Monday, September 30, 2013

Dancing With the Stars--Showing Up!

Bill Nye had grievously hurt himself last week, yet he performed today on the show. They figured out a way of dancing that would work with his injury.

My point is that in show business and other such, the show goes on. You do what you can to perform, unless you are dead. It's not true among students and scholars, where excuses are a finely wrought art. You've got to deliver, show up, and reserve your excuses.

A Go-Bag: Leaving Your Institution

At some point in your career you may be encouraged to separate from your institution, whether for good reason or not.* I leave it to your attorney and academic senate to give you advice. However, be sure that you could walk out of your office with just a USB drive having all your valuable files. Anything else that is crucial to your future work should be at home or elsewhere. My image is that my office incinerated itself, but what I had on my USB freed me from worry. Have a noninstitutional email account (say, and it may be time to use it much more, especially if you are inundated with stuff from the institution on your institutional email. [See the previous post.]

*Red Scare as at universities in the 50s; allegations of misconduct; ...  Also, now that our lifespans have increased and our healthy lifespan is also increased, what used to be 65 as the age when most retired is moving up, given the end of mandatory retirement. For some faculty, earlier than 65 retirement might be a good move. For others, their research and teaching are still strong, and they want to continue, and they will retire later. Very little has been invested in most universities is making it comfortable for senior faculty to retire but still be involved with their research and teaching careers (offices, etc.--space is a premium). At some point, a dean will see senior faculty as preventing them from hiring more junior faculty, and there are many apparently legal ways to make such senior faculty uncomfortable. (It helps if the stock market is doing well.)

Back Up Your Life: the Scholar's Go-Bag

Given some recent experience and stories I have heard, I realized once more the importance of backing up my files, contact lists, and other such valuables. Perhaps you know this, and do not need to be reminded. (I do need to be reminded.) But if not,...  [Note that what I am saying is minimal, and would be looked on with horror by experts.] (See also the newer post before this one.]

1. A USB thumb drive, say 8GB, is likely to be enough to hold all your current writing projects, a copy of your contact list, and any other significant files.  I know that you should have such backups in several places, formats, etc. But if you are not so perfect, at least once a month or two, back up what is important, even in one place. If there is important email, copy it too. Do not count on other servers to be available when you need them, even though their reliability may be very very high. My advice is based on the notion of a "go bag," the idea being that if the university and the servers disappeared, you would have on your person your most valuable stuff. In effect, institutions own your files, and could well discard them, so you want to have those files with you.

2. My Contact List on my smartphone (iPhone or Android devices), seems to have every address I have ever sent anything to (most of which I do not have in my formal address lists). I have the Exchange server as one of the email files, and somehow all is imported in. (I'm not sure what I did to make this happen.) There is a way to save Contact List to your PC or to the cloud or elsewhere. 

3. If you have stuff on the university drives, and much of your stuff may be there (eg Documents,...) be sure you have copies on your USB. If they are outdated by a month, that is better than not having copies. I am told that my c: drive has the stuff that is really on my office physical computer, and again, you want to be sure that any relevant files are on your USB. 

4. Your smartphone probably has enough memory to be another backup for your work files.

5. I have some digital files that add up to 100's of Gigabytes. I use an external hard drive, 500 GB, and also DVD's as storage. I suspect that those of with terrabytes of data have already implemented suitable backups.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Provosts/Deans: Your Current Faculty is Your Major Asset

All of what follows is for a university where contributions to scholarship and the arts ("research") matters.

Not only is the current faculty your major asset, no matter what you do it will be your major asset during your term of office. Yes, you can make incremental changes, but if you want to make larger changes, you have to address the faculty you have.

There is much talk about faculty renewal, with "contracts" and deadlines, so that people begin again to make a contribution that is warranted. You could be like Larry Summers who asked Cornel West to get on with his "big" book--I believe West's leaving Harvard since he felt insulted by Summers is the usual sign of people not ready to face the music. If you've been promising a big book, it's fine for the university to ask you to focus on it.

But faculty who have not lived up to expectations, or have become discouraged, or become enmeshed in activities that are not scholarly, ought to be given a chance to get back on track. Is there a medical or family reason? Have they lost touch with the field? Have they discovered they never should have become academics?

Ask: What do you need to get back on track in your scholarly career? Give it to them, and do this at least once more. If faculty indicate that they are unwilling to get back on track, help them find a job where their talents are better matched to the institution.

Most deans and provosts and even department chairs may not be good at this. But some faculty will be good at mentoring their colleagues. Encourage such mentoring, and pay for it. Pair up lost faculty with their productive colleagues in similar areas of interest.

As for sticks vs. carrots, the UC system has decelerated, vs. accelerated, promotion, leading to lowering one's "step" in the salary system. Ideally, what you do is find an attractive position elsewhere, and the person is encouraged to leave.

If faculty are focused on teaching or service, and nothing can be done to redirect them, their contributions here should be as substantial as the faculty focused on research and teaching and service. Raise their expectations of themselves--textbooks, more profound service contributions,...

Asking Questions at Seminars, Colloquia, ...

