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Seeking Feedback on “Good Practices Guide” – Part 4

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/05/2022 - 10:51pm in

This is the last in a series of posts asking for comments on a draft “Good Practices Guide” for advancing diversity in philosophy.

The first in the series, published on Monday, concerned practices regarding sexual harassment, caregivers, and staff-student relationships; the second covered the sections of the guide on conferences and teaching; the third was about the sections on hiring and tenure evaluation.

Today’s post asks for feedback on the sections regarding journals, research projects, and learned societies.

Good Practice Policy: Philosophy Journals

Publication in philosophy journals plays a major role in the reputation and career progression of their authors, as—to a lesser extent —does participation in the selection process through membership of editorial boards, refereeing, etc. The recommendations below aim to ensure that, as far as possible, members of under-represented groups are not disadvantaged in either capacity by their identity. 

1. The editorial board should review the extent to which editorial and refereeing processes are anonymous. 

a. Where the process is not anonymous, the board should consider whether to introduce anonymity (philosophy journals with Interdisciplinary content are most likely to benefit from anonymized peer-review and editorial practices, while some data suggest that more prestigious philosophy journals benefit less – the data are not clear on why). 

2. Diversify representatives—editors, editorial board members, referees, trustees, staff, etc.—to include more people from under-represented groups (including philosophers residing in non-Anglophone majority countries) and on important but neglected topics of interest to a diverse range of philosophers, utilizing a diverse range of methods.

a. Commit to inclusion with influence. 

b. Ensure that member contributions are recognized and, where possible, appropriately compensated and rewarded.

3. Set specific, achievable targets to make progress in increasing diversity in authorship and content in your journal.

a. Consider publishing and promoting work by people from under-represented groups at least in proportion to their presence in the part of the discipline that your journal covers.

b. Consider including at least one special issue or symposium engaging with works by underrepresented philosophers or in underrepresented areas of philosophy in your journal.

c. Collect data on diversity relevant publishing practices, e.g. submission and publication rates for members of under-represented groups, referee and editorial board composition, etc. and track progress in increasing diversity in your journal.

d. Issue yearly reports on new commitments to diversity in the journals and report on progress towards achieving targets.

i. Consider including data on the journal’s demographics, makeup of editorial board, referee pool, authorships, and submissions. 

4. Implement promising practices to meet these targets and increase diversity in your journal, such as:

a. Solicit submissions of promising work by members of under-represented groups (PhilPeople might be a useful resource). When inviting authors, always bear in mind the importance of increasing diversity in the field (potentially via special issues).

b. Aim to include a fair representation of relevant work by members of under-represented groups.

c. Consider reserving more space for articles by members of under-represented groups to help meet specific targets.

d. Consider publishing more papers of interest to under-represented groups in philosophy and on important but neglected topics of interest to a diverse range of philosophers. This might include increasing the proportions of articles published in value theory, history, feminism, race, disability, and philosophical work in less commonly studied philosophical traditions.

e. Weigh the value of anonymity and non-anonymous editorial discretion, bearing in mind that evidence is mixed regarding the effectiveness of anonymous review in increasing diversity. Take special care to ensure that any non-anonymous parts of the review process do not omit or unfairly disadvantage authors from under-represented groups.

f. Attend to your regional context as well as the overall global context (e.g. the importance of including adequate geographical and indigenous representation in your journal).

5. Implement diversity-supporting referee practices, such as:

a. Encourage referees and authors to avoid using language that is insensitive to cultural differences or that inappropriately excludes or offends any group of people based on their ability/disability, age, ethnicity and race, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, nationality, etc.

b. Encourage referees and authors to check that papers cite and discuss related work and that work by people from underrepresented groups have not been overlooked.

c. Request referees to not google paper titles or request that they alert the editor prior to refereeing the paper if they know or have a strong suspicion about who wrote it.

d. Encourage referees to not reject promising papers on grounds of writing quality, if the concerns are merely stylistic, can be repaired to an adequate level, and the philosophical content is good. This helps ensure fair consideration of work by philosophers who are not native speakers of English.

e. Encourage referees to consider accepting papers on topics of   under-represented groups in philosophy and on important but neglected topics of interest to a diverse range of philosophers. 

f. Encourage timely and developmental reviews, since members of vulnerable groups are especially disadvantaged by long delays before publication.

g. The editorial board should consider providing referees with an explicit editorial policy on refereeing

i. See, for example, the journal Cognition Referee Guidelines

6. Implement promising practices to increase accessibility in journals, such as:

a. Create structurally-tagged content.

b. Utilize text-to-speech capability for print-impaired users in the absence of an audio book.

c. Include a navigable table of contents within your publications, and provide a defined reading order (including, for example, appropriate links between the main flow of the text and any sidebar or box out text) to help those reading through audio to navigate their way through the article

d. Include Alt-text descriptions to explain illustrations for readers with reduced access to graphic information.

e. Give readers control over the font (size, style, and color), background color, and line spacing for online publications, and/or make them available in html.

f. Consider trying to make your journal more accessible for those in developing countries by making your journal open access in those regions.

g. Employ W3C web accessibility standards where feasible, and check for web accessibility.

7. Evaluate progress at regular intervals and revise practices accordingly.

a. Work with researchers to identify particular areas to improve for achieving better representation of authors and marginalized philosophies.

b. Isolate and implement evidence-based practices that increase diversity in the identified areas.

c. Identify barriers to making progress on achieving diversity targets.

d. Communicate, collaborate, and advocate to overcome identified barriers. Certain academic publishers have policies that hinder progress. Assertively engage with the issue where possible.

