Dr Huber’s Sandwich shop

A friend send me this link to Huber’s Sandwich Emporium yesterday.

Sandwich Estimator?
Sandwich Estimator?

Huber’s sandwiches is within walking distance of the University of Vienna, and we spent a dreamy 10 minutes imagining┬á how slightly anxious researchers that suffer from correlated disturbances shuffle into that shop and ask for the massive 18 centimetre sandwich estimator. If you think this is remotely funny, your life must be pretty sad.


Turnout, Lakatos, and Case Studies

Image via Wikipedia

A few months ago, I published an article on inequality, institutions and turnout in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations that criticised an earlier piece in the same journal. The journal has granted the original author the right to a reply, which seems only fair. I was, however, slightly surprised that I would have the right to respond to that reply. Where does it stop? Anyway, a very short article with the fancy title ‘Lakatos reloaded‘ has been submitted and accepted and will appear in one of the next issues of the BJPIR.

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Political Science Peer-Review Survey: 836 respondents and counting

With about 100 new respondents, yet another brilliant week for the Political Science Peer-Review Survey draws to a close. While the snowball is still rolling, and while we cannot know for certain because the survey is anonymous after all, we might soon reach a point of saturation: I have received a number of very friendly replies from people who tell me that they have already heard about the survey once (or twice) from someone else. The Netherlands in particular seem to be a hotspot of peer-review survey related activities. You could guess that much from the distribution of our respondents. While the US dominate the field (as they should), Switzerland and the Netherlands come an amazing 5th and 6th, accurately reflecting the standing of these countries as Social Science strongholds.

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Political Science Peer-Review Survey: 500+ respondents

The title says it all: yesterday, respondents 500-506 took the Political Science Peer-Review Survey, which is obviously great. A neat detail is that so far, more than 60 current or previous editors of political science journals have taken part in the survey. Tomorrow, we will resume or email campaign (aimed at those who have published in SSCI journals over the last eight years or so) to get even more people on board.
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Update on the Political Science Peer Review Survey

On Monday, we started a new initiative to boost response to the Political Science Peer Review Survey. Thanks to some very industrious research students, we were able to identify about 21,000 individual authors who have published in Social Science Citation Index-covered Political Science Journals between 2000 and 2008. For about 8,000 of these, the SSCI lists their email addresses (that’s the EM field in the SSCI records), and so we started contacting them and asked them to participate in the survey. Obviously, some addresses are not longer valid because people have moved on to different places or have left academia altogether. Nonetheless, I was slightly surprised by the rather poor quality of the address data supplied by Thomson. In some cases, letters were missing whereas in other cases similar looking letters (e.g. ‘v’ and ‘y’) had been confused. This looks like either a weak OCR routine or an non-native and underpaid data typing slave has been used. Overall, we have contacted 962 people so far. About 200 of our messages have bounced, and we have 61 new responses to the survey (assuming that without the mailout, no one would have responded during these four days), which brings us to a new total of 238 responses

Another War Story from the Blind Review Process

Almost exactly three years ago, a major political science journal asked me to review a manuscript. I recommended to reject the paper on the grounds that a) its scope was extremely limited and b) that it largely ignored the huge body of existing political science literature on its topic. The editors followed my suggestion (presumably, the other reviewers did not like the piece either). A couple of days ago, an obscure national journal sent me the very same (though slightly updated and upgraded) manuscript review. Is this sad or funny? How often did they authors have to downgrade their ambitions for finding a decent outlet in the process? And how common is this?

Thanks to the all new, all shiny political science peer-review survey, there is at least an answer to the last question: about 30 per cent of our respondents say that they would submit a rejected manuscript to a less prestigious journal. But what really strikes me is the proportion of reviewers who have reviewed (and rejected?) the same manuscript for at least two different journals: 29 per cent. This squares nicely with my personal experience (sometimes I seem to hit the same wall twice or more) and points to the fact that political science is a small world. Too small perhaps.

The survey is still open, so if your are an active political scientist, please, please participate and share your experience with us! We will publish preliminary results of the peer review survey online and will eventually put the data into the public domain.

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The Political Science Peer-Review Survey

If you edit, review or author manuscripts for political science journals, the peer-review process is at the centre of your professional life. Unfortunately, for most of us the process is largely a black box. While everyone has heard (or lived through) tales from the trenches, there is very little hard evidence on how the process actually works. This is why a number of colleagues and I started the peer-review survey project that aims at collecting information on the experience of authors, reviewers and editors of political science journals.

