In the wake of California’s recent drought, Kathleen Brenzel of Sunset Magazine caught up with UC Press author Lynn Ingram for a question and answer session about water scarcity, our next steps, and other important points from The West Without Water. Merging climate and paleoclimate research from a wide variety of sources, the book documents the tumultuous climate of the American West over twenty millennia, telling tales of past droughts, deluges, and predictions about the impacts of future climate change on water resources.
“Q: Your book mentions 1976-77 as the driest single year in recorded history of the West, when precipitation levels dropped to less than half the average level throughout the state, when increased use of ground water for agriculture and cities caused a precipitous drop in the water table throughout the state, and when some of the highest regions of the Sierra Nevada lost three-fourths of their trees. How do you think the current drought stacks up?
A: “We’re calling 2015 the fourth year of drought. But the last 15 years have shown below average precipitation. Our snowpack is only at 6 per cent of normal; it was 25 per cent in 1976. We’re worse off now.”
“Q: In your book, you say that “humans have moved into the deserts, floodplains, and deltas of the West, exacting a high cost to the natural environment;” that “there is not enough water to reliably meet all desired uses and needs;” and that “a more sustainable water future in the West would include linking urban growth with water supply and availability.” What’s the most important lesson we can take from all of this?
A: “We took water for granted in the 20th century. We all need to think of water as an increasingly scarce and precious resource. There must be things that individuals and society can do to increase our resilience during future water shortages.”
Collabra is fortunate enough to have an impressive roster of senior editors in Life & Biomedical Sciences, Ecology & Environmental Science, and Social & Behavioral Sciences. We’ll be profiling each of the senior editors in the coming months to give you an idea of their work and research, as well as what inspired them to be part of Collabra. Next up: Simine Vazire, PhD, Senior Editor, Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Things are not always what they seem.
Take Senior Editor Simine Vazire, for instance, who studies this phenomenon as it relates to self-perception and how we’re perceived by others. In the academic world, the notion that “age equals wisdom” is professional currency, built up year after year via the standard benchmarks associated with being a research professor. Growing a reputational nest-egg simply takes time. But sometimes, careening out of left field, we get Gladwellian outliers. And Simine, though she might genuinely demur on this point, is one of them. At the age of 35, a time when many PhDs are considered academic fledglings, she already has an astounding number of accolades, professional honors, fellowships, invited talks, influential positions on a host of journals and editorial boards (beyond Collabra), and a rich cache of breakthrough research to bolster her prestige and credibility. The CV goes on. But outwardly, in appearance and demeanor, she is indiscernible from the grad students who populate her Personality and Self-Knowledge Lab at the University of California, Davis, right down to her dressed-down style and furry sidekick, Bear the dog. As she puts it, and simply, “Things are not always black and white.”
Swing this lens in a wide arc away from her, across her field of study, and you’ll find her scientific vantage point, the thing that absolutely fascinates her: the grey areas — the schisms that occur in research reporting and methodology, in human bias, and how it all plays out in actions taken, especially when it comes to producing replicable research. She is so interested in this issue, in fact, that she writes a regular blog about it, and while she might not consider her posts poetic, she writes in an e.e. cummings style. just much wittier.
What inspired you to pursue a career in Social Psychology?
“I’ve always been fascinated by people. I’m a bit of a wallflower, so I like to watch people, and I’ve basically figured out how to make a living out of it. I especially like observing people and forming my own impression of them and then finding out how they see themselves. The discrepancies can be fascinating. There are people who have much more glowing views of themselves than others have of them, and there are also people who don’t seem to have a clue how great they are. Both of these phenomena fascinate me, and the goal of my research is to try to measure what people are actually like, how they see themselves, how they’re seen by others, and why those three things don’t always line up.”
2. So, how would someone who knows you describe you, and do you agree with them?
“Haha, I knew you were going to ask that! Well, my favorite item on any personality questionnaire also happens to be the one I identify with most: ‘Is critical, skeptical, not easily impressed,’ and I think my friends would agree that this describes me pretty well. I think they would also say that I’m quiet, calm, and perhaps a little too reasonable, so I should probably start doing more unreasonable things in life!”
