Arquivo da tag: Academia

Distúrbios na academia (Pesquisa Fapesp)

Universidades trabalham no desenvolvimento de estratégias de prevenção e atendimento psicológico de alunos de graduação e pós-graduação

RODRIGO DE OLIVEIRA ANDRADE | ED. 262 | DEZEMBRO 2017

 

© PEDRO FRANZ

O caso de um estudante de doutorado que se suicidou nos laboratórios do Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas da Universidade de São Paulo (ICB-USP), em agosto deste ano, colocou em evidência a discussão sobre as pressões enfrentadas pelos que optam por seguir a carreira acadêmica e os distúrbios psicológicos relacionados à vida na pós-graduação. Esse é um assunto que aos poucos começa a ser mais discutido no Brasil. No entanto, ainda são poucas as universidades brasileiras que investem na criação de centros de atendimento psicológico aos seus estudantes de graduação e pós-graduação.

O problema é mundial. Na Bélgica, um estudo publicado em maio na revista Research Policy verificou que um terço dos 3.659 estudantes de doutorado das universidades da região de Flandres corria o risco de desenvolver algum tipo de doença psiquiátrica.
Em 2014, um estudo da Universidade da Califórnia em Berkeley, nos Estados Unidos, constatou que 785 (31,4%) de 2.500 estudantes de pós-graduação apresentavam sinais de depressão. O estudo fazia parte de um trabalho mais amplo, desenvolvido desde 1994, quando se constatou que 10% dos pós-graduandos e dos pesquisadores em estágio de pós-doutorado da universidade já haviam considerado se suicidar.

No Reino Unido, um estudo publicado em 2001 na Educational Psychology verificou que 53% dos pesquisadores das universidades britânicas sofriam de algum distúrbio mental, enquanto na Austrália a taxa foi considerada até quatro vezes maior no meio acadêmico em comparação com a população de modo geral. Apesar de se basearem em uma amostra relativamente pequena, esses estudos evidenciam uma preocupação que começa a se tornar latente no meio acadêmico no mundo: estudantes de graduação e pós-graduação estão sujeitos a pressões que podem desencadear uma série de transtornos mentais.

Como nos outros países, no Brasil, a quantidade de estudos, dados e iniciativas envolvendo esse assunto ainda é singela. Em São Paulo, a Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp) pretende lançar no início de 2018  o projeto “Bem viver para tod@s”. A iniciativa prevê a realização de palestras e debates com especialistas em saúde mental da própria universidade. “O objetivo é orientar alunos e professores sobre como identificar e lidar com esses problemas”, explica Cleópatra da Silva Planeta, pró-reitora de Extensão Universitária e coordenadora do projeto.

Algumas universidades já contam com serviços de atendimento para seus estudantes. Na Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), por exemplo, o Serviço de Assistência Psicológica e Psiquiátrica ao Estudante (Sappe), ligado à Pró-reitoria de Graduação, atua há 30 anos dando assistência psicológica e psiquiátrica aos alunos de graduação e pós-graduação. De acordo com a psiquiatra Tânia Vichi Freire de Mello, coordenadora do Sappe, cerca de 40% dos estudantes da universidade que procuram o serviço estão no mestrado ou doutorado. “A maioria relata experimentar insônia, estresse e ansiedade, além de crises de pânico e depressão”, ela conta. “É comum dizerem que tentam contornar esses problemas a partir do consumo de bebidas alcoólicas e drogas psicoativas, como maconha.”Esses problemas costumam ser resultado de uma convergência de fatores, na concepção do psiquiatra Neury José Botega, da Faculdade de Ciências Médicas (FCM) da Unicamp. Segundo ele, a dinâmica da pós-graduação é marcada por prazos apertados, pressão para publicar artigos, carga de trabalho excessiva e cobranças. “Vários estudantes alegam não conseguir dar conta dos prazos ou saber lidar com o nível de exigência dos professores e orientadores”, comenta. São frequentes os casos de crises de estresse, ansiedade, pânico e depressão. “Muitas vezes a continuidade dos estudos fica inviável e o aluno entra em desespero por não conseguir tocar suas atividades.”

Um relatório divulgado em 2011 pela Associação Nacional dos Dirigentes das Instituições Federais de Ensino Superior (Andifes), que mapeou a vida social, econômica e cultural de quase 20 mil estudantes de graduação das universidades federais brasileiras, verificou que 29% deles já haviam procurado atendimento psicológico e 9%, psiquiátrico, o que envolve problemas mais sérios. O estudo também constatou que 11% já haviam tomado ou estavam tomando medicação psiquiátrica.

