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On the politics of toilet access and the global sanitation crisis #WorldToiletDay

Dual flushing toiletOne of the first things other academics ask me is “why are you interested in toilets?” For the vast majority of people, the biological function of waste excretion is an after thought, an activity that nobody wants to talk about, and often times, the mere thought of talking about shit grosses them out. I am, however, fascinated by the human and political dimensions of human waste, and the challenges that solving the global sanitation crisis presents. More than excrement itself, I’m interested in a holistic view of sanitation (waste disposal, transportation, removal, treatment and reuse). This interest stems primarily from my training as a chemical engineer, my work experience as a sanitation engineer and researcher, and my interest from my doctoral studies in understanding the politics of policy intervention.

Contrary to what one might thing, toilets are political. Owning a toilet will become a necessary prerequisite for politicians to run for office in Gujarat, India. The new Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, has made ending open defecation and increasing access to toilets one of his campaign promises and a crucial component of his political and public policy agenda. Modi’s “toilets first, temples later” has been seen as a strong statement in favor of increasing toilet and latrine access in India.

Open defecation is a widespread activity that isn’t only confined to India, Pakistan, Indonesia or some West African countries like Ghana. It happens in less-privileged sub-national regions of developed and emerging nations too (although data is so sparse that some countries like the US and Canada are mapped as having zero contribution to open defecation, which doesn’t sound like it is actually correct). India is one of the countries where most efforts are being funneled because it tops the list of countries with the highest rate of open defecation at 58% of contribution to the world’s population engaging in this activity. But it’s certainly not the only country where we should be directing our efforts. Sub-national analyses that provide robust assessments of rates of open defecation in developed nations are also sorely lacking.

Hotel Embajador (Montevideo, Uruguay)I’ve previously written about the politics of wastewater governance because I am, after all, a political scientist (and a human geographer) and as I mentioned above, toilets, and access to sanitation all have political dimensions. In my own work I have emphasized that even if we have the technical capabilities to increase access to toilets, latrines and sanitation infrastructure, often times we see lack of progress because institutional, cultural, behavioral and societal barriers have been erected through time. I have shown that the behavioral determinants of sanitation governance are complex and multicausal, and also have multiple effects. Not having a toilet in your own home or easily accessible can lead to violence and physical/sexual assault.

Lack of toilets affects women disproportionately and leaves them vulnerable to physical violence, as it has happened in India. Earlier this year I wrote about the complex linkages between menstrual hygiene management, access to toilets and violence against women. One wouldn’t even think that not having a toilet can be deleterious to your own physical well being beyond enteric diseases, and that it could leave people (particularly women and young girls) in vulnerable positions.

While some scholars have found that in a small region of northern India cultural practices have made citizens uninterested in relieving themselves in a toilet or latrine, despite having access, these findings cannot be generalized globally. We need a multidisciplinary, multicausal, holistic approach to ending open defecation and increasing sanitation access.

For this approach to work, we need a set of policy strategies that aren’t solely focused (individually) on cultural practices, or access to latrines, or poverty alleviation. All these factors must be tackled simultaneously.

World Toilet Day 2014World Toilet Day takes place on November 19th. This year finally the United Nations named World Toilet Day an official UN day, although for all the noise it has been making, we are WAY behind the target for the Millennium Development Goals. If we really want to end open defecation by 2025, as the UN indicates, we are definitely going to need a better approach. In my own research, I have found that institution- and routine-based strategies help increase access to sanitation. I have also argued that access to toilets can be used as a political manipulation strategy. We should be interested in the global politics of sanitation because the crisis is far-reaching and widespread.

On November 19th, I encourage you to reflect on the fact that over 1 billion people defecate in the open because they lack the dignity of a toilet, and that 2.6 billion people don’t have access to improved water and sanitation sources.

Think about it. It IS political. Because we can’t wait to solve the global sanitation crisis.

Posted in academia, sanitation, wastewater.

