Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Continuing the Citation Conversation

My post on citation got far more engagement than nearly all of the things I have posted over the years, so I thought I would return to the scene of the crime/post.  While many academics agreed whole heartily with my take, more than a few did not including folks I respect a great deal.  What were their perspectives?
  1. Citations are a lousy measure, one with much bias, of academic relevance/achievement, etc.
  2. People would rather be contacted so that they can provide the latest version of the paper, rather than something that might be half-baked, wrong, or incomplete.
  3. People worry about being scooped or plagiarized.

So, my quick answers are: yep but the game is not going to change tomorrow; our work is almost never finished (sometimes we even put out new versions of books seven years later when countries behave differently than we predicted, sort of); well, damn.

Ok, let me explain each a bit more, especially the last one.

1) Yes, citations are imperfect.  They can be gamed as people cite themselves, organize citation cartels so that friends cite each other, women get cited less, Canadians get less citations, etc. But they are things that can be measured (yes, we emphasize thing that can be measured even if they are imperfect measures) and that one can try to adjust for bias. The stuff I just cited is the first step towards figuring out how to weight things to control for gender/racial bias.  So, we are kind of stuck.  We can de-emphasize the role of citations and h-indexes in our own evaluations of candidates for jobs, tenure, awards, etc, but we cannot just change how the profession works and what deans/provosts and others care about.  So, voluntarily impeding citation of one's work is not quite professional suicide, but it is not a great idea for junior folks.

2) People would rather that their best/most recent versions be cited.  That is sensible for folks who have no clock (tenured folks), but I am not sure it makes sense for junior faculty and graduate students.  They have limited time to get citations before going out on the market or going up for tenure.  Deliberately making it harder for people to cite them is simply unwise.  Yes, you can put stuff on your paper saying "contact me and I will provide the latest version."  But that assumes that people have enough time and attention to the stuff they find to email, wait for a response and track all of that.  Junior folks have enough of a balancing act without imposing upon them the need to contact scholars for permission to cite.  And older scholars might also be very busy, so they will just move on to papers they can cite.  I also think very strongly that perfect is the enemy of the good enough.  Now, I got pushback from a couple of female scholars who are super-productive and super-cited, so they don't have a perfection problem (well, maybe they just produce refined work quickly).

The meme about having the confidence of a mediocre white guy.... that studies have shown (studies I have heard of, not done or read myself) that women are less confident about putting their stuff forward because of how men have treated them in the past.  So, it might be that women are more concerned about getting their best stuff out there.  Again, this is just a guess.

3)  This gets to a slightly different issue--it is not so much about "do not cite" but posting articles.  People said that they post abstracts, not papers, or not thing at all as they do not want to get their ideas stolen.  What is most striking here and also in category 2 is that most of the people making these arguments are women.  Aha, there are power dynamics that I am less aware of because I am a while male heterosexual.  I don't mean to make light of this--there are different realities for me than for women, for LGBTQ+, for African-Americans, for Latinx scholars.  And I just didn't think this is much of a threat.  I do wonder if the next time there is a survey of the status of women and of other marginalized groups in the profession, they should ask about this.  Are these people facing a greater risk of plagiarism?  Of having their ideas stolen?  I have no idea.

However, it seems to me that the best way to prevent people from stealing one's ideas is to make visible claims to that idea--to circulate widely, rather than hide, what one is working on.  That way, if someone tries to steal the idea, it will be easier to track which happened first--your discussion of your idea or the thief's (update: I have been informed that the timestamp of when a paper was uploaded was used to resolve a plagiarism despite).  As or more importantly, our job is to not just create knowledge (learn stuff about the world) but to share it.  It seems wrong to me to make it harder to share it

While the primary source of bias in citation is surely the sexism of men and because of how patriarchy plays out in the profession, I can't help but think "do not cite, do not circulate" is a dynamic that might be also causing women to be less cited (just as women self-cite less).  Unlike the more institutionalized sources, this is one pattern of behavior that is relatively easy to change.

And, yes, I am aware that I am mansplaining sexism to women.  Sorry.  I feel more guilty about the manel I was on today.

Anyhow, I am glad we are having this conversation because even if I am wrong, it is better talk about this stuff than just leave it unquestioned.






Monday, March 18, 2019

How Not to Get Cited

Put "do not cite, do not circulate" on your paper.  I received a paper for the upcoming ISA which had that instruction on it.  I yelled at (ok, I mocked) my students last week for doing the same thing.  In the olden days, folks would put "do not cite" on their papers because they wanted to polish them before submitting, that they didn't want to have errant results widely circulated.  Perhaps there is a fear that if a paper is circulated, it might get scooped.