The best questions asked at seminars are pointed and clear, and focus on the work being presented. If you have comments, you can preface your remarks saying something like, I would like to add a comment, but do have a short question at the end. Don't go on very long, at all.

Technical questions about method must have real import for the work. That you can think of a hypothesis that was not tested is only interesting if the hypothesis is important and it is relevant to the work at hand. Asking about colinearity, or about some statistical technicality, should be about the work's consequences, not just a technical point.

Assume that your job is to make the work better. If it is awful, just walk out.

If you tend to wander in your questioning, it helps to write out your question before you speak.

Don't worry if your question is too simple. A good speaker knows how to make the answer interesting. Often, others in the audience want to ask the question, but are too shy.

In one seminar I go to, most of the questioners begin with, I thought this was a very interesting paper, and then they ask questions.

Rather than asking, Did you test for...., ask, What would be the effect of ....

There will be speakers who dismiss your question. There is nothing you can do then and there, but there is no reason not to write them a note afterward elaborating on your question.

In my experience there are what might be called devastating questions, where you have no response. If you don't, for whatever reason, promise to get back to the questioner later or right after the talk.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

When the Deans are Afraid of the Faculty Members, THEN You Might Have a Strong University

In the strongest universities, the deans are respectful of the faculty members, and to some extent "fear" them. They want to keep the faculty, and they listen to them. At weaker universities, the faculty are treated as employees, the deans as their bosses, and the Industrial Relations are antediluvian. Even at weak universities there can be units which are protected and treasured by their deans, so that within that unit, whatever else happens in the university the faculty has that sense of respect.

Once the deans and provost think they are in any sense better than the faculty, the university is on a downward trajectory.

I have worked at both sorts of universities. What distinguishes the stronger institutions is their sense that the university is the faculty, and the job of administrators is to create an environment that allows the faculty to thrive and be in charge. Chairs of departments rotate among the faculty. And deans, when they end their terms, often return to the faculty.

None of this means that the faculty are allowed to be irresponsible or laggards or act out their prejudices.

You want a faculty that is hard to keep, since they get offers from elsewhere, but are easy to maintain, since they know what they want to do and do it.

Of course, there will always be problematic faculty and staff, perhaps even sociopaths and the like. They are never allowed to destroy the institution. See my earlier posting, with the summary of the "opera" La Devadora. And there will be bureaucratic actions that are unconscionable. The latter hurt the institution make it harder to keep good people.

Time--Doing My Work. A Nap Often Helps.

I like my work. I like to do my projects. Some of the time I am exhausted or lost, but most of the time I really do like my work. Teaching is fine, service is ok; students are good. But my work is interesting and engaging even if I also have lots of junk work to do.

Of course, your family comes first. That's never been an issue for me.

So I work lots. I may be a workaholic, but I feel more like I am pursuing projects that I really want to get done. I get paid to do what I really want to do.

Now I have limited energy or focus, so if I wake at 5 or earlier, and work til 12, I am usually not much use until later in the day. And I'm often saying to myself that "I am not smart enough" when I can't figure out some mathematics or some political/social/literary theory, or some philosophical analysis. A nap often helps.

Current projects:
Finish off my work in City Heights, and on lower level entrepreneurs.
Get the second edition of Doing Mathematics done.
Prepare a good DVD of my sound documentation, with lots of photographs from the photodocumentation of LA.

More fieldwork and documentation.
Second volume of Scholar's Survival Manual
Book of LA documentation images and sound: people, places
Maybe my work on Pollution
Maybe my poems written to accompany pictures.

Defense and Veterans, for teaching

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Enthusiasm and Ambition

Serious scholarly work (and artistic work) demands perseverance and hard work, and ambition is often helpful as well. Ideally you find problems that engage you, and new ones come along as you work out a problem. Your depth of understanding, your sense of the range of what might be doable, develops in time. Your past work is your specific asset.  And of course, you know what others have done.

If you not have that enthusiasm and ambition. you may still make significant contributions to scholarship.  Professional ethos, choosing the right problem, and sheer doggedness will often lead to a strong career path.

The literature on Richard Nixon points out his perseverance and resilience, his ambition for respect, his constant reforming himself and his legacy. And of course his talents, and his capacity to do himself in.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Quoting Canonical Sources. Originalism. Authentic Early Performances of Music.

Punchline: You can make any argument you wish. If you quote from a distinguished source, you had  better be sure that you have good reason to believe that there are not other quotes from that same source, or other interpretations of the quote, that turn against you. 
My problem with how people use Clausewitz, and with Sun Tzu, is that they would seem to provide quotes for whatever position people want to take, or you can find quotes in them to show they are wrong. I take comfort from Pope Francis, who has announced that matters of doctrine (homosexuality, abortion, contraception) should take a second place to doing good, including people in the faith, and helping the poor.  See below for more on the Church and doctrine.****

