Tuesday, 31 May 2011

"Journal-Ranking System Goes Down Under Weight of Controversy"

DISCLAIMER: please see also my more recent post on ‘The problems with law journal rankings’

A wonderful title and a seriously interesting topic. To quote from here:
The Australian government abandoned its journal-ranking system yesterday, amid complaints that haphazard ranks (...) were affecting research financing and the careers of academics. The system was part of an overall initiative called Excellence in Research for Australia, which helps the government decide how much money goes to a given research unit at a university. Aspects of the journal rankings had been considered for possible adoption in the United States and Europe.
Also discussed in The Australian here and here, and on the official website of the ARC here. Of course, I have blogged about such rankings a couple of times, most recently here and here.

What interested me in May

Monday, 30 May 2011

The European Private Company (SPE) – hope?

Well, I was hopeful a few hours ago, reading the blogpost “Will the European Private Company See Daylight After All?”(here) about today’s meeting of the EU Competitive Council – just to be disappointed a few hours later since agreement has not been reached and the decision has been postponed until June (see here; in German). Anyway, still a good occasion to refer to my two articles on this issue here and here.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Reflections on Satoshi Kanazawa, academic freedom and blogging

For anyone, who hasn't followed it: Satoshi Kanzawa is an evolutionary psychologist at the LSE (homepage here) who likes to be provocative, and a few days ago stirred a new debate by blogging on alleged racial differences in attractiveness (the original post has been removed but it can be accessed here). I have no interest and expertise to comment on the substance of his ideas, but I was wondering about Kanazawa's views on science and political correctness more generally. A few years he wrote in the Times Higher (here):
When scientists begin to worry about things other than the truth and to ask "might this conclusion or finding offend someone?", self-censorship sets in. They become tempted to shade the truth. What if a scientific conclusion is offensive and true? What is a scientist to do then? Many scientific truths are highly offensive, but scientists must pursue them at any cost.
This sounds very idealistic and brave - but would I follow the same approach? Of course, in general, he does have a point: to illustrate, if the earth revolves around the sun, scientists should say so, even if the Pope disagrees. However, the present controversy is about one of Kanazawa's blog posts. Blogging is great but really just “the world according to me” and not science (not being peer-reviewed etc.). This does not mean that you can't raise provocative ideas, but in exchange you may care about not being offensive, racist etc.


Postscript: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=417449&c=1 on Reflections on Satoshi Kanazawa, academic freedom and blogging

Monday, 16 May 2011

Eurovision Song Contest – AV Recount (or: giving 12 Points to the Lib Dems?)


The winner of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest has been Azerbaijan (1), followed by Italy (2), Sweden (3), Ukraine (4) and Denmark (5) (results here). The competition was based on a positional voting system, i.e. each country assigning points from 0 to 12. I was wondering whether and how the results would change if this were replaced by an alternative vote system (AV), i.e. a system where voters rank candidates in order of preference, and then the candidates which the fewest votes are gradually eliminated and their votes redistributed to the other candidates. For this purpose, I recalculated the rank of the best five countries, assuming that the other twenty countries have already been eliminated. The results are:

  • Round with all five countries: Italy 25.58%, Azerbaijan 20.93%, Ukraine 20.93%, Sweden 18.60%, Denmark 13.95% à Denmark’s votes redistributed
  • Round with four countries: Italy 30.23%, Azerbaijan 25.58%, Ukraine 23.26%, Sweden 20.93% à Sweden’s votes redistributed
  • Round with three countries: Azerbaijan 41.46%, Italy 31.71%, Ukraine 25.83% à Ukraine’s votes redistribute
  • Round with two countries: Azerbaijan 53.85%, Italy 46.15% à Overall, therefore Azerbaijan (1), followed by Italy (2), Ukraine (3), Sweden (4) and Denmark (5), being almost identical to the result of the positional voting system.

Implications for UK politics? Well, of course, the alternative vote referendum, suggested by the Lib Dems, has not been successful and it seems unlikely that the same question will be asked to the public again. So, as a plan B, the Lib Dems may now suggest the positional voting system (knowing that its results are actually quite similar to AV) – though it may take some efforts to convince the British public of the seriousness of anything related to the Eurovision Song Contest …

Thursday, 12 May 2011

If presidential elections were like the Eurovision Song contest ...

- for instance, thinking about a political system such as France, Russia or the US -, then (see here) (a) there would be two rounds, with more than half of the candidates (ie not only the top two) making it to the second round, (b) whereby the candidates (or their parties) would have to pay a fee to take part in the elections and the candidates who voluntarily pay a higher fee are automatically qualified for the second round, (c) whereby the first-round elections of the other candidates are divided into two random groups, (d) whereby the elections are based on a positional voting system (i.e., assigning points), (e) whereby each region would have the same number votes, regardless of its population, and (f) whereby the votes per region would be a 50/50 combination of the people's vote and a vote by a special unelected committee of 'experts' .

Would any of this be acceptable? (a) perhaps, (d) may be an interesting alternative to the, allegedly too complicated, alternative vote system (indeed there is some research on this issue), but (b),(c),(e) and (f) are out of question (though the latter two sound a bit like the EU Council and the House of Lords). So, one is wondering what type of signal Europe sends to the world about its best democratic practises ... still, one should watch it (or at least the best/worst entries online)