Category: Meta

Sören Stapel

German-speaking political science and social media

Social Media Bandwagon
Source: Matt Hamm / Photopin / cc

Two months ago, the German-speaking blogosphere organized a blog carnival, directly following the Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen’s symposium on the web 2.0. and social media in the International Relations profession. In the symposium, social media were approached as both an object of study, and a professional means to network and reach out to the general public. The symposium called for a reaction from the various German-speaking bloggers. And we got them. My initially planned contribution to the carnival never materialized when the work plate simply got swamped with editorial work on an edited volume, reviews of a book chapter, a data collection project, the preparation of field research, and me actually being on field research mission. So, this blog post should be considered a late addition to this little party.

Some of the contributions fleshed out part and parcel of bloggers’ experiences in general. Others reflected on the late arrival of German speakers to the use of social media for professional concerns and possible (negative) consequences (see Ali’s intro and collection of links, in German). Yet, it strikes me that an important question has been missing from the discussion: How much social media engagement of German-speaking political science researchers is out there? Continue reading

Tobias Bunde

#FutureNATO Storify

Since April 2014 I have been a member of the NATO Emerging Leaders Working Group, a project run by the Atlantic Council. The group, consisting of 15 diplomats, scholars, and business leaders under 35, was one of three groups tasked to develop recommendations to the NATO Secretary General in the run-up to the Wales Summit in September 2014. In mid-June, we presented our ideas in Brussels. You can find more information about the three reports here.

In order to keep the discussion going and involve more (young) people we decided to experiment with the idea of a Twitter debate. I had hoped that – given the support by some partners including the Atlantic Council and its blog NATOSource as well as Chatham House – we would bring together a number of people interested in discussing some of the topics we raised in our report. Nonetheless, I have been quite surprised that it turned out so well when we launched our first debate yesterday. The debate dealt with NATO and its relationship to Finland and Sweden, two countries that are members of the EU, but not of NATO, and have often contributed more to NATO missions than some allies. In the report we suggested NATO offer them a fast-track membership option. Now we wanted to know what people in Finland and Sweden thought about it. Would such a public offer be seen as constructive for triggering a more intensive domestic debate or would it be counterproductive (if considered as interference)? And why did Sweden and Finland contribute so much to NATO missions without being able to count on NATO defending them as non-members (Art. 5).

Of course, we’re still learning (for instance, it might be better to focus on one single question, rather than a set of questions; it might also be helpful to have a short blog post as a starter instead of a number of background articles on our Facebook page), but my feeling was that many enjoyed the debate and learned new facts and discussed aspects they had not been aware of before. And I got to “know” a few new people working on similar topics… A sort of “summary” can be found below.
As the Atlantic Council staff told us, the debate had 2,463,736 impressions reaching 339,471 accounts, with 231 users posting 712 tweets. Not too bad a start I would say.

Next week, we’ll discuss the (in)famous 2 % target for defense spending.

StorifyPlease check out the summary of our debate.

Additional discussions will be announced via @FutureNATO and on the respective Facebook page.

Mathis Lohaus

Links: International Law; Mali; Rwanda; Blogs in Germany

With a couple of bloggers back from ISA and MPSA, I hope we’ll be able to do some follow-up work in the next days. Meanwhile, here are some links to start the week:

At e-IR, Eric Lenier Ives writes about international law as the “permissive promise”:

[I]nternational law reflects a real-world distribution of power such that nations are free, in a sense, to test the will of other nations, to stretch the law and assert their own sovereignty. (…) Though international law may allow for this elasticity, and though it may be abused, it is precisely this relaxed approach that allows international law to act as both a codification of appropriate norms and a growing, living system.

Kim Yi Dionne takes a look back at what happened in Mali since 2012. In particular, she points to a discussion of a recent Afrobarometer poll: “In a complete reversal of opinion from one year earlier, two out of three Malians say that their country is moving in the ‘right direction’ at the end of 2013.”