From Wikipedia, my underlining and bold:
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz[1] (/ˈklzəvɪts/; July 1, 1780 – November 16, 1831)[2] was a German-Prussian soldier and military theorist who stressed the "moral" (in modern terms, psychological) and political aspects of war. His most notable work, Vom Kriege (On War), was unfinished at his death.
Clausewitz espoused a romantic conception of warfare, though he also had at least one foot planted firmly in the more rationalist ideas of the European Enlightenment. His thinking is often described as Hegelian because of his references to dialectical thinking but, although he probably knew Hegel, Clausewitz's dialectic is quite different and there is little reason to consider him a disciple. He stressed the dialectical interaction of diverse factors, noting how unexpected developments unfolding under the "fog of war" (i.e., in the face of incomplete, dubious, and often completely erroneous information and high levels of fear, doubt, and excitement) call for rapid decisions by alert commanders. He saw history as a vital check on erudite abstractions that did not accord with experience. In contrast to Antoine-Henri Jomini, he argued that war could not be quantified or reduced to mapwork, geometry, and graphs. Clausewitz had many aphorisms, of which the most famous is that"War is the continuation of Politik by other means" (Politik being variously translated as "policy" or "politics", terms with very different implications), a description that has won wide acceptance.[3]

****I take comfort from Pope Francis, who has just announced that matters of doctrine (homosexuality, abortion, contraception) should take second place:  to doing good, including (rather than excluding) people in the faith, and helping the poor.  The last two popes were rather different than Francis, their having put lots of energy into doctrine and also encyclicals of that sort. What Francis is doing is saying that doctrine, drawn from the New Testament and earlier Church teachings, is being used rather selectively and so letting the faithful avoid the true mission of the Church. His taking the name of St. Francis, this sounds appropriate. 
Many years ago, I knew John Noonan, appointed eventually by Reagan to the Appellate Court, Ninth Circuit. Noonan was a professor of law at Berkeley, and wrote big books on canon law and history. He did a big book on contraception, showing that the Church had had various points of view on contraception, and varying emphases on it. Similarly, John Boswell did a book on homosexuality within medieval Christianity, again showing how changing was Church doctrine and practice. In general when you know lots of history, the sureness of what you draw from documents and text tends to disappear. Hence, the originalist position of Judge Scalia of the Supreme Court, depends to some extent on what we know of Early American History. I always wonder if Scalia would change his position on various issues if we discovered documents showing that the plain language of the Constitution meant something very different than what Scalia takes it to mean. Similarly, the same issues come up in musicology when people aim to have authentic early instruments and styles. Richard Taruskin has shown how problematic is such a presumption.

What Employers Want: Passion, Luck, Initiative, Thinking, Communicating

From the New York Times, 20 September 2013, an interview with the CEO of AirWatch...  (my underlines, my bold). All of this is well known, and may not apply in many situations,  but I think it is good to hear it.
Q. So let’s talk about hiring. How does the conversation go?
A. We ask how people feel about mobile. Do they like it? How do they interact with their devices? We want people who are passionate about this. We ask them if they feel lucky. We want people to feel lucky, because the harder you work, the luckier you get. So people who work hard actually feel lucky.
And I make the statement that I think there are three kinds of people in this world. With the first, you ask them to do something, and they can’t get it done. With the second type of person, if you tell them what to do, they’ll get the job done. There’sa third type of person — you point them in the right direction and they’ll figure it out. We need that third type of person.
Q. What other questions do you ask?
A. You ask them to tell stories. Give me situations where you’ve done something creative. Give me situations where there was a problem that you needed to solve. Give me a situation where you didn’t have the leadership telling you what to do, but you had to go fix a problem. And then you just let them go from there. By asking really open-ended questions, you get a good sense of not only how people answer questions, but also how they think.
And I almost always ask somebody to take something that’s complicated and that they know really, really well and explain it to me. I don’t care what it is. Can they put it in plain language and communicate it in clear and crisp and complete terms?There’s just nothing more important than clear communications. Being able to take the complex and turn it into simple — that’s what we do for a living. It takes a lot of technology to create the illusion of simplicity.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Emails to Die From

I will be posting emails here that should never have been sent. There is no problem per se with the sentiment, but in their current form they are bound to explode in the faces of their senders.

I received the following two emails. The first was from a person in charge of one of our programs. I had written to students about a course I was going to teach, but unbeknownst to me she had decided to teach it herself. I have no problem with that. My italics.

1. Never send emails that tell people you are so busy with important things.

Please refrain from emailing students as I’m doing my best to diffuse most recent happenings and prevent escalation. In addition, the information to them in the latest email is wrong.   Already, I’ve had multiple student emails asking for information and I have so many other important things to do.

2. Never send emails where you deny doing something inappropriate or dishonest, if you give lots of details. Students received notices from our university committee concerning itself with academic integrity. One wrote me. I am not sure what kind of potential plagiarism she is referring to, but that is not the kind that triggered the university committee's concern. Moreover, I could have allayed her fears, but I could not write to her.

I cited directly from the author and captured all of their statements in my works cited and reference pages. The problem was that I included too much information that I did not know how to properly articulate within the context of my project and through the written essays. … I just included their statements in my paper and acknowledged their statements in my works cited and during our discussion in class. I was very transparent. But, I must have made a mistake somewhere, otherwise this would not be happening.

