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Why We Need a More Activist Academy - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"I’m having an identity crisis. As a graduate student in political science, I learned to be objective. I was taught to be analytical, methodical, and scientific. I learned to proceed incrementally — immersing myself in others’ research, meticulously assembling modest, falsifiable hypotheses, then dutifully reporting the sources of bias, potential problems, and with trepidation, my findings.

In short, I had politics trained out of me. Instead of engaging in climate politics, my area of expertise, I study them. Instead of advocating, I analyze. This is my profession, and yet I feel that I am shirking my political responsibility as a scholar to do something.

But what to do? The academy is an inherently conservative institution, one that generally does not reward advocacy. Yet, addressing the existential threat of climate change will involve radical action and radical politics. As experts, we are in a unique position to participate in political debates.

I recognize that calling for more advocacy from within the academy will make many people nervous. The legitimacy of the university as an institution rests on the reputation of scholars as impartial researchers. In the realm of climate science, Roger A. Pielke Jr. calls on scholars to be "honest brokers" — experts that "expand (or at least clarify) the scope of choice" for decision-makers, but refrain from suggesting a specific alternative.

We need to rethink the relationship between advocacy and the academy. The time for being an honest broker has passed.
But the production of knowledge is necessarily political and cannot be otherwise. Choosing to ignore this reality has diminished the influence of political scientists in the public sphere.

In short, we need to rethink the relationship between advocacy and the academy. The time for being an honest broker has passed. The existential threat of climate change requires that we use our expertise, and our position of privilege in the academy, to advocate for solutions rather than merely lay out options. Some academics do pursue "engaged scholarship" — which seeks to link real-world problems to broader theoretical insights — but this type of work is not prevalent.

This does not mean we should become lobbyists. Rather, our job going forward is to lay bare the entrenched economic interests that prevent governments from phasing out fossil fuels. This is going to be a pitched battle, yet we tend to see it through the lens of technocratic management. This is a mistake. By not expressing views about what should be done, we are passing the buck. By merely providing options, we absolve ourselves of wrestling with more difficult political and ethical questions. As E.H. Carr put it: "Political science is the science not only of what is, but of what ought to be."

When it comes to climate change, political scientists have missed the boat. There’s surprisingly little research on climate change in the mainstream of the discipline. In a recent study, Thomas Hale and I wanted to find out just how much research on climate change was going on in our subfield of international relations. In 2014, only 3.2 percent of U.S. international-relations faculty identified the environment as their primary area of study. And yet, more than half of the faculty surveyed ranked climate change as one of the top three foreign-policy issues.

We also analyzed data from the top 12 journals in the field between 1980 and 2012. Of the approximately 5,300 articles in the data set, only 65 — about 1.2 percent — were environment-related. The same problem also plagues comparative politics, where one study found that between 1990 and 2010, only about 1 percent of the articles in the two leading journals refer to the environment.

We’re not even studying the problem, let alone advocating around it. Asking political questions is the first challenge of engaging in advocacy in the academy.

And make no mistake: The real questions about climate change are political. Powerful actors benefit from the continued combustion of fossil fuels. The transition to renewable energy will create winners and losers, and the potential losers are fighting hard to maintain the status quo. We must focus on defining and understanding the root of the problem: entrenched economic and political interests.

We should engage in what Richard Falk calls "value-oriented scholarship and advocacy." This means thinking about climate change as a normative rather than technical problem. It means pushing back against the logic of incrementalism and instead trying to theorize transformative political change. It means, as Falk suggests, encouraging "radical critique of political, economic, cultural and ideological structures."

The dictates of political feasibility are insidious, leading to a narrowing of our political imagination when an expansion is urgently needed.
I make the distinction between technocratic and normative solutions because there are many scholars engaged in policy discussions. And the discipline is building institutions to facilitate this engagement. For example, the Bridging the Gap project at American University trains scholars to produce policy-relevant research; and the Scholars Strategy Network provides digestible summaries of research for policy makers, journalists, and the public.

This is a positive trend. But this conception of advocacy produces only certain kinds of ideas. To be an engaged scholar, one must produce "mainstream" work: politically feasible proposals and moderate critiques. The dictates of political feasibility can be insidious, narrowing our political imagination at the precise moment when an expansion is urgently needed.

The responsibility of scholars is not to be honest brokers, but to lay bare the entrenched economic interests that prevent us from a transition to fossil-free energy. What does this mean in practice?

First, we must clarify the power relations — and asymmetries — in place. We need to dispel the notion that there is a technocratic response that can paper over profoundly different material interests. For the technocrat, climate change is a puzzle. We have the technology to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, but we are incapable of doing so. Why? Because climate change is fundamentally a political problem, not a technological one.

Second, we should be wary of feasibility as a defining criterion. Policy making is the art of the possible. In the long run, politics is the art of changing what is possible. If we focus on climate change — or any other social issue — as a fundamental problem of redistribution (rather than one of technocracy), plausibility should not guide our thinking.

