Data Journeys in the Sciences

Book edited by Sabina Leonelli and Niccolò Tempini: “This groundbreaking, open access volume analyses and compares data practices across several fields through the analysis of specific cases of data journeys. It brings together leading scholars in the philosophy, history and social studies of science to achieve two goals: tracking the travel of data across different spaces, times and domains of research practice; and documenting how such journeys affect the use of data as evidence and the knowledge being produced. 

The volume captures the opportunities, challenges and concerns involved in making data move from the sites in which they are originally produced to sites where they can be integrated with other data, analysed and re-used for a variety of purposes. The in-depth study of data journeys provides the necessary ground to examine disciplinary, geographical and historical differences and similarities in data management, processing and interpretation, thus identifying the key conditions of possibility for the widespread data sharing associated with Big and Open Data. 

The chapters are ordered in sections that broadly correspond to different stages of the journeys of data, from their generation to the legitimisation of their use for specific purposes. Additionally, the preface to the volume provides a variety of alternative “roadmaps” aimed to serve the different interests and entry points of readers; and the introduction provides a substantive overview of what data journeys can teach about the methods and epistemology of research….(More)”.

The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions

Book by Jeffrey D. Sachs: “Today’s most urgent problems are fundamentally global. They require nothing less than concerted, planetwide action if we are to secure a long-term future. But humanity’s story has always been on a global scale. In this book, Jeffrey D. Sachs, renowned economist and expert on sustainable development, turns to world history to shed light on how we can meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

Sachs takes readers through a series of seven distinct waves of technological and institutional change, starting with the original settling of the planet by early modern humans through long-distance migration and ending with reflections on today’s globalization. Along the way, he considers how the interplay of geography, technology, and institutions influenced the Neolithic revolution; the role of the horse in the emergence of empires; the spread of large land-based empires in the classical age; the rise of global empires after the opening of sea routes from Europe to Asia and the Americas; and the industrial age. The dynamics of these past waves, Sachs demonstrates, offer fresh perspective on the ongoing processes taking place in our own time—a globalization based on digital technologies. Sachs emphasizes the need for new methods of international governance and cooperation to prevent conflicts and to achieve economic, social, and environmental objectives aligned with sustainable development. The Ages of Globalization is a vital book for all readers aiming to make sense of our rapidly changing world….(More)”.

Philanthropy and the Future of Science and Technology

Book by Evan Michelson: “An increasingly important and often overlooked issue in science and technology policy is recognizing the role that philanthropies play in setting the direction of research. In an era where public and private resources for science are strained, the practices that foundations adopt to advance basic and applied research needs to be better understood. This first-of-its-kind study provides a detailed assessment of the current state of science philanthropy. This examination is particularly timely, given that science philanthropies will have an increasingly important and outsized role to play in advancing responsible innovation and in shaping how research is conducted.

Philanthropy and the Future of Science and Technology surveys the landscape of contemporary philanthropic involvement in science and technology by combining theoretical insights drawn from the responsible research and innovation (RRI) framework with empirical analysis investigating an array of detailed examples and case studies. Insights from interviews conducted with foundation representatives, scholars, and practitioners from a variety of sectors add real-world perspective. A wide range of philanthropic interventions are explored, focusing on support for individuals, institutions, and networks, with attention paid to the role that science philanthropies play in helping to establish and coordinate multi-sectoral funding partnerships. Novel approaches to science philanthropy are also considered, including the emergence of crowdfunding and the development of new institutional mechanisms to advance scientific research. The discussion concludes with an imaginative look into the future, outlining a series of lessons learned that can guide how new and established science philanthropies operate and envisioning alternative scenarios for the future that can inform how science philanthropy progresses over the coming decades.

This book offers a major contribution to the advancement of philanthropic investment in science and technology. Thus, it will be of considerable interest to researchers and students in public policy, public administration, political science, science and technology studies, sociology of science, and related disciplines….(More)”.

The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History from Antiquity to Today

Book by David Stasavage: “Historical accounts of democracy’s rise tend to focus on ancient Greece and pre-Renaissance Europe. The Decline and Rise of Democracy draws from global evidence to show that the story is much richer—democratic practices were present in many places, at many other times, from the Americas before European conquest, to ancient Mesopotamia, to precolonial Africa. Delving into the prevalence of early democracy throughout the world, David Stasavage makes the case that understanding how and where these democracies flourished—and when and why they declined—can provide crucial information not just about the history of governance, but also about the ways modern democracies work and where they could manifest in the future.

