Papers that don’t crank out the same old schtick are high risk for academics: SHOCK!

Academic publishing keeps you on the straight and narrow of everyone else’s ideas?

Who’da thunk?

Bias against Novelty in Science: A Cautionary Tale for Users of Bibliometric Indicators by Jian Wang, Reinhilde Veugelers, Paula Stephan  –  #22180 (LS PR)


Research which explores unchartered waters has a high potential for major impact but also carries a higher uncertainty of having impact. Such explorative research is often described as taking a novel approach.  This study examines the complex relationship between pursuing a novel approach and impact.  Viewing scientific research as a combinatorial process, we measure novelty in science by examining whether a published paper makes first time ever combinations of referenced journals, taking into account the difficulty of making such combinations.

We apply this newly developed measure of novelty to all Web of Science research articles published in 2001 across all scientific disciplines.  We find that highly novel papers, defined to be those that make more (distant) new combinations, deliver high gains to science:  they are more likely to be a top 1% highly cited paper in the long run, to inspire follow on highly cited research, and to be cited in a broader set of disciplines.  At the same time, novel research is also more risky, reflected by a higher variance in its citation performance.  In addition, we find that novel research is significantly more highly cited in “foreign” fields but not in its “home” field.

We also find strong evidence of delayed recognition of novel papers and that novel papers are less likely to be top cited when using a short time window.  Finally, novel papers typically are published in journals with a lower than expected Impact Factor. These findings suggest that science policy, in particular funding decisions which rely on traditional bibliometric indicators based on short-term direct citation counts and Journal Impact Factors, may be biased against “high risk/high gain” novel research.  The findings also caution against a mono-disciplinary approach in peer review to assess the true value of novel research.

Posted in Education, Science | 5 Comments

For he that hath … Education edition

 The Long-term Consequences of Teacher Discretion in Grading of High-stakes Tests by Rebecca Diamond, Petra Persson

This paper analyzes the long-term consequences of teacher discretion in grading of high-stakes tests.  Evidence is currently lacking, both on which students receive test score manipulation and on whether such manipulation has any real, long-term consequences.  We document extensive test score manipulation of Swedish nationwide math tests taken in the last year before high school, by showing significant bunching in the distribution of test scores above discrete grade cutoffs.

We find that teachers use their discretion to adjust the test scores of students who have “a bad test day,” but that they do not discriminate based on gender or immigration status.  We then develop a Wald estimator that allows us to harness quasi-experimental variation in whether a student receives test score manipulation to identify its effect on students’ longer-term outcomes.

Despite the fact that test score manipulation does not, per se, raise human capital, it has far-reaching consequences for the beneficiaries, raising their grades in future classes, high school graduation rates, and college initiation rates; lowering teen birth rates; and raising earnings at age 23.  The mechanism at play suggests important dynamic complementarities:  Getting a higher grade on the test serves as an immediate signaling mechanism within the educational system, motivating students and potentially teachers; this, in turn, raises human capital; and the combination of higher effort and higher human capital ultimately generates substantial labor market gains.  This highlights that a higher grade may not primarily have a signaling value in the labor market, but within the educational system itself.

Posted in Economics and public policy, Education | Leave a comment

Social Value Capture: an idea whose time has come

Building social value

Following innovations in the UK and New Zealand, some of Australia’s more forward looking State governments are looking at two related innovations. The first is ‘social investment’ with social impact bonds leading the vanguard.

Social impact bonds

As Wikipedia tells us, a social impact bond “also known as a Pay for Success Bond or a Social Benefit Bond is a contract with the public sector in which a commitment is made to pay for improved social outcomes that result in public sector savings”. Thus philanthropic knowhow and funding together with some commercial funding might invest in a program that can be expected to achieve some socially beneficial outcome like reducing recidivism of some cohort of prisoners exiting a prison.

The idea is that this can help underwrite innovative social investment. At least as a novice it all looked pretty dodgy to me. And there is plenty to cavil at. For instance:

  • As with PPPs, the announcement of a political intention to proceed with social impact bond financed projects creates political incentives for such deals to be done even if there are lower cost means of achieving the outcome. This circumstance can lead to makeshifts in contracts whereby ultimate risks are underwritten by government, even where the apparent and immediate risk is with the private financier. The experience with PPPs offers many cases in which risk transfer to the private sector was inadequate, producing the worst of all worlds – higher costs to the public sector without the effective transfer of risk.
  • The scope to generate a new political economy of rent seeking, both in the immediate term in delivering the project, and over time as politicians and officials retire to take on lucrative jobs with the financial institutions that benefited from the financial innovations.
  • Also, just as there are many causes of social dysfunction, there are many causes of social healing, but this is all simplified in the accounting for social impact bonds. There will often be problems of attribution. To what extent did the SIB fund the observed benefit, and to what extent was it some other initiative? Not only can this muddy the accountability trail, but it does so in a pointedly invidious way. Most successful social endeavours tap into the good will and actions of many in the community and they may well think twice if they envisage some merchant banker making off with the dividends of their good deeds.

