Random Walk is the Oxford Q-Step Centre Blog, with entries written by a range of professionals on a range of subjects within quantitative methods.Keep checking back for updated entries, and don't forget to let us know what you think in the comments section!
Perhaps no institution embodies the deficiencies of global governance as much as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). It is the world’s sole legitimate authority for enforcing peace and security, and yet it often fails to execute its constitutional remit when its services are most in need. Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (1995), Darfur (2003), and Syria (from 2013) are but a few historical episodes etched in popular consciousness as emblematic of the institution’s inefficacy. It is no wonder that serious calls to reform this beleaguered body date back more than two decades.
In the world of “post-truth” politics, the established media plays an important role as a source of verified information and credible analyses. With the increased public availability of data and computing tools, it is commonplace for journalists to use custom figures and charts to convey this information to their readers (leading to a new field of data journalism). These articles are easy to find: The New York Times offer a collection of “Raw Data” columns, The Guardian has a data blog, and the Washington Post collects its data visualisation articles in addition to having its own GitHub page.
On 18th April 2017 Theresa May announced a snap general election to take place on 8th June. The announcement came as a surprise and was widely believed to be motivated by the large lead in the polls (approximately twenty points) that Mrs May holds over her main rival, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. In calling the snap election at this point, Theresa May has put a lot of confidence in her projected lead in the polls. This is interesting because British election polls have previously been met with a large degree of scepticism and distrust. In this blogpost, I briefly explore the British polling experience and highlight the various explanations that have been provided for the UK’s poor track record in predicting election outcomes. I also discuss why the British experience may differ from other countries where polling has been more successful.
Computational text analysis is a very useful tool for political and social scientists. It allows us to measure, for example, linguistic complexity, key concepts, or political preferences.
Often-used models such as Wordfish, or correspondence analysis, its least-squares approximation, are quick to implement and allow us to “scale” texts. This provides us with some measure of their (ideological) position, given a certain set of assumptions.
But text-as-data tools pose one key problem: pre-processing, or also known as “feature selection”. This is because our estimates may be affected by, for example, the decision on whether to exclude stop words, use stemming, n-gram length, and even on whether we include numbers or not (take the example of mentions of key legislation, such as Title IX in the US). Such decisions cannot be made arbitrarily.
First year Q-Step undergraduates ... OQC is offering a prize of £200 for the best Political Analysis essay as your end of course assessment. It's an opportunity to display your quantitative methods skills in an original piece of work. The deadline is noon on Tuesday 2 May (Week 2 TT). Full details are available on WebLearn.
Interested in politics and digital democracy? The not-for-profit project, Fantasy Frontbench is looking for volunteers with the following skills.
• Graphic Design
• Front-End Development
• Back-End Development
• Social Media Marketing
• Writing / Journalism
• PR & Events
• Data Journalism
To find out more, visit www.fantasyfrontbench.com and click the Volunteer link in the footer.
Applications are now open for the Oxford Spring School in Advanced Research Methods 2017. The course, for graduate students and researchers from universities across the UK and abroad, is run by the Department of Politics & International Relations, will take place from Monday 27 March to Friday 31 March.
We are surrounded by statistics. Understanding them and using them are key skills. Oxford Q-Step Centre is launching a taster course on Saturday 1 April for Year 12 students who are applying for the PPE UNIQ Summer School 2017.
Megan Sclater and Matthew Seren Smith, founders of the online political game http://www.fantasyfrontbench.com/ talk about their motivation to get more young people involved in politics, how they used data and how to measure its impact. Wednesday 22 February, 2 pm - 3 pm, Seminar Room C, Department of Politics & International Relations, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ.
Dr Faiza Shaheen, Director of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies, will discuss the importance of data in raising the issue of inequality, and in measuring the extent of inequality. Dr Shaheen read PPE at St John's and is a regular commentator on social issues. Thursday 9 February, 3pm – 4.30 pm, Lecture Theatre, Department of Politics & International Relations, Manor Road, Oxford OX1 3UQ.
Text analysis software highlights some intriguing differences between how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spoke in the third presidential debate.
Professor Andrea Ruggeri has written two articles for a new special issue published by the International Peacekeeping journal and edited by Govinda Clayton on data about peacekeeping operations. Remco Zwetsloot, a former department MPhil IR student now at Yale, co-authored one of these articles.
Joe Twyman, Head of Political and Social Research at YouGov, is giving a Q-Step lecture on Friday 4 November at 4pm at the DPIR. He will consider the post-EU Referendum upheaval in British politics, the background to the result and details of the divisions within the electorate that are highlighted in the data. Joe Twyman is a founding director of YouGov. As well as directing YouGov's UK General Election projects, he has co-ordinated election studies in a range of other countries, including Afghanistan. He is a regular political commentator on TV and radio.
Q-Step students who are taking part in an OQC-funding internship (or who completed one last year) are invited to take part in an international conference - 'Rediscovering Inequalities' - hosted by the Applied Quantitative Methods Network at the University of Edinburgh from Wednesday 26 - Thursday 27 October. Students would be expected to produce and present a poster to showcase their work placement project. Five bursaries of up to £300 towards travel and accommodation in Edinburgh will be awarded. The deadline for applications is Monday 1 August at midnight.
Alex Williams (Lincoln) has been awarded the 2016 prize for his essay on 'Does Consensus Democracy Improve Economic Outcomes?' Judges, Professor Andy Eggers and Professor Robin Harding, made the following comment about Alex's work.
"This essay concisely develops a theoretical argument that draws on the literature on veto players, complements Lijphart's dataset with extra variables that permit an empirical assessment of the argument, and clearly presents the results with a combination of well-designed tables and figures."
Honourable mentions go to:
Harveen Judge (Keble) - "An impressive essay that compactly assesses four 'recalibrations' of Lijphart's analysis to address issues of case selection and measurement."
Lukas Leitner (LMH) - "A careful and highly thoughtful essay."
Khoo Wu Shaun (Regent's Park) - "An essay distinguished by well-supported empirical claims and very clear presentation."
Thank you to all entrants.