Department of Government (Politics) at Essex tops Research Assessment Exercise 2008

December 18 was the the day (or rather the night, as results were communicated at midnight) for UK academics: after years of preparation and second-guessing and months of waiting, the results of the 6th Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) were published. Every five years or so, the UK higher education funding councils examine the research output of the various “units of assessment” (i.e. departments) and publish a league table that is crucial for the allocation of “quality weighted research funding” (i.e. money) as well as for the reputation of a place. At the moment, the system is chiefly based on an evaluation of up to four publications per active researcher, which has lead to the creation of transfer market for scientists that ressembles professional football.

In every RAE since 1986, my institution has earned top grades. This time around, the marks are a bit more disaggregated, i.e. a percentage of 4*, 3* etc. work was published. But no matter which way you count and weight the results, we end up in the first place (tied with Sheffield but clearly ahead of Oxford and the LSE). Obviously, we are freaking happy.

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Call for Papers: Perspectives on the Radical Right

Finally, the call for papers for the ECPR’s 5th conference (at Potsdam, September 10-12 2009) is out. Our section on the Radical Right will consist of the following nine panels:

  • The Radical Right in Central and Eastern Europe
  • The Internationalisation of the Radical Right
  • Will Fascism return?
  • On the Borderline Between Protest and Violence: Political Movements of the New Radical Right
  • Consequences of the surge of anti-immigration parties
  • The Radical Right in Western Europe
  • Inside the Radical Right: An Internalist Perspective
  • Party-based Euroscepticism in Western and Eastern Europe
  • Neighbourhood Effects Revisited: the Visualisation of Immigrants and Radical Right-Wing Voting

Each panel can have up to five paper givers, so the section offers us a chance to bring together cutting edge research on the Populist/Extreme/Radical Right from various subfields (parties, voters, rational choice, normative theory – you name it). Please submit your abstract via the the electronic submission system to the appropriate panel(s).

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Political Science Journal Monitor

While we are in the mood of surveying the peer-review process in political science, here is a quick link to the Political Science Journal Monitor. The site itself is blogspot blog converted into a makeshift forum, and activity is low. Nonetheless, this is an interesting an potentially relevant resource for many of us.

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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 🙂
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 ( and the results ( that you can forward to your colleagues. Thanks again for your support. It is greatly appreciated.

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Does inequality depress turnout (or what you shouldn’t do with time-series cross-sectional data)?

The US might face unprecedented levels of turnout in tomorrow’s election, but historically, the non-voters are the biggest camp in American politics. One intriguing explanation for this well-known fact is that low turnout could be a consequence of the very high (by any standard) levels of income inequality: because voters lack experience with universalistic institutions, they are less likely to adopt norms and values that foster participation in elections. This is the gist of an article that appeared recently (by social science standards) in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations. While the thesis is interesting enough, I did not find the evidence (design, operationalisation, statistical model) particularly convincing and consequentially embarked on a major replication exercise. As it turned out, there are indeed major problems with the original analysis, including a rather problematic application of the ever popular time-series cross-sectional approach (aka Beck&Katz). Last week, my own article on the (non-)relationship between inequality and turnout has finally appeared in the BJPIR. If you don’t have access to the journal, you can still download the preprint version (“Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something True?”) from my homepage. And if you in turn find this rather unconvincing, you can download the replication data for the various inequality/turnout models and do your own analysis. Enjoy.
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Austrian Extreme Right Leader Jörg Haider dies in car crash