Finally, as individual scholars, we should plant a flag. We must be explicit about our political commitments. We should not, as Pielke suggests, be honest brokers, but rather be what he calls "issue advocates": Pick a position and convince others of its merits.

In 2004, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus wrote a provocative article titled The Death of Environmentalism. In it they argued that environmental activists had become overly focused on the political feasibility of various solutions. As a result they were incapable of articulating a broader vision for change, and attracting the political allies needed to achieve it.

Scholars have fallen victim to a similar trap: By studying incremental approaches to climate change, we inadvertently validate them, skewing our focus toward short-term, trivial wins when we should be considering long-term, large-scale change.

Yes, technical policy analysis is useful, but it is not a substitute for politics. We also need to answer the questions that get to the root of the problem. How can we delegitimize fossil fuels? Build broad coalitions for renewable energy? Change societal norms? These are things about which political science should have more to say.

Shellenberger and Nordhaus give a vivid account of how incrementalism can neuter even the best-intentioned advocacy. In 2003 the Senate voted down the first of three federal efforts to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions through a cap-and-trade scheme. One member of a major U.S. environmental-advocacy organization spun the loss into a win, stating: "It’s a start. This may seem to be a defeat now, but in the end it’s a victory. A bill that gets at least 40 votes has a fair chance of passing if it’s reintroduced."

Of course, it was reintroduced, twice, and we are still awaiting a federal policy on greenhouse-gas emissions.

This is how incrementalism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Small solutions will not accumulate into larger ones. When the phaseout of fossil fuels is viewed as a problem of the powerful seeking to maintain the status quo, incrementalism cannot be the solution. Modest victories will prove temporary — lasting only until entrenched interests revert to the status quo.

We need to think bigger.

The view that advocacy in the academy is uncouth is premised on the incorrect assumption that facts and values are easily separated. Let’s not fool ourselves: We can never be completely unbiased. Political science is partially the realm of the "ought," and the line between investigation and decision is blurry in practice. As Carr noted, "purpose and analysis become part and parcel of a single process." And while we can never be perfectly impartial, we can be transparent about our motivations.

Being an advocate and an expert should not be mutually exclusive.
There is another reason academics should take the role of advocate seriously: We are not simply experts; we are also teachers. In general, the academy is inward looking. Scholars speak to each other, often in theories, formulae, or other languages that are not readily understood by a lay audience. There are important reasons for this. Peer review is the foundation of evaluation; publication in highly ranked peer-reviewed journals is the signal of success. Non-peer-reviewed publications — op-eds, commentaries, news appearances — are not counted as part of a … [more]
activism  academia  highered  highereducation  2018  jessicagreen  advocacy  politics  bias  class  climatechange 
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discrimination  bias  data  journalism  AlgoReport 
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3 days ago by ptietjen
Evidence is the new catchword in education, but it requires some scrutiny

See also:

“”Any parent who has more than one child, or anybody who knows somebody who has more than one child, or anybody who has siblings, knows that children are DIFFERENT…

“Our definition of an evidence-based program has got to be put in the dustbin.”

[video of Jack P. Shonkoff talk:]

“21st century science is screaming at us:


“We have to liberate ourselves from the question of “on AVERAGE, what’s the best policy.”


The “evidence” in evidence-based programs is actually extraordinarily weak. Very slight increases in average test scores qualify you as “evidence-based,” even though the range of actual outcomes remains largely unchanged.


“We do what we do, we measure everything we can think of, we assume the prayer position on the side of the computer, waiting for something to come out that reaches a level of statistical significance, and we are declared an evidence based program.”


On the other hand:

Five year survival rates for childhood leukemia increased from 3% in 1964 to over 90% today–– NOT primarily as a result of new treatments, but as a result of correctly matching the right treatment to the right child.


So instead of trying to find the one right “treatment” for all children –– an impossible goal –– we should be seeking to understand the differences between children and why the things we’re doing work better for some kids than for others.


Then we can build on “what works” for the kids it’s working for, and try something different for the kids we are failing:


H/T Catherine Myers @cathyfamilyhome for this link.”]

“We’ve all heard or read it in some form: “This is evidence-based” or “The research says”. If a policy or practice in education is not based on evidence then, frankly, it doesn’t get a look in. Evidence is the new catchword in education. On the surface, that’s reassuring.

But this obsession requires scrutiny. Unchallenged claims of an evidence base leave stakeholders vulnerable to the ideological bias of those with vested interests. So where has this obsession with evidence come from?

Enthusiasm for evidence-based policy making in Australia has its roots firmly embedded in the United Kingdom and is derived from decision-making in medicine, known as evidence-based medicine.

In the UK and the US, principles of evidence-based medicine have been used by policy-makers and clinicians to treat illnesses. They have also been extended over time to allied health services and related social work and human service practice. In Australia, “evidence-based” policy making has become a feature of the way many government departments, education included, form their strategies and policy proposals.

