Posts Tagged ‘statistics’

The Rights Track – Why podcasts are a great way to raise awareness about human rights

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‘Podcasts embody what is arguably the essential promise of the Internet: a means for surprising, revealing, and above all ennobling encounters with people, things, and ideas we didn’t know.’

Jonah Weiner, blog for Slate ‘Toward a critical theory of podcasting’.

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For the last 25 years I have been working on human rights problems. I have applied theories and methods from the discipline of political science to empirical analyses that have involved single countries, small groups of countries, and all the countries in the world. This work has been underpinned by a commitment to making the best inferences possible with the evidence that has been collected.

I have published widely on how and why comparative methods can and should be applied to the study of human rights. I have examined empirical relationships between the struggle for citizenship rights in authoritarian Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Spain; between the international law of human rights and the protection of human rights; and between different forms of inequality and the violation of certain sets of human rights. My work is now focussed on the ways in which human rights are framed and how that framing affects our readiness to find culpability of alleged perpetrators.

Throughout my pursuit of this research I have had the opportunity to travel to 38 different countries to participate in conferences, workshops, seminars, and training activities where I have worked with a wide range of local, national, and international stakeholders from governments, international non-governmental organisations, inter-governmental organisations, academic institutions, and private sector companies. This work has led to my involvement in a wide network of individuals who are dedicated to producing sound evidence on human rights.

They apply empirical theories and methods to well crafted research questions at different levels of analysis with the intent of making the world a better place. They measure and compare human rights practice; they interview individuals and groups about human rights experiences; they test hypotheses about important relationships between human rights and other explanatory factors; and they try to make their findings relevant and salient to policy makers and practitioners working in the human rights and broader international community.

The research and policy outputs of this work often comes in the form of the written word: articles, books, and reports that set out the aims and objectives of the research, the specification of the research questions, the review and articulation of the relevant theories and literature, the specification of hypotheses, the presentation of data, methods and analysis, and a discussion of the implications of these findings for the advance of human rights. These outputs are a vital part of the pool of knowledge that is being created by human rights scholars and practitioners; however, as a means of communication, they can still remain quite limited in their ability to reach key audiences.

Nuffield-logo

To address this limitation, I am joined by a great team to bring you an exciting new venture we call The Rights Track. With generous funding from the Nuffield Foundation, The Rights Track will provide a free web resource with podcasts from leading empirical human rights researchers drawn from my own networks and those of others with a view to sharing motivations, findings, and implications of this research for a wider community of interested people. Podcasts are an excellent medium of communication, which capture the human element of knowledge creation, since we can hear scholars and practitioners in their own words talk about why they do what they do, what they do, and why what they do really matters for the world. I enjoyed making my own podcast series and this project is a natural extension of that work.

Podcasts can be downloaded, saved for later, and revisited while you are at home, on the move, and traveling abroad. And as a form of communication, podcasts are now more popular than ever. Last year, Apple said subscriptions of podcasts through iTunes reached 1 billion. RawVoice, which tracks 20,000 shows, said the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled to 75 million from 25 million five years ago so, in that respect it’s clearly a fantastic platform for reaching a wide and diverse audience. I am thus really pleased to post this blog on international podcast day!

I will host the podcasts and engage with this group of human rights analysts in ways that tease out answers to these key questions on motivation, analysis, and impact of their work. My efforts are joined by former BBC journalist and founder of Research Podcasts Christine Garrington who will produce the podcasts, and web designer Paul Groves who will build the platform for the project and support the hosting of all the content in the most accessible formats possible. The podcasts will start being made available to the public on International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2015.

The project is currently working on developing the web resource (CLICK HERE) and inviting leading analysts to participate. It has its first guests lined up who I will interview this autumn in preparation for our launch in December. I am really excited to bring this new and important resource to the public domain! I hope you join me and tune in!

You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Periscope.

IPD-Round-400

Moving on from Essex

After 22 years at the University of Essex, I have decided to move on to pastures anew. I am excited to have been appointed the new Pro Vice Chancellor for Social Sciences at the University of Nottingham from 1 September 2015.

This opportunity would not have been possible without the many and incredible opportunities that I have had at the University of Essex. I came to Essex to work as a senior research officer on a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council on the comparative analysis of social movements and citizenship rights in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Spain.

Armed with a large duffle bag, a trombone, and a few magic tricks, I arrived at Heathrow in September 1993 and began a journey that I never dreamed would have been possible. I was originally invited to stay in the UK for one year and what transpired was a full academic and professional career, family life, and an adventure that has seen me travel to over 35 countries around the world working on development, democracy and human rights.