. . . What I need is time. I don't have that since I am running a small business and have a lot on my plate. …. I just didn't want to get it wrong, so I stated exactly what the experts said and made sure to cite.

I just wanted to make sure you know that I intend to fight this, so that I may maintain my personal integrity and reach the goal of completing this program by next semester. The Dean's office received a copy of the correspondence. I am very embarrassed, but I am not a cheater and hope to have a resolution that is appropriate for all those involved. 

Professor Krieger, you are copied on this message so that you are made aware of my intention to go through the administrative process regarding this matter .... Please do not respond to me nor write back to me regarding this correspondence and please remove me from your mailing lists until this matter is resolved by the University and per the standards set forth by the division of student judicial affairs.

3. If you want to complain about someone, don't do it in email. Better in person, or written. Email circulates.

Reviews of The Scholar's Survival Manual

I'll put these up as they appear:

Library Journal 9/15/13 .

“Krieger (planning, Univ. of Southern California; Doing Physics) certainly knows his way around the halls of academia. Pulling content from his blog on this topic (, he counsels everyone from graduate students to untenured and tenured faculty to university administrators on how to navigate their scholarly aspirations. In his role as the kindly, seasoned colleague who has his readers' best interests at heart, he urges them "to do the right thing the first time." Eschewing a linear format, Krieger encourages readers to dip in anywhere rather than start at the beginning. The book functions as a guide to careers in academia and perpetuates his online presence with its short, pithy posts presented in an informal style. The tone is inviting and intimate. Instead of empirical evidence, many of the anecdotes come from firsthand knowledge acquired over a lifetime. Works such as Wayne C. Booth's The Craft of Research, James H. McMillan's Educational Research, and Kjell Erik Rudestam and Rae R. Newton's Surviving Your Dissertation offer more structure and comprehensive direction. VERDICT Anyone interested in or connected to the world of academic scholarship will discover here solid, considered, and instructive strategies to walking those hallowed hallways.”—Jacqueline Snider, Library Journal
It was also listed in Library Journal's 

Fall & Winter Wonderland, Part Two: More Trade Titles Coming from University Presses

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Asking Questions at Seminars

In a talk or seminar, the audience is crucial to success. Will they ask incisive interesting questions? Are they prepared? In some seminars there is a tradition of very vigorous questions, often not letting the speaker go for more than a few minutes. That is, there is no waiting until the end of the talk.

In the law school workshop I attend, people have the papers ahead of time, read them carefully, and the session begins with a commentator, then a response from the author, and then questions from the audience. The commentator is often incisive in figuring out what is crucial in the paper. The audience is ready with questions that they have noted while reading the paper, and some members have particular kinds of questions they always ask. I find it interesting and fun, even though my knowledge of law is epsilontic. In general, the audience is trying to help the author make for a stronger paper. It is in the family, so to speak.

I tend to be impatient, and want to know what's up well before most speakers (if no paper ahead of time) tell you. So often in the first twenty minutes I finally figure out what is going on, and ask if my figuring out is correct. Ideally the speaker would give away the main ideas and findings or argument in the first few minutes.

My advisor would seem to sleep through a talk, and then ask a crucial questions. One of my other teachers, used to ask innocent-sounding questions, likely to sink the speaker since my teacher had discerned a deep problem with the work.

My other questions are usually about analogies to the current subject or situation.

There are questions about statistics, reliability, etc, characteristic of social science, chipping away at the work. Rarely are they interesting or able to much decrease the credibility of the speaker. Some of the time, they can be devastating, but a good scholar has already anticipated those problems, largely because they have colleagues read their work before going out and talking about it.

The best questions come from understanding the problem in the writer's or speaker's terms, and then try to deepen or question the endeavor. One is reading to find out what is really going on, and your goal is not to chip away at the paper. Rather, you want to engage in a conversation with the author/speaker that enables the work to be seen in a more significant light.

Minor advice for speakers: If you quote numbers in your talk, be sure to give comparisons. Telling me that 532 schools were closed is useless unless I know how many schools there are. If you are quoting numbers that are statistical or simulation-model based, be sure to give the error bars or estimates or the range from sensitivity analyses. Be sure that you can tell the main point in plain English. And if it is a complicated argument, sketch out the argument before you go through it--and perhaps have that sketch available throughout the argument (as a slide or handout) so that people can follow what is going on.

Also, give away the findings that are important in the first few minutes.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Plagiarism is an Improvised Explosive Device

The University says that professors ought report instances of plagiarism to the University academic integrity committee. Whether it is a matter of penalty or a matter of educating the student about academic integrity, they want to know--in part to protect the reputation of the University, in part to make sure you don't continue to do something that will eventually get you in trouble. Some of my colleagues tell me that they do this as a matter of course, and are pleased with how the committee handles this.  

The Graduate School might even put your dissertation through Turnitin--it seems they might well do so (see below). In any case, now that dissertations are part of the Digital Library, others can readily gain access and if they wish they can put it through Turnitin. Also, pdf's of past dissertations are available from Pro-Quest. Hence, plagiarism turns your thesis into an landmine or an Improvised Explosive Device.

