Monthly Archive for October, 2013

Database Trial: ProQuest Chinese Newspapers Collection (1832-1953)

ProQuest Summary:

Gain insight into Chinese political and social life during the turbulent 120 year period from 1832 to 1953 with 12 English-language Chinese historical newspapers. Included are critical perspectives on the ending of more than 2,000 years of imperial rule in China, the Taiping Rebellion, the Opium Wars with Great Britain, the Boxer Rebellion and the events leading up to the1911 Xinhai Revolution, and the subsequent founding of the Republic of China. In addition to the article content, the full-image newspapers offer searchable access to advertisements, editorials, cartoons, and classified ads that illuminate history.

The trial runs until November 27, 2013 and the database may be accessed here:
Please send any feedback to Liangyu Fu at

Symposium to explore urban planning in a ‘post-racial’ society

symposium graphic

By Keith Brezius
Source: University Record

The Urban and Regional Planning program at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning is hosting a symposium and workshops that will explore the role of the urban planner and planning in a “post-racial” society.

Students and nationally recognized scholars and practitioners from around the country will converge on U-M on Friday for “Planning in a ‘Post-Racial’ Society (?): New Directions and Challenges.” They will discuss the contributions that urban planners of color have made to cities and to the field of planning.

The event, which is free and open to the public, also will examine how planning is engaging critical debates about race, ethnicity, and poverty, and suggest what will be needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century and to serve the needs of the nation’s evolving demographics.

Details, Participants and Schedule

Top Colleges Are More Diverse Than 20 Years Ago

Elite Institutions: Far More Diverse Than They Were 20 Years Ago
By: Seth Zweifler
Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

The nation’s most selective colleges have become significantly more diverse over the past 20 years, a Chronicle analysis of U.S. Education Department data shows. Research universities are more diverse than liberal-arts colleges—and, not unexpectedly, public research universities in racially diverse states like California have made greater gains in diversity than have those in Midwestern states.

Full text
Diversity at Research Universities, 1992-2012
Diversity at Liberal-Arts Colleges, 1992-2012
Race, Ethnicity, and Gender of Full-Time Faculty at More Than 4,300 Institutions

Count your blessings; you could live in Canada

The following are articles, mostly from the Canadian press about the (a) the quality of data in the National Household Survey (NHS); and (b) the politicization of funding for basic science research. Much of the poor quality of the NHS data has to do with design changes at the behest of the prime minister’s office, rather than the statistical experts at Statistics Canada.

[Criticism of the National Household Survey]
To restore faith in Statscan, free the Chief Statistician
Munir Sheikh | The Globe and Mail
October 24, 2013
This op-ed is written by the former Chief Statistician who resigned amid the changes in the design of the National Household Survey. He could not agree with the statements coming from the Prime Minister that a voluntary survey can be a substitute for a mandatory survey. Here’s his resignation letter with the famous “It can not” sentence:

And that’s all he wrote. . . Munir Sheikh resigns as Chief Statistician
Kady O’Malley | CBC
July 21, 2010
[Resignation letter]

Canada’s voluntary census is worthless. Here’s why
D. Hulchanski, R. Murdie, A. Walks, and L. Bourne | Globe and Mail
October 4, 2013
Data from the NHS show that Canada’s income inequality has dropped. But, this may have more to do with the flawed NHS than reality. The authors compare tax receipt data to NHS data to illustrate the problem.

Canadian income data ‘is garbage’ without census, experts say
Tavia Grant | The Globe and Mail
October 4, 2013

[Politicization of Science Funding]
Blinded to science: The plight of basic research in Canada
Josh D. Neufeld iPolitics Insight
October 21, 2013
This piece is a good summary of the move by the Canadian government towards funding applied research instead of basic research. This statement summarizes the issue:

Basic research is the seed corn of the economy, generating the applications and economic benefits of tomorrow … Trouble is, it’s very difficult to predict which basic research programs and projects will lead to the innovations of tomorrow.

Others from the series of posts on science policy in Canada can be found here:

Series of Posts on Science Policy in Canada
to be published in iPolitics

Quantitative Text Analysis: Michael vs Jacob

Most of the data demographers use are numeric and are easily handled via statistical packages. Text data via Google NGrams or names from the Social Security Names Database are more commonly analyzed using Python.