The original project yielded a book with Oxford University Press and a journal article in the British Journal of Political Science, a comparative textbook with Routledge (three editions, a Spanish edition, and a 4th edition on the way), and a career path that has focused on the measurement and analysis of human rights. Since these early years at Essex I have continued to publish books, articles, and reports, as well as engage in a wide range of international consultancy projects and commissioned research.

The intellectual environment at Essex combines attention to the rigorous analysis of the social and political world with larger normative concerns over the good life and human well being. Before becoming the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Essex in August 2013, I worked for years in the internationally renowned Human Rights Centre, directed the Centre for Democratic Governance, and directed the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution.

I had incredible mentors and colleagues who helped me develop my thinking and writing in ways that allowed me to produce scholarly and practical work that addresses real world problems that continue to confront the world today. From advanced statistical analysis to the finer points of international law, colleagues at Essex have been generous with their time and sharing of their spirit for advancing cutting edge research that really matters.

In addition to the fantastic research pursuits at Essex, I have also had the opportunity and privilege to teach and work with so many students who have gone on to successful careers in academia, government, IGOs, NGOs and private corporations. The alumni community is huge and globally dispersed in ways that never cease to amaze me. I arrive in a country and there always seems to be an Essex graduate there doing something amazing. I have taught ex Soviet military officers, activists from Chiapas, government officials from Thailand, and NGO staff from Mongolia, among many others too numerous to count.

Since August 2013 when I took up my role as the Executive Dean, I have witnessed and taken part in an extraordinary transformation of Essex. Embracing the vision and values set out by our founding Vice Chancellor Albert Sloman, our new Strategic Plan crafts a new direction for the University that combines growth with excellence in research and education. Our colleagues are working at a level that it is hugely impressive with superb REF 2014 results that have placed us in the top 20 in the UK for research intensity (4th in the UK for the social sciences), a growing number of Fellows of the Higher Education Academy, great student satisfaction and the construction of fabulous new buildings for our staff and students. Essex is really going places, and I have been proud to have contributed to its recent success and renewed vigour.

Without this latter experience of working with academic and professional services in the Faculty and the wider university community, I could not have developed the knowledge and skills to take on the role at Nottingham. Partnership working and drawing down expertise from the academic staff and professional services lets us plan and grow for the future in ways that should be a model for other universities in these challenging times of change.

Essex also gave me the space to be The Academic Magician with many opportunities to share my approach to magic, which sees it as an apt performance medium to engage our minds in life’s fundamental questions. The pinnacle of my magic at Essex came in this academic year, our 50th year, with my celebratory show Then and Now, which I performed for over 450 people in the wonderful Lakeside Theatre in the autumn term of 2014. From its radical past to its amazing future, the University and its departments provided the perfect substance for an engaging evening of coincidence, synchronicity, mind reading and inexplicable predictions, all couched in my own transatlantic mirthful sense of irreverence.

I now join a university that has a remarkable number of fundamentals in place, campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia, and an array of intellectual capacities that are aligned with my own interests. The schools in the faculty include politics and international relations, sociology and social policy, geography, law (with a human rights law centre), economics, Chinese studies, education, and business. I have made the UK my home and I am excited to move to the heart of England to work at a truly global university, whose aspirations are exciting and motivating.

I would like to extend a very warm and heartfelt THANK YOU to all at Essex and to all who have passed through Essex with whom I have engaged in some way. It has been truly life changing.

Keep on challenging convention…

From Oz to Suffolk: Blog Hop on The Writing Process

Today’s blog is the result of a wonderful invitation from science writer, spider expert, and magicienne Lynne Kelly, who among many fantastic offerings, wrote an intriguing essay called ‘Feminine Magic’ for my book, The Magiculum. We had the good fortune of spending a day together in Suffolk England last year when she visited the UK from Australia. We met virtually years before through a magic forum and have corresponded ever since.

Lynne’s invitation is for me to reflect on the writing process, share my blog and invite others to make a similar submission.

So, here goes!

What are you working on?

This year I finished several articles, a critical response to human rights book for Amnesty International, a book chapter on social science methods and human rights, and a paper on an experiment we ran at the University of Essex that addressed questions of framing, human rights advocacy, and the trial of General Efrain Ríos Montt in Guatemala, which will be presented in Washington DC next week at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.

