Metrics, Metrics, (Alt)metrics

By Amy Atchison

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If it sometimes feels like success in academia boils down to metrics, that’s because in many US institutions it does (sadly) boil down to metrics. We all know that it isn’t just the number of publications you have. It’s also the impact factor of the journals in which those articles were published, the citation count per article, and your h-index score. (And don’t get me started on the non-research metrics, like course evaluations—which we all know are notoriously flawed. See here, here, and here.) Those are all pretty common measures that are widely used. But a recent Twitter thread indicated to me that some political scientists may not be aware of a new(ish) measure that can help to quantify use of your non-publication outputs as well as your social media reach: altmetrics. This is helpful if your institution puts a premium on public engagement.

Altmetrics are simply alternative measures of scholarly reach/output. They include measures like the number of downloads of your work from your institutional repository or number of mentions on social media. The usage metrics provided by Academia.edu or Research Gate are also considered alternatives to traditional metrics (use the latter with caution, though).

In this post, I focus on Altmetric Badges from Altmetric.com because they aggregate many sources of attention and because many leading journals have started adding Badges to their sites. I give a brief overview of altmetrics, including how they can be used in promotion and tenure (P&T) applications, as well as the pros/cons. I end the post with a brief overview of the problems inherent in many of the traditional measures we use to evaluate scholarship (citation counts, journal impact factors, etc.) since I have found that almost no one tells people these things in grad school. (But they’re helpful to know!)

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#WPSA17 Award Winners

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Thank you to our conference community and the city of Vancouver, BC for a successful #WPSA17! Below is a list of those scholars who won an award at the 2017 conference for their exceptional 2016 conference papers. If you would like to submit a paper from WPSA17 to be awarded at next year’s conference in San Francisco, please see the information toward the bottom of this post.

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A message from WPSA 2017 President, Julie Novkov

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Dear Member of WPSA:
 
The Western Political Science Association has long had a reputation for hosting a welcoming annual meeting where scholars consciously orient their presentations toward significant problems in politics. It is also the home of annual pre-conference workshops on Latino politics, environmental politics, feminist political theory, and other specialized inquiries. WPSA prides itself on its spirit of lively inquiry with a critical focus on political issues that matter not just to political scientists, but to anyone who cares about the health and vitality of politics, policy, democracy, and civic engagement. 

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Pink Cat-Ear Hats, Knitted Solidarity, and Women’s Rights

By Meaghan Charlton

Pink, cat-ear hats emerged as the symbol of the Women’s March on Washington through the Pussyhat Project.  In response, some have suggested that the pink hats might be a goofy distraction to the women’s rights movement or a visual that problematically reduces femininity to biological characteristics. However, approaching the pink hat initiative from this angle neglects to recognize knitting’s long-standing deployment as a social movement and solidarity-building tactic, , its inclusivity of disabled, caretaker, and LGBTQ populations, and the reclaiming function the pink hat project embodies.

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#APSA2016 Twitter Analysis

By Eric C. Vorst

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The 2016 American Political Science Association annual meeting in Philadelphia was a great place to highlight new research, to learn from our peers, and to make new professional connections. It also provided an exciting opportunity to gain new insight into how networks of discussion evolve in real time over the duration of a major academic conference. Data mining software, content analysis, and social network visualization tools were used to observe how communities of discussion evolved as the conference unfolded, to identify the emergence of key themes, and to map the extent to which these themes reached different communities within the network.  Ultimately, this project helps to provide a unique insight into what political scientists talk about during a political science convention.

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Empathy as a Method for Understanding Why 53% of White Women Voters Voted for Trump

By William J. Kelleher

Several recent news articles, including one from The New York Times and The Atlantic, offer up an explanation for why 53% of white women voters voted for Donald Trump, despite the disrespect he has shown for women, particularly white women. For example, The New York Times article presents political scientist Kathleen Dolan’s explanation of this political behavior. That explanation can be stated in the form of this syllogism:

Empirical studies show that

  • A) voters generally tend to vote according to their party identification, and that
  • B) a majority of white women identify with the Republican Party;
  • C) therefore, a majority of white women voted for Trump rather than Clinton.

This “explanation” has the virtue of being relatively straight forward insofar as it consists of explicit inferences drawn from accepted facts. But I’m not satisfied with the explanation given. The implication that party ID caused the voting results seems overly mechanistic, shallow, and insufficient. I still want to know why so many white women voters voted for Donald Trump.

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Civil Rights Advocacy and Unsupportive White Attitudes: Lessons from World War II

By Steven White

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Civil rights advocates frequently work in the context of unfavorable public opinion among white Americans. For example, attitudes towards the Black Lives Matter movement remain strikingly racially polarized, with whites generally much less supportive of the movement than African Americans, even in the presence of video evidence of police misconduct. Such attitudes can be difficult to change. What, then, does it take to radically alter white racial attitudes? And what might civil rights advocates do if negative white attitudes toward the Black Lives Matter movement remain unchanged?

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