3. What drives you to engage in the work you do every day as a scientist and teacher?
“I’m pretty passionate about the questions I study, especially trying to understand why people sometimes have blind spots in their self-views, but I think I’m even more passionate about research methods. Maybe it’s because psychology is relatively young, but I’m amazed at the speed of progress I’ve seen in my fifteen-year career already. Both the development of new tools to collect data — like web questionnaires, smartphones, big data — and new tools (or the rediscovery of old tools) to analyze data have been amazing to witness. Things like multilevel modeling, structural equation modeling, Bayesian statistics, R . . . I also love teaching research methods, because it’s teaching people how to collect and evaluate empirical evidence. I think being able to take burning questions people have about human behavior, emotions, and relationships, and study those questions empirically, is an incredible development in human innovation.”
4. Can you share a particularly memorable experience or breakthrough in your research?
“I remember when my graduate school friend and colleague, Matthias Mehl, was developing the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) to study people’s naturalistic language use, and I realized it would be an excellent tool to study self-knowledge. You could use the EAR to ‘spy’ on people (with their consent, of course) and compare what they say they’re like to how they actually behave in their real life, not just in an artificial lab environment. Seeing how the right methodological innovation could open the door to studying questions that were almost impossible to study before was exhilarating, and it fueled my interest not only in self-knowledge, but especially in research methods. It made me realize how much the quality of our answers to research questions depends on the quality of the methods we have available.”
5. What do you think is the greatest challenge or concern in your field today?
“Replicability. That’s a broad word, and it encompasses all kinds of things, but mainly I’m concerned that the research methods we’ve been using lead to a much higher rate of false positive findings and inflated effect sizes than we would like. We can address this by running more rigorous studies (with more statistical power/precision) and doing our data analyses in a more thoughtful manner — avoiding p-hacking, preregistering when possible, more honestly reporting what analyses we ran and all the results we found.”
“We wanted to come up with a more universal set of standards that are both flexible and rigorous.”
“First, these are recommendations for best practices, not mandates. Each society and/or journal has their own set of guidelines, but we thought there must be common ground. We wanted to come up with a more universal set of standards that are both flexible and rigorous. As an editor at several journals in the field, I had experience with many of the issues that we tackled in the TOP guidelines. A big issue in the field of psychology research is disclosing flexibility in these analyses. More often than not, researchers aren’t intentionally skewing results. The problem is that sometimes, well-meaning people, because of the pressure to publish and sometimes even direct pressure from editors and reviewers, gloss over things that are inconsistent with their findings and focus only on what’s consistent. This becomes even more of an issue in biomedical research because the incentives are so high. It’s a pretty big problem in psychology, too. And probably other social sciences. Ultimately, how much is at stake for finding what you want to find? It’s often a subconscious bias. Plus, especially in psychology, you’re often dealing with small samples, so results bounce around a lot. That makes replication more challenging, even when we try to correct against some of these biases. Then there’s the media. If they find the research sexy, there’s the tendency to simplify, to turn the findings into something more definitive than they really are. It’s challenging!”
7. You write quite a bit about these things in your blog. What was the inspiration for the title, “Sometimes I’m Wrong: Truth and Error in Research and In Life”?
“I like playing with things that are ambiguous and nuanced, especially countering the idea that things are black and white. Really, the number one reason I began writing it is because of the lack of women’s voices in the discussion about replicability. I didn’t know many other women who were visible, writing about it. But I’m not an expert, no more than the next person. Hence the title. I don’t have anything original to say. But the stuff we’re all reading and thinking about is worth discussing, so I write about it. That said, my worst nightmare is that someone will think I’m an expert, and I’m not.”