ICMP

This summer I am writing the Fourth Edition of Issues and Methods in Comparative Politics for Routledge. The book was first published in 2000, then 2003, and then 2008. It has been translated into German and Spanish, and the the new edition updates the content and provides more insight into and contemporary examples for the methods that are outlined and discussed.

I am also writing an unusual book that is part auto-biography, part novel and part magic manual for magicians, mentalists and mystery entertainers who perform what has been called ‘theatrical mentalism’. The project is exciting and will be an exclusive offering to the magic community in early 2015. Until then, its contents remain top secret!

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Over the past twenty years or so, I have sought to bring the study of human rights into the discipline of political science and to bring the theories and methods of political and social science into the world of human rights. My work differs in the sense that it is problem-based and focusses on large normative and value-based questions, but uses systematic methods of inquiry and analysis to address the problems. I have worked on social mobilisation and rights demands under conditions of authoritarian rule, transitions to democracy, development and democracy, democracy and human rights, measuring human rights, the growth and effectiveness of the international human rights regime, and the application of phronetic social science to real world problems.

Throughout this period of work I have tried to remain open minded and to embrace a plurality of methods while remaining committed to the link between evidence and inference. I am keen to undertake research that collects and analyses evidence in the fairest and most intellectually honest way possible to take account of the natural uncertainty that comes with the scientific process of discovery. This approach has taken my around the world to work with scholars, advocates, partitioners, and policy makers in over 35 countries ranging from Peru to Mongolia.

The substance of my work has had an uneasy reception in political science (i.e. mixing normative and empirical approaches) and human rights (mixing statistics and law); however, students and participants in my classes, seminars, and workshops have taken value from my approach and enjoyed my blend of theory, philosophy, method, and activism.

Like my academic work, my magical writing has sought to bring the world of magic into academia and the world of academia into magic. My shows are grounded in a certain sense of metaphysical plurality, where different accounts of what is being experienced in the theatre are equally plausible. My current show is entitled ‘Lifting the Veil of Ignorance’, which tips its hat to the work of John Rawls, but explores a wide range of philosophical concepts and topics through the genre of mentalism and bizarre magic. In this way, I see a synergy between my academic work and my magical work.

Why do you write what you do?

I had a number of formative experiences growing up that made me turn my attention to the politics of authoritarianism, democracy and human rights. We had frequent visitors to our house in the 1970s and 1980s from Latin America, which turned my attention to the politics of the region while a student at the University of Pennsylvania (1984-1988).

In late 1989, I was working in the photographic laboratory in the Lauinger Library at Georgetown University when a Jesuit Priest arrived one morning with a roll of film that he wanted us to develop. He asked that we make ten copies of the pictures on the roll. In these pre-digital days, my boss and I stood in the darkroom shaking the can, drying the film, and then printing the pictures. We were not prepared for what we were about to see.

The pictures had been smuggled out of El Salvador and were of the scene at the Pastoral Centre of José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA) where six Jesuit priests along with a maid and her daughter were killed.[1] The images that confronted us were not what was reported in the mainstream press (i.e. that they were shot). Rather, we saw the brutal end results not only of a ‘simple’ set of extra-judicial killings, but the result of a manner of killing that has left an indelible mark on me ever since.

The official truth commission in El Salvador strong evidence that not only had the military had given the orders to carry out the murders but that the officers involved also engaged in cover up.[2] The facts of the case and the images that I developed those many years ago illustrate a basic point about the capacity of human beings to horrible things to one another, which lead to a deontological conclusion that what I saw was morally wrong and which has galvanised my commitment to a lifetime of human rights research.

My magical writing has been much more free and open to creativity, but also contains attention to theory and method. I have been inspired by the great magicians from the past, and have sought to carve out a personal pathway for my own style of performance that uses magic as a medium to explore larger questions and problems confronting humanity, including the persecution of women during the witch hunting period in Europe, the social injustice of Victorian mental asylums, the foundations for human rights, motivations for people to act justly, the instability of language, the power of family history and inheritance, and psychological profiling and alienism, among many others.

How does your writing process work?