Laura Seay has put together a very instructive reading list 20 years after the incident that triggered the Rwandan genocide. These are her opening remarks:

Everything that has happened on and since that day twenty years ago is under dispute. From the question of who shot down the plane, to which members of the regime were involved in planning and executing the genocide, to the number of people killed overall, to whether and how revenge killings unfolded, to the continuation of Rwanda’s civil war on the soil of Congo/Zaire and the tremendous suffering that has occurred there, too, to whether the Rwandan government’s success in poverty reduction is justified by its repressive authoritarianism – all of it is contested.

On a completely different note: Now we have some backing for my perception that German scientists don’t really use Twitter. In this recently published survey [in German], 15% of respondents said they use microblogs, and 61% of that subgroup then said they actively post. 30% of all respondents said they use blogs, with a third of that subgroup saying they write posts themselves. Overall, male respondents were much more likely to report an active use of (micro)blogs.

A rather curious finding: The number of people saying they don’t know what a blog is was higher than the number of people saying they don’t know what a microblog is. I guess there really is a lot of hype around Twitter. (The questionnaire mentioned Twitter as an example of the latter category, but did not mention WordPress or any other recognizable brand name for the former.)

Finally, the list of links curated by our colleagues at the Bretterblog [in German] is worth checking out as usual. (Uh, I’m doing meta-links now, I guess!?)

Mathis Lohaus

IR Blog Anniversary #1

Birthday cake (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Birthday cake (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

We’re celebrating one year of IR Blog with some virtual cake and, unless you’re underage, sparkling wine. Many, many thanks to all contributors and readers!

This is a heat map indicating where our readers came from:


Not surprisingly, almost two thirds of our traffic originated in Germany, the U.S., and Canada. Still, it’s nice to see that there is some diversity in the remaining third…

And these are our top-10 post by visits:

  1. “A North American Perspective on Doing a PhD in Europe”
  2. “Impostor Syndrome as a PhD Student”
  3. “Paper Stacks vs. Android Apps”
  4. “Elections in Germany: Forecasts and Polls”
  5. “Nap Your Way to a PhD!”
  6. “The Toddler-Thesis Nexus”
  7. “German Foreign Policy Bingo”
  8. “Protests in Brazil and Turkey: Not Yet Social Movements”
  9. “About ‘The Gender Gap in IR and Political Science'”
  10. “The Amateur Forecaster’s Diary”

We’re looking forward to the next year(s)! Please consider spreading the word if you (occasionally) like what you see here.

Mathis Lohaus

Links: Long Research Papers in College; EU Citizenship for Sale
Snow in Jerusalem 2013 (CC-by Miriam Mezzera via flickr)

Unlike Jerusalem, Berlin has not had its share of snow so far. Nonetheless, we’re taking a short Christmas / winter break. Enjoy the holiday season!

My last links for the year:

At the Duck of Minerva, Jon Western replies to a Slate article heralding the “end of the college essay”. He rightly points out that longer papers should not just be a means of testing, but part of the teaching curriculum.

I am a strong believer in the benefits of a lengthy research paper and I regularly assign them for my advanced seminars in international human rights, American foreign policy, and international security. (…)

I assign the paper as part of the course as an exercise to help students develop critical reasoning and thinking skills as well as to help improve their writing. As a result, the research paper assignment must be integrated into the overall course learning objectives, the course content, and the course schedule.

In German political science, Hausarbeiten (long research papers or essays) are an important part of undergraduate and graduate education. It’s nice to read some reflection on why that might be a good idea — and the thought of abolishing this form of testing (and more importantly: learning) seems odd to me. Then again, I am not (yet) required to grade all of these papers…

I am a big fan of Tim Hartford’s columns for the Financial Times, as I find it really hard not to keep reading after a charming opener like the one he used when talking about Cyprus, where EU citizenship is on sale for € 650,000:

That’s outrageous!

I know. There has to be a cheaper deal out there. You can get Portuguese residency with €500,000 in your pocket – and you don’t even have to give the money away. You just have to buy a pad in Portugal.

No, it’s outrageous that Malta is selling passports.

Oh. Well, granted, there is an issue here. Given EU rules on freedom of movement, Malta is in effect selling EU citizenship but pocketing the cash. But this sort of problem is in the nature of the EU. Member states will either have to tolerate it or develop some sort of centralised regulator – just as the European Central Bank regulates the shared currency. That has been a tremendous success.