Drawing from examples spanning several millennia, Stasavage first considers why states developed either democratic or autocratic styles of governance and argues that early democracy tended to develop in small places with a weak state and, counterintuitively, simple technologies. When central state institutions (such as a tax bureaucracy) were absent—as in medieval Europe—rulers needed consent from their populace to govern. When central institutions were strong—as in China or the Middle East—consent was less necessary and autocracy more likely. He then explores the transition from early to modern democracy, which first took shape in England and then the United States, illustrating that modern democracy arose as an effort to combine popular control with a strong state over a large territory. Democracy has been an experiment that has unfolded over time and across the world—and its transformation is ongoing.

Amidst rising democratic anxieties, The Decline and Rise of Democracy widens the historical lens on the growth of political institutions and offers surprising lessons for all who care about governance….(More)”.

Community Quality-of-Life Indicators

Book edited by Frank Ridzi, Chantal Stevens and Melanie Davern: “This book offers critical insights into the thriving international field of community indicators, incorporating the experiences of government leaders, philanthropic professionals, community planners and a wide range of academic disciplines. It illuminates the important role of community indicators in diverse settings and the rationale for the development and implementation of these innovative projects.  This book details many of the practical “how to” aspects of the field as well as lessons learned from implementing indicators in practice.

The case studies included here also demonstrate how, using a variety of data applications, leaders of today are monitoring and measuring progress and communities are empowered to make sustainable improvements in their wellbeing. With examples related to the environment, economy, planning, community engagement and health, among others, this book epitomizes the constant innovation, collaborative partnerships and the consummate interdisciplinarity of the community indicators field of today….(More)”.

Citizenship: The Great Extinguisher of Hope

Book by Dimitry Kochenov: “Citizenship is a very unlikely concept to glorify: Its only purpose is to divide the world and appear unquestionable and “natural” in the face of the most obvious criticism. Its distribution around the world is entirely random and totalitarian: One is a citizen purely on the strength of having been assigned to a particular citizenship by an authority — an authority that brooks no dissent, should you claim to not belong. Your agreement is not necessary and your protests are of no avail, yet everything about you — from life expectancy to your income and basic freedoms inside and outside the assigning state the world over — is in direct correlation with this congenital assignment, in which you can neither participate nor refuse in the majority of cases.

The assignment of citizenship is entirely beyond our control and glorified as logical and “natural,” yet citizenship is not a force of nature: It is designed with certain groups and people in mind, making sure that those who are disliked or regarded as of little use by the relevant authority at any given moment and for whatever reason will surely be kept down at the time of the initial assignment or later. No protests are expected or tolerated: What is “natural” must be accepted.

This article is adapted from Dimitry Kochenov’s book “Citizenship.”

Given the radical differences in quality between different citizenships around the world — some bringing amazing rights, others merely poisonous liabilities — the randomized totalitarian assignment endows citizenship with its core function: the preservation of global inequality.

Distributed like prizes in a lottery where four-fifths of the world’s population loses, citizenship is clothed in the language of self-determination and freedom, elevating hypocrisy as one of the status’s core features. Even considering the truly minuscule proportion of the world’s population that ever changes its citizenship, the grip of citizenship on our lives is close to absolute, even if it is at times unnoticed. Citizenship’s connection to “freedom” and “self-determination” usually stops making any sense at the boundaries of the most affluent Western states. Citizenship, for most of the world’s population, is thus an empty rhetorical shell deployed to perpetuate abuse, dispossession, and exclusion. It is a means of directing former colonials to their unenviable place, spiced with a delightfully attractive hint of nationalism….(More)”.