8. Okay, on a lighter note, do you otherwise have a secret super power or talent you’re willing to share?
“Haha! Not really. I am remarkably untalented. I like to dabble. I’ve been mediocre (or worse) at the following sports/hobbies: basketball, tennis, badminton, wrestling, volleyball, track, ultimate frisbee, trumpet, french horn, baritone, banjo, and pottery. Wait, actually, I’ve perfected the art of microwaving a Trader Joe’s burrito — wrap it in a paper towel, place it on a plate, microwave for a minute on each side, and voila. Dinner. I hate cooking more than almost anything else on earth. The whole time I’m cooking, I’m thinking, ‘You know, you could have something 80 percent as good in less than 5 minutes, so what’s the point of cooking.’”
9. And what attracted you to Collabra? Other than no cooking skills required?
“I like the fact that it’s run by a university press rather than a for-profit publisher. I also really like the team of people at UC Press who are running it — their vision for the journal and their genuine interest in science. I like the fact that it’s open access, but I also have some questions about how well that will work in my field — many of us don’t have large grants that can cover APCs. I like that the people behind Collabra acknowledge that we don’t yet have all the answers about how to make this format work for everyone, and they’re trying out different solutions, such as having a fund to cover APCs for authors who lack other resources.”
10. This brings us to our last question: what kind of impact do you hope to have as a Senior Editor for Collabra?
“Mostly, I hope to spread the word to other researchers and get them involved in Collabra. Researchers give away so much of their time and expertise to journals (both by choosing where to publish our work and by reviewing for free), and I think it would be good for us to reflect on who we want to give that time to, and what kind of journal/publishing model we want to support. I think Collabra is a great candidate for that. There’s flexibility. It’s not black and white.”
Two UC Press titles were shortlisted for the prestigious Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards 2015: Barolo & Barbaresco by Kerin O’Keefe and Native Grapes of Italy by Ian D’Agata. UC Press author Jamie Goode was also shortlisted for his contributions to wine writing online.
The Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards were founded in 2004 to celebrate all those who put down in words or images the magic of the wine world in order to educate and entertain.
As part of Champagne Louis Roederer’s ongoing commitment to pursuing excellence, the Awards encourage journalists, authors, bloggers, artists and photographers from all over the world to be judged by some of the greatest names in the wine trade today, hoping to be named the winner of their respective category.
The competition attracts entries from the world over – from Switzerland to Spain, Chile to China – all communicating through their preferred medium about topics and opinions as varied as the entrants themselves.
With no entry cost, the Awards attract candidates ranging from established trade communicators alongside new aspiring talent, all of whom are judged as peers by our highly skilled team of judges. Winners of each category will be awarded a magnum (or larger) from their sponsor of their respective category, a generous financial gift, as well as the greatest accolade in the world of wine communication – the title of a Louis Roederer Wine Writer of the Year Award.
Visit us at Baltimore Convention Center booths 307 and 309 to purchase our latest ecology and environment publications for the following offers:
30% off conference discount and free worldwide shipping
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This year’s ESA meeting theme is “Ecological Science at the Frontier.” Our booth will feature groundbreaking and award winning titles exploring topics within ecology, conservation, marine biology, and environmental history.
Please see our conference program ad for our latest offerings. Acquisitions and marketing staff will be available for your publishing questions.
Erica Kohl-Arenas, author of the forthcoming The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty, places the Ford Foundation under the microscope on this recent article on OpenDemocracy.
“Past philanthropic efforts to address inequality have favored individualistic approaches over programs that directly confront entrenched systems of power, failing to advance any real structural change as a result,” she says of the Foundation’s new mission– to attack inequality at its roots. “Why should Ford’s new mission be any different?”
Through the lens of a provocative set of case studies, The Self-Help Myth reveals how philanthropy maintains systems of inequality by attracting attention to the “behavior” of poor people while shifting the focus away from structural inequities and relationships of power that produce poverty.