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Why you should consider doing Academic Writing Month throughout November 2014 #AcWriMo

In a lovely conversation with my niece (who is studying Political Science at a prestigious US university), she said that she admired professors for all the writing and multitasking that we do (teaching, research, service to the university, to their own disciplines, and that she was impressed that I wake up at 4 in the morning to write, every day. I explained to her that I had to become more disciplined because I have so many broad research interests, and activities outside of academia, that I needed to make sure I budgeted time in my schedule for everything I need to do. I’m a pre-tenure professor in a competitive, R1-like university institution, so I *have* to publish and I *have* to write a lot, and write solid pieces. I learned that I needed to protect my writing time.

Black Coffee Gallery (Aguascalientes)

Last year, I didn’t do #AcWriMo, the month-long challenge issued by Dr. Charlotte Frost (from PhD2Published fame) to all academics. Dr. Frost suggested that, following the model of the #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), one could use November to binge-write and achieve completion of a major piece. Personally, I love the idea, but this year I am not planning to do it either. I am going to a conference in early November, I’m finishing an applied research project report and my Mom is getting major surgery, so I’m going to be busy with taking care of her while she is at the hospital. AND I was invited by two prestigious institutions to go present a seminar in November. Plus, I’m teaching two undergraduate courses, and organizing a research workshop around the climate change policy evaluation project I’m leading. So, overall, November is a BAD, BAD month for me to binge-write.

BUT…

That doesn’t mean YOU, readers of my research blog, shouldn’t be doing #AcWriMo. In fact, I did do #AcWriMo in November of 2012 and learned lots of great lessons, so here’s how I think you could use #AcWriMo to your advantage:

1. Use #AcWriMo to force you to write EVERY DAY.

I read somewhere that discipline creates habits, and that 21 days of repetition of a pattern related to a single habit could also form a new habit. I find that this 21 day idea works in my case, and it usually takes me about 3 weeks to get back into my usual routines when they’re majorly disrupted (for example, when my parents were very ill, it took me a solid 3 weeks to go back to the gym on an every day basis). You could, potentially, use #AcWriMo to get you into the discipline of writing every day, for periods ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours. You don’t have to binge-write for long hours, all you need to do is to build a new routine and create a new habit of writing every day. And maybe that way, you will be able to #GetYourManuscriptOut by the end of November!

Working at my CIDE Region Centro office

2. Use #AcWriMo to help you shape a major piece of work.

Again, using the 21 days’ repetition technique, you could set your goal to be shaping a new major piece of work. By the end of #AcWriMo, you could report the progress you have made on said major piece. One of the great things about #AcWriMo is that it’s a month-long challenge. Four weeks is perfectly enough time to rethink a major piece of work, or to draft a skeleton of a new book, or to think about a large grant proposal. Maybe you can map out a new project. Or design a fieldwork research strategy for when you actually go out on the field. As long as, by the end of November, you have something to show for your efforts, you’ll be golden.

Handwritten notes in academic research

3. Use #AcWriMo to get you out of a rut.

One of the challenges that my students and colleagues have told me they face is anxiety about their writing. They feel it’s not good enough (ah, imposter syndrome, you do work in mysterious ways). They feel that they can’t afford to write (though as I have advocated, even 15 minutes on a daily basis can help). So you could use #AcWriMo to rethink how you approach your writing. If you feel like you need to procrastinate, here are my 7 ways in which you can make your procrastination more productive for your academic work. If you feel that your writing is stuck, here are my 5 ways in which you can get your academic writing unstuck. You feel like you have no way to start writing? Here are some ideas to kickstart your academic prose. The idea here is… DON’T STOP. Just keep going. You can move forward at whatever pace you set forth for yourself (because not everyone works at fast speeds), but you are always moving forward. That’s the idea… use #AcWriMo to change the course of your academic writing.

I do look forward to hearing from my readers on how #AcWriMo goes for them. In the mean time… back to writing for me!

Posted in academia, research, writing.