I mention all this because at least some students' work, and even some dissertations I have reviewed, have pervasive "mosaic" plagiarism. I'll give you an example, using text from this email:

Original text: Whether it is a matter of penalty or a matter of educating the student about academic integrity, they want to know--in part to protect the reputation of the University, in part to make sure you don't continue to do something that will eventually get you in trouble.  

Plagiarism:  It is a matter of penalty or a matter of educating the student about academic integrity, the academic integrity committee needs to protect the reputation of the University. (Krieger, 2013)  

This will get you in trouble: The reference is there but the fact that some of the text is quoted verbatim is not indicated nor is a page given.

Right Way "[I]t is a matter of penalty or a matter of educating the student about academic integrity," the academic integrity committee needs "to protect the reputation of the University . . ." (Krieger, 2013, p. 1)  

Note that I have used brackets around the initial letter of the first word, to indicate that it is not capitalized in the original, and " . . ." at the end to indicate that the quoted passage is part of a longer text and does not end at a period.


In the Graduate School's presentation about Thesis and Dissertation Process, they have the above slide. If you are unsure of how to avoid plagiarism, there is good guidance provided by every university. In effect, you never want to use someone else's words without quotation marks and reference (page also), their ideas without reference (and pages). If you are paraphrasing, give a reference. If you are quoting from someone's article where what you are quoting is a quote from another source, go back to the original source, and then give that reference and the reference where you got the quote in the first place. 

It's not just a matter of academic integrity. Scholarship is a network of research presented in articles and by giving the right references, you show that you are a member of the community. On the other hand, it is quite likely that the person you quote without attribution will read your work (they share your interests!, who else will read your work?). No one wants to be ripped off.

There is no reason for you to worry if you follow standard practice. (My experience has been that people who tell me, "I am not a plagiarist" or "I am not a cheater" are almost always deceiving themselves, often because they do not appreciate just what is academic integrity.) 

Proudhon's "property is theft," does not have many scholars' agreement, because their property is their words and ideas. On the other hand, they depend on your referring to their work for it to be influential. Hence the peculiarities of scholarly reference. 

To quote a bit, with attribution, is divine. To quote lots is to violate fair use.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Scholar'sSurvival: Blog Postings

1. From the Indiana University Press Site: 

Guest post: Corrosive Plagiarism - Publishing Means You Never Want to Say You’re Sorry

By Martin H. Krieger
Scholars-survival-manualIn The Scholar’s Survival Manual I discuss plagiarism with a presumption that there is a shared sense of just what is plagiarism. Recent experience convinces me that my imagination is not reliable. I thought I could detect plagiarism by reading a paper, and surely I have found it once in a while. But that was a vanity.
Last semester I taught two doctoral courses, and after the grades were in I received several complaints about grades from the students. In the course of our conversations, one said something to me like “I’m no plagiarist.” I figured I had better be sure. So I put the class papers through Turnitin. And wrote to students about what I found. (I was then told to stop bothering students about it, since the class was over, but to my mind they were putting their future degrees at risk.)
The “similarity scores” tell you little. You have to look at the papers and the sources. What I discovered was that mosaic plagiarism was endemic. Namely, student would take a source, refer to it in their footnotes, and then take phrases from the source and put their own words as linkages to those phrases—but not put quotation marks around the phrases they had copied. They might have said, “X revealed…”, but to my mind that the “…” indicated these were quoted phrases was not revealed by the word revealed. There needed to be quotation marks around the copied phrases.
Some papers had similarity scores of 40+%, but those at 5% were as well systematic mosaic plagiarizers. I gather they thought this was OK, and one told me that this was the norm in their field of public health.
I even checked a few doctoral dissertations, including staff associated with these students, and the practice was everywhere. And it did not happen once in a while. It was systematic.
I don’t know what to do about the grades I gave, and I am now checking out other sources for guidance. I know that my university does not condone such plagiarism, the Harvard College guidance on Using Sources does not either.
This sort of plagiarism is surely less astounding than the cases in the German universities of plagiarized doctoral dissertations. But I am discovering that what I thought was obvious is surely not so obvious.
Publishing an article or depositing a dissertation should mean that you never have to say you are sorry. But your article or dissertation may well be read by someone in your field (who else will read it?), and they may be haunted by the phrasing (perhaps it’s their words!). They can readily put your work through Turnitin. It’s perhaps unlikely that some mosaic plagiarism will lead to your degree being rescinded, but you don’t really want to find out.
Martin H. Krieger is Professor of Planning in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He has taught at Berkeley, Minnesota, MIT, and Michigan and has served for many years on university promotion and tenure committees. His upcoming book The Scholar's Survival Manual will be released this October. He blogs

From the Inside Higher Education Site:
September 9, 2013
1. Your job is to get the place in shape. If there is unfairness, waste, idiocy, lack of organization, what you want to do is to get the place in shape. People who have special privileges need to realize the party is over, those who are sloths need to realize it's time to wake up. If people have stopped doing research, you want to get them back on track — provide incentives, positive and even punitive.