Um problema bastante comum entre os estudantes de pós-graduação, segundo Tamara Naiz, presidente da Associação Nacional dos Pós-graduandos (ANPG), é a chamada síndrome de burnout, quando o indivíduo atinge um nível grave de exaustão por trabalhar demais sem descansar. Há também a síndrome do impostor, que aflige acadêmicos que não conseguem aceitar os resultados alcançados como mérito próprio. “O desenvolvimento de transtornos na pós-graduação é um reflexo dos problemas da academia, que oferece poucas oportunidades”, ela destaca. “Ao mesmo tempo, as exigências e pressões envolvendo prazos curtos para qualificação e defesa, cobrança excessiva ou injusta por publicações em revistas de alto impacto, contribuem para agravar esse quadro.”

Também a relação com o orientador pode contribuir para o desenvolvimento de distúrbios psicológicos. Vários são os casos registrados pela ANPG de atitudes abusivas ou negligentes relatados por estudantes que sofreram assédio moral durante reuniões ou aulas. Igualmente frequentes são os casos que chegam à ANPG de orientadores omissos diante de questões ligadas à pesquisa de seus orientandos ou aqueles que solicitam aos alunos tarefas não relacionadas às suas pesquisas. Em outros casos, os relatos são de corte de bolsas e reprovação não justificadas ou com justificativas falsas ou não acadêmicas. Também o assédio sexual, em suas diversas formas, e a discriminação de gênero, que ainda persistem no mundo, são apontados como fatores desencadeadores de distúrbios psicológicos na academia, sobretudo entre as mulheres.

O caso da medicina
A grande maioria dos estudos em epidemiologia psiquiátrica envolvendo o ambiente acadêmico brasileiro está relacionada aos alunos de graduação, sobretudo os de medicina. Isso porque o curso costuma ser caracterizado pela pressão contínua por boas notas e extenuante carga horária de aulas e estudo. Além disso, o ambiente entre os próprios estudantes é marcado pela competitividade desde o vestibular, em geral sempre muito concorrido. Um estudo publicado em 2013 na Revista Brasileira de Educação Médica por pesquisadores da Universidade Federal da Paraíba (UFPB), em João Pessoa, envolvendo 384 estudantes de medicina, verificou que 33,6% tinham algum tipo de transtorno mental, como ansiedade, depressão e somatoformes, doenças que persistem apesar de as desordens físicas não explicarem a natureza e extensão dos sintomas nem o sofrimento ou as preocupações do indivíduo.Segundo a médica psiquiatra Laura Helena Andrade, do Instituto de Psiquiatria da Faculdade de Medicina (FM) da USP, a dificuldade na administração do tempo, o contato diário com a morte, o medo de adquirir doenças ou cometer erros e o sentimento de impotência diante de certas enfermidades contribuem para que esses estudantes estejam mais suscetíveis ao desenvolvimento de transtornos mentais. “O aluno da área da saúde precisa ter mais resiliência para poder manter seu desempenho de estudo, pesquisa e atendimento às pessoas enfermas”, ela ressalta. Apenas nos últimos cinco anos, a Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar) registrou 22 tentativas de suicídio envolvendo alunos de medicina, segundo dados publicados em setembro no jornal O Estado de S. Paulo. Já nas universidades federais de São Paulo (Unifesp) e do ABC (UFABC), cinco estudantes se suicidaram no mesmo período.

Isso tem estimulado algumas universidades brasileiras a investirem na criação de núcleos de prevenção e atendimento psicológico específico para esses estudantes. Na Unicamp, há o Grupo de Apoio aos Estudantes de Graduação em Medicina, Fonoaudiologia e Residentes (Grapeme) da FCM. Já a USP conta desde 1986 com o Grupo de Assistência Psicológica ao Aluno (Grapal), entidade dedicada ao atendimento dos alunos dos cursos de fisioterapia, fonoaudiologia, medicina e terapia ocupacional, além dos residentes da FM-USP. Desde agosto a Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) tem dois núcleos de atendimento psicológico aos estudantes de graduação e pós-graduação.

Paralelamente, essas instituições estão trabalhando para capacitar professores para que possam se antecipar a esses problemas. Segundo Tania Vichi Freire de Mello, do Sappe, é importante que eles fiquem atentos a mudanças súbitas de comportamento de seus alunos ou queda no rendimento acadêmico. A busca por orientação ou tratamento psicológico pode evitar que o estudante abandone o curso. A conclusão é de um levantamento feito em 2016 que analisou o perfil de 1.237 alunos que passaram pelo atendimento do Sappe. No estudo, eles verificaram que a taxa de evasão de curso entre os atendidos pelo serviço era menor quando comparada com aqueles que não recorreram ao serviço.

