Saturday, March 30, 2013


  1. My colleague Vishwesha Guttal has some very good advice for students who write to professors asking for short-term positions: How to write an email/application for a short-term or summer research internship/project?

  2. Lisa Wade at Sociological Images: How many PhDs are professors? [Some data on the academic job market in the US].

  3. William Bowen in CHE: Walk Deliberately, Don't Run, Toward Online Education.

  4. Frances Woolley at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative: Why "Culture" is a Lousy Explanation.

    ... [Culture] has no only trivial predictive value. Will the preference for sons persist over time, or will it gradually fade away? Cultural explanations cannot say: culture simply is what it is.

    Another problem with "culture" is that it can explain anything. People in Uttar Pradesh select for sons?" It must be their culture. People in Kerala don't select for sons?" It must be their culture. Since "culture" is compatible with any conceivable set of facts, it is not falsifiable.


  1. Karthik Rao Cavale said...

    Abi, does your link on "culture" as an explanation suggest approval of that view in the social sciences? Just asking

  2. Abi said...

    @Karthik: A link need not mean "approval" -- we have had some of these discussions during the early days of this blog. Let me just say that I linked to Frances Woolley's post because a part of the argument intrigued me -- especially the stuff about how the culture-based arguments tend to end the discussion rather than open things up with testable, falsifiable hypothesis.

  3. Karthik Rao Cavale said...

    Fair enough. I think this is a deep ontological/epistemological debate in the social sciences, and Woolley's position (basically borrowed from Gary Becker) is generally considered pretty extreme. I think both sides have been guilty of shoddy post-hoc theorizing, but there is good research which uses culture as an explanatory variable without using it in a way that is too rigid and static. I'd be happy to take this discussion further in private.