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Barry Bozeman (Arizona State University) on Integrative Publicness #CIDE40

My instution (CIDE, Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas) is celebrating its 40th anniversary of being founded, and as a result, we have been organizing a series of events around this theme. Last week, we had Dr. Barry Bozeman (one of the foremost founders of the public administration research field, and a very widely cited scholar) speak at CIDE on “Integrative Publicness”. I livetweeted his talk, for the most part, but there were obviously a few parts that I missed.

Bozeman spoke about a broad spectrum of publicness (as opposed to the traditional private/public divide we often focus on when studying organizations). While widely known as an organization theorist, Bozeman actually has a background in psychology and was one of the first scholars who wrote about (and used) experimental approaches in public administration scholarship. A recent co-authored article of his (Walker et al, 2013) uses an experimental research design to analyze public ownership and performance (An Experimental Assessment of Public Ownership and Performance: Comparing perceptions in East Asia and the United States)

It was very neat to have Barry Bozeman at CIDE and have discussions like the one we had on experiments.

As someone who uses experiments in his research, I can understand where Bozeman’s statement comes from. I think some scholars tend to see public administration as fluffier than political science, for example. I don’t agree with that view. To be quite honest, I think political science has become a bit obsessed with experiments, and I wouldn’t be surprised if public administration also does this. But development economics, political psychology and political science, in general, have made strides that are worth discussing and examining in more detail. But I do believe public administration scholars are moving forward in a number of areas, organization science being one of the most relevant ones.

Barry Bozeman gave a really nice lecture on how to study organizations, and he is a role model in how we can present an intellectual trajectory. I look forward to reading more of his work (even though I’ve already read a lot of it during my formative years).

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Seven ways to procrastinate productively as an academic

As I’ve noted elsewhere on my blog, I am very much far from perfect. Despite my ability to speed-read, touch-type about 100 wpm and have quasi-eidetic memory, I can (and often do) procrastinate. Having a very rigorous routine (as established on my weekly schedule) reduces distractions quite a lot. But when I do get distracted, and particularly during working hours (which in my case start at 4:00am to write for 2 hours every day) I try to waste time in a way that is beneficial to my academic writing and research. Here are seven ways in which I procrastinate in the most productive way I can.

1) Organizing my journal article/book/book chapter databases (and personal libraries):
Because I’m old fashioned, I organize the printed versions of all journal articles and book chapters/conference papers I read in magazine holders. Each journal article has a plastic, adhesive Post-It plastic tab where I write the author(s) last name and the year. This allows me to find a specific article very easily (as the real life doesn’t have search capabilities as Mendeley does!). I also label each magazine holder with the details of the paper I’m writing or the general topic.

Working and filing journal articles

2) Reading and highlighting a journal article or a book chapter:
Despite my love for technology, I’m still an old-fashioned scholar and I print out journal articles and book manuscripts (right after I’ve downloaded them into my Dropbox and uploaded them on to my Mendeley database/reference manager). I also prefer to read books in print rather than online. So when I feel like I’m bored out of my mind and my mind wanders and I want to procrastinate, I grab a journal article or book chapter and I start reading and highlighting with shiny colored pens. I do this particularly because from the highlighting I can then type or write by hand my own notes about the journal article.

My #AcWri #GetYourManuscriptOut process

3) Typing or writing my notes by hand.
When I find that I’m bored and want to procrastinate, I find a specific journal article or book chapter I want to summarize and I take notes from the highlighted portions. I also type directly into a Word document but have found that writing by hand really enables me to clarify my own thinking. Usually after a few of these, I can then use the notes for my own writing.

Analyzing data by hand

4) Clean up reference manager entries.
Because I like to have my libraries accessible anywhere with an internet connection (and offline), I use Mendeley and Dropbox to store journal articles, books and book chapters, as well as my own writings and datasets. I upload all my readings in PDF format to Mendeley (I’ll have to discuss the whole Zotero vs Mendeley vs EndNote thing in another post), so when I am bored, I often clean up my Mendeley database (there’s always a PDF whose metadata Mendeley is unable to grab properly) to ensure that all entries have proper bibliographic data.