8. Officially adopt these diversity-promoting practices and widely publicize your journal’s targets and commitment to promoting diversity.

a. Inform all representatives and bind future representatives to uphold these standards.

b. Publicly and explicitly adopt diversity-promoting practices, helping to create a culture of concern that enhances the journal’s reputation for welcoming diversity, attracting more diverse submissions.

Good Practice Policy: Research Projects

Large-scale (and normally externally funded) research projects often engage in activities that fall within the scope of the Good Practice Policy – hiring staff, running conferences, and so on. We recognise that some such projects may wish to sign up to the Policy independently of (or in addition to) the departments of the project’s investigators; this document allows this by, in effect, pulling together the relevant recommendations from the other Good Practice documents. The term ‘management team’ below is used to refer to whoever takes overall responsibility for the project. This might be the PI, the PI together with co-investigators, so some larger group. 

Hiring Panels 

1. Management teams should make sure that members of hiring panels know about the workings of unconscious bias. (A good source of general information for hiring panels is here: wiseli.engr.wisc.edu/docs/BiasBrochure_2ndEd.pdf.)

2. Management teams should ensure that hiring panels (at both shortlisting and interview stages) include at least one, and preferably more than one, member of a marginalized group, unless there are exceptional practical reasons why this is impossible. But they should be aware that the presence of such members on the panel on its own will not correct for bias.

3. Management teams should agree specific hiring criteria (and their weighting) in advance and stick to the agreed criteria (and weighting).

4. As far as possible, management teams should strive to allow sufficient time for non-rushed consideration of job applications.

5. Management teams should consider ways of anonymising parts of their hiring process (e.g. by considering writing samples anonymously), and implement any ways of doing so that are practically feasible.

Conferences and Seminar Series

Management teams should implement all of the recommendations in the ‘Conferences and Events’ section of these Good Practice guidelines. 

Caregivers 

Where members of the project team (including research students) have caregiving responsibilities, the management team should implement all of the relevant recommendations in the ‘Caregivers’ section of the document

Publication of Edited Collections 

Large research projects often produce edited collections as outputs. The editorial team should take steps to ensure that individuals from underrepresented groups are well represented amongst the contributors to any such collection. 

Advisory Boards, research Students, and Other Associated People

Where the research project involves the formation of an advisory board, visiting fellowships, PhD studentships, etc. The management team should take concrete steps towards ensuring that individuals from underrepresented groups are well represented amongst the members/applicants.

Good Practice Policy: Learned societies

As national bodies with some influence, especially when it comes to philosophy conferences and journals, learned societies are well placed to make a concrete difference to the representation of underrepresented groups in philosophy. We suggest that learned societies adopt the following policy. 

Executive Committee and Officers 

Learned societies should ensure that a reasonable proportion of underrepresented groups are nominated for positions on their executive committees and for official positions (President, Secretary, etc.). 

Conferences

1. Where learned societies organize their own conferences and seminar series, they should follow the relevant Good Practice recommendations on Conferences and Events.

2. Where learned societies distribute funding to others to organize conferences and seminar series, they should make it a requirement of funding that the conference organizers follow the relevant Good Practice recommendations on Conferences and Events.

3. Learned societies should consider adopting a formal policy on chairing 20 seminars/conference sessions, for their own events and/or for those that they fund. See again the Good Practice recommendations on Conferences and Events, for some specific proposals you might consider implementing. 

4. Learned societies should monitor the proportion of individuals from under represented groups at conferences and seminar series that they fund. Where a conference or seminar series manifests an obvious imbalance, the learned society should make enquiries about the steps taken to promote representation, in order to satisfy themselves that appropriate steps were taken by the organizers. 

Icebreakers in the Arctic: An Overlooked Environmental Concern

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/04/2022 - 12:17am in
by Johanna Cohn

Global heating has a greater impact on the Arctic than the rest of the planet. In fact, the Arctic is warming at a rate almost twice the global average. This is due to Arctic ice’s high albedo, meaning the ice reflects a tremendous amount of sunlight into the atmosphere. As the ice melts, the sea water absorbs more sunlight than it reflects. The resulting water subsequently warms and evaporates, becoming a powerful greenhouse gas. A positive feedback loop ensues as warmer waters melt more ice, and more water vapor adds to Earth’s greenhouse effect.

Arctic nations—the USA, Russia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland—view the thawing Arctic as an asset for tourism, fishing, and trade. Never mind the risks that come with shipping across waters that may contain icebergs, thanks to large ships called “icebreakers.”

The USA has two icebreakers in its fleet, and at least three more on the way. Russia, on the other hand, has at least 50. These nations recognize the value of holding power in the Arctic, and having icebreakers is a means to power. Nations that effectively use icebreakers in their Arctic fleets can grow their economies faster, improve the safety and efficacy of Arctic travel, and conduct scientific exploration. But at what cost?

Why Are Icebreakers So Loved?

image of a researcher exploring an Arctic pool, with an icebreaker ship in the background, cutting through Arctic ice.

Icebreakers allow researchers to explore areas once considered unreachable, but at what cost? (CC BY 2.0, NOAA Photo Library)

The USCGC Healy, one of the USA’s two icebreakers, is primarily used for scientific research and is famous for its advanced technology. In recent years, scientists aboard the Healy have accomplished two notable feats. The first was the identification of a species previously unknown to science called ctenophores—organisms similar to jellyfish—distinguished by the groups of cilia they use for swimming (commonly known as “combs”). The second was the discovery of Chukchi pockmarks during the exploration of the Chukchi Plateau. Despite encountering treacherous winds and waters, the size and stability of the Healy allowed researchers to continue mapping and studying the pockmarked area.