If you are an active political scientist, this survey is for you: we need your expertise, and your input is greatly appreciated. Filling in the form is fun and will typically take less than ten minutes of your time. It is also a great way to release some steam ­čÖé
Ready? Then proceed to the Political Science Peer-Review Survey.

We also put some (very) preliminary results of the political science peer-review survey online and will release further findings and eventually the data set in the future.

If you think this is worthwhile (and who wouldn’t?), please spread the word. To make this easier, we have created short URL for the survey (http://tinyurl.com/peer-review-survey) and the results (http://tinyurl.com/peer-review-results) that you can forward to your colleagues. Thanks again for your support. It is greatly appreciated.

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How to move your site to a new domain without losing your backlinks (hopefully)

[Slightly off topic] Having your own domain is obviously attractive, but when I moved to the UK two years ago, I left my main site with all my presentations, pre-prints and other goodies in a subdirectory of my old institution’s website where it had resided since about 1999. They have a decent server with loads of space that is regularly backupped, and they don’t charge me a penny. But more importantly, over the years I have accumulated a whopping 160 MB worth of files (about 6000 of them), and people (and Google) know where to find my stuff. In the past, I have moved single pages of special interest groups from one domain to another with┬á javascript redirects but had no clue who this would translate to a huge and fairly overgrown structure of PDFs, powerpoints etc. And so I simply left everything as it was (i.e. working).

However, during the summer break I had a little spare time and decided that it was time to move my stuff to a domain of my own. This is what I did:

  • I registered my own domain kai-arzheimer.com and rented 250 MB of webspace from a small but very keen provider for less than 18 Euros per year. Crucially, they give me ssh access to the server and a handy set of tools (bash, textutils, emacs, perl, python and even gcc)
  • I carefully read the advice on moving to a new domain that Google gives on its webmaster blog. I registered both the old and the new site with them and installed their tool for generating sitemaps.
  • I copied everything to the new site without making any changes.
  • I brushed up my knowledge on generating 301 redirects. A “301” means that what ever content was available at a given URL has moved permanently to another URL. Most browsers take you to this new address in the blink of an eye without you ever realising that the URL has changed. And Google will eventually update its index and will interpret any links pointing to the old URL as pointing to the new one. At least this is what they promise.
  • I found out that I was extremely lucky because my old institution runs Apache with the Mod-Rewrite module enabled and gives ordinary users access to this machine via .htaccess files. This is obviously Techno-Babble but the upshoot is this: I put a file named .htaccess in the top-level directory of my old site (www.politik.uni-mainz.de/kai.arzheimer/) and changed its content to
    Options +FollowSymLinks
    RewriteEngine on
    RewriteRule (.*) http://www.kai-arzheimer.com/$1 [R=301,L]

    This instructs the server at Mainz to do a┬á search&replace operation on URLs that refer to my old site and rewrite them into redirects to my new site. This works for PDFs, powerpoints, single pages, pictures, anything. That also means that external links to duly forgotten working papers on other people’s sites which have (just like the working papers) not been updated since 1999 still work. The object does not even have to exist: if you ask for http://www.politik.uni-mainz.de/kai.arzheimer/meaning-of-life.html you will be served a 404-page from my new site. How neat is that?

  • Finally, I found a perl-oneliner that would correct the absolute references to the old site that might or might not be buried deep in the HTML code of ancient pages: perl -pi.bak -e 's!www.politik.uni-mainz.de/kai.arzheimer!www.kai-arzheimer.com!ig' *.htm* There is probably a more clever way to do this, but I applied the same changes in the lower-level directories by changing the last few characters to */*.htm*, */*/*.htm* and so on. Rather amazingly, the same trick worked for PDF files: by applying the patch to *.pdf and so on, I could change URLs in files that had been generated by Office 97.

On the next day, results from the new site began very slowly to replace the pages from the old site. For a couple of days, pages from the new site would disappear and re-appear, but this doesn’t really matter because thanks to the redirect, people find you either way. Three weeks on, the transition seems to be mostly complete. So far, it has been a surprisingly painless experience.

Does Powerpoint equal Stalinism?

Why Stalin would have loved PowerPoint
Why Stalin would have loved PowerPoint

Like many other people, I just hate PowerPoint. But I had no idea that this pet hate could be the result of a serious
(well) analysis of PP’s ideological flaws. Now I know. Though the original article by scientific idol and graphics guru Edward Tufte (“power corrupts, powerpoint corrupts absolutely“) has been on the internet for five years, I only acame across the graphical analysis while browsing -er- a PowerPoint presentation. Though it’s a good one on research designs.

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