My #AcWri #GetYourManuscriptOut process

5) Doing Google Scholar citation searches on a topic I’m interested in.
When I feel like I’m stuck, I often simply do a Google Scholar for a different topic to the one I’m writing and begin downloading recent articles. Often this leads to free-form handwriting, and I frequently use those notes to build a new paper or to polish a manuscript. Of course, after downloading, I still need to print it out, read it, highlight it and upload it on to my Mendeley database and clean the reference with all the proper bibliographic metadata. Which is in and of itself, a whole other level of procrastination.

6) Spend a brief amount of time on Academic Twitter (or other social media, like Facebook or blogs).
This is my favorite mode of procrastination. Because I get so much value from Academic Twitter (as noted in my post on the five ways in which Twitter can help you in an academic context), I feel that even my procrastination there (usually conversational although I engage in a fair amount of retweeting) is productive.

7) Going for a walk, talking to a colleague or exercising at the gym
When everything else fails, I usually go for a walk. The best procrastinating method I’ve found has been walking while listening to classical music. Often times I find myself re-energized and inspired to come back again and prepare lecture slides, write or read more.

CIDE Region Centro (as the sun goes down)

Posted in academia, research, writing.

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When does it make sense to write a book chapter instead of a journal article?

I never claim to have done the right thing in academia because I think what I share on my blog and my Twitter account is what I have done wrong so that nobody else repeats my mistakes. One of the mistakes I think I’ve actually committed has been to publish so much in Spanish (both journal articles and book chapters), and to publish lots of English-language chapters, and few English-language journal articles. I did a PhD in a Canadian university, and despite the fact that I have worked in Canada and in Mexico as a professor, I know that I should have a mostly-English-language CV, and I know I don’t. I have a mixture of publications in both languages, but my strategies have yielded fewer citations than I would like to have.

Working and filing journal articles

Since I moved to Mexico from Canada, I have been working really hard to turn the tide. I have submitted primarily manuscripts for journal articles (although I admit I submitted five manuscripts in Spanish, and two in English). The conferences I’ve done (and conference papers I’ve written) have been primarily in English (two conference papers in Spanish were for international conferences anyways), and I’m working hard to convert those to journal articles. And my efforts have yielded results. I have two journal articles (in Spanish) coming out in the next two weeks, four journal articles in Spanish and one in English, in one of the top journals in public policy, in press for 2015. And I have two book chapters in English in press for 2015. I also have one book chapter in press for this fall (in Spanish) and one for 2015 (in Spanish as well).

Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega's office at CIDE Region CentroThere’s plenty of evidence on why we shouldn’t be publishing book chapters and we should focus on journal articles, including the fact that many, many collections are derailed. There’s also the issue that edited volumes take way longer than a journal issue to publish (even though journals are getting to the ridiculous point where it takes 3 years from submission to publication). Accessibility is also reduced because book chapters end up usually in collections that aren’t published online.

Springer has recently been changing their policies and providing access to specific chapters. UBC Press also has done something similar. So, it is likely that a book chapter may end up being accessible online. Repositories and changes in wording of contracts with publishers are also changing the online accessibility dynamics.

Still, I find myself frustrated with knowing that I published way too many book chapters and that I probably should have focused more on journal articles. I know, “water under the bridge”. But my strategy right now is precisely the reverse: I’m only doing book chapters in English (to increase worldwide readability). If they’re in Spanish, I do them because they’re for really good friends of mine and I have faith in the book as a finished product. And from September 2014 onward, I am NOT writing in Spanish until at least the summer of 2015. No conference papers in Spanish, no journal article manuscripts in Spanish. It’ll all be in English.