At the core of this story is an important point that doesn’t receive enough attention from many self-proclaimed economic liberals: “We wring our hands about inequality, but the biggest determinant of your income is your country of birth.”

In case you’re still looking for last-minute Christmas gifts, I highly recommend Ha-Joon Chang’s book “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism”, where he makes this point among (as the title suggests) many others. You can find some excerpts at GoodReads, and Chang was recently featured in the Financial Times (in one of their great “lunch with…” interviews).

Unfortunately, I lost track of what else I wanted to post today. My apologies. We’ll be back after the break.

Zoe Williams

What we talk about when we talk about compliance

How to write about, or whether to even use, the concept of compliance is something I’ve struggled with in my own work. I was therefore thrilled to read Lisa Martin’s convincing piece on what she deems is a misguided use of compliance in IR (go here for an earlier version free to download).

Essentially, Martin argues that IR scholars have devoted time and resources to studying states’ compliance with international institutions, despite the fact that compliance is not what they are interested in. A central question for IR scholars is determining causal effects – answering the counterfactual of how real state behaviour would differ in the absence of the institution of interest. These interesting indicators are observed changes in behaviour, and the substantive content of state policies. A focus on compliance, she argues, could lead us to miss these entirely.

To illustrate this, Martin gives the example of a state with low levels of environmental regulation, ratifying an environmental treaty. Upon joining,

“The institution provides knowledge and capacity, and in response State B modestly improves its performance on emission indicators. However, it still falls short of institutional requirements. If compliance were measured dichotomously, State B would be found out of compliance.”

Continue reading

Mathis Lohaus

Links: Graduate Conferences; Betrayers’ Banquet; Blogging Awards; Compliance

Two calls for graduate conferences

Today, I’d like to share two calls for applications for graduate conferences:

  • First, our colleagues at the Graduate School of North American Studies hold a conference on “Trust Issues. Community, Contingency, and Security in North America”. It’ll take place here in Berlin on May 9 and 10, 2014. The full call is on their website, and you can apply until February 9.
  • Second, a group of graduate students at Georgetown’s Center for German and European Studies organizes the 2014 Transatlantic Policy Symposium on “Hot Wars and Cold Wars: Europe’s Near Abroad“. The deadline is on the coming Monday! Again, all information can be found on their website.

Then, there is an intriguing case of applied game theory. A company in London organizes an event called The Betrayers’ Banquet. For £ 99, you can spend an evening enjoying a “32 course banquet with an embedded implementation of the iterated prisoner’s dilemma”:

The event works as follows:

A banqueting table is set with 48 chairs, 24 on each side, at which players are seated at random. For a period of two hours, the food is served in small portions every fifteen minutes, and varies in quality; at the top end of the table, it is exquisite – food you could expect at a fancy restaurant. At the bottom end, the food is charitably described as unpalatable. In between, it is a spectrum between these two extremes.

At regular intervals, pairs of opposing diners are invited to play a round of the prisoner’s dilemma with each other; They are each provided with a small wooden coin with symbols on each side representing cooperation and betrayal, which they place on the table concealed under their palms, and then simultaneously reveal:

• If they both cooperate, then they are both moved up five seats towards the good food.
• If they both betray, they are both moved five seats down towards the worse food.
• If one betrays and one cooperates, the betrayer moves up ten seats, and other down ten seats.

If any of our readers were in London and willing to go, I’d love to hear their experiences. In the comments at Marginal Revolution (where I learned about this), the game designer chimes in: “People are cutthroat, especially when they’re drunk and hungry.”

Somehow I had missed that the Duck of Minerva crew has announced the 2014 Blogging Awards and Reception at ISA. Please make sure to nominate excellent bloggers and/or go to the show, which was a lot of fun last year.

