Monthly Archives: November 2013

Haiyan Typhoon Relief Donations: Research Insights

To address the needs of people affected by the Super Typhoon Haiyan – locally known as Yolanda – that hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013 international relief organizations in the Netherlands are collectively raising funds on Monday, November 18, 2013. Commercial and public national TV and radio stations work together in the fundraising campaign. In the past week many journalists have asked the question “Will the campaign be a success?” Because it is strange to give references to academic research papers in  interviews here are some studies that looked at determinants of giving to disaster relief campaigns.

Update, December 2, 2013:

When asked to make a prediction about the total amount raised in a TV interview, I replied that the Dutch would give between €50 and €60 million. That prediction was a ‘hunch’, it was not based on a calculation of data. It turned out to be way too positive. The total amount raised by November 25 is €30 million.
 Filippijnen3

In retrospect, the declining donor confidence index could have prevented such an optimistic estimate. In almost every year since its inception in 2005 we see an increase in donor confidence in the final quarter. The year 2013 is as bad as the crisis year 2009: we see a decline in donor confidence. It may be even worse: in 2009 donor confidence declined along with consumer confidence. In 2013, however, donor confidence declined in the final quarter despite an increase in consumer confidence.
13_donateursvertrouwen

 

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Filed under altruism, charitable organizations, disaster relief, empathy, experiments, household giving, philanthropy, psychology

More But Not Less: a University Research and Education Reform Proposal

Yes, the incentive structure in the higher education and research industry should be reformed in order to reduce the inflation of academic degrees and research. That much is clear from the increasing numbers of cases of outright fraud and academic misconduct, including more subtle forms of data manipulation, p-hacking, and rising rates of (false) positive publication bias as a result. It is also clear from the declining numbers of professors employed by universities to teach the rising numbers of students, up to the PhD level. Yes, the increasing numbers of peer-reviewed journal publications and academic degrees awarded imply that the productivity of academia has increased in the past decades. But the marginal returns on investiment are now approaching zero or perhaps even becoming negative. The recent Science in Transition position paper identifies the issues. So what should we do? It is not just important to diagnose the symptoms, it is time for a reform. This takes years, and an international approach, as the chairman of the board of Erasmus University Rotterdam Pauline van der Meer-Mohr said recently in a radio interview. Here are some ideas.

  1. Evaluate the quality of research rather than the quantity. Examine a proportion of publications through audits, screening them for results that are too good to be true, statistical analysis and reporting errors, and the availability of data and coding for replication. Rankings of universities are often based in part on numbers of publications. Universities that want to climb on the rankings will promote or hire more productive researchers. Granting agencies and universities should reduce the influence of rankings and the current publication culture on promotion and granting decisions. Prohibit the payment of bonuses for publications (including those in specific high-impact journals).
  2. Evaluate the quality of education rather than the quantity. Examine a proportion of courses through mystery shoppers, screening them for tests that are too easy to pass, accuracy of grades for assignments, and the availability of student guidelines in course manuals. Rankings of universities are often based on evaluations by course-enrolled students. Universities that want to climb on the rankings will please the students and the evaluators. Accreditation bodies should reduce the self-selection of evaluators for academic programs. Prohibit the payment of departments and universities for letting students pass.
  3. We can have the cake and eat it at the same time. Let all students pass courses if the requirements for presence at meetings and submission of assignments are met, but give grades based on performance. This change puts students back in control and reduces the tendency among instructors to help students to pass.

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Filed under academic misconduct, fraud, incentives, politics

Lunch Talk: “Generalized Trust Through Civic Engagement? Evidence from Five National Panel Studies”

Does civic engagement breed trust? According to a popular version of social capital theory, civic engagement should produce generalized trust among citizens. In a new paper accepted for publication in Political Psychology, Erik van Ingen (Tilburg University) and I put this theory to the test by examining the causal connection between civic engagement and generalized trust using multiple methods and multiple (prospective) panel datasets. We found participants to be more trusting. This was mostly likely caused by selection effects: the causal effects of civic engagement on trust were very small or non-significant. In the cases where small causal effects were found, they turned out not to last. We found no differences across types of organizations and only minor variations across countries.

At the PARIS colloquium of the Department of Sociology at VU University on November 12, 2013 (Room Z531, 13.00-14.00), I will not just be talking about this paper published in Political Behavior and about the new paper forthcoming in Political Psychology (here is the prepublication version). In addition to a substantive story about a research project there is also a story about the process of getting a paper accepted with a null-finding that goes against received wisdom. This story is quite informative about the publication factory that we are all in.

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Filed under data, psychology, survey research, trust, volunteering

Update: Giving in the Netherlands Panel Survey User Manual

A new version of the User Manual for the Giving in the Netherlands Panel Survey is now available: version 2.2.

The GINPS12 questionnaire is here (in Dutch).

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Filed under data, empathy, experiments, helping, household giving, methodology, philanthropy, principle of care, survey research, trends, trust, volunteering, wealth