I still have a question for those who have written about how it is a better idea to publish journal articles instead of book chapters (Tom Pepinsky, Pat Thomson, Steve Saideman, Inger Weiburn, Nadine Muller, Brent Sasley, Chris Blattman, Karen Kelsky) – when is it a good idea to publish a book chapter in an edited collection? Not that I’m planning to do one any time soon :-) but still!

Comments, as always, welcome.

Posted in academia, writing.

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Teaching in English in a Spanish speaking country

Even though I’m just starting my third year at CIDE, I have been pushing for teaching courses in the English language basically ever since I arrived here from Canada. I admit it, it’s WAY easier for me to teach in English than it is to teach in Spanish. Remember, the vast majority of my university and post-graduate level teaching experience (2006-2012) was in English. It is, despite what some of my colleagues and students may think, my first language. I don’t even think in Spanish anymore.

This term I am teaching both of my undergraduate courses in English (Regional Development is a fourth year course, and State and Local Government is a third year course). I’ve noticed that my students are much more receptive to the material than I expected. It’s a huge challenge to find bibliography (in particular journal articles) about Mexican state- and local-level politics that fits what I want to teach. I face the same type of challenge with Regional Development.

Teaching in English at CIDE Region Centro

I’ve also noticed differences in learning styles. My third-year students write notes by hand, whereas my fourth year students tend to type in their laptops or iPads. But for me, it’s a HUGE relief to be able to teach again in English. Preparing slides for a class in Spanish requires me to have a laptop with Spanish keyboard (which I don’t have) or work on them at my CIDE office (which has a desktop with Spanish-language keyboard).

Preparing lectures

In the end, I think it’s a great idea for a Spanish-speaking institution to offer courses in English. All German, Dutch and French universities I know that have massive international students’ populations do. But even if it’s only Spanish-speaking students, reading in English and absorbing lecture material in English enables them for when they go on exchange to non-Spanish-speaking countries (all undergraduate students at CIDE are expected to go on international exchanges around their 6th semester).

Also, given the massive influx of foreign hires we just had at the Region Centro campus, this task (teaching in English) should be way easier (we recently hired a British professor, two Americans, one Indian, one French, one Portuguese and we already had a Brazilian). Over

Posted in academia, teaching.


The politics of intervention choice: HIV, enteric diseases and Ebola

This piece is, unfortunately, a bit late to the game because my WordPress blogging platform didn’t want to allow me to access my Dashboard (my site was under a spam attack, and thus I couldn’t access it). So, apologies to everyone for whom the debates have moved forward. Anyhow…

A few days ago, I tweeted about the fact that having your own biases or research interests shouldn’t prevent you from advocating for intervention in policy issues that are important. I understand very well the constraints goverments of the world face when choosing policy intervention targets. I’m a public policy specialist, I was trained to realize that policy choices are undertaken under conditions of scarce resources. Obviously, we should aim at executing policy interventions via robust resource allocation through some system of policy prioritization. Coincidentally, policy prioritization is something I’ve been working on for the past few years, and specifically this year, in the area of Mexican climate politics.

If I (or more specifically, if my preferred field of research – the global governance of sanitation -) ruled the world, I probably would have funneled a lot of money towards eliminating open defecation behavior, increasing toilet use, building new toilets in marginalized regions, and preventing enteric diseases’ transmission through proper sanitation and hygienic practices. It’s obvious (given what I study) that this is a type of policy intervention I’m interested in. We fight the spread of enteric diseases (transmitted via fecal-oral routes) through increased access to proper sanitation and hygiene practices. The global burden of disease for diseases related to lack of proper access to water and sanitation is calculated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as about 10%. According to their 2008 data, “water, sanitation and hygiene has the potential to prevent at least 9.1% of the global disease burden and 6.3% of all deaths“.

It would seem obvious that, given this burden of disease, we should funnel lots of financial resources and human capital towards solving the global sanitation crisis. Few things would make me happier. HOWEVER… we can’t just redirect money towards those policy interventions with the highest burden of disease, just like that. Two cases came to mind when thinking about this: Human Immunodefficiency Virus (HIV) and Ebola.