Kohl-Arenas uses that very same method of scrutiny in her article, applying it to not only the Ford Foundation, but to other philanthropists, as examples of this phenomenon:
“American philanthropists from Andrew Carnegie to Paul Ylvisaker have promoted the tradition of individualized ‘racial uplift’ or ‘self-help’ that calls for assimilation, upward mobility, and ‘social responsibility’ among poor families and neighborhoods that are often pathologized.” In short, according to her research, the moral tenets upheld in modern philanthropy grow fuzzy; they promote professional and institutional behaviors that leave deeper relationships of poverty and inequality untouched. She closes with a challenge: “Can the Ford Foundation attack its own power and privilege in order to put people back in the driving seat of social change? … Are foundations brave enough to accept this task?”
Erica Kohl-Arenas is Assistant Professor at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School in New York.The Self-Help Myth will be available later this year.
We’re pleased to announce that Jana Arsovska’s book, Decoding Albanian Organized Crime: Culture, Politics, and Globalization, is the winner of the 2015 Outstanding Book Award from the Division on International Criminology of the American Society of Criminology.
The Outstanding Book Award is awarded based upon the criteria of quality of writing, use of theory and prior literature, research and methodology, and a book’s contribution and originality in international or comparative crime or justice. Based on more than a decade of research, including interviews with victims, offenders, and law enforcement across ten countries, as well as court files and confidential intelligence reports, Decoding Albanian Organized Crime presents a comprehensive overview of the causes, codes of conduct, activities, migration, and structure of Albanian organized crime groups in the Balkans, Western Europe, and the United States.
The award will be presented at the ASC Meetings, which will be held in Washington, DC, this November.
Last month, two UC Press authors received major prizes at the annual joint meeting of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS). (Learn more about this year’s ASFS/AFHVS Conference on the official website.)
This prize recognizes members of the AFHVS who have made outstanding contributions to research in the fields of agriculture, food, and human values. Guthman’s work, analyzing of both the American “obesity epidemic” and the realities of organic farming, is groundbreaking: truly deserving of this honor.
Amy Bentley’s Inventing Baby Food also received the 2015 ASFS Book Award. This award recognizes exemplary research, insightful theory, and the most significant and novel contributions to food scholarship, particularly books which suggest new questions and avenues of research for the scholarship of food.
Bentley joins other UC Press authors in this honor: since 2010, five UC Press titles have received the award, including Margaret Gray’s Labor and the Locavore in 2014. Bentley’s book is certainly worthy of this recognition: her history of baby food and American consumption is fresh, innovative, and informative. Inventing Baby Food was also a 2015 James Beard Award finalist in the scholarship and reference category.
It’s a pleasure to share this wonderful news, and we are proud to have published with both authors! Congratulations!
Join Norman Girardot next month for a reading, discussion, and signing of his new book, Envisioning Howard Finster: The Religion and Art of a Stranger from Another World, held in Chicago’s Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art!
Finster received a revelation from God to make sacred art at the age of 60. He then spent the final years of his life feverishly creating almost fifty thousand pieces of “bad and nasty” artwork: pieces filled with apocalyptic, biblical, and fantastic imagery. Girardot, a personal friend to Howard Finster in his later years, explores the life and significance of an artist and cult celebrity described as a “backwoods William Blake” and the “Andy Warhol of the South”. Envisioning Howard Finster is the first book to examine the entwined religious and artistic significance of Finster’s work within the context of the American “outsider art” tradition.
The Intuit Center, established in 1991, is a non-profit organization dedicated to self-taught and intuitive “outsider” art. Intuit features a permanent collection with over 1,100 works of art and educational programming for patrons from all levels of education and interest.
This event is open to the public and will be held on August 8 from 1 to 2:30 PM. For more information, see Intuit’s website.
James Garbarino’s Listening to Killersgrants readers an inside look into two decades of murder suspects, and his in-depth account, rather than showing these individuals as singular cases, paints a more complicated picture that mental health professionals are keen for the public to recognize.