The Behavioral Economics Guide 2020

Book edited by Alain Samson. Introduction by Colin Camerer: “The goal of science is to accumulate knowledge, full stop. In my opinion, there is a lot of leakage in how we currently do this. The reproducibility “upgrade” (a term I prefer to “crisis”) going on in many areas of science is an example of trying to minimize leakage. Solid accumulation depends on not getting led too far or frequently astray by false positives which do not reproduce. A good infrastructure for rapidly evaluating and cumulating results is of special use for “hurry-up” social science. For example, as I write this there are probably hundreds of social science studies being done about COVID-19. It is essentially impossible for all those scientists to know what the other scientists are doing. There will be duplication and poorly designed
studies. (It is often said in design that everyone wants cheap, fast, and good. But you can only have two.)

When studies are written and circulated in preprints, a lot of null effects won’t be written up. Which studies will get the most attention? It will be a scrum of social media, presenting at seminars, slow and fast reviewing paces. The one thing that would undoubtedly be most useful—a giant dashboard summarizing weekly progress on each of those hundreds of studies—does not exist. This is a failure of good informatics.

Behavioral economics is accumulating knowledge about how different kinds of nudges influence behavior at a rapid pace. The challenge is that carefully assessing what an entire body of knowledge is telling us is actually quite difficult and is under-rewarded (by academic incentives). A lot of academic publishing, and similar career concerns within government or NGOs, depend on creativity and doing something new. This creates an incentive to exaggerate the novelty of one’s contribution compared to what is known from past studies….(More)”.

Behavioral Public Performance: How People Make Sense of Government Metrics

Book by Oliver James, Asmus Leth Olsen, Donald Moynihan, and Gregg G. Van Ryzin: “A revolution in the measurement and reporting of government performance through the use of published metrics, rankings and reports has swept the globe at all levels of government. Performance metrics now inform important decisions by politicians, public managers and citizens.

However, this performance movement has neglected a second revolution in behavioral science that has revealed cognitive limitations and biases in people’s identification, perception, understanding and use of information. This Element introduces a new approach – behavioral public performance – that connects these two revolutions. Drawing especially on evidence from experiments, this approach examines the influence of characteristics of numbers, subtle framing of information, choice of benchmarks or comparisons, human motivation and information sources. These factors combine with the characteristics of information users and the political context to shape perceptions, judgment and decisions. Behavioral public performance suggests lessons to improve design and use of performance metrics in public management and democratic accountability….(More)”.

Humankind: A Hopeful History

Book by Rutger Bregman: “This is a book about a radical idea.

An idea that’s long been known to make rulers nervous. An idea denied by religions and ideologies, ignored by the news media and erased from the annals of world history.

At the same time, it’s an idea that’s legitimized by virtually every branch of science. One that’s corroborated by evolution and confirmed by everyday life. An idea so intrinsic to human nature that it goes unnoticed and gets overlooked.

If only we had the courage to take it more seriously, it’s an idea that might just start a revolution. Turn society on its head. Because once you grasp what it really means, it’s nothing less than a mind-bending drug that ensures you’ll never look at the world the same again. So what is this radical idea?

That most people, deep down, are pretty decent…(More)”.

Terms of Disservice: How Silicon Valley is Destructive by Design

Book by Dipayan Ghosh on “Designing a new digital social contact for our technological future…High technology presents a paradox. In just a few decades, it has transformed the world, making almost limitless quantities of information instantly available to billions of people and reshaping businesses, institutions, and even entire economies. But it also has come to rule our lives, addicting many of us to the march of megapixels across electronic screens both large and small.

Despite its undeniable value, technology is exacerbating deep social and political divisions in many societies. Elections influenced by fake news and unscrupulous hidden actors, the cyber-hacking of trusted national institutions, the vacuuming of private information by Silicon Valley behemoths, ongoing threats to vital infrastructure from terrorist groups and even foreign governments—all these concerns are now part of the daily news cycle and are certain to become increasingly serious into the future.

In this new world of endless technology, how can individuals, institutions, and governments harness its positive contributions while protecting each of us, no matter who or where we are?

In this book, a former Facebook public policy adviser who went on to assist President Obama in the White House offers practical ideas for using technology to create an open and accessible world that protects all consumers and civilians. As a computer scientist turned policymaker, Dipayan Ghosh answers the biggest questions about technology facing the world today. Proving clear and understandable explanations for complex issues, Terms of Disservice will guide industry leaders, policymakers, and the general public as we think about how we ensure that the Internet works for everyone, not just Silicon Valley….(More)”.