HIV is a disease that has (historically) disproportionately affected men who have sex with men (MSM), many of whom identify as gay or bisexual. In Canada and the United States, high incidence and rising rates of HIV transmission continue to worry epidemiologists. The issue doesn’t only affect gay men in developed countries. HIV transmission rates in African countries worry researchers from all over the world and merit intervention. Of course I would like to channel a lot of money and resources towards reducing HIV transmission, in Africa, in North America and worldwide.

And then we have the case of Ebola, which has taken a toll in the public health systems of several African countries, including Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone. The current outbreak has many global health scholars worried. I believe their concern is genuine. Kim Yi Dionne and Stephane Helleringer make solid points on why we need to worry about funneling more resources towards Ebola spread containment, patient treatment and contact tracing. Chris Blattman makes solid points on the “what next” (e.g. the aftermath of what Liberia is experiencing)

The problem is that our current understanding of Ebola and the potential for an exponential increase in transmission rates, is still developing, particularly because current surveillance systems in affected countries may be underestimating current death rates. Tackling the current Ebola outbreak, unlike many other public health concerns, is challenging because the science, the epidemiology, the social determinants, all are complex in and of themselves. Just imagine how difficult the issue becomes when you combine each individual layer of complexity. We know a lot more about HIV transmission and about enteric diseases’ prevention thanks to historical investments we have made on understanding these public health issues. We can’t stop focusing on Ebola because it’s not the biggest global burden of disease, or even one of the most important in terms of actual deaths, but because our understanding is still yet to develop, and because to design a policy intervention that works, we need to understand the social determinants, epidemiology and scientific understanding. We also want to help alleviate the current challenges facing the African countries dealing with the Ebola outbreak. And of course, we need to take into account that all of these factors intertwined affect the politics of intervention choice.

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Call for Papers: Association of American Geographers #AAG2015 Fetishes of Water Governance

Call for Papers, Association of American Geographers 2015:
Panel Session: Fetishes of Water Governance

Ruby Lake Resort (Madeira Park, BC)

Organizers:
Jeremy J. Schmidt, Dalhousie University (Canada)
Oriol Mirosa, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (USA)
Raul Pacheco-Vega, Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas, CIDE (Mexico)

Water governance has gained widespread popularity in the last decade among scholars of various disciplines. As a concept, “water governance” is being used to re-organize how we approach the challenges posed by resource scarcity and security, and to overcome the weaknesses of the previous dominant paradigm: water management. However, the apparent flexibility of governance is marred by the reified use of concepts that are remnants of the water management approach and its pursuit of rational planning, integrated water resources management (IWRM), and state-led regional development. The continued adherence to these fetishes can hinder our understanding of what governing water entails.

This session seeks contributions that investigate the fetishes of water governance and their effects. The fetishes include, but are not limited to, a pre-occupation with: (1) borders (i.e. watershed boundaries, nation-state limits and sub-national legal jurisdictions), (2) strictly defined sectors (public, private), (3) urban versus rural water divides and, (4) technologies of water from the technical/scientific to the political/economic. We believe that it is interesting to think not only about the problems generated by the reification of concepts and approaches to water governance, but also to analyze why this fetishizing happens and what functions it has. As such, we invite submissions that explore the fetishes as such, their influence on praxis, and in our understanding of water-related topics such human rights to water and sanitation, the hydrosocial cycle, watershed governance, energy production/extraction, infrastructure, technology and social inequality. The panel seeks to explore the limitations of these conceptual and analytical categories in explaining, and ultimately, helping design robust water policy.

If interested in participating, please e-mail all three organizers – jeremy(.)john(.)schmidt(@)gmail(.)com, mirosa(@)uwm(.)edu and raul(.)pacheco(-)vega(@)cide(.)edu) – an abstract of your proposed panel, a short bio or link to your web profile, and a brief statement of how your work fits with the general theme of the panel no later than 9pm (EST), October 28th, 2014. We will announce the chosen abstracts on November 1st, 2014.