2. You do not count. No special favors for your friends, your partner's friends, your friends' friends, people who work in your field, etc. If there are fishy procedures or processes, straighten them out. It's all about making the place good enough that you can leave for the next job. If you just want to stay in place, say until you retire, you should resign -- see #5 below.

3. There are bound to be loads of points of friction: those who benefit from the past ("rentseekers" is what the economists call them), those who have special privileges or who are getting away with not doing their jobs, etc. You are cleaning house. While you are doing so, don't leave behind garbage for your successor. Your claim is that you are trying for fairness and comity among your faculty.

4. Don't get in battles with anyone, at least battles that look like battles. You want to have things just happen. If the higher-ups won't help, AND they are stopping you, they need to realize that your job is to clean up the place. If they won't go along, start looking for another position, or just go back to being a professor. Don't be an instrument of someone else's corruption or revenge -- even your most reliable colleagues will use you to do their dirty work. Surely there will be resistance, but again you are acting for a superordinate goal: fairness and excellence and comity. Your righteous resisters need to realize the consequences of their resistance, since they are not only taking on you but also the provost and perhaps the president. If they threaten to leave, make sure you throw them a nice good-bye party and wish them well.

5. You don't need this job. You almost surely have a tenured professorship. If you can't make a difference, get a research grant and go to work.

6. Don't antagonize your strongest faculty. They should be your allies, but if not, you don't want them as your opponents. Of course, a la #1 and 4 above, you will need to ensure fairness, and that may mean problems, but credit that to the provost, the president, and the board who hired you and are forcing your hand.

7. Every few years, ask yourself, What's the next challenge? Keep in mind that you need to resign when you don't see a path forward.

8. It is quite unlikely that you are as strong as a scholar as your strongest faculty. Just because you are dean or provost does not mean people should respect you as a scholar.

9. You are in the sales business, promoting your units or university. Keep that in mind. But don't be deluded by your own patter.

In retrospect, I might add: I am thinking of deans, not assistant deans, etc, and not deans who head non-academic units.


Martin H. Krieger is professor of planning at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. His new book, The Scholar’s Survival Manual: A Road Map for Students, Faculty, and Administrators, has just been published by Indiana University Press. His blog is here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Reliable Research

The mathematician Frank Quinn argues that one of the distinguishing features of mathematics since about 1950 was highly reliable error-displaying methods--rigorous proof. Intuition and pictures were no substitute for rigorous proofs, and in general they could be misleading. If you made an error in a modern proof, it would be displayed, that is, other mathematicians would  eventually find it, even if your result were eventually shown to be true by a rigorous proof.

In the kind of work most people do in the scholarly realm, there is no such sure-fire method. There are lots of good practices--use of sources, references, generation and use of data; and if you have made some sort of error it is likely that other readers, your competitors so to speak, are likely to discover them. But usually we are so wrapped up on our work, it is hard for us to discover such errors. In mathematics, on the other hand, mathematicians find errors in their ongoing work all the time, and so improve their proofs.

I am assuming good will and ethical behavior, although in fact that is not always the case.

On the other hand, if you violate good practices: plagiarism, faked data, poor arguments, you will be skewered.

Quinn also points out that modern methods allow ordinary mathematicians to make contributions, since even if they do not have "intuition" of a high order, they can know if their work is rigorous.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I decided to go through my work and put together my unfinished projects:

First I will need to finish a second edition of Doing Mathematics (by early 2014)


LA photographs and my work on cameras and photographs;

Scholar's Survival Manual, II

Pollution ms;

Words and Pictures, poems and an essay

The latter two date from the late 1970s, albeit edited over the years.

What I did was prepare dummy editions of each, in its current form, and have them printed out as a custom book:  and  I needed to have things in front of me as concrete objects. I am not sure what I will do with these half-finished projects.  Also, I will try to get two old books issued in paperback, Plastic Trees, and Entrepreneurial Vocations--although that will be quite difficult.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mathematics for Modeling in the Social Sciences (mostly not about statistical models)

« Previous Entry | Main  Taken from my This Week's Finds in Planning Blog

What I Have Learned About Mathematics in Modeling in Social Science

I have written four books on mathematics and modeling, and have thought about it since maybe 1966. It seemed worthwhile to write down what I have learned. The crucial point is that mathematical devices bring along ideas, and that something works mathematically demands that we figure out what idea we have bought. (E.g., Lagrange multipliers can be prices, or other such.)

By the way, what I say here is for the most part well known nowadays, but not well practiced.