Another important asset of the Arctic is the Northern Sea Route, which lies east of Novaya Zemlya, Russia, and runs along the Russian Arctic coast by Siberia to the Bering Strait. As Arctic ice continues to melt, this route becomes more alluring for transporting goods across the North Pole. With the help of icebreakers cutting through remaining ice that could impede travel, the route reduces transportation time and costs, making it the most efficient route.

Icebreakers are also invaluable in Arctic search and rescue missions. The Arctic Council (an intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by Arctic governments and indigenous Arctic people) has taken action to allocate search and rescue resources on an international level. All eight Arctic nations signed the Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement in May 2011, making it the first legally binding agreement negotiated under the auspices of the Arctic Council.

Cold War Races in the Arctic

During the Cold War, the USA and the Soviet Union raced to pioneer new technology and discoveries, while competing for the greatest GDP. The Arctic was one arena for Cold War competition; whichever nation had the greatest presence in the Arctic would be better positioned to exploit Arctic resources and gain a significant advantage in climbing the GDP ladder.

Between the 1960s and the early 1980s, the Soviet Union launched Project 97, which added 32 new icebreakers into the Soviet fleet. These were a series of diesel-electric icebreakers, several of which are still operated by Russia today. The Soviets had plans to revive military bases on islands in the Arctic Sea, a move that would prevent the U.S. Navy from deploying into the Arctic.

During this time the USA also introduced a new class of icebreakers into its fleet, known as the Polar class. These two Polar class ships were designed to support science and research, provide resupply to remote stations, launch search and rescue missions, escort ships, protect the environment, and enforce laws and treaties in places other ships cannot reach.

In 2020, President Trump released a memo calling for a new fleet of icebreakers in the Arctic. This, in part, reveals the Trump administration’s concern about Russian and Chinese presence in the Arctic, a concern reflected throughout the U.S. population. When Americans were asked to rate their feelings toward Russia on a zero-to-100 scale, Americans averaged at 29, the lowest reading since 1982. The USA’s attitude towards China in 2020 was similarly negative, with 73 percent of people surveyed claiming an unfavorable view of China.

Since national sentiments towards Russia and China were overwhelmingly negative, President Trump produced a memo to address concerns. Trump announced his administration would create a plan within 60 days of the memo release to construct at least three heavy icebreakers by 2029 to compete with the growing Russian and Chinese presence in the Arctic. The Biden Administration has yet to retract this plan, so these icebreakers are still under construction.

What’s Missing from the Conversation?

Little information is available about the environmental concerns that icebreakers pose. Literature highlights the perceived “positives”—scientific exploration, search and rescue, trade and shipping, and competition amongst nations—as being more important than considering environmental degradation. However, here’s what we know.

Icebreakers break ice. As the broken ice melts, sunlight is absorbed, leading to increased temperatures, and thus more ice melting. An icebreaker cruising through the ice for 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), leaving an ice-free wake of ten meters (33 feet), would open an area of water ten square kilometers (3.9 square miles) over the entire cruise. Although the Arctic Sea covers about 4,000 kilometers (2500 miles), any amount of ice breaking harms the environment. With the continual use of icebreaker ships, the Arctic will continue to look more like ice cubes melting in a glass of water.

Birds-eye shot of an icebreaker ship in the Arctic, with patches of cracked ice floating atop the sea.

The Arctic: melting ice cubes bobbing in a glass of water.

As melting endures, we will continue to see environmental effects around the world. Changes in the Arctic Sea ice pattern leads to a rise in sea levels globally. Low-lying developed areas in the Gulf Coast and the mid-Atlantic regions are especially at risk from sea-level rise. The recent growth of coastal areas has resulted in larger populations and more valuable coastal property being at risk from sea-level rise. Major physical impacts of a rise in sea level include erosion of beaches, inundation of deltas as well as flooding and loss of many marshes and wetlands. Increased salinity will likely become a problem in coastal aquifers and estuarine systems because of saltwater intrusion.

Changes in Arctic ice patterns are also leading to more frequent extreme weather. In the past few years, such extreme weather has been seen particularly across the east coast of the USA, western Europe, and central Asia. These regions will continue to experience more extreme weather because of Arctic amplification, the enhanced sensitivity of high latitudes to global heating. Arctic ice melt has also been shown to distort the flow of and weaken the jet stream, resulting in more frequent periods of intense heat and ferocious cold.

There’s also evidence that the sound emitted from icebreakers is detrimental to marine animals, particularly whales and other large mammals. The sound interferes with their ability to communicate with their pods. Additionally, sound pollution likely has long-term effects that are difficult to predict.

Most of the Russian icebreaker fleet is nuclear-based due to the fuel costs of running an icebreaker. On average, an icebreaker working in regions with three-meter-thick ice uses more than 100 tons of fuel per day. However, nuclear icebreakers have obvious concerns as well. In fact, should an accident occur, the consequence would be as severe as the Chernobyl disaster and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill combined: devastating.

What Should Be Done?


Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers save on fuel costs, but flirt with disaster. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, GRIDArendal)

There is indeed much more research in support of the use of icebreakers than documented concern for the ships’ environmental impacts. Beneath the bias of growth, it’s clear that icebreakers are largely detrimental. By continuing to add more icebreakers into the Arctic and simultaneously ignoring the environmental consequences, we are making yet another mistake that could be avoided.

