Books worth citing

I’m starting a new series of posts here at Public Management Research for promoting books that I think are under-cited. Some are in public administration; some are from outside the discipline. Maybe it’s just a way for me to remember books that have had outsized impact on my career. 

A useful tool for project management

It’s hard to manage complex research projects – especially if those involving multiple collaborators. It’s even hard managing solo projects if only because most of us have multiple ongoing obligations. 

I’ve used Slack for a while now for managing my projects. It’s mostly known in the coding world for those running Agile design and production strategies but it can be useful for any sort of project, including keeping track of ideas for classes.

I use the channels feature to create a private channel for each project. Some are for me alone; others are shared with collaborators. It’s like a stream of ideas, links, duties, and other ephemera that persists – unlike the stuff that goes to die in my email. 

I also use Hangouts or Evernote when they’re useful. But Hangouts is really one channel per collaborator so projects are mixed. And Evernote seems more useful as a notebook or wiki. Both have purposes but neither duplicates Slack. 

Comments are closed but feel free to send your suggestions about tools like Slack via Twitter at @abwhitford. 

The end of gatekeepers?

Been Thompson wrote this on Stratechery this week:

… the end of gatekeepers is inevitable. The Internet provides abundance, not scarcity, and power flows from discovery, not distribution. We can regret the change or relish it, but we cannot halt it: best to get on with making it work for far more people than gatekeepers ever helped – or harrassed.

Most of his post is about current events or Netflix or other things, but his general point is interesting for academic publishing. The rise of Open Access and other models suggests that whatever we think academic publishing will look like in 20 years is probably wrong. 

What are the implications of such changes for how we disseminate knowledge? What will our models be in 20 years? 

Here’s a prediction: Google will dominate. Take that as a starting point and these implications follow:

  • Impact factors will be less important than Google metrics. 
  • If multiple channels affect Google metrics, authors will focus on multiple channels.
  • If publishing on platforms affects those metrics, platforms will become more important. 
  • If “wildcat” channels affect Google metrics, channels will proliferate.

Those are just few ideas. Comments are closed but please feel free to respond on Twitter at @abwhitford. 

What to do when a project stalls

Recently I read a blog entry in which a politically-active person described how they’re responding to current political events. His advice also works well for those of us with stalled projects. First, 

Action is the antidote.


Hope is the consequence of action.

Stalled projects are burdens when we’re frozen. Any action is good, even if that action is to kill the project.  

Thinking about research topics as if they’re investments

Morgan Housel of the Collaborative Fund posted some interesting observations from a lifetime of investing. Here’s a useful exercise: what if we graded each potential research topic – or our entire research life – from the perspective of a professional investor? 

For instance, he notes: 

I’ve learned that having your views confirmed is a powerful and addictive drug.

That one surely tells us something about the frailties inherent in traditional hypothesis testing.

Here’s another:

I’ve learned that telling the difference between patience and stubbornness is incredibly hard.

I have experienced that one with numerous projects that I refused to drop even when past their “sell by” date.

Almost every one of his points has a similar analogue. Comments are closed but let me know if you find any of Morgan’s views helpful over on Twitter at @abwhitford.

Symposia versus regular issues?

Imagine journals publish two types of papers. One appears in a regular issue, loosely connected to other papers that survived peer review at roughly the same point in time. The other type appears in a symposium so it’s connected to the other papers through a thematic focus and is curated by the special editor that convened the event. 

In a world populated by an increasing number of complex, specialized papers, which publication model do you value more? 

There are many arguments to be made on each side. Symposia cut search costs. They increase the potential benefits of cross-paper fertilization. Regular issues are more likely to include niche topics, but are they more likely to include high-risk research? 

Some journals value symposia out of the belief they work better in the chase for impact factors. Others shy away out of the belief that the within-issue quality can be low (though there may be ways to limit that).

I’m undecided, but I do believe the debate will continue with an increasing number of papers submitted to a fixed number of journals. At the individual level, I’ve always worried more about my research portfolio, and so focused on diversification. I suspect there are aggregate effects of symposia that we don’t discuss much.

Did I miss an argument for or against symposia? Comments are closed but you can let me know on Twitter at @abwhitford.