1. Patterns in space [agglomerations, central places] or in time [abrupt changes, stickyness to change] can be emergent effects of large numbers of otherwise undistinguished interactions, typically two body. Not always, and often they are a matter of device, planning, and conspiracy.
2. While there is a good deal to be said about unpredictability, I suspect that nonlinearity and the butterfly effect are less important than are deliberate actions by historically identifiable actors.
3. While economics is often presented in terms of optimization and smooth changes, those marginals, keep in mind that like #1 above it can be seen as a sum of discrete individual transactions plus conspiracy and control. Hence economics' marginality may be artifactual rather than a matter of derivatives of an objective function. Of course, one more transaction is effectively marginal, and the market can be a convergent effect of many such (ala Aumann).
4. Statistics that focuses on means/variance analysis, and most of what is taught and done, needs to catch up to modern data analysis techniques, with their concern with skewed and polluted distributions, graphical presentations of data clouds. Also, ala P. Levy, spend time on big- or fat-tailed distributions that are as well such that adding them up gives you the same sort of distribution, with some sort of scaling constant, much as in adding up gaussians and the square root of N.
5. Almost always someone will write a model and then test on data using some sort of regression. The data needs to be cleaned up, and double blind techniques (as used nowadays in particle physics) help you avoid playing with the data to get a result.
6. A number of ideas from finance, such as portfolio management and real options and random walk ideas as in Black-Scholes, should be of value to other parts of social science--either as ideas or as mathematical models.
7. Similarly, the time value of money ideas and discounting needs better modeling in trying to figure out present values and also the range of such values.
8. Almost no numbers in social science can be known to better than two significant figures (budgets, accounting, and demographics are different, some of the time). Hence when people quote much more, something is likely fishy. On the other hand those two significant figures need estimates of the range that is likely to be the case. I don't know the right probability range, but numbers always need something like error bars. If someone is using some sort of modeling program and out comes 8 figures (as in billions of dollars to the dollar), most of those are fake. Moreover if you do modeling, sensitivity analysis is essential.
9. Network analysis, currently popular in much of social science, should make use of the deep work of mathematicians on graphs and on queing. Keep in mind its foundations in telephone networks.
10. Notions such as catastrophe theory, fuzzy sets, nonlinear, neural nets, chaos, fractals, agent-based models, and cellular automata, only are useful if they are instantiated in formal models. And then you want to ask if the meaning of the modeling device (say chaos theory), and whether there are other accounts of what you see. If they just inspire reflection on what you are doing, almost always the historians and sociologists have written insightfully about these notions, totally outside of the mathematical realm and more about narratives supported by archival evidence, with rich cases without the mathematics and with no loss.
10a. Scaling is a pervasive phenomenon, but not always. That things look the same over a wide range of scales is deeply important, but over the shortest scales that breaks down. Over the longest scales, new phenomena arise. A deep insight of mathematics is often when you are doing counting up you end up with scaling-type phenomena (zeta functions and automorphic functions).
11. Lots of modeling is less about mathematics and more about institutions. Adam Smith on the pin factory, the fable of the bees/Mandeville, kinship in anthropology and rules in society... Think too of Coase's papers--no math, deep ideas, poignant examples.
12. Analogies need to be worked out as best they can be, rather than casually employed. Analogy is destiny only if it is quite rigorous.
13. Always begin with a toy model, with fewer variables and a smaller data set to find out if what you are trying to do makes sense and might even be fruitful.
14. Models should lead to an understanding of the mechanism in the actual situation you are studying.
15. It is often the case that some phenomena allow for several apparently distinct modeling procedures. There are two possibilities: the phenomena are insensitive to how they are modeled, the procedures are connected by deep mathematical facts. [In physics, the Ising lattice in two dimensions of simply interacting individuals can be modeled  and solved by counting or combinatorial analysis, by symmetries, by scaling, by matrix symmetries and commutative matrices, and by procedures derived from quantum mechanics (this is a classical regime)--the Bethe Ansatz. All of these are connected mathematically, and the mathematicians' goal is to understand why.]

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Grants and Contracts and Fellowships

Grants are just that, resources (usually dollars, but sometimes other resources), given to the recipient who has proposed a course of work that is in accord with a request for proposals or the agenda of an agency. Besides paying for travel or research assistants and M and O, what you are paying is RENT on an ASSET--namely the person, usually the PI, and their accumulated experience and expertise. Presumably they deliver on their proposal, but it is also the case that it may turn out that the original idea does not work so well as another idea.  So the grantor in effect decides they wish to encourage someone to deal with a problem the grantor deems important (even if it is proposed by the grantee). and  it is not unusual for the grantee to in effect provide much effort than would be expected given the grant's budget. One quarter time in the budget will pay a quarter of salary and benefits, but likely you are getting lots more than you are paying for.

My foundation friends tell me about 1/2 of the grants do not work out, not because the grantee does not deliver, but because the money disappears without a trace, so to speak. So you don't give money to that grantee any longer. Those who deliver, however they find it wise to deliver, are your greatest portfolio asset, for you know that giving money to them will lead to something desirable.

Fellowships are given based on your record and perhaps on your proposed course of work. It would be nice if you produced the book or the articles, but your final report is never checked out. Almost always, people proposed to do much more than they can do. On the other hand, you are wasting your own life if you don't do something that is productive for your work. Over the long run, you are expected to produce that book or those articles, and the fellowship grantor likes to brag about that.

Contracts almost always specify in some detail what is to be delivered, and often that is determined jointly by the grantor and grantee, in cahoots. A precise list of deliverables is a given; a timeline is set. Of course, the list might be revised with the agreement of the grantor. And what you are paying for is the time of the grantor, or perhaps you are paying for the realized deliverables. Time might also be an investment you make to see what someone might do with your problem. Some contracts are in effect a grant or a fellowship, but rarely. Fellowships and grants are never contracts.

