Nov 272015

No fees for authors and a legit-looking crowd of supporters.  But why “Humanities” and not “Humanities and Social Sciences”? Still looks too soft for quantitative social scientists.

The Open Library of Humanities is financially supported by an international library consortium. This means that we never have to charge our authors to publish with us. In turn, we therefore have no…

Source: Supporting Institutions

Nov 222015
Photo by JoelMontes

Being part of the peer review system has a sadomasochistic quality. Nate Jensen’s story about how he had to submit a certain manuscript again and again to different journals to get it published eventually is all too familiar. I don’t keep records as exact as his (would be too depressing), but I remember a single straight accept. I also remember one supposed quick hit (not out in print yet – hope they don’t change their minds) that involved a two-year email conversation between us, a very diligent reviewer, and a baffled editor.

And then there is the cursed manuscript, for which the first analyses were run almost exactly nine years ago. The saga involves one journal that took extraordinarily long to reject and one that gave us an R&R after more than a year – one reviewer had died and so understandably failed to respond to the ever more urgent automated mails from the manuscript submission system. In the meantime, my co-author and I had temporarily lost the will to live and so just ignored the chance of an R&R, only to come back to the wreck of the manuscript three years later (make a wild guess: reject). We have now just submitted a second R&R to journal number four (there may have been another in between which I cannot remember), 14 months after our initial submission to this one.

I used to think that this strategy (affectionally known as “doing a Budge” in some circles for certain reasons) increases the overall likelihood of getting published even for mediocre manuscripts: If your chance of initial rejection is 0.9, four submissions should bring this down to a more agreeable 0.9^4=66\%. And if you lower your sights and begin to target outlets further down the academic food chain, your chances should be even better.

peer review photo

Photo by JoelMontes

But this, of course, assumes that reviews/decisions are independent draws. They are not, as I have learned from my own reviewing: In a reasonably specialised subfield, the number of potential reviewers is small, and the number of people actually doing the bloody business is even smaller. In more than one instance, editors seem to have googled (or otherwise consulted databases or their email records) and have contacted both me and my co-author on a sufficiently obscure specialised piece of work to judge something even more obscure specialised. If a reviewer does not like your work and rejects it, chances are that the same person and their friends will review its next iteration for another journal. And reviewers are over-burdened: Recognising that you have already seen this manuscript before is like getting a get-out-of-jail card. There is a serious temptation not to look for any improvements (and often, there are none).

Thankfully, there is a flip side to it. With the cursed manuscript, there is a kind, recognisable, approving voice, who had the bad fortune to review at least two and possibly three versions of the manuscript (not counting the R&Rs). As a reviewer, I recently had the chance to get a look at a manuscript that I had given a “minor revisions” before, but the journal had rejected it anyway. The author had dealt with my suggestions, shortened and streamlined the manuscript in the most appreciable way, then submitted it to a much better journal, for which I could now recommend to publish without revisions. This much more audacious strategy shall be known in some circles, for certain reasons, as doing an inverted Budge.

Nov 212015

The controversy about how we should refer to the terrorist group known in Western Europe as “ISIS” has been going on for some time (the Americans prefer “ISIL”). If you followed the news after the recent attacks (and who hasn’t), you will have noticed that a third name, “Daesh”, is gaining currency with heads of states and governments, allegedly because it annoys the terrorists.

colossus photo

Photo by JonRB

But where there is controversy, there is also confusion in the anglosphere. Thankfully, one translator has come to the fore and decodes Daesh, and the confusion:  Decoding Daesh: Why Is the New Name for ISIS so Hard to Understand?

Over at the LSE blog, Terro Karrpi has an interesting piece on  how Humans are losing the battle against social media algorithms. Unfortunately, the threat is not some Colossus-Guardian-like superstructure (to which I would secretly love to surrender), but rather an unfortunate coupling of social media and stock trading algorithms.

And finally something that everyone in Higher Education knows: College textbooks are a racket. The same goes for most other forms of academic publishing, by the way.


Nov 132015


Germany’s restrictive bioethics legislation in general, and its very tight rules on embryology and fertilisation in particular, present a puzzle for political science. Early on, the country has enacted liberal rules in other moral policy domains, most notably the abortion law of 1975 (Richardt, 2003: 113). The full range of prenatal diagnosis is available to German women, and the 1995 amendment has de facto legalised late abortions of otherwise viable babies with genetic or other defects right up to the moment of birth (Hashiloni-Dolev, 2007: 85) Yet, paradoxically, Germany’s 1990 Embryo Protection Act (EPA, 1990) gives absolute protection to fertilised eggs (zygotes)1 before implantation in the womb and so remains “one of the strictest laws on human embryology and fertilization in Europe” (Richardt, 2003: 112).