Jörg Haider 1950-2008

“Colourful” did not even begin to describe him. If Bill Clinton was America’s first rock&roll president, Jörg Haider, who died in a car crash early on Saturday morning, was Austria’s first pop politician. Apt for a future right-winger, Haider was born into a national-socialist family. A gifted public speaker, he was active in right-wing circles and in Austria’s national-liberal party FPÖ from an early age on. In 1986, he rose to international prominence when he won (with the support of the party’s nationalist wing) a leadership contest against the FPÖ’s liberal figurehead Norbert Steger. Within months, Haider transformed the slightly dusty FPÖ into one of the most modern, controversial, populist and electorally successful parties of the European Extreme Right.
Under his leadership, the party went from strength to strength. In 1999, the FPÖ won over 20 per cent of the popular vote and entered a coalition with the Christian Democrats, thereby bringing Haider one step closer to his life-long ambition: to become chancellor (prime minister) of Austria. However, his involvement with the Austrian government triggered international backlash and the European Union’s ill-advised “sanctions” against Austria. Subsequentially, the party lost much of its support.
Haider retreated to subnational politics (he was “Landeshauptmann” (minister president) of the state of Carinthia from 1989-91 and then again from 1999 on). In 2005, he and a group of supporters left the FPÖ and formed a new party, the BZÖ. Considered a one-man show by many, Haider and the party garnered almost 11 per cent of the national vote in the general election two weeks ago, and Haider seemed destined to return to the forefront of Austrian politics.
Like many politicians, Haider was many things to many persons. His remarks on the “reasonable” economic and social policies of the Nazis predictably led to an international outcry. He was famous for political gaffes and insults but was described as courteous and friendly once the cameras were switched off. He also played an instrumental role in a referendum campaign against a nuclear power plant in 2002. Of course, he claimed the plant was insecure by definition because it was Czech, allowing Haider to play the national card and to exploit animosities that go back to the days of the Hapsburg Empire. Oddly enough, he also supported Turkey’s bid for membership in the European Union.
Haider carefully controlled his public image. Papers haven been written (and published) on his attractiveness for both male and female voter. Back in the 1980s, Austria’s other international pop star Falco quipped that people liked Haider because he was sexy and right-wing. At 58, Haider still projected the image of a youthful sportsman, which might explain that Austrians are so shocked by his sudden death. Politicians from all political parties are now praising his more positive qualities. Carinthia, where he was genuinely popular with large parts of the population, is rife with conspiracy theory.
Oddly enough, the death of its most prodigious leader might make Austria’s Extreme Right even stronger: without him, the BZÖ is an orphan that might soon be brought back into the FPÖ fold.
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Extreme Right Book now online

Courtesy of Google’s book search, a large parts of my new book on the Extreme Right in Western Europe (in German) is now available online. I don’t know how they calculate which and how many pages one may view but I was able to read several consecutive pages of it. Plus you have the search function which comes in handy if you know exactly what you are looking for e.g. because you want to verify a quote. And if Google fails you, you can always try amazon which has its own online version of “Die Wähler der Extremen Rechten 1980-2002”. Nice.
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Does Immigration help or hurt the Front National in France?

In a recent article in the European Journal of Political Research, Kestilä and Söderlund claim (amongst other things) that in the French regional elections of 2004, turnout and district magnitude have significant negative effects oDepartements in Francen the extreme right vote whereas the effects of the number of party lists and unemployment are positive and significant. Most interestingly, immigration (which is usually a very good predictor for the radical right vote) had no effect on the success of the Front National. More generally, they argue that a subnational approach can control for a wider range of factors and provide more reliable results than cross-national analyses (now the most common approach to this phenomenon). My colleague Liz Carter and I disagreed and engaged in a massive replication/re-analysis endeavour. The outcome is a critique of the KS model of subnational political opportunity structures in regional elections. In this paper, we dispute Kestilä’s and Söderlund’s claims on theoretical, conceptual and methodological grounds and demonstrate that their findings are spurious. Today, the European Journal has accepted the article for publication (probably in 2009) 🙂

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How Nancy Pelosi could become president

Today, the BBC has a rather amusing piece by Larry Sabato (Virginia) on the “The US election nightmare scenario“: an equal split of the “toss-up” state leads to deadlock in the Electoral College. Enter the unit rule, a constitutional provision which stipulates that the House will select the President in a vote where each state delegation has a single vote. Sounds bizarre? Certainly. Unlikely? Not entirely. And yes, apparently Pelosi could become the next President of the US. Read it yourself.
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