Contracting agencies might well ask for specific deliverables after awarding a contract, but it would be much better for them to do so before awarding the contract. As in the overruns on weapons programs, what happens is that the client changes their notion of what is to be delivered, and that means that either the contractee discovers they must work much more than planned without further compensation, or  you'll get just what you agreed to when things started up or when the proposed contract was signed on. Or, there will be a demand for further compensation.

Grants buy someone's attention. Contracts buy someone's time. Fellowships are investments in the scholarly infrastructure.  Usually, the grantor received twice what it pays for. BUT, contractors cannot afford such generosity. But the contracting organization gets what it believes it really needs. In general, grants and fellowships get you much more than you paid for, contracts perhaps a bit less.  Grants and fellowships buy you someone's commitment, contracts buy you someone's product (a product that will fulfil the contract but is likely to be satisficing).

Grants are often in the realm of philanthropic activity. Fellowships are too.  Contracts are in the realm of commerce and mercenaries (often not war-fighters).  In a contract you'll get what you paid for, but in a grant it is up to the grantee to figure out what is the best outcome of the research.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"To begin with, these efforts fight a facially straightforward textual analysis."

This is from

 United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ______________________

 BAYER CROPSCIENCE AG, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. DOW AGROSCIENCES LLC, Defendant-Appellee. ______________________ 2013-1002 ______________________

 Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Delaware in No. 10-CV-1045, Judge Renee Marie Bumb. ______________________ Decided: September 3, 2013

 A Google search for "facially straightforward" reveals it as being common enough, in legal and other contexts. But "f-s-t-a" is not to be found. Of course, we have the phrase, "at its face straightforward," but the adverbial form is wonderful.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Taking Apart and Putting Together

Gian-Carlo Rota, a mathematician who taught at MIT, is the founder of modern combinatorial analysis, having made it into a systematic respectable part of mathematics. I met him at first because of his teaching phenomenology at MIT, he became a family friend (avuncular and faithful), and every once in a while he would talk about mathematics, usually in vatic terms. I never could figure out how to ask him for help. He was encouraging of my studies of mathematical modeling and how used in physics.  I suspect he knew everyone, and he was for a while secretary of his section of the National Academy of Science, worked at Los Alamos helping people, and I suspect he was of assistance to NSA types. Like my friend who works for Apple, I was never let into his secrets, even epsilonically. He would always say that I did not have any idea of what he did (for it seemed it was not directly mathematical, although I suspect he was a fine consultant and encourager for mathematicians in the IC (as he put it). Maybe he assessed the quality of information they got through the Clandestine Service?? Surely, he got his share of medals from the IC.

In any case, he always mentioned that combinatorics was a matter of inclusion and exclusion (the Moebius function) and putting together and taking apart (as in puzzles, Hopf algebras). Now, I was working on various exact solutions to the two-dimensional Ising model, essentially a combinatorial problem. Unfortunately I never pinned him down long enough to be educated by him. He always focused on my son and my father role, and if we went out alone, his main concern was to let me be free of parental pressure for a few minutes.

Parts of a color Xerox machine (Phaser, originally Tektronix) was near the garbage. There was toner, and there was imaging elements. I took one of each, blue toner, yellow imaging elements. New they were $200+ and about $500, respectively (so maybe $2,000 for a complete change, three colors), according to the internet. In any case, the toner cartridge was not interesting, once you realized how it released toner. The imaging elements, and there was one for each color, probably were the place where the image was deposited and affect the conductivity of a roller, and on which toner was deposited on its way to the paper. (Much like offset lithography, there is no direct contact  but there are transfer rollers.) I just took it apart, and what was wonderful was that it was all held together by plastic pieces clicking into each other, with just two screws holding on a metal part. In other words, it just clicked together for 90% of its putting together, and you just had to hold back the clicked linkage and pieces came apart immediately.  Almost all plastic, except for the roller surfaces. Quite nice. (You have to regularly vacuum up the toner that comes out.)

So you have perhaps ten parts, most of which are molded plastic, except for the rollers, and the small circuit board. And they just fit together, click!

By the way, cell phones and many toys have distinctive screws, and you need the right tools to take them apart. They never just click together, either. Still I find myself taking whatever it is apart. I have no plans to put them together again. Sometimes one finds a part, say the small lens of a cellphone camera, that is very very nice to have.

I always say that I did not continue to do experimental physics because I did not like working with equipment, and I did not like big experimental groups. I am not sure, any longer, about the equipment. It's not that I am good with it, but I do like to play and figure out what is going on. Probably small nuclear or solid state physics would have been better for me. Who knows, after 45 years?

I just made a photobook of my son's drawings. I tried to put it together myself, but Shockwave did not work, and I let it put things together as it will, and then made minor changes. What's interesting is that it does a decent job.

Click here to view this photo book larger

Shutterfly photo books offer a variety of layouts and cover options to choose from.