As usual, Germany is a strange place. A partial explanation is in my recent article (open access): Strange bedfellows: the Bundestag’s free vote on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) reveals how Germany’s restrictive bioethics legislation is shaped by a Christian Democratic/New Left issue-coalition | Research & Politics


Nov 112015

I got some flak for my piece on the Pegida movement, which I wrote for the Monkey Cage, but it was mostly surprisingly polite (my favourite one was “Professor of Fairies”. That one will definitively go on my new calling cards). Most of the commenters suggested that I was trying to brownwash Pegida when I suggested that the movement is radicalising, and that there are links to the Extreme Right. Well, here is another one.

dresden 1938 photo

Photo by nemodoteles

Last Monday was the 77th anniversary of the nation-wide November pogroms directed against Jewish citizens, business, schools, hospitals, synagogues, and private homes that preluded the holocaust. While the day itself enjoys no special legal protection, it is widely seen as an occasion for quiet introspection and public remembrance. In this context, many had appealed to the Pegida organisers to cancel their usual Monday night rally.

The demonstration went ahead nonetheless, including the usual rituals. It was capped by a speech by Tatjana Festerling, a former member of the AfD. Festerling channeled the spirit of the day by demanding an end to “Nazi paranoia” and the “cult of guilt”. “Cult of guilt” (Schuldkult) is a phrase that was coined in the early 1990s. It is a highly loaded term that is used almost exclusively by the NPD and other right-wing extremist groups whenever the crimes of the Nazis are mentioned. That Festerling would use that word, on that day, and that the crowds would cheer, is significant.

Nov 092015

Taking a walk whilst running two variants of a slightly dodgy LTA in parallel on 64 of this baby’s 35,000-odd cores (to please a grumpy reviewer). Feeling like a proper scientist for a change. Needless to say that the whole thing shut down 35 minutes into the world’s fastest MPlus run, because the wardrobe-sized cooling unit broke down. Never happened on my desktop.


Mogon. Image Credit: ZDV JGU Mainz


Nov 082015

On Friday, a day after the great refugee compromise between CDU, CSU, SPD, and the minister presidents was announced, Home Affairs minister Thomas de Maiziere created a medium-sized stir by presenting plans that would reduce the level of protection granted to refugees from Syria. None such measure had been agreed the day before. By Saturday, the matter was apparently settled: The Kanzleramt declared that this was all some misunderstanding, and that the (non-)debate was over. Now, on Sunday evening, the FAZ newspaper is reporting support for de Maiziere’s non-plan frm the CSU and some leading lights in Merkel’s CDU including Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, Merkel’s key ally. Cue crunch time in Berlin, time to settle some very old scores etc – or just another string of misunderstandings?


Nov 072015

On a balmy evening in August, I was lounging in the garden with a dead-tree copy of Perspectives on Politics (as you do), and stumbled across a rather spirited, well-written editorial attack by Jeffrey C. Isaac on the Data Access & Research Transparency (DA-RT) manifesto. So far, I had had only the vaguest awareness of the DA-RT movement (which took off five years ago), presumably because I’m a happy little data junkie for whom most of the demands and ideas make intuitive sense. Nonetheless, I can see the merit of some of the counter-arguments,  and Isaac provides some interesting context. Although I went to APSA a couple of weeks later, I did not attend any DA-RT-related panels, and basically forgot about it.DartsTarget

What is DA-RT, and why should you care?

And now, three months later, controversy is all over what remains of the Political Science blogosphere. Over at the Plot, Isaac repeats his key arguments against DA-RT, and comments on some recent developments. If you are not interested in the context provided by his original article, that is the place to look. At the Duck, Jarrod Hayes is also not very fond of DA-RT, stressing the problems it would create for researchers doing qualitative interviews. On the other hand, Nicole Janz, who is on a worthy mission to promote reproducibility in Political Science with her replication blog, mocks a recent “petition”, so far signed by more than 600 colleagues (linked from the article) as “Political Scientists Trying to Delay Research Transparency”. John Patty, who has signed up DA-RT, gives the petition another beating:  “Responding To A Petition To Nobody (Or Everybody)”. There is even a twitter handle @DARTsupporters, that posts the odd congratulatory message when another journal editor signs up to DA-RT (follow at your own peril, as this implies supporting DA-RT, according to the bio). I predict much fun and merriment ahead in Political Science in months to come.dart
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