CSCAR and ARC are sponsoring free Python training Friday, November 8th. Space is limited.

In case you miss the workshop, here’s a link to some Big Data Tutorials by Neal Caren at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

And, to get back to the title of this blog entry, below are three data visualizations on names. The first two are the most common name by state & gender from 1960 to 2010.

Click on the images to activate the gifs.

us_map_gnames us_map_bnames

Notice that for the girls, Lisa dominated the US in 1965, which means I was born 10+ years too early to have that name. And for the boys, watch the epic battle for Michael vs Jacob. Also note that Jose is the dominant male name in Texas in 1996. Arizona also has two Hispanic names (Jose and Angel) in the recent past.

The third data visualization explores unisex names:
unisex names

Finally, think of these as data. We have a link to research on black first names as well as a post on the declining popularity of Mary.

Big Data Tutorials, Neal Caren (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

Google NGrams Viewer

Google NGrams Data
Note, we have downloaded quite a bit of this. See Data Service before you download another copy.

Social Security Names Database

A Wondrous GIF Shows the Most Popular Baby Names for Girls Since 1960
Rebecca Rosen | The Atlantic
October 18, 2013

America’s Most Popular Boys’ Names Since 1960, in 1 Spectacular GIF
Megan Garber |The Atlantic
October 24, 2013

The most unisex names in US history
Data Underload | FlowingData Blog
September 25, 2013

PubMed Commons: Comments Welcome

pmc logo

PubMed Commons has been implemented on a trial basis. This feature will allow researchers to comment on any article indexed at PubMed and read the comments of others. Eligibility is limited to those with an NIH or Wellcome Trust grant or to those who are listed as an author on any publication listed in PubMed. The latter group has to get an invitation from the former.

Read more here:

Join Pub Med’s Revolution in Post Publication Peer Review
James Coyne | PlosOne blog
October 22, 2013

And, for further background on the impetus for this feature:

Stanford professor’s pivotal role in bringing commenting capability to PubMed
Rosanne Spector | School of Medicine News [Stanford]
October 29, 2013

Visualizing Births and Deaths in Real-Time

Data visualizations are becoming more and more popular and sometimes they include demographic concepts. The following are two simulations of births and deaths – one for the US and the other for the world.

Click on the images to start the simulations. To read more about how these were made see references below:

us_map world_map

Watch This Anxiety-Provoking Simulation of U.S. Births and Deaths
John Metcalfe | The Atlantic Cities
December 11, 2012

This Map Shows Where in the World People Are Dying and Being Born
John Metcalfe | The Atlantic Cities
October 14, 2013

World Births/Deaths Simulation – Adding World Cities
Brad Lyon | Nowhere Near Ithaca Blog
October 9, 2013

New Working Papers from the NBER

Unemployment Benefits and Unemployment in the Great Recession: The Role of Macro Effects
by Marcus Hagedorn, Fatih Karahan, Iourii Manovskii, Kurt Mitman
Abstract; PDF

Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance: Evidence from IMPACT
by Thomas Dee, James Wyckoff
Abstract; PDF

Measuring the Accuracy of Survey Responses using Administrative Register Data: Evidence from Denmark
by Claus Thustrup Kreiner, David Dreyer Lassen, Soren Leth-Petersen
Abstract; PDF

Strategic Parenting, Birth Order and School Performance
by V. Joseph Hotz, Juan Pantano
Abstract; PDF

Affirmative Action: One Size Does Not Fit All
by Kala Krishna, Alexander Tarasov
Abstract; PDF

The Impact of Medicaid on Labor Force and Program Participation: Evidence from the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment
by Katherine Baicker, Amy Finkelstein, Jae Song, Sarah Taubman
Abstract; PDF

The Missing Manual: Using National Student Clearinghouse Data to Track Postsecondary Outcomes
by Susan M. Dynarski, Steven W. Hemelt, Joshua M. Hyman
Abstract; PDF

Uncertainty, Redistribution, and the Labor Market
by Casey B. Mulligan
Abstract; PDF