The best way to limit the use of icebreakers is by having Arctic nations sign a treaty. One of the main reasons for such large numbers of icebreakers is competition amongst the nations for control over the Arctic. This can be addressed in a treaty eliminating or significantly reducing the use of icebreakers. We’ve seen successful use of treaties in the Arctic through the Search and Rescue Agreement, so there’s no reason to suggest another one can’t be instated.

A potential treaty could manifest in many ways. One option is to divide the Arctic Sea into zones and designate certain zones as “no break zones,” where icebreaking would be illegal. This would allow nations to continue using icebreakers to a lesser extent while the international community monitors the environmental effects. With this option, zones could shift and change depending on weather and ice patterns.

An alternative could be a plan to phase out icebreaker ships over many years. This would allow nations to find other ways to accomplish important tasks that icebreakers achieve in the Arctic, such as search and rescue missions and scientific research.

However, before an anti-icebreaker treaty can be successful, there needs to be an international agreement on environmental protection in the Arctic. A common goal amongst Arctic nations must be concern for the environment, or we risk edging closer to a world in which the Arctic Sea looks like the Atlantic Ocean. Arctic nations must understand the impending doom that comes with breaking and melting Arctic ice. Once these nations take responsibility for protecting the Arctic environment, then an anti-icebreaker treaty can be developed and signed, and we can take one crucial step towards protecting the Arctic.

portrait of Johanna Cohn, environmental studies intern during spring 2022 at CASSE.Johanna Cohn is a spring 2022 environmental studies intern at CASSE, and a junior at American University majoring in environmental studies and political science.

The post Icebreakers in the Arctic: An Overlooked Environmental Concern appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Research or Push-Poll? Troubling Developments at UNSW

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 28/02/2022 - 1:26pm in

A recent survey from UNSW provides us with a cautionary illustration of what can happen when a student is not provided with the support they need from their supervisors to design good research. If you’re not familiar with how universities and student/supervisor relationships work (many people outside of academia are not), it’s important to remember this as we continue discussion of this survey: it is ultimately the responsibility of the student’s supervisor(s) to ensure that student work is of sufficient quality to be worth the time of the student, any participants they recruit, and the eventual examiners. The student is, by definition, a student and still learning what good research is — it is the function of supervision to support and guide that learning.

Designing good research studies is hard. Students need to learn how to test theories rigorously without their pre-existing guesses and assumptions getting in the way. In the social sciences, it's important to understand how to frame a survey impartially, to the best of your abilities, to avoid tilting the outcome in the direction you wanted, rather than the direction the survey respondents chose. Research should advance genuine inquiry, not push a predetermined perspective. That is propaganda, not research. It is the opposite of what a student should be learning. Nobody does this perfectly – avoiding personal bias is an ideal that scientists should strive for, not a perfect state that we attain by the time we graduate.

Sadly neither poor supervision nor bad survey design are rare in academia  — so why does EFA care about this particular survey? The survey in question purports to be an examination of community expectation regarding the responsibilities of online service providers for child safety on their platforms. In reality, it pushes a particular anti-encryption, carceral surveillance approach to the Internet that has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with authoritarian control over people.

Have you ever seen a political party or the government advance a claim that a particular surveillance law or expanded power is good, actually, because “research shows” that “a majority of Australians support…” whatever it is? Where that research comes from, and how that support was acquired is worth digging into a bit.

Let’s get started.

Learning From Mistakes

Mistakes provide a good opportunity for learning. Let’s use this survey to examine how survey design can be used to manipulate people to answer in a particular, biased way. A word of caution: once you learn how to design a push poll, you’ll start to see just how often they’re used everywhere: newspapers, lobby groups, and yes even in academia.

The survey is here if you’d like to follow along: https://unsw.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1X4K65UYCLsPTim

We’ll step through each question, but our main concern is not the individual questions per se but the framing of the survey and the absence of context or alternative solutions that respondents might have opted for instead.

Question 1

"Children younger than 16 should not be able to access adult pornography sites."

Note that we haven't had any discussion of what pornography is, who identifies it, or even how "adult pornography" differs from other kinds of pornography. Is there a whole genre of children's pornography? Pornography for pets, perhaps?

Question 2

"Adult pornography sites should check the age of their users to stop children accessing pornography."

Note how this question follows on immediately from the previous one, to which the vast majority of respondents have presumably answered yes, and leads them to consider only one solution. Kids shouldn't access porn? Well then the porn sites should verify age, obviously! Presented this way, it seems like the only logical solution.

But what if a series of alternative solutions had been presented instead? "To discourage children from accessing porn, which of the following techniques do you think would be most effective:

  • age verification by the website
  • education programs in schools
  • better access to accurate and respectful age-appropriate information about sex
  • an anonymous government-organised age-attestation system that didn't give ID information to the porn site
  • etc.

A survey that genuinely wanted to elicit people's opinions would have offered them a list of possibilities, including an "other (please specify)" option, and would have asked them to think about which, if any, of the options were going to be effective.

Question 3

"Many phones currently scan for viruses and spam. I think they should also scan for child sexual abuse material."

Again, consider the framing. One could instead have framed the same question by saying "Many authoritarian states routinely scan the private photographs and messages of their citizens. I think Australia should do so too, but only for child sexual abuse material." Same question, but the different framing would elicit a very different set of responses.

A well-designed survey would have deliberately avoided framing it in a way that tilted it one way or the other. (Incidentally, one of EFA’s board members wrote a whole paper about why the virus-scanning as CSAM-scanning argument is a false equivalence – it's all about whose interest the scanner runs in https://arxiv.org/abs/2110.07450)

Question 4

"When I am using a website or an app, it is important to me that my data can never be accessed by my government or the police."