But  NO!!!!

While citation counts are problematic for a variety of reasons (including citation patterns reflect sexism in the business), the game is the game.  That is, to get hired, to get promoted, one's citation counts are a key metric (not a perfect metric, not even a great one) that Chairs and Deans and Hiring/Promotion committees consider.  H-indexes which measure breadth and depth of citation quickly (H = the number of articles that reach x many citations--so if you have 20 articles with 20 citations or more, your H-index is 20) are a thing.  Citations take time to build--first you have to have folks read your piece and then they have to refer to it in something that gets picked up by the various citation counters.  Ye olde social citation index only included cites in journal articles, not books, not edited volumes, not working papers.  Scholar.google.com picks up far more stuff.  One paper I co-authored has 25 cites, which helps my h-index.  Scholar google has become so hip that folks tend to expect one to have a scholar google profile so that people can quickly find your publications, how they have been cited and so forth. 

Anyhow, citations take time to accumulate, and if one is going up for tenure, one has precious little time for stuff to get out and then get cited in stuff that gets out.  Putting "do not cite" on one's pieces makes it much harder for citations to accumulate.  

Is there a better way to measure impact for a scholar?  Probably.  But citation counts are better than the old system (the Old Boys Network), and don't blame citation counts for distorting the work we do.  They can be gamed--not just citing oneself but also joining citation cartels where people cite friends or whoever whether their stuff is really that integral to the argument or not.  So, one can hate the game, and one should not do the bad stuff (excessive self-citation or facilitate cartels), but one should be aware of the game and not handicap oneself. 

Oh and that fear of being wrong?  And being cited for it?  Well, I remember watching someone give a talk on federalism and put up a 2x2 table of scholarship on that topic--whether federalism is good or bad for ethnic conflict (I forget the other part of the 2x2)--and I was in both good and bad columns for having argued in different places that federalism can cause and ameliorate ethnic strife.  I blushed a bit and then we moved on.

One last thing--the idea of all of this conferencing and writing and publishing is to get our ideas out there.  Putting any obstacles in the way seems like a bad idea.



Friday, March 15, 2019

Expecting More For Doing One's Share: Canada and IO's

Two events over the past two days reminded me that Canada/Canadians tend to have overblown expectations about what it should get for its contributions to various international efforts.  Yesterday, I was at a panel run by Global Affairs Canada on the NATO and Canadian missions in the Baltics.  The key speakers were the Canadian Ambassador and the head of the military mission.  It was all Chatham House, so I will not say what they said, but I will discuss how I answered a question we were asked:
Canada has committed to its current role as Framework Nation for the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group in Latvia until 2023.  How can Canada leverage this role to advance Canadian and common global priorities? 
I had a few reactions to this.  First, announcing that the Canadian mission will last until 2023 can send two messages: (a) we are sticking around for at least four years or (b) we plan on leaving in four years.  I pointed out that no one made such statements in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, so it is not clear why Canada would announce any dates regarding this "persistent presence".  That label is a fudge--to allow NATO to get consensus to stick around for the foreseeable future but not offend anyone (Russia) about a permanent presence.  Second, I did note that Germany might have to renew the mission every year given its constitutional constraints, but I doubt that the US or UK (the other two "Framework" countries have any notion of announcing any dates.  Third, and, most important here, I noted some caution about hoping to get heaps of goodies from this effort.  Yes, Canada is leading in Latvia (even if it were slow to make the decision), and is making a difference there.  But there will be limited leverage.  It will probably help limit the noise Canada gets for spending less than 2% of its GDP on defence, but Canada is not going to get concessions from non-Latvian countries.  They will see this mission as commendable and proof of Canadian reliability, which is cool and can help, but it is not going to lead to countries bending towards Canada's preferences very much.  Whatever the diplomatic equivalent of "monetized" ain't gonna happen that much.

A similar question was raised today at a session where I was lecturing to Global Affairs people about multinational stuff: what will Canada get out of the Mali mission?  Not that much and even less than it could have.   That is, sending 200 troops to Mali was small but valuable given that most countries do not have helos and maintenance expertise to keep thee helicopters flying in difficult conditions.  But it was just for a year and when Canada was asked to stick around a while longer, it said no. Which killed whatever good buzz Canada was getting.  Again, the initial effort made interested countries happy, but it did not move the needle that much.  Would Germany, who Canada replaced in Mali, vote for Canada in the UN Security Council competition over Ireland (an EU member) and Norway (which happens to have troops in Lithuania where Germany is a Framework nation)?  No.

