [evidence here  (gated); don’t look here]. More  acronyms [link]. And don’t even think about humorous and  amusing phrases [link]. Didn’t help? Don’t despair: “no more than 20% of citations of prominent papers involve the citer actually reading the papers in question” [link]

The decline of the death penalty

I just finished reading ‘The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence’ (link, link to book’s website) by Frank Baumgartner, Suzana De Boef and Amber Boydstun. It is a fine study of the rise of the ‘innocence’ frame and the decline of the use of capital punishment in the US (I have recently posted about the death penalty). The book has received well-deserved praise from several academic corners (list of reviews here). In this post I want to focus on several issues that, in my opinion, deserve further discussion. One of the major contributions of the book is methodological. The systematic study of policy frames (‘discourse’ is a related concept that seems to be getting out of fashion) is in many ways the holy grail of policy analysis – while we all intuitively feel that words and arguments and ideas matter more than standard models of collective decision making allow, it is quite tricky to demonstrate when and how these words and arguments and ideas matter. Policy frame analysis became something of a hype during the late 1970s and the 1980s, but it delivered less than it promised, so people started to look away (as this Google Ngram shows). Baumgartner, De Boef and Boydstun have produced a book with the potential to re-invigorate research into the impact of policy frames. So far, the usual way to analyze quantitatively policy frames has been to count the number of newspaper articles on a topic, measure their tone (pro/anti) and classify the arguments into some predefined clusters (the frames). This is what the authors do with respect…

Inspiring scientific concepts

EDGE asks 159 selected intellectuals What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit? You are welcome to read the individual contributions which range from a paragraph to a short essay here. Many of the entries are truly inspiring but I see little synergy of bringing 159 of them together. Like in a group photo of beauty pageant contenders, the total appeal of the group photo is less than sum of the individual attractiveness of its subjects. But to my point: It is remarkable that so many of the answers (on my count, in excess of 30) deal, more or less directly, with causal inference. What is even more remarkable is that most of the concepts and ideas about causal inference mentioned by the worlds’ intellectual jet-set (no offense to those left out) are anything but new. Many of the ideas can be traced back to Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1934) and Ronald Fisher’s The Design of Experiments (1935). So what is most remarkable of all is how long it takes for these ideas to sink-in and diffuse in society. Several posts focus on the Popperian requirement for falsifiability (Howard Gardner, Tania Lombrozo) and skeptical empiricism more generally (Gerald Holton). The scientific method is further evoked by Richard Dawkins on the double-blind control experiment (see also Roger Schank), Brian Knutson on replicability, and Kevin Kelly the virtues of negative results. Mark Henderson advocates the use of the scientific method outside science (e.g. policy) – a plea that strikes a chord with this…