Again, obviously, framing. Some Australians greatly distrust their own government(s), but many don't. If the question instead had asked "When I am using a website or app, it is important to me that my data can never be sold to advertisers or accessed by a foreign government" we'd get different answers. A neutral framing would simply have said "never be accessed by anyone other than the intended recipient." But no effort at a neutral framing has been made.

Question 5

"It is important to me that the websites and apps that I use are not being used by child sexual abusers to harm children."

Are we supposed to be less concerned about children being abused if it’s done with apps we don’t happen to use? It’s somehow more abhorrent if it’s done using the good, clean apps that normal, decent, law-abiding people use?

This question attempts to paint child abuse as something that only ever happens over there by strange people we never meet, who are nothing like ourselves, when the reality is that it’s often committed by close family friends of the victim-survivors.

Question 6

"I am comfortable with government or police accessing my data, if it helps websites to be safer for children."

This is a particularly sneaky question. It is tacitly asking that everyone should constantly prove to the government that they are innocent. Constant authoritarian surveillance is not a feature of a liberal democracy. Asking “I am comfortable with full-blown fascism if it helps websites be safer for children” would be ludicrous, but we’re expected to accept that this question is somehow less absurd.

What if the question was "I am comfortable with the government or the police accessing all of my photos if it helps websites to be safer for children”? All of them, including the ones parents take of their children in the bath because they pulled a hilarious face. The intimate ones shared with their partner with full consent and enthusiastic participation. Because that’s what “my data” implies: full access to everything on your phone.

Question 7

"If scanning for child sexual abuse material is done, I would be worried that this information might be used later for different purposes."

This is a better question. It acknowledges that there are risks, not just benefits, to the proposals. An even better question would seek to discover what other risks might exist, and attempt to gauge how worried people are about them. For an example of how this could be done, see the OAIC’s Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey 2020.

Question 8

"Some online messenger apps are considering using “encryption” (messages are locked away from everyone except the sender and receiver, and even the tech company and the police can’t see them). 

This would make it very difficult to detect child abusers grooming children online. 

Do you agree encryption should be used for online messaging?"

Leaving aside the failure to distinguish end-to-end encryption from ordinary client-server encryption, the issue again is framing. The survey could instead have asked "There have been incidents in Australia of intermediaries harvesting health information and using it for financial gain. How important is it to ensure that online messaging is encrypted so that only the intended receiver can decode the information?" or even "Some teens, and many adults, voluntarily send sexualised images to a partner. How important is it that those images cannot be viewed by intermediaries on the Internet?"

The truth is that there are security risks associated with exposure, too. Encryption also makes it difficult for abusers to stalk their victims when they’re trying to escape.

The survey should have asked about risks, or at least refrained from framing the question only in terms of one example of why security would be bad. Security is good!

Question 9

"If it helped reduce online child sexual abuse, I would be comfortable with proving my identity to the social media sites that I use, such as by providing a driver’s license number (or similar)."

Again the same question: why would handing your ID to Twitter do anything to deter child sexual abuse? It's not just that this question completely fails to examine any of the downsides (for example, the risk of identity theft, particularly for low-budget, insecure or untrustworthy platforms), it asserts – without asking the respondent to examine - a completely false link between undermining the privacy of the survey respondent and making children safer.

Question 10

"Social media and other companies know that some adults groom children online.

I would support social media companies scanning online messaging for signs of grooming, and if detected, warning children who are being groomed online."

Telephone companies know that some adults groom children on the phone. Should phone companies listen in to everyone’s conversations for signs of grooming? Car companies also know that some adults groom children in cars. Should car companies scan conversations in private vehicles for signs of grooming?

The framing of this question assumes that there are no other ways to address grooming of children, implies benefits, and ignores any potential risks from online message scanning.

We could have asked “Social media companies know that children use online communities to explore identities that abusive and controlling adults in their life object to — often violently. Sometimes, those abusive individuals and communities call learning about other ways of living "grooming".

Should social media companies alert parents if their children are viewing queer or trans educational material?

Question 11

"What do you expect social media and technology companies to do to make sure that their service is free from child sexual abuse material (CSAM)? Select as many as you want..." There follows a list of options, including "other (please specify)"

This is the first question that comes across as a genuine effort to find out what people think, but it is not without its challenges. It implies that making a service completely free of child abuse material is possible in a society that creates CSAM.

We are not asked “what do you expect society to do to ensure it is free from child sexual abuse material?” We are not asked what we expect of other companies. The question frames social media and technology companies as uniquely responsible for CSAM in ways that are unreasonable.

It’s also unclear if it’s even possible for companies to take action of this nature on their platforms without significant undesirable consequences. Yet again we’re asked to make an assessment of options with only benefits presented to us, and none of the risks. That’s an unfair trade off to expect us to make, and it biases the research significantly.

Question 12

"Do you think that the Australian government should pass laws making tech companies take action on their platforms against child sexual abuse material?"

Who could say no? This is a “when did you stop embezzling money” question. It’s a trap.

The question also ignores that Australia already has laws that require companies of all kinds to respond to evidence of child sexual abuse material. No effort is made to assess what legislative gaps exist that necessitate new laws. Are the existing laws not being enforced?

A better question would have included a list of options, or even a specific proposed law. As it is, this question provides no useful information but does push a particular, narrow, perspective: Something must be done. This is something. Therefore we must do this.

Question 13

"What do you think should happen to an internet company that repeatedly allows child sexual abuse material to be shared on its platform?