In a recent review, Joshua Eudowe praised Garbarino’s work: “[Garbarino’s] knowledge, compassion, insight, and unmatched experience provide us with an amazing opportunity to learn the path that lead children to violence. Listening to Killers, his most recent book, is the best I have read.”
Joshua Eudowe has served in emergency services for over 16 years, having provided psychotherapy to young victims and witnesses of extreme violence and psychoanalytic/behavioral therapy to young adult patients in Connecticut’s State psychiatric hospital Young Adult Services unit. He is completing his doctoral studies in clinical and forensic psychology at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology, with an emphasis in forensics, particularly in mental disorders induced organically or through trauma. He also specializes in the behavioral precursors to violent action.
Like Garbarino, Eudowe notes that broader social and cultural issues can create toxic environments and mentalities for children, especially young victims of trauma. Sometimes, this is enough to drive a youth from innocence to violence.
“For those of us in the field of mental health, law enforcement, and education,” says Eudowe, “it is our role to understand where these behaviors originate in order to be more effective in the delivery of our respective services. But society has a tremendous responsibility that often gets overlooked or ignored. . . society must learn to identify its own contribution to the emotional damage and effect on how these children become killers.”
This guest post is published in advance of The World History Association conference in Savannah, Georgia. UC Press authors share their research and stories that reflect on this year’s two conference themes, Art in World History and Revolutions, Rebellions, and Revolts. Check back often fornew posts.
The purpose of art, Amrita Sher-Gil wrote in 1936, was to “create the forms of the future.” Art was not limited by existing social and political conditions. Indeed it aimed to transform notions of nation and world. Unlike her counterparts in India, notably in Bengal, during this period, Sher-Gil did not believe there was an Eastern alternative to modernism, modernity, and the West. Indian artists would have to embrace oil painting, material conditions, and the historical present, and not look back to an idealized, spiritual, and premodern past. Sher-Gil’s model of making art and identity that resisted colonialist and nationalist norms proved influential in twentieth-century India.
Worldly Affiliations excavates a distinctive trajectory of modernism in the visual arts in India and emphasizes its cosmopolitan aims and achievements. It focuses on four artists —Sher-Gil, M.F. Husain, K.G. Subramanyan, and Bhupen Khakhar—who challenged the canons, disciplines, schools, and institutions of British colonialism and Indian nationalism. For these artists, cosmopolitanism was a critical response to colonialism, a way of asserting citizenship in national and international community that had been impossible under colonialism. This cosmopolitanism entailed a thoroughgoing investigation of categories such as East and West that propelled globalizing processes such as capitalism and colonialism. For the period I discuss in the book, the East was associated with the village, crafts, tradition, and nationalism, while the West was associated with the city, art, modernity, and colonialism. Artists challenged these associations, but the terms East and West remained active in various forms during the twentieth century.
Reflecting on the discipline of art history in the twentieth century, Subramanyan wrote: “Most histories of World Art emanating from European centres of culture present Europe as their main scene. . . . The arts of the rest of the world are side scenes that hook on to some point or other of this historical structure, or ladder of evolution: the arts of Africa, Pre-Columbian America, Oceania to the early stages; of Asia, to the middle (I still remember that when I visited the Edinburgh Museum in the mid-fifties all Asia was marked on a large cultural map displayed in its lobby as the Medieval world).” Subramanyan, like the other visual artists examined in Worldly Affiliations, deployed cosmopolitanism as a means to challenge logics that divided the world into East and West, medieval and modern, primitive and cultivated. This cosmopolitanism was a hallmark of modernism as it came to be practiced by artists in twentieth-century India, who explored worldly affiliations through unlikely—if ingenious—visual connections, synthetic gestures, and diverse archives of Eastern and Western cultural practice.
Sonal Khullar is Assistant Professor of South Asian art at the University of Washington. Her research interests include global histories of modern and contemporary art, feminist theory, and postcolonial studies. She is writing a book, The Art of Dislocation, on artistic collaboration as a critical response to globalization in South Asia since the 1990s.