Also at the Duck: Burcu Bayram discusses Lisa Martin’s recent article “Against Compliance”. This discussion is relevant for several of my colleagues and I hope we will be able to follow up on this… (yes, this is a hint to a certain co-blogger)

Mathis Lohaus

Links: Transparency Intl.; Financial Secrecy; Social Sciences Funding

First, a warning to all visiting researchers in Germany, who might entertain false hopes based on this year’s relatively friendly October:


OK, back to business… three links today, and all of them are about money:

Transparency International celebrates its 20th anniversary in Berlin. Tomorrow there will be a conference followed by the ceremony for this year’s “Integrity Awards”. The full program is here. As far as I know, the event is fully booked, but there will be a live stream. On Twitter, they use the hashtag #TIat20

The Tax Justice Network published the 2013 Financial Secrecy Index (FSI):

The Financial Secrecy Index ranks jurisdictions according to their secrecy and the scale of their activities. A politically neutral ranking, it is a tool for understanding global financial secrecy, tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions, and illicit financial flows.

The ranking covers many of the usual suspects, but its design is geared to put pressure on countries that are not usually called “tax havens”. Germany and the U.S. get spots among the top-10 offenders because the FSI ranking reflects two factors: (1) how much secrecy a jurisdiction offers, and (2) how big the country’s share of global financial services is. This leads to lower ranks for very secretive, but tiny places. So if you have a lot of cash to hide, you should rely on the fourth column, not the third.

From the PDF version of the Finanscial Secreacy Index 2013. Unfortunately, the online version isn't prettier.
Slightly cropped screenshot from the PDF version of the Financial Secrecy Index 2013. Unfortunately, the online version isn’t prettier. Maybe they could hire a designer for 2014?

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren wants to help secure federal funding for research in the social sciences.  Henry Farrell at the Monkey Cage summarizes:

As Warren points out, people are prepared to pay for social science data. The problem is that the buyers aren’t interested in finding out what is true. They are interested in pushing results that will promote their economic interests.

Is there a middle ground between ivory-tower academics (who have a long record of producing practically irrelevant output) and politically motivated donors (who cherry-pick researchers and results in line with their agenda)?

As illustrated by the fact that I’m posting this directly after two reports about advocacy groups publishing social science research, this is an important debate!

Wiebke Wemheuer-Vogelaar

IR Journals Off the Beaten Track


Whenever you write an acacemic paper – no matter whether it is for school, for a journal or as part of your thesis – you are in need of literature. You need to find other papers or books to read and to cite to show that you know what you and others are talking about. But where do you look for this literature? No matter whether you start your search at Google Scholar, your local university library or the Web of Knowledge (WoK), you often end up following a beaten track. And that track most oftenly leads through US publishing houses, authors, and journals.

If your are interested in some alternative views, here are some links to journals that might help you leave that path at least once in a while:

Some of these journals are actually listed in the Social Science Citation Index and you might want (or have) to access it through the Web of Knowledge (given that your institution has access to the WoK).

This list is probably not exaustive and it ignores non-US journals from Europe and Canada. But it introduces publications of IR communuties that are probably farest off the beaten  track and it represents what I have collected over the years as part of my own research on post-Western IR. If you know of other journals or good alternative databases, please share these with us!

Zoe Williams

International Investment Treaties and IR

A few weeks ago I attended a conference at the Freie Universität –
International Investment Agreements – Balancing Sustainable Development and Investment Protection. The conference brought together an array of lawyers, arbitrators and law professors, as well as government, NGO and IO employees. Central to the conference was a discussion of UNCTAD’s recently launched Investment Policy Framework for Sustainable Development (IPFSD).

IIAs have been receiving a fair amount of media attention lately (at least in Canada). In case you haven’t caught any of this, or aren’t forced to hear me talk about it in a colloquium session, a brief refresher: Investment agreements (IIAs) are generally bilateral investment treaties (BITs) or embedded in FTAs, and commit countries to maintaining stringent investor protection standards. Controversially, they allow investors from one of the states party to the treaty to initiate arbitration proceedings against the government of the other. Arbitrators are then charged with deciding on the legality of domestic measures affecting an investor, which may range from fairly clear cut cases of corruption to honest attempts to regulate in the public interest.

While it’s still a bit of a niche topic, the discussion at the conference touched on a number of issues that are likely of interest to a wider audience of IR and development scholars and practitioners.
Continue reading