Still, I was more censorious of this before I understood just how poor the situation is at the moment. Continue reading

Posted in Economics and public policy, Innovation, Social Policy | 6 Comments

We’re All Free Riders. Get over It! The public goods of the twenty-first century (Part One)

Below is a link to my first article on a new alternative economics website – Evonomics – which has only been going fror a short period of time. It’s pretty nicely set out and emerged out of the evolution institute. The guy who started it – Robert Kadar – is intellectually gregarious guy who also knows a lot about web-marketing which he’s doing with a vengeance on the site. It’s generating a lot of interest and enthusiasm from many quarters. I got talking to the founder by tweeting the site and tweeting my surprise that it only had a few hundred followers on Twitter. It’s now got ten times that, but needs plenty more. It’s main target is Facebook however, so what would I know?

Anyway, I decided to write up properly my ideas on the public goods of the 21st Century. Working with Robert we worked up some headings which might help entice people to take a look. At one stage I had three headings for the three pieces – which were to be called “Why Thomas Jefferson wants YOU to free ride”, “Why Adam Smith wants YOU to free ride, “Why Friedrich Hayek wants YOU to free ride”. All very upworthy. Anyway, we settled on the heading above. Americans in my experience on this subject are reflexively moralistic about the question of free riding.

In an email discussion with Robyn Chase, who’d seen me present at Harvard and was writing Peers Inc, someone else in the email chain offered this comment on my expression “free rider opportunity” which Robyn was taking up in her book.

Your attempt to spin the term “free rider” into a positive thing puzzles me …. Free rider carries the connotation of “really bad”, independent of its normal context. Only slightly better than “con man”.

Even progressives who support sharing eschew the term free rider…

Anyway Robyn did take it up in her book, but the same impasse arose when I discussed with Robert for this piece. So we made it the feature, though I’m hoping we can move a little further away from an obsessive focus on it. Anyway, the article is here. I also reproduce it over the fold.  Continue reading

Posted in Economics and public policy, Philosophy, Political theory | Leave a comment

Neoliberal? Moi?

Though wildly tendentious, this  piece by Monbiot is an excellent spray against neoliberalism, a subject with which your correspondent has a vexed relation. I used to describe myself as a neoliberal, but now I’m afraid due to a mixture of distaste at its excesses and the extent to which it has degraded the political imagination of the West I’m not a happy neoliberal camper.

Anyway the part that interests me is the last section of Monbiot’s piece which is introduced – a little further up in the piece – by this quote from Friedman. Speaking of the stagflation of the 1970s Friedman said this:

When the time came that you had to change … there was an alternative ready there to be picked up.

This leads into the money quote with which I agree strongly and which makes the point I was trying to make in my ‘change without theory’ posts. Continue reading

Posted in Economics and public policy, Philosophy, Political theory, Politics - national | 13 Comments

That’s one small step for government as impresario

Creativity Quotes: “Creativity is just connecting things.” — Steve JobsLast night I attended the launch of Creative State which was the culmination of over a year of engagement between the Victorian Government and the arts community. It involved a taskforce or some such and an Expert Reference Group – on which I sat. Anyway the Minister was very fetching at the launch of his Creative State strategy saying “When I started this I had no idea what I was doing”. A bit of candour is like an oasis in a desert in politics these days, so I enjoyed him saying that.

Anyway, the real news from my perspective is item 27 of the plan which I quote:

Arts experience data platform
Development of a shared data platform to support services that improve collection, analysis and presentation of cultural and event information for audiences and organisations in the creative industries. The platform and initial business case will be developed in consultation with audience groups and organisations that hold the data and will drive new creative services and responses.

This is something I’ve been on about for some time now, with it having its last public outing in this column. The ‘general theory’ as it were is in this paper sketching out the scope for public private digital partnerships. Anyway, further details have yet to be announced, but as I said to the Minister at the launch, the principal power the government will be using is not its legislative, executive or financial power though it may be helpful to use a small amount of the latter. It needs to deploy its convening power.

Posted in Art and Architecture, Economics and public policy, Innovation, Theatre | Leave a comment

2016 NT election: reading the electoral tea-leaves

The starter’s gun has almost been fired on the forthcoming Federal election which will almost certainly now be held on 2 July. However, there is also another Australian election due to take place soon after that: the Northern Territory election due on 27 August under the fixed term election rules that now apply. With almost exactly 4 months to go until that election, it’s high time for us to survey the current political situation in the Territory and try to read the electoral tea leaves.

A Northern Territory News opinion poll published in March suggested that the CLP government would be smashed if an election had been held then with Labor winning a very strong majority (effectively duplicating a poll the NT News conducted in July 2015) . A notional Two-Party Preferred result showed the ALP with 62% of the vote and CLP with just 38%. If there really was a uniform swing of that extent at the forthcoming election the CLP might not win a single seat. However, there is never a uniform swing and incumbency remains a very important factor in the Northern Territory given the tiny size of electorates.

However there is an even more important factor suggesting that the ALP’s position may not be quite as unassailable as many commentators seem to think. First preferences in the NT News poll show the ALP winning just 33% of the vote with the CLP winning an even lower 28%.  A massive 38% of voters were either undecided or intending to vote for Independents or minor parties.  In order to reach its notional 2PP result, the NT News must have allocated about 29% of those votes to the ALP and around 9% to the CLP on preference distribution. Opinion pollsters typically allocate preferences of Independent and minor party voters to the two major parties in the proportions in which they flowed at the last election (in 2012).

But things are different this year.

Continue reading

Posted in Politics - Northern Territory | 8 Comments