Para Botega, da FCM-Unicamp, é importante que os professores se mostrem mais abertos para conversar sobre esse assunto com seus alunos, sem desmerecer suas angústias. “Em geral, os professores estão mais preocupados com o desempenho acadêmico de seus estudantes, sem se darem conta de que isso está relacionado à sanidade mental do aluno”, afirma o psiquiatra. “É preciso agir no sentido de acolher esses estudantes, orientá-los e, se for preciso, encaminhá-los aos serviços de atendimento”, destaca Botega.

Anúncios

How Academia uses poverty, oppression, and pain for intelectual masturbation (RaceBaitR)

By Clelia O. Rodríguez

Published by RaceBaitR

The politics of decolonization are not the same as the act of decolonizing. How rapidly phrases like “decolonize the mind/heart” or simply “decolonize” are being consumed in academic spaces is worrisome. My grandfather was a decolonizer. He is dead now, and if he was alive he would probably scratch his head if these academics explained  the concept to him.

I am concerned about how the term is beginning to evoke a practice of getting rid of colonial practices by those operating fully under those practices. Decolonization sounds and means different things to me, a woman of color, than to a white person. And why does this matter? Why does my skin itch when I hear the term in academic white spaces where POC remain tokens? Why does my throat become a prison of words that cannot be digested into complete sentences? Is it because in these “decolonizing” practices we are being colonized once again?

I am not granted the same humanity as a white scholar or as someone who acts like one. The performance of those granted this humanity who claim to be creating space for people of color needs to be challenged. They promote Affirmative action, for instance, in laughable ways. During hiring practices, we’re demanded to specify if we’re “aliens” or not. Does a white person experience the nasty bitterness that comes when POC sees that word? Or the other derogatory terminology I am forced to endure while continuing in the race to become America’s Next Top Academic? And these same white colleagues who do not know these experiences graciously line up to present at conferences about decolonizing methodology to show their allyship with POC.

The effects of networking are another one of the ways decolonizing in this field of Humanities shows itself to be a farce. As far as I understand history, Christopher Columbus was really great at networking. He tangled people like me in chains, making us believe that it was all in the name of knitting a web to connect us all under the spell of kumbaya.

Academic spaces are not precisely adorned by safety, nor are they where freedom of speech is truly welcome. Not all of us have the luxury to speak freely without getting penalized by being called radicals, too emotional, angry or even not scholarly enough. In true decolonization work, one burns down bridges at the risk of not getting hired. Stating that we are in the field of decolonizing studies is not enough. It is no surprise that even those engaged in decolonizing methods replicate and polish the master’s tools, because we are implicated in colonialism in this corporatized environment.

I want to know what it is you little kids are doing here—that is to say, Why have you traveled to our Mapuche land? What have you come for? To ask us questions? To make us into an object of study? I want to you go home and I want you to address these concerns that I have carried in my heart for a long time.

Such was the response of Mapuche leader Ñana Raquel to a group of Human Rights students from the United States visiting the Curarrehue, Araucanía Region, Chile in April 2015. Her anger motivated me to reflect upon how to re-think, question, undo, and re-read perspectives of how I am experiencing the Humanities and how I am politicizing my ongoing shifts in my rhyzomatic system. Do we do that when we engage in research? Ñana Raquel’s questions, righteous anger, and reaction forced me to reconsider multiple perspectives on what really defines a territory, something my grandfather carefully taught me when I learned how to read ants and bees.

As politicized thinkers, we must reflect on these experiences if we are to engage in bigger discussions about solidarity, resistance and territories in the Humanities. How do we engage in work as scholars in the service of northern canons, and, in so doing, can we really admit what took us there? Many of us, operating in homogeneous academic spaces (with some hints of liberal tendencies), conform when that question is bluntly asked.

As someone who was herself observed and studied under the microscopes by ‘gringos’ in the 1980s, when pedagogues came to ask us what life was like in a war zone in El Salvador, Raquel’s questions especially resonate with me. Both of us have been dispossessed and situated in North American canons that serve particular research agendas. In this sense, we share similar experiences of being ‘read’ according to certain historical criteria.

Raquel’s voice was impassioned. On that day, we had congregated in the Ruka of Riholi. Facing center and in a circle, we were paying attention to the silence of the elders. Raquel taught us a priceless lesson.  After questioning the processes used to realize research projects in Nepal and Jordan, Raquel’s passionate demand introduced a final punch. She showed us that while we may have the outward face of political consciousness, we continued to use an academic discipline to study ‘exotic’ behaviors and, in so doing, were in fact undermining, denigrating and denying lessons of what constitutes cultural exchange from their perspective.

