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All entries categorized “Academe”

Stay on Message

Thursday, Jan. 22nd, 2015 11:23a.m.

Have a message. State it. Write nothing else.

Those are the first instructions to Demographic Research authors on their submission pages. I've heard variations on this theme before, but nothing as clearly stated as this. You might say that the Demographic Research editors had a message, stated it clearly, and wrote nothing else.

I started using this advice to reframe several papers that I have hanging around. What I have found in my first week using this advice is that the organization of papers has become easier. My writing becomes crisper. My papers are shorter. And I find them to be more compelling.

  tag: writing category: Academe

Residentially Mobilizing Myself

Sunday, Aug. 7th, 2011 10:08a.m.

American University Logo

I am moving with my family this week so that I can start my new position at American University in the Department of Sociology and Center on Health, Risk and Society. I am very excited to be starting this new position being with great new colleagues, being in a wonderful academic and policy environment, and moving back to the area where my wife and I grew up. In addition to a much needed, if only possibly well deserved, vacation last week posts have necessarily been a little slow.

As a scholar of residential mobility, it is very strange to be going through a move myself. Throughout the process, I attempted to remain as reflexive as possible to learn from my own experience and how that might help inform my work. Although nothing I did would constitute "real" research that could be written up and published in a journal, I felt that I was a true participant-observer in the process. The process certainly informed my understanding of the ways that the housing search is an intensely sociological as well as economic process given the bounded rationality of deciding what we could afford, the importance of social networks in overcoming information externalities, and the cultural component of purchasing a home that is often neglected. I have no doubt that these insights will inform my work on the topic, particularly as it highlights the need to understand the social and cultural context of the housing search in addition to traditional economic models.

  tags: personal, residential-mobility category: Academe

Investing in Education for the Long Term

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 10:45a.m.

It is rare when I find myself in agreement with Stanley Fish. But I think in his most recent column, I think that he finds such an unalienable truth among teachers that it is impossible, as someone interested in teaching, to disagree with. In his column, he discusses how disasterous a proposed Texas plan for higher education would be, if enacted, for the education of students.

No, it's not the Texas plan to teach elementary and high school students that Phyllis Schlafly is the second coming of George Washington. No, this plan involves the state's universities, particularly Texas A&M. Essentially, the plan wholeheartedly embraces the idea that students are, first and foremost, consumers and should be treated as such.

Fish goes on at some length about why this is such a bad idea. The value of an education is not the same as that of a new car, a television, or -- as he notes -- a hamburger. These are things meant to be enjoyed in the moment for their immediate value. And, given the extraordinary rise of both consumer credit debt and obesity, we have been thinking of ourselves too much as consumers.

  tags: teaching, This-American-Life category: Academe

Learning from the Great One

Saturday, May 8th, 2010 1:48p.m.

"You miss 100% of the shots you never take." -- Attributed to Wayne Gretzky

I was reminded of this quote this week after I had a grant submission rejected. Although it stung, the criticisms were legitimate and, as one of my advisors told me, "rejection is part of the process." It was this comment that reminded me of Gretzksy's quote and realizing that, although it doesn't feel good to be rejected, it does mean that I made an effort -- I can't make a shot that I don't take after all.

This was a lesson that was hard to learn in grad school and I was fortunate that I had people around me -- advisors and more advanced grad students -- advise me that it is important to send things out. In fact, as I became an advanced grad student myself and subsequently took my post-doc, it is now something that I try to advise others about. As academics, we are perfectionists. As academics, it is good to be perfectionists, it is what gives us credibility and without that instinct we would not have gotten to where we are. At the same time, it is important to remember that things will be more perfect if we seek advice and help from others; this, too, is the essence of scientific inquiry.

  tags: advice, grants, rejection, research-process category: Academe

Peer Reviewing Peer Review

Sunday, April 25th, 2010 5:12p.m.

“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Winston Churchill, 1947

I just received an e-mail inviting me to participate in the Second Annual International Symposium on Peer Review that seeks to examine the application -- and perceived failure -- of peer review in a scientific context. The aim of the conference is certainly a worthy goal, and I applaud the effort; however, it brings up the conundrum of how one goes about peer reviewing materials for a conference on peer-review that takes as its premise that the peer-review system is flawed. So flawed, in fact, that the letter opens with the quote "only 8% agreed that 'peer review works well as it is'." (Chubin and Hackett, 1990; p.192).

  tags: peer-review, research-process category: Academe

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