We even managed so sneak a little self-promotion in there:
Blogging – or tweeting for that matter – is still not very common in German and European academic circles, but has made its way in the US-American branch of the profession. At ISA, established and newly active bloggers got together to celebrate the best of their kind and discuss matters of visibility and improvement. Judging from the great experiences at ISA, we are confident that blogging can be a great tool to present research and to engage with a broader audience.
Speaking of conferences: I’m currently enjoying the warmth of Washington D.C. and learning a lot about Latin America. Will report once back in cold and rainy Berlin.
A couple of weeks ago, I got frustrated by the various stacks of papers in my apartment and on my desk in the office. That’s when I decided to give the “paperless office” a new shot. This post is a progress report on my revival of that early 2000’s buzz word. Apologies for the nerdy technical details …
Discovering & filing
When new information enters my “academic workflow”, it is often in the form of digital journal articles. Avoiding paper is obviously easy in this case: just don’t print that stuff! The same goes for working papers sent to me by email.
But what about books? My solution so far is to scan the relevant sections and then run a simple OCR software (in my case: ABBYY PDF Transformer). This way, I end up with PDFs that allow for full-text search. Archive material? Don’t bother with making hard copies to carry home. Instead, I take pictures with my smartphone, which I can later run through the same PDF routine. From my limited experience, it seems that specialized apps for your phone (to help with contrast and straighten the image) are unnecessary, but ask me again after 1,000 pages…
No matter what files we’re talking about, they all go to my Dropbox folder – but you could of course use any of the many competitors. The crucial things is to have all data synchronized on all devices, so I never need to think about how to access it. For sensitive information and for my Citavi database (which according to the publisher might get corrupted if put directly in a shared folder), I use an encrypted virtual device that is also located in the sync folder. This means that on every computer with Citavi, I also have Truecrypt (For some people, a web-based citation management might be better, and I plan to transition to that eventually).
“I thought scholars like me were going to discover timeless truths about world politics, a grateful policy community would eagerly embrace our results, and then of course follow our advice… needless to say, I was dead wrong. In fact, there is a widespread sense that university-based scholarship is of declining practical value.” – Stephen Walt
Last September, Stephen Walt gave a talk at Brown University on lamenting the discipline of IR’s lack of engagement with the public sphere, and put forward some suggestions on what could be done to increase the relevance and impact of university research. (He also repeatedly blogged about this topic.)
We’d like to summarize his major points here and add our view on the debate.
2012 is considered to be the year of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), most related media contributions date back only a few weeks, and the MOOC movement has reached Germany. While first-tier universities in the US have been pushing the MOOC agenda over the last couple of months, German academics have been proven resistant to this new teaching and learning concept so far. But it is here in the end, both the MOOC movement and the related discussions. While the fronts between proponents and critics of the MOOC seem to be hardening, I feel like sitting on the fence not knowing what I should make out of the MOOC idea.
Martin Wolf has a piece in the Financial Times listing seven reasons “why the world faces climate chaos”: path dependency, the power of free-market ideas, salience of other issues, naive optimism, coordination problems and complexity, discounting the future, and the problematic burden-sharing between rich and poor countries. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t really offer a quick fix.
“Massive Open Online Courses” (MOOCs) are getting a lot of attention, and Germany is no exception. Currently there’s a competition for 10 x 25,000 EUR of funding to produce an web-based course, and I encourage you to check out the submissions from social sciences. Everyone has ten votes.
Economist Andrew Oswald shares some advice about things he would have found useful to know as a young researcher (via MR).
While we’re at it, check out Farnam Street. I’d call it a self-help blog for knowledge workers – and honestly, the advice seems a bit over the top at times. But in case you’re unhappy with your reading habits, consult the “Buffett Formula” for motivation…
John Quiggin pokes fun at the recent discovery of two Earth-like planets “a mere 1200 light years away”. So, time for space travel? Well we shouldn’t bet on getting there any time soon, since (assuming linear scaling) “the total cost comes out roughly equal to the value of current world GDP accumulated over the life of the universe”. Make sure to read the comments, unless you’re busy making travel plans…
Finally, I’d like to recommend two items that have nothing to do with International Relations, but everything with the nature of “proof” and “truth” in academia:
Natural resources have been in the news a lot recently, if you’ve got an eye out for that kind of thing. Guatemala has declared a state of emergency in the South-East of the country after protests erupted over a proposed silver mine. A recent report by Canadian NGO Mining Watch has shed some light on the role of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico played in supporting Blackfire Ltd., a company that was implicated in bribing local officials and allegedly had a role in the murder of a local anti-mining activist. Meanwhile Peru has announced that it has re-evaluated its methods of dealing with anti-mining activity after massive protests led to a number of deaths last year. Apparently the government will now place a greater emphasis on mediation rather than the more repressive measures used to deal with conflict in the past. Finally, Foreign Affairs and the BBC have given a lot of coverage to Mongolia’s emergence as mining’s “final frontier” and subsequent tensions between Rio Tinto, the government and local communities.
To the surprise of some members of the team, it’s a holiday in Germany. A great chance to catch up on some links…
At ISA, I really enjoyed a panel on using popular media to teach International Relations. Rhonda Callaway and Julie Harrelson-Stephens talked about employing the Hunger Games to illustrate IR theory, and Marco Fey and colleagues (from Frankfurt’s Peace Research Institute) applied Tannenwald’s “nuclear taboo” to Battlestar Galactica.
Speaking of data analysis: I’m really intrigued by recent developments regarding data-driven journalism as well as new data sources for social scientists. Jonathan Mayer (of “Do Not Track” fame) just published part 2 of a set of data on U.S. legal rulings in a machine-readable format, and the “Global Dataset on Events, Location, and Tone” (GDELT) looks fascinating – although Jay Ulfelder says it’s not easily accessible just yet.
“God forbid we apologize…National pride is not just something people just say on the street, it holds strategic significance”. Former Israeli Minister for strategic affairs, Moshe Ya’alon
The official apology issued by Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu to Turkey a few weeks ago caught me by surprise while I was sitting in what is a fairly ironic setting to receive such news: a conference about honor in the Middle East in Ottoman and contemporary times. And even though most debates and papers presented by my peers dealt with 19th century honor in imperial politics of the old Levant, they could have been easily written about current events thus enhancing the notion of the concept’s enduring resonance.
To those of you who do not follow Middle Eastern news feverishly (shame on you!) this long Turkish-Israeli saga would probably seem like something out of a “The knights of the round table” legends. Nevertheless, it is a true story – one that has affected the strategic relations in the Middle East for the last three years and demonstrates that even today, honor can serve as an influential factor in international politics, even when this goes against pre-defined national interests of regional actors.
Earlier this year, I informed you that there would be held a constitutional referendum in Zimbabwe this March. The outcome was positive and the Zimbabwean people have agreed on a new constitution. The referendum was only one step out of several others agreed upon in the roadmap to democratic elections in the South African country as foreseen in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and negotiated with the SADC and the main Zimbabwean parties. Elections shall be held this year and consultations about the date are currently under way.
So how does the outcome look like? Little surprising, the new constitution has been approved by the majority of the electorate. A huge a majority of 95% of the votes were in favor of the new constitution. Also, more than half of the six million eligible voters went to the ballots. While the high number of approval is not very surprising given that the proposed draft had been supported by the two large Zimbabwean parties, ZANU-PF and MDC, one needs to say on a more positive note that the number of electoral participation was higher than expected. Remember, the process was overshadowed by political tensions, politically motivated violence, and the exclusion of NGO and media representatives.