Select as many as you want:" 

What a surprise - when we're not being asked about Australian laws we are allowed to select the options we want.

Summary

Overall this survey asked us how much personal privacy and security we were willing to sacrifice in return for an ill-defined promise to “make children safer”. It didn't ask us to examine whether any of this sacrifice actually would make children safer, and it didn't ask whether exposing children's personal messages or adults’ identity documents might actually make them a lot less safe.

When it asked for our support of new laws, it didn't even tell us what the new laws would be. It didn't ask us whether police or ASIO officers should need a warrant, or whether powers to "make children safer" needed judicial oversight and needed to be necessary or proportionate, or would actually make the slightest bit of difference. 

The occasional real question merely serves to underline the coercive and misleading nature of the others.

This really isn't the student's fault; it's the supervisor's fault for not explaining what scholarship is supposed to be. The trouble is that it deprives Australians of the trustworthy scientific contributions that public debate depends upon, and undermines trust in scientific research more generally.

Now you know a bit more about how poorly designed (or actively malicious) surveys can be used to manipulate research outcomes and public opinion. Keep a careful eye out for more, and let us know if you spot one!

Related Items:

Which Topics Are Trending in the Work of Philosophy Graduate Students & Recent PhDs?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/02/2022 - 12:27am in

What areas, topics, and questions are going to be hot in philosophy?

I’m not asking what today’s most influential philosophers are writing about. Rather, what are the members of philosophy’s “next generation”—today’s graduate students and recent PhDs—interested in and working on?


[Marion Pinaffo & Raphaël Pluvinage – “Affiches Artifices No.8” (aka “On Phire”)]

Whether it’s Aristotle’s De Anima or the aesthetics of anime, race in Hume or who may race, the synthetic a priori or synthetic biology, social epistemology or the epistemology of sociology, contextualism or Kant’s sexual proscriptions—(too much? no? I should go on? okay)—the meaning of virtue or meaning in the virtual, the analysis of names or the metaphysics of games, pragmatic encroachment or intertheoretic rapprochement—(was that one great or terrible? I can no longer tell)—whether you’re dialed into theism or debating dialetheism, panning panpsychism or trolling trolleyology, whether you’re sticking with what’s traditional or picking something topical, let’s hear about it. Thanks. (And sorry).

The Bank of England’s 2022 Priority Topics for research

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/02/2022 - 9:35pm in

Alongside our multi-year ‘Bank of England Agenda for Research’, the Bank also publishes a set of ‘Priority Topics’, which change each calendar year. The new 2022 Priority Topics are now available on the Bank’s website (see ‘2022 Priority Topics’ under each theme).

Rebecca Freeman, Managing Editor.

A Research Agenda for Basic Income

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/12/2021 - 6:20am in

Tags 

News, research

Malcolm Torry has been asked by Edward Elgar Publishing to write a book with the title A Research Agenda for Basic Income. To ensure that what he writes will be as useful and comprehensive as possible, he would like to receive as many answers as possible to the question: What research is now required? Please […]

If You Haven’t Researched Arguments Disputing A Western Narrative, You Don’t Understand The Issue

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/12/2021 - 12:19am in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/17d278e225ea8e2cadcc8042cab72072/href

Lately when people react with shock and indignation that I would dare to dispute a claim made by the western political/media class about an empire-targeted government, I’ve taken to simply asking them what reading they’ve done on the other side of the issue. What are some articles they’ve read arguing against the official western narrative about that government?

It’s a question that can be applied to any disputed western narrative about any government the US-centralized empire doesn’t like. Russia is engaging in aggressive provocations. Assad is using chemical weapons. There’s a genocide in Xinjiang. Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Maduro is deliberately starving his people. Whatever’s the Official Imperial Line of the Day about the Official Bad Guy of the Day.

What I’ve found interesting about this exercise is that while I would’ve correctly predicted that those questioned had done zero research into the opposing viewpoints of the issue they’re commenting on, I would probably not have predicted the brazenness with which they’ll admit it. Very often they’ll come right out and express incredulity at the very idea that any such counter-arguments could even exist, skipping right past any pretense that they may have read them or even made any effort to find them.

When they do this, even before I provide them with links to counter-arguments against whatever issue we’re discussing, they have already lost the argument. They have already admitted that they’ve done no real research into whether or not the western narrative they just swallowed is actually true; they just believed what they were told because someone told them to believe it. They swallowed an imperial narrative about an empire-targeted government with zero gag reflex, just as people did in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

At that point it’s been established that, at least as far as the subject under discussion goes, they are no better informed than any average consumer of TV news. Because they have made no effort to find and review arguments and evidence that go against the TV news narrative.

There are always counter-arguments against western criticisms of empire-targeted governments. They are not difficult to find once you’ve decided you want to find them, as long as you’re open to venturing outside your own self-reinforcing echo chamber. They’re not always great arguments. They don’t always leave the empire-targeted government in question looking perfectly innocent. And they generally won’t be found in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or any other western outlet which consistently protects and promotes western imperialist narratives. But they are there, and unless you have reviewed their arguments and evidence and given them a good deal of consideration, you’re in no position to pretend you know anything about the subject under discussion.

This same principle applies to “conspiracy theories” as well, both for and against. If you haven’t reviewed the evidence for and against a given theory, then unless it’s something that’s self-evidently absurd at a casual glance it would be silly and asinine for you to take a confident position on it one way or the other. This also applies to arguments for and against measures that have been implemented and could potentially be implemented in response to Covid-19.