Given considerable public interest and investment in health and education, using evidence as the basis for funding and resource decisions should not surprise anyone.

Governments are constantly approached with policy proposals and initiatives from their own departments, party-aligned think-tanks and a range of other players. They need a clear basis for why a particular initiative, program, policy or practice should be favoured. In contemporary times this justification is based on “evidence”, which is seen to be sensible, rational and efficient.

But evidence is not as straightforward as some might imply. Like all knowledge, evidence is socially constructed, context dependent and highly contested.

Too often “evidence-based” policy has involved limiting rather than broadening alternatives, privileging particular forms of evidence over others, and narrowing consultative processes.

It is more about whose evidence is valued, and for what underlying purpose, than employing an “evidence-based” approach to policy making.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s essential that policy and practice are based on solid evidence. But too often only half the picture is revealed. Either evidence is sought to justify an existing preferred position, or the complexities of teaching and learning are glossed over in favour of an “evidence-based” silver bullet.

Those responsible for decision making about schools need to be wary of dogma masquerading under the rhetoric of “evidence-based” policy or practice.

My advice is to be wary of those spruiking evidence drawn from within their own echo chamber, such as those who repeatedly quote and promote each others’ work. Insist on seeing alternative evidence, including that acquired from teachers working in different contexts, using different strategies and achieving equivalent or better results.

Steer clear of conferences where there is a striking similarity in the evidence being pitched in keynotes and workshops. And analyse carefully whether an evidence-based solution you’ve been handed might actually address a different matter, or result in unintended consequences.

Claims of evidence need to be treated with the degree of caution we apply when we now look at news: Is it fake or authentic? How am I being positioned? Are there alternative views on this topic? Whose interest is being served here?

Critical thinking skills are increasingly seen as an essential skill for young people. When it comes to evidence, the same skills should be utilised by those responsible for their education.”

[See also:

“The evidence-based camp in education is contradictory because it isn’t really about evidence, it is about control.

Otherwise, they would not ignore what is informed in this fragment taken from “I use evidence to inform my teaching” by @mcnuttGISA


At the very least, the evidence-based camp is not about the well-being of students, or if it is, its thinking is based on very toxic and dysfunctional notions of well-being and community, and a false sense of peace that exists only because dissent and diversity are crushed. 2/

And as Martyn Hammersley would say: “There is an initial problem with the notion of evidence-based practice which needs to be dealt with. This is that its name is a slogan whose rhetorical effect is to discredit opposition.” 3/ [searched for above quote]

Ultimately, the real dispute is not so much about evidence as it is about the ethics of what conventional schools do and the societies they are meant to support and intend to build. 4/"]
education  evidence  research  2020  phillambert  evidence-based  measurement  policy  unschooling  deschooling  health  schools  schooling  skepticism  fads  trends  bias  medicine  diversity  normalcy  norms  standards  standardizedtesting  standardization  variation  humans  humanvariation  liberation  science  children  catherinemeyers  jackshonkoff  control  chrismcnutt  martynhammersley  well-being  community  dissent  different  ethics  morality  cv 
3 days ago by robertogreco
Survivorship bias - Wikipedia
Survivorship bias or survival bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways.
bias  design  history  psychology  survival  wiki  wikipedia 
5 days ago by therourke
Facebook's conservative shift
These sensitivities — in conjunction with the company’s long-standing resistance to acting as “an arbiter of truth” — have affected Facebook’s responses to a range of major issues, from how to address fake news and Russian manipulation of American voters on the platform to, more recently, the advertising policies that have set the political ground rules for the 2020 election, say people privy to internal debates.
facebook  conservatives  politics  bias 
7 days ago by wiobyrne
Machine learning won’t fix algorithmic bias — Quartz at Work
머신 러닝은 편견을 고칠 수 없다. 인간이 고쳐야 한다, QZ
- 실리콘 밸리를 주도하는 테크 업계들이 백인 남성 중심으로 구성되었기 때문에, 그들이 만드는 알고리즘도 편견을 가질 수 밖에 없다.
- 조지아 테크 대학의 발표에 따르면 자율 주행 자동차는 어두운 색 피부를 가진 사람을 감지해내기 어렵다고 한다.
- 이미 많이 유명한 다른 예시로는, 아마존이 만들었던 내부 AI 채용 시스템은 이전까지의 채용 기록을 바탕으로 만들어졌는데, 그렇다보니 인간이 지금까지 해왔던 성별에 따른 채용 차별을 그대로 답습했다고.
- 현재까지 채용 과정에서 바이아스를 처단하는 가장 좋은 방법은 채용 시 지원자 정보를 블라인드 처리하는 것. 지원자의 성과와 경험만 남기고, 이름이나 주소 등의 배경을 남기는 것이 가장 효과적이라고.
qz  bias  algorithm  ai  machine  learning  hire  recruitment 
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Break your news bubble.
news  browser  extension  bias 
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filterbubble  news  bias  oxford 
9 days ago by mjs

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