From these interactions in the field emerge questions that go to the heart of the matter: How do we deal with issues of social compromise in the Humanities? In unlearning? In many cases, academic circles resemble circuses rather than centres of higher learning, wherein a culture of competition based on external pressures to do well motivates the relationship between teacher and student.

One of the tragic consequences of a traditional system of higher education is working with colleagues who claim to have expertise on the topic of social activism, but who have never experienced any form of intervention. I am referring here to those academics who have made careers out of the pain of others by consuming knowledge obtained in marginalized communities. This same practice of “speaking about which you know little (or nothing)” is transmitted, whether acknowledged or not, to the students who we, as teachers and mentors, are preparing to undertake research studies about decolonizing.

Linda Smith speaks about the disdain she has for the word “research,” seeing it as one of the dirtiest words in the English language. I couldn’t agree more with her. When we sit down each semester to write a guide to “unlearning’,” or rather a syllabus, we must reflect upon how we can include content that will help to transmit a pre-defined discipline in the Humanities with current social realities. How can we create a space where a student can freely speak his/her mind without fear of receiving a bad grade?

Today, anything and everything is allowed if a postcolonial/decolonizing seal of approval accompanies it, even if it is devoid of any political urgency. These tendencies appear to be ornamental at best, and we must challenge the basis of those attempts. We can’t keep criticizing the neoliberal system while continuing to retain superficial visions of solidarity without striving for a more in-depth understanding. These are acts for which we pat ourselves on the back, but in the end just open up space for future consumers of prestige.

The corridors of the hallways in the institution where I currently work embodies this faux-solidarity in posters about conferences, colloquiums, and trips in the Global South or about the Global South that cost an arm and a leg. As long as you have money to pay for your airfare, hotel, meals and transportation, you too could add two lines in the CV and speak about the new social movement and their radical strategies to dismantle the system. You too can participate in academic dialogues about poverty and labor rights as you pass by an undocumented cleaner who will make your bed while you go to the main conference room to talk about her struggles.

We must do a better job at unpacking the intellectual masturbation we get out of poverty, horror, oppression, and pain–the essentials that stimulate us to have the orgasm. The “release” comes in the forms of discussions, proposing questions, writing grant proposals, etc. Then we move onto other forms of entertainment. Neoliberalism has turned everything into a product or experience. We must scrutinize the logic of power that is behind our syllabi, and our research work. We must listen to the silences, that which is not written, and pay attention to the internal dynamics of communities and how we label their experiences if we are truly committed to the work of decolonizing.


clelia rodriguezClelia O. Rodríguez is an educator, born and raised in El Salvador, Central America. She graduated from York University with a Specialized Honours BA, specializing in Spanish Literature. She earned her MA and PhD from The University of Toronto. Professor Rodríguez has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Spanish language, literature and culture at the University of Toronto, Washington College, the University of Ghana and the University of Michigan, most recently. She was also a Human Rights Traveling Professor in the United States, Nepal, Jordan, and Chile as part of the International Honors Program (IHP) for the School of International Training (SIT). She taught Comparative Issues in Human Rights and Fieldwork Ethics and Comparative Research Methods. She is interested in decolonozing approaches to teaching and engaging in critical pedagogy methodologies in the classroom.

Sociology & Its Discontents (Synthetic Zero)

 

“Does the discipline of Sociology still have a role to play in the 21st century?To examine where we are at with Sociology in 2015, Philip Dodd is joined by three leading practitioners, the LSE’s Richard Sennett, Frank Furedi from the University of Kent, and Monika Krause at Goldsmiths, as well as the journalist and author, Peter Oborne”

AUDIO

I think we can safely leave sociology to the last century without any meaningful loss to our abilities to understand and reform as needed, anyone disagree?

synthetic zerø


“Does the discipline of Sociology still have a role to play in the 21st century?To examine where we are at with Sociology in 2015, Philip Dodd is joined by three leading practitioners, the LSE’s Richard Sennett, Frank Furedi from the University of Kent, and Monika Krause at Goldsmiths, as well as the journalist and author, Peter Oborne”

I think we can safely leave sociology to the last century without any meaningful loss to our abilities to understand and reform as needed, anyone disagree?

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How to get published in an academic journal: top tips from editors (The Guardian)

Journal editors share their advice on how to structure a paper, write a cover letter – and deal with awkward feedback from reviewer.

hurdles athletes

 How to negotiate the many hurdles that stand between a draft paper and publication. Photograph: Clint Hughes/PA

Writing for academic journals is highly