To be sure, these contributions are valued, but Canada will not be able to cash in much.  They are the price of doing business, of being a good ally, of being a responsible member, and they might ease some relationships, but we should set expectations on low in terms of what we get out of it.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Improving Twitter

Twitter is about to roll out some changes, and it is kind of amazing how the company is so consistent in missing the mark.  So, the big news is removing likes/RTs from the bottom of tweets (maybe the originators will still be able to see if their stuff got action or not?).

How about this:
a) Nuke all of the bots.  The idea of twitter was to have individuals and individual companies engage, not to have swarms of fake stuff hitting people one way or another.  It should be possible to reduce or eliminate this nuisance.  At least try. 
b) Enforce the standards that you supposedly set.  I can't tell you how many times I have had friends/twitter acquaintances as well as a few cases I have also experienced where people report abusive behavior and twitter does nothing.  They say they police it and all that, but the evidence suggests it happens rarely.
c) Maybe allow country filters.  As in, I don't want tweets from Russia.  Just a hypothetical. 

Any other ideas?

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Thinking about Civ-Map Gaps: So Many Gaps!!

Jim Golby has a great, great thread on the different kinds of gaps that can develop between civilians and military.  I want to engage a few bits of the thread.


As I told Jim on twitter, this is a bit limiting as I think that having a largely white male officer corps is likely to make matters of sexism and racism worse, and that affects not just recruitment and retention but also cohesion and all that other stuff militaries care about.  While I had an argument with my daughter yesterday about Captain Marvel being used as a recruitment tool for the USAF (she is opposed, does not want younger folks joining the imperial war machine), I think a more diverse force is a better force for a variety of reasons, not just a deeper, wider pool.

This might be the worst gap for many reasons, and with my fixation on oversight, I will focus on that.  Polarization in civilian politics makes it harder to oversee the military--the Republicans will try to use officers who appear before them to appear as allies, Dems might start appearing as enemies, and then oversight hearings become show trials and lose whatever legitimacy they have.  And we need Congressional oversight in a big way.

The resource gap also affects oversight.  One bit of evidence is how much interest there is in serving on the committees that oversee the military versus the State Dept.  With so much more money going to Defense, Congresspeople and Senators have a greater incentive to sit on the Armed Services Committees--they can direct some of the money to their districts, and their constituents will care about pre-existing investments (bases, defense contractors).  Not nearly the same amount of attention for State these days.


Jim says it for me--too much respect for the military means folks don't ask the tough questions and hold the military accountable when things go wrong.  Has any branch paid a price for recent failures?  Crickets.

This is one that bothers me a lot.  When Mattis as SecDef tells the military that they are better than the civilians and they have to be patient and hold on, I worry a great deal.  I strongly prefer Stan McChrystal's take in a recent podcast--that military folks are just as flawed as civilians--they have no superiority or monopoly when it comes to integrity.  Thinking otherwise is dangerous.  While the folks in the military do engage in service for country, not all of them are wonderful people.  Think about the white supremacists who serve now or who had served and then left and did harm. 

What I like most about this thread is it forces us to think about we mean when we say civ-mil gap.  I think there can be much good social science done to pull apart these different gaps and figure out how they are related to each other and to topics like oversight and effectiveness.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Inspired by Female Scholars

I can't help it when I see a good twitter thread, so after seeing this


I decided to write about a series of poli sci women who have made a big difference in my career.* 
  1. Isebill Gruhn was a visiting prof at Oberlin when I took her Intro to IR class.  She helped turn me from a Chemistry major into a Government major and a fan of IR.  She was so sharp and pretty demanding, so getting good grades in that class meant a big deal.  I never did end up being as good as she was in running discussions.  I will always be thankful to her for turning me onto this IR thing.
  2. Lisa Martin was on my dissertation committee during her brief time at UCSD.  She was so quick with thorough, insightful comments that she set an example that I have never been able to match but something to aspire to, nonetheless.  
  3. Debbi Avant was three or four years ahead of me in grad school, and she deftly managed to welcome the younger folks while balancing two kids and being the leading edge of a relatively new program.  It is funny that my work started to rely on hers late in my career, but the way which did her work influenced me from the outset.  Debbi's passion for the stuff was almost as important as the amazing community that she helped to build.
  4. Erin Jenne was one of my first co-authors, helping me to figure out the international relations of ethnic conflict.  She has always inspired me to be more critical.
  5. Cherie Maestas (the token Americanist in this list) taught me much about building institutions even around, over, or thru a broken landscape.  She was really the Colonel Hogan of Texas Tech, even though I liked to think I was.
  6. Juliet Johnson inspired me with the most memorable (ok, most positively memorable) job talk I have witnessed, and then she became an amazing colleague, doing far more than her fair share of damn near everything.  I could only win teaching awards at McGill in the years she was not eligible for whatever reason.  She is a hell of a role model as well.
  7. Pattie Weitsman, whom I met at a job interview (I didn't get it), became a conference pal.  Her work on alliances pushed me to think harder about my work in that area.  We lost her way too soon, but she will always inspire me with her humor, her intellect, and how she fought her fight.
  8. Sara Mitchell is one of the most prolific scholars of my generation, but what inspires me is how much community she has built, how much she has broken the path and assisted the next generation of women.  Oh, and her laugh is almost as loud and as piercing as mine.  I'd like to think I inspire her to laugh a bit louder.
  9. Stephanie Carvin, even though she is much junior to me, inspires me, not just with her amazing baking abilities, but her energy and drive to engage in pretty much every direction, via twitter, her podcasts, her classes and all the rest.  I wish I had her energy.
  10. My PhD students, Aisha, Sarah-Myrium, Ora, Jessica, Amy and Maya, who inspired me with their dedication, determination, and deliberation.  See my TeamSteve page for their publications.