Please circulate as you see fit. Thanks!

Jeremy J. Schmidt, Oriol Mirosa and Raul Pacheco-Vega

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On the need for empathy and kindness in academia

Due to personal problems (my parents have been ill for more than 6 weeks), I have been unable to participate in any of the international conferences of the social sciences’ disciplines I follow more closely (anthropology, geography, sociology and the upcoming political science one, the American Political Science Association, APSA 2014 meeting). However, I follow the Twitter streams with great interest, because I gain new insights on different methods, new theories, concepts and approaches to scholarship.

I recently followed the American Sociological Association (#ASA14) Twitter stream, and I have to admit that while I learned a lot, I was also flabbergasted at the amount of vitriol I saw a few academics spew at their colleagues. Even more disheartening, these criticisms were aimed at their colleagues’ personal traits rather than their scholarly pursuits. To be perfectly honest, I found this incredibly sad, particularly in a discipline focused on the study of social behavior, and sociality. The amount of snark I saw on the Twitter stream of #ASA14 prompted me to tweet the following, which apparently resonated with many, many fellow scholars.

Sometimes, I fear that academics forget that underneath that strong armour of scholarly insights, we are only humans. Personally, I’m neither afraid of criticism nor a wallflower. I was trained by one of the toughest scientists I’ve ever known, and I was educated under the tradition of direct criticism, sometimes punchy and incisive and not even couched in kind and gentle commentary. I take punches, online and offline. But that doesn’t mean that I approve of criticism that is vitriolic. I’m well aware that our job as academics is to challenge positions, criticize and (in doing so), making recommendations and advancing knowledge. But we don’t need to do so by spewing vitriol on other academics.

I sincerely hope that attendees at academic conferences, workshops and seminars never forget that they, too, will at some point demand kindness and gentle criticism. I would just hope that by then, they will also have given the empathy they demand.

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Using Evernote in academic research and teaching

While I’m still a fan of handwritten notes, and I do have a paper-based fieldwork notebook, I’m also someone who believes in how information technology can aid scholarly research and university-level teaching. This fall, I am teaching Regional Development (for fourth year undergraduate students) and State and Local Government (for third year undergraduate students). I decided to include an assignment where they send me analytic summaries of newspaper clippings related to their final project.

my evernote notebook on climate politics

To undertake this assignment, my students will be using Evernote. I have been using Evernote to file important documents, for fieldwork, to clip newspapers and save important research notes. I would LOVE to write a detailed blog post on how I use Evernote in my research, but that would take precious time. So what I’m going to do is to describe what my students’ assignment will be about, and share with you my public Evernote notebook on how other academics use Evernote in their own research and teaching and fieldwork.

So, on to the assignment. To do this assignment, I asked my students to download Evernote Desktop on their computers and the Chrome extension (it’s also functional on Safari, Opera and Firefox). My students will need to create a new Notebook where they will be saving the clippings they come across (or search). They can create this Notebook on the web version or on the Desktop. Usually I do it on the Desktop version. To use Evernote you need to create a user account, and the basic version is 100% free.

On top of each clipping, I’ve asked them to write a short analytic summary of what the article is about. Once a week, they can email their clippings or simply share their Evernote Notebook with me (as I show below). I shared my own Evernote notebook on how to use Evernote in academia as well.

sharing notebooks in evernote

Evernote allows you to “join” a Notebook (and you can contribute) or simply seeing it. The idea is that by doing this kind of systematic approach to gathering clippings they will also find it useful for their own thesis writing and research. And hopefully my blog’s readers will find this useful for their own fieldwork, teaching and research.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have absolutely no financial stake on Evernote, I don’t get paid to promote it, I don’t get freebies. I just simply use it for my own research and teaching, and I find it enormously valuable. So far, I haven’t brought myself to pay for the premium version even though it’s super cheap.

Posted in academia, research.

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