The Origins of Early Childhood Anthropometric Persistence
by Daniel L. Millimet, Rusty Tchernis
Abstract; PDF

The Effect of Safety Net Programs on Food Insecurity
by Lucie Schmidt, Lara Shore-Sheppard, Tara Watson
Abstract; PDF

Open Access Week: The Science Sting & Response

In celebration of Open Access week, it is probably instructive to re-visit the recent sting of Open Access journals reported in Science earlier this month. The purpose of the sting was to expose shoddy peer review in open access journals. This sting is criticized on many points mostly by open access advocates: (a) this was not a fair experiment, e.g., the sample was predominantly comprised of predatory open access journals; (b) open access ≠ no peer review; (c) did this sting have IRB approval?; and (d) Science has a pretty poor record of publishing flawed papers and has a higher than average retraction rate.

Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?
John Bohannon | Science
October 4, 2013
A spoof paper concocted by Science reveals little or no scrutiny at many open-access journals.

Some Online Journals Will Publish Fake Science, For a Fee
Richard Knox | NPR
October 3, 2013
NPR was not critical of the study. It did interview Jeffrey Beall, an open access watchdog who maintains a list of predatory publishers and predatory journals:

Predatory Publishers | Predatory Journals

I confess, I wrote the Arsenic DNA paper to expose flaws in peer-review in subscription based journals
Michael Eisen | it is NOT junk blog
October 3, 2013
This starts out as a sarcastic post about a recent episode in Science’s history where it published an extraordinary paper about a species that uses arsenic in its DNA instead of phosphorus. He then criticizes the author for not including controls in the experiment like subscription-based publishers. Eisen agrees that the peer review process is broken, but says the problem is not open access journals.

Who’s Afraid of Open Access?
Ernesto Priego | The Comics Grid Blog
October 4, 2013
This article reiterates the unscientific nature of the Science sting and then discusses open access journals in more detail

Science Magazine Rejects Data, Publishes Anecdote
Bjorn Brembs |
October 4, 2013
Bremb’s claim is that Science published a news story, not a peer-reviewed paper. He provides evidence that Science has one of the highest retraction rates in the entire industry (read for link) and does not want to publish scientific evidence of this. He also paints Nature with the same brush in a separate post.

The Troubled . . . & . . . . & the Blurry Line Between Human Subjects Research & Investigative Journalism
The Faculty Lounge
October 4, 2013
The title of this blog entry is way too long, but it has an IRB angle. The author suspects that Science regards this sting as investigative journalism rather than human subjects research.

Reproducibility Initiative: It’s not just for cancer

Reproducibility Initiative logo

The following are links to related efforts in Open Science. The first is about funding for a “Reproducibility Initiative” to validate 50 landmark cancer studies. Frankly, this can/should apply to population research as well. Included are links from The Economist and Nature about the importance of replication.

In general, there is a move towards “Open Science” across all disciplines. In fact, a different initiative, “The Reproducibility Project” is an effort to identify the predictors of reproducibility among published studies in psychology – a field that contributes far too much to the “Retraction Watch” website.

Reproducibility Initiative
Science Exchange News
October 16, 2013

Initiative gets $1.3 million to verify findings of 50 high-profile cancer papers
Richard Van Noorden | Nature News Blog
October 16, 2013

Unreliable research: Trouble at the lab
The Economist
October 19, 2013
Scientists like to think of science as self-correcting. To an alarming degree, it is not.

The governments of the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, spent $59 billion on biomedical research in 2012, nearly double the figure in 2000. One of the justifications for this is that basic-science results provided by governments form the basis for private drug-development work. If companies cannot rely on academic research, that reasoning breaks down. When an official at America’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) reckons, despairingly, that researchers would find it hard to reproduce at least three-quarters of all published biomedical findings, the public part of the process seems to have failed.

If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing twice
Jonathan Russell | Nature
April 3, 2013

Reproducibility Project
Large-scale open collaboration to estimate the reproducibility of a sample of studies in psychology

Retraction Watch
Tracking retractions as a windo into the scientific process

Center for Open Science
A non-profit organization, which provides infrastructure tools for open science.