*  There are plenty of other women who inspired me along the way, including those I never met, but these are the ones that inspired me the most.  Oh, and if you can't spot the Harry Potter reference, too bad.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Tough Times in Canadian Politics

One of the basic tendencies of Trumpian politics is that when the GOP is accused of something, they say what about Hillary's emails or Bill's sexual assault or whatever.  And I get that, so when I try to keep that in mind as I ponder the conundrum in Canadian politics: as the election nears, will folks be turned off more by Justin Trudeau pushing the Attorney General to give the wildly corrupt SNC-Lavalin firm (too big to prosecute?) a break or by Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservatives, dabbling with the toxic brew that is white supremacy?

It might seem to be whataboutism to raise Scheer's dalliances with the darkest side while Justin Trudeau is struggling with a corruption scandal BUT they are happening at the same time.  So, it is not digging from something to draw a false equivalency, but seriously considering which is worse--violating the rule of law a bit or pandering to racists just a bit?

I asked my twitter followers (who are hardly a random sample) and they spoke thusly:

Many more found Scheer's speaking at the racist rally (Yellow Vest and the Convoy are chock full of far right xenophobes, racists, and other "deplorables", not to mention conspiracy theorists) to be worse than what Trudeau did.  I was expecting a bit more of an even tally, as Trudeau has greatly disappointed not just his base but also the left wing of the political spectrum who rallied to him nearly four years ago and have felt burned (electoral reform?) ever since.

How to make sense of this, other than, again, the selection bias of those answering my twitter poll?  I think fears of "populism"--the use of ethnic and other divisions to get ahead and Trump's example (as well as Brexit and others)--is more disturbing because Canadians (and those elsewhere who responded to my survey) are worried that what is going in the rest of the world could happen here.  That with a very heterogeneous society, mostly proud of its multicultural heritage, resorting to hate will be quite destructive.  Hate crimes don't just happen in the US--they happen here in Canada, too.  Having the major alternative party pander to these worse instincts is most alarming.  This is not a one-off event as the Conservative Party has been consorting with Rebel Media, which is kind of like the Breitbart of Canada.  And the Conservatives are being outflanked by the People's Party of Canada--an effort by a Conservative politician to develop his own party largely based on xenophobia.  So, the concern here is great.

Whereas the Liberal Party acting entitled and making dumb decisions that abuse their power--well, that is nothing new in Canada.  Canada has survived that dynamic more than a couple of times and done ok.  It is a known reality, so it is less alarming.  Also, the impact is less widespread--giving SNC-Lavalin a break is not going to lead to many additional firms acting corruptly.  Some might, but it is unlikely to lead to anything that endangers political stability or individuals, at least compared to the Conservatives playing up white supremacy.  Inciting hatred does indeed incite violence, and people do get hurt.

So, my followers may tend to be Liberal supporters since I am a middle of the road kind of person (middle in Canada, not so middle in the US), so maybe this is all about bias, but I can't help but think that, yes, I'd rather have a mildly corrupt party in power that appeals to all groups than one that is seeking white nationalist votes.  The good thing about the American situation is that you can have both--a corrupt administration that is quite racist.  Oh wait.  That sucks.

Anyhow, this all bears watching.  The strange thing is that I can identify three rules in Canadian politics, and two of the major parties violated two of them bigly:
1.  The Liberals should avoid any taint of corruption since that is what brings down the party again and again.
2.  The Conservatives have to avoid xenophobic and racist appeals since they need the votes of newer Canadians in Toronto and elsewhere.
3.  Avoid constitutional amendments and referendums.