As a problem-based researcher, I respond to the developments in global politics and human rights with an open mind and explore different ways in which I might study a problem and provide answers to particular questions. I read widely and formulate plausible explanations for what I observe that suggest ways in which such explanations may or may not be supported by evidence. Substantive research projects have ancillary subjects around methods and measurement about which I have written many books and articles.
Thus, I am inspired to write about contemporary problems in the world as well as the ways in which such problems can be studied. I begin with a problem or theme, work out the structure of how I will address them, and then write in ways that populates the structure with content and the development of a well grounded argument. If I see holes in the argument I continue to read and research until I feel satisfied that a particular area has been covered comprehensively. For larger research projects that rely on the collection and analysis of primary and secondary data, I have a meta strategy that structures the project, imagines the types of evidence that will need to be collected and analysed, and the type of outputs that will be made possible.
I am currently working on a project that seeks to measure values in organisations both from the personal importance individuals place on values and the ways in which they think their organisation demonstrates those values through day to day practices. The meta structure sees the need for defining values, operationalising values, collecting data from different organisations, analysing the data, and then planning a number of different outputs based on that analysis. My project team has developed the measurement tool and carried out a pilot study which is allowing us to refine the tool and map out the kinds of things we would like to publish.
For my magic writing I settle on meta themes that I want to explore through magic and then I script and design stage shows around these themes using props, slides, music and the methods of performance magic. My stage shows have included ‘An Evening of Metaphysical Magic’, ‘An Evening of Enchantment’, ‘Edge of the Unknown’, ‘Lifting the Veil of Ignorance’, and my latest creation ‘Then and Now’, a magical celebration of 50 years of the history of the University of Essex.
I hope I have addressed the questions adequately and that readers take value from what I have shared. I am pleased to pass the baton to Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold working in Brazil.


[1] The victims included Ignacio Ellacuría, Rector of the University; Ignacio Martín-Baró, Vice Rector; Segundo Montes, Director of the Human Rights Institute; Amando López, Joaquin López and Juan Ramón Moreno (teachers at UCA) and Julia Elba Ramos and her daughter, Celina Mariceth Ramos. See Vanity Fair (1990) ‘Letter from El Salvador,’ Vanity Fair, November 1990: 110, 115-116, 118, 120, 123.

[2] United States Institute for Peace, Truth Commissions: Reports: El Salvador.

 

 

 

Quantitative Methods for Human Rights Research

landman books

This week I will be teaching four sessions on Quantitative Methods for Human Rights Research as part of the Essex Summer School in Human Rights Research Methods coordinated and run by the internationally renowned Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex. I first came to Essex as part of an ESRC-funded project on citizenship rights and social movements in 1993 and have since worked on the measurement and analysis of human rights, so it is a great to be able to take part in the summer school, which in its first year has attracted 50 participants.

I thought I’d share some of the content for my sessions:

  • Designing Quantitative Research
  • Counting Human Rights Violations
  • Standards and Surveys
  • Socio-Economic & Administrative Statistics
My approach is guided by the idea that any good research project in human rights must founded on a well specified set of research questions. The ways in which the research questions are formulated have a direct bearing on the type of methods that ought to be adopted; a basic point that applies equally to qualitative and quantitative approaches. For me, all good research projects should be guided by following three key questions:
  • What do you want to know?
  • How are you going to find it out?
  • How would you know if you are wrong?
The last question is crucial since it implies a set of conditions that ought to be met if the main proposition of the research is in fact true. The research should be designed in such a way to test the main proposition and to identify ways in which evidence supports the argument. As researchers, and especially as human rights researchers, we have to know when we might be wrong. With this basic set of principles in place, a good project should have the following components:
  • Defining the scope of the research
  • Developing propositions
  • Collecting evidence
  • Analysing evidence
  • Presenting findings
  • Discussing implications
These components naturally suggest ways in which quantitative indicators and quantitative analysis are used to provide evidence in a human rights project and can answer questions pertaining to historical trends, patterns of development in human rights protection between countries, and the testing of hypotheses concerning the ways in which human rights are violated (or could be better protected). The sessions will also take advantage of the ESRC-funded Human Rights Atlas, which collates basic country statistics, legal commitments and human rights measures for all the countries of the world between 1980 and 2008 (now being updated to 2012).
The sessions will finish with my own summary as follows:
  • Problem definition is paramount
  • There are multiple categories and dimensions of human rights
  • There are multiple measures of human rights
  • There are multiple methods for analyzing human rights
  • Quantitative methods provide certain kinds of answers to certain kinds of questions
  • Evidence of intentionality is hard to establish
  • Evidence of tendencies, differences, and disproportionality support human rights-based approaches
  • Multivariate analysis can show attribution and contribution
  • Law and statistics can be mutually reinforcing for human rights advocacy

I am really looking forward to meeting everyone this week and getting to learn more about the projects that they are working on with a view to making them stronger.

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UPDATE

Here are some pictures from the event:

Demonstrating the Human Rights Atlas

Demonstrating the Human Rights Atlas

 

Events data on human rights violations in Peru

Events data on human rights violations in Peru