Research Program

On Changes @ ARC

The Australian Research Council is undergoing change. The Hon. Stuart Robert MP – our current Federal Minister of Education – outlined in a Letter of Expectation changes to the College of Experts, the ARC Linkage scheme, the National Interest Test, a request to act on reviews findings, and governance changes. On 14th December 2021, Minister Robert in a media release situated these changes in terms of research commercialisation, innovation and post-COVID 19 economic growth.

The Academy of Social Sciences in Australia summed up the consensus view and sentiment in an Academy statement on 15th December 2021. The Academy’s critique raised questions about the Minister’s funding emphasis, commercialisation strategy, and funding for Humanities and Social Sciences researchers. Twitter sentiment from many Australian academics reflected the Academy’s concerns.

Given the ARC changes: what can you Do as a researcher?

First, you need to have an internal locus of control for your research program. You will face external forces and potential barriers for undertaking your research – from disappointment at funders to university restructures – that will need courage, determination and focus to overcome. Cultivate antifragility: try and grow from the disorder around you. Take some time to work out what you can cope with and what you are also prepared to walk away from or to work around. If you have a funding landscape for your research program then you will not be so reliant on one or two funders that will be like a monopsony (one-sided market or reliant funder) that other researchers may face.

Second, try and de-fuse from your research program and try to understand both the funders you apply to and the broader sociopolitical landscape that they are in. The old Keynesian economic model of government-supported research ended around 2008 with the Great Recession or the Global Financial Crisis. I saw the effects of this in 2010-11 at non-Group of 8 universities in Australia: institutions that had high debt levels and frequent, ineffective organisational restructures. Funders have faced the same pressures in our contemporary neoliberal political economy.

Third, take some time to learn about cost-benefit analysis. Many of the Minister’s announced changes have to do with organisational reforms to the ARC that probably would have happened anyway. The changes to the College of Experts – to bring more indusry assessors and other end-users into grants assessment processes – is in line with the neoliberal emphasis on outcome-based, translational research and commercialisation. Cost-benefit and innovation models underpin this funding approach. If you learn the frameworks and the language involved then you will better understand the mindset of government, university and funder senior decision-makers.

Fourth, ask yourself: Who will benefit from my research? What kind of Change am I trying to bring into the world from my dreams, ideas, and passions? Then look at the material context of how such Changes might actually play out in the world – what their second- and third-order effects might be. Social materialist perspectives may be helpful here to better understand this dialectic between your researcher subjectivity and the actual, lived conditions of the world that you are dealing with. You might be able to set little processes in place that lead to cascades, diffusions, or that have ripple effects over time and space. One value of history is its case studies on the gulf between intent and effect, or between goal and outcome.

Funders like the Australian Research Council will continue to face changes and pressures in the future. Like the Cold War fascination with Kremlinology about Soviet Russia in political science, there are both insights yet also speculations that can eat away at your time, emotions, and mental health. If you reflect and act on some of the strategies that are suggested above then you will be better able to proactively deal with the uncertainties that funders will continue to face in the future. I look forward to learning about and reading more of your research.

Research Program

Tuesday Links

  1. MIT OpenCourseWare course on United States social policy.
  2. Millions of Americans can’t afford to retire.
  3. Why brain games can’t fulfill their promises.
  4. Putin is taking a huge gamble.
  5. Medicare Advantage ads and a troubled insurance firm.
  6. Richard Dawkins has become the orthodoxy in biology.
  7. Paul Thomas Anderson on what makes a movie great.
  8. Can anyone stop the Omicron wave?
  9. Robert Jervis.
  10. A novel approach to intelligence.
Research Program

New Statement on Independent Research Program

An update to my personal academic site:

Independent Research Program (2020-Present)

My independent research program lies at the nexus of strategic studies, terrorism studies, political economy, and social policy. I communicate this via a research program blog and a Substack newsletter. I am interested in meta-theories in biosocial criminology, anomie/strain theory, elite circulation, life history theory, and post-Marxist theory. My research focuses on developing new multilevel frameworks for understanding mesolevel institution dynamics called strategic subcultures. In particular, I focus on how and why strategic subcultures are used for financialisation, status attainment, economic stratification, and social mobilities. I use process tracing, counterfactuals, and qualitative comparative analysis methods to examine cultural transmission, social learning, and folklore mechanisms for status attainment. My independent research program has policy applications in counterterrorism, inequality, social mobility, and social policy.

Research Program

Friday Links

  1. The late Professor Robert Jervis at Columbia University.
  2. Professor Robert Jervis at Princeton University Press.
  3. Professor Robert Jervis at the American Academy of Political & Social Science.
  4. Professor Robert Jervis at the National Academy of Sciences.
  5. Professor Robert Jervis on Deterrence and Perception.
  6. Conversations With History: Professor Robert Jervis.
  7. Professor Robert Jervis on Why Intelligence Fails.
  8. Robert Wright interviews Professor Robert Jervis.
  9. Professor Robert Jervis at the Hertog Global Strategy Initiative Series.
  10. Professor Robert Jervis on How Statesman Think: The Psychology of International Politics.
Research Program

Thursday Links

  1. A refresher on inflation’s budgetary and macroeconomic effects.
  2. We’re going somewhere worse than ‘before Roe.’
  3. The kleptocrats next door.
  4. The carbon emissions that don’t officially exist.
  5. Biden’s recent call with Putin didn’t solve anything.
  6. The Supreme Court is ready to make taxpayers fund religious schools.
  7. Is this really the case against Ghislaine Maxwell?
  8. Economist Tyler Cowen on mentoring.
  9. What’s the future of the Iran nuclear talks?
  10. The inner lives of dogs.
Research Program

Monday Links

  1. Inflation speculation.
  2. Omicron’s best- and worst-case scenarios.
  3. The Supreme Court’s fragile legitimacy.
  4. On evolved values.
  5. The classic folk rock album that I heard for the first time today.
  6. The ongoing toll of segregation.
  7. Opportunities to deepen EU-NATO cooperation.
  8. The hypocrisy of America’s terror debate.
  9. My time with the bandit warlords of Nigeria.
  10. MIT OpenCourseWare new course: Psychology and Economics.
Research Program

Friday Links

  1. Larry Diamond on repelling China’s sharp power.
  2. Trump’s COVID cover-up.
  3. When you can’t change the world, change your feelings.
  4. Capturing intimate moments in the wild.
  5. The radical young intellectuals who want to take over the American right.
  6. Common probability distributions.
  7. The closing of the Russian mind.
  8. Why do students still want Jordan Peterson to tell them how to live?
  9. How to use every last perk from your job.
  10. Vanishing cash means ‘digital literacy’ is vital.
Research Program

Thursday Links

  1. How leisure time became work.
  2. Tyler Cowen’s conversation with Ruth Scurr.
  3. Kavanaugh and Barrett finally show their cards.
  4. Transatlantic trade ties are crucial for democracy.
  5. We still aren’t treating the pandemic as a global problem.
  6. A guide to extreme competition with China.
  7. Threat of Russian invasion of Ukraine tests Biden Administration.
  8. The science of mind reading.
  9. How the virus struck back.
  10. Conservatives seem poised to destroy Roe v. Wade.