If you haven’t thoroughly researched the opposite position, you don’t understand your own. This is true whether you agree with the official narrative or disagree with it. Oftentimes people of a certain bent will be biased against the mainstream narrative and select for arguments against it which confirm that bias, even when the mainstream narrative is the better-evidenced one. It cuts both ways.

It’s very easy to select a position on an issue which conforms to your ideological preferences and your understanding of the world. It’s much harder to sincerely dedicate yourself to finding out whether or not something is true, or whether the truth of the matter is a lot less certain than the talking heads in the western news media are making it seem. But it’s the only way you can really have a legitimate position on such matters.

This should be a widespread and common sense understanding, and it is to everyone’s detriment everywhere that it isn’t.

________________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

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Stepping Outside of Philosophy: Reflections on a Transdisciplinary Career (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/12/2021 - 1:15am in

Universities say they want their faculty to pursue “interdisciplinary” and “transdisciplinary” work. Yet it might be difficult to figure out how to do that given the structure of academia and the nature of academic training.

In this guest post*, Anthony Vincent Fernandez (Assistant Professor of Applied Philosophy at the Danish Institute for Advanced Study & Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, and part-time Research Fellow, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford) provides some guidance for those interested in an interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary academic career, based on his experiences and challenges pursuing one.


[Santiago Ramón y Cajal, brain illustration (detail)]

Stepping Outside of Philosophy:
Reflections on a Transdisciplinary Career
by Anthony Vincent Fernandez 

Today, universities and grant agencies relentlessly push us to develop “interdisciplinarity” and even “transdisciplinarity” research programs. But the structure of academic training remains monodisciplinary: we receive years of formal training on discipline-specific knowledge and research methods, as well as informal training on the discipline-specific norms governing, for instance, presentations, publications, networking, and collaboration. When it comes to inter- or transdisciplinary training, on the other hand, we’re expected to figure it out ourselves. I think, however, that there’s plenty of generalizable guidance that we might share. In this post, I take the opportunity to reflect on some of the challenges I’ve encountered in my own career to provide some guidance for early career researchers based in philosophy who want to engage or collaborate with researchers in other disciplines.

First, a few lines about me. I’ve aimed for an interdisciplinary career from the start, engaging and collaborating with researchers in a variety of fields, including psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and nurses. Recently, I moved from a position in a philosophy department to a new position in a department of sports science and clinical biomechanics, where I now work alongside sports scientists and rehabilitation therapists. My primary philosophical background is in phenomenology and continental philosophy. And most of my work is on issues related to health and illness. However, my reflections here are on issues that I hope are generalizable to anyone working in philosophy who wants to engage with researchers in other fields. I’ve decided to limit my reflections to three key themes—Establishing Familiarity, Networking, and Publishing—which I hope will provide a good starting point for graduate students and early career researchers. But there are plenty more challenges to discuss.

Establishing Familiarity. Once you know which field you want to engage with, the first challenge is to establish some familiarity with it. As a philosopher, the obvious approach to establishing familiarity with another field is to look at work in the “philosophy of X” (philosophy of biology, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of literature, and so on). You’ll probably feel most comfortable with this literature—it’ll be written in a familiar style and engage with authors you’ve already read. But is it the best place to establish familiarity with another academic field? There’s an important difference between philosophical debates about other academic fields and philosophical debates within other academic fields. In some cases, philosophical debates about other academic fields diverge from the interests of researchers in the field in question and, as a result, have little to no impact on that field. So, what’s the alternative? How do you familiarize yourself with philosophical debates playing out in other academic fields?

Starting with a standard scientific article might seem daunting. Articles in most scientific fields look much different from philosophy articles. However, scientific journals often have multiple article types. If you’re trying to familiarize yourself with philosophical debates in another field, then it can be helpful to skim over editorials, commentaries, and letters to the editor. These often provide reflections on key issues in the field, including current crises or challenges, recent theoretical or methodological developments, and proposals for new directions in scientific research. It can also be helpful to read blog posts by people who hold high-level administrative roles, such as leaders of major organizations, editors of the top journals, and heads of grant agencies, they not only have a birds-eye-view of the field as a whole—they also play an important role in steering the field itself.

In my case, for example, I was interested in theoretical issues in the classification and diagnosis psychiatric disorders. For a big picture view of psychiatry’s general attitude toward the current norms, I read editorials and blog posts by major figures in the field, such as leaders of the US National Institute of Mental Health. Through this literature, I was able to get a sense of where research on psychiatric classification is heading, not just where it’s been (which was the focus of most of the philosophical literature on the topic).

Networking. Once you’ve established enough familiarity to feel comfortable with another field, how do you find researchers to engage or collaborate with? Even if the topics and issues you’re interested in are ones that resonate with a large portion of researchers in the respective field, explaining how your philosophical work might have a positive impact on this field can be a challenging task. Many researchers, even those who are more theoretically inclined, may find it unusual to think about issues in a philosophical way.

To start, I think it’s best to find researchers who are already interested in philosophy and who have cultivated philosophical sensibilities. But where are you supposed find them? In my experience, the best opportunities for constructive, face-to-face interaction with researchers in other fields have been at interdisciplinary philosophy conferences. I relied a lot on the networks I built at meetings of the International Network for Philosophy and Psychiatry (INPP) and the Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry (AAPP). Many of the participants were psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. Some had formal training in philosophy, whereas others were self-taught. In either case, their philosophical background provided a shared intellectual space for productive dialogue and debate

By attending these conferences and events, I also got a sense of the general dissatisfaction felt by both clinical and academic psychiatrists. In my experience, people turn to philosophy when they’re frustrated or unsatisfied with the theoretical foundations of their field. So, these kinds of interdisciplinary events tend to attract people who are more than happy to tell you about all the issues they see in their field and to share their ideas about how philosophy might help them intervene. Events like these can also be a great opportunity to find mentors and start interdisciplinary collaborations. Eventually, you’ll probably want the audience for your work to expand beyond those researchers who have already decided that philosophy is useful for their discipline. But it’s the researchers who are already interested in philosophy who will help you reach that audience.

Publishing. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with a field and developed a research network, how do you go about publishing in this new area? Beyond familiarizing yourself with the current debates and issues, you’ll also need to learn to navigate the publishing norms of a new field. This may include differences in writing style, article structure, reviewing standards, and even new norms governing how to interact with editors and critique other researchers.

With a few exceptions, philosophy journals tend to have only one submission type: a full-length article, usually around 7,000 to 12,000 words. Science journals, on the other hand, usually have numerous submission types. The Lancet journals, for instance, publish around a dozen different types of articles, including editorials, comments, perspectives, hypotheses, and policy pieces, in addition to their standard full-length original research articles. For many science journals, the Original Research category is almost exclusively reserved for reporting the results of empirical studies. If you collaborate with an interdisciplinary team of researchers, then it’s possible to publish in this category. When working on your own or with other philosophers, however, it’s probably more realistic to aim for some of the shorter article types. Editorials, comments, and perspectives, for example, tend not to have a rigid structure. They allow for freeform writing, which most of us in philosophy are more comfortable with.

If, however, you do want to write a longer, more philosophical piece for a major scientific journal, there may still be opportunities to do this. In my case, I wanted to write longer pieces on how phenomenological concepts, such as empathy and embodiment, can be used in nursing research and practice. I could have aimed to publish these articles in philosophy of medicine journals. But I wanted to write directly to people working in health care. After sifting through the article types in the submission guidelines and talking with nursing researchers about where they publish more philosophically oriented ideas, I found two or three journals among the top 10 that were at least open to this kind of work. The International Journal of Nursing Studies, for instance, is flexible on article structure and allows submissions that are written more like a typical philosophy article, albeit with the caveat that it should be accessible to nurses without a philosophical background. The Journal of Clinical Nursing, on the other hand, is fairly rigid in its structure—articles need to include the typical sections (i.e., Aims and Objectives, Background, Design, Method, and so on). However, I found that some authors had managed to get more theoretical work published in this journal by writing a single line as the entire Design section, which started with “This is a discursive article….” That was enough to signal to the editors and reviewers that the content of the article differs in substantial respects from their typical articles, while still (technically) conforming to their standard article structure.

Once you’ve identified which journals will consider more philosophical submissions, the main challenge is to demonstrate the import of your ideas for the field in question and to make these ideas accessible to people with no background in philosophy. For this, it’s usually best to point to theoretical debates internal to the field and to highlight how theoretical shortcomings have practical implications. When writing on empathy in nursing, for instance, my co-author and I motivated our work by pointing to recent debates in nursing education, where many researchers expressed concern that, without an agreed-upon definition of empathy, it’s difficult if not impossible for them to assess the effectiveness of empathy training programs.

Once you’ve become skilled at writing for audiences in other fields and publishing outside of philosophy, does this mean that you’ll have no reason to return to publishing in philosophy journals? For most of us, I don’t think this will ever be the case. There will always be good reasons (even beyond the practicalities of hiring, tenure, and promotion) to publish some of your work in philosophy journals. In my own case, I find it constructive to think through new philosophical ideas without having to clarify, from the start, how exactly these ideas might be applied to another field. Interdisciplinary philosophy journals provide an excellent space to work these ideas out and defend them according to philosophical standards of argumentation. Once you’re satisfied that the ideas are, in fact, philosophically defensible, then you have a theoretical foundation from which you can develop more concrete applications or even engage in collaborative empirical research. In my own case, researchers in other fields have reached out to initiate new collaborations because of my work in interdisciplinary philosophy journals. And I don’t think the ideas I developed in that work could have been published in scientific journals.

*  *  *  *  *

When it comes to establishing an inter- or transdisciplinary career, there’s plenty more to discuss: applying for grants in other fields, seeking out academic jobs outside of philosophy, teaching philosophy to people who are already experts in other fields, learning and refining new research methods, and managing your disciplinary identity, to name just a few. But I hope that a focus on familiarity, networking, and publishing provides a helpful starting point for those who are thinking of stepping outside of philosophy (but not outside of academia).

Smart People Work Everywhere - using your research skills outside academia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/12/2018 - 2:20am in

Tags 

Academia, research

A panel discuss using your research degree outside academia. Research degrees - what are they good for? Can you use the skills you have acquired during your DPhil in a career outside academia - and why would you want to? Professor Philip Bullock, Director of TORCH, chairs this panel discussion with individuals from a diverse range of employment sectors who use the skills they acquired during their research degrees in their current roles. Hear about their career paths to date, learn more about their current roles, and find out how they utilise their research skills in their professional lives. The panellists are Professor Kate Williams (author, historian, TV presenter and Professor of History at the University of Reading), Dr Mark Byford (partner at Egon Zehnder) and Dr Michael Pye (Investment Manager at Baillie Gifford).

Equality and the REF 2021 consultation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/09/2017 - 9:06am in

Tags 

research

Does the potential for the use of headcounts in determining REF2021 submissions run the risk of breaching equalities law? James Hand highlights the potential issues.

The post Equality and the REF 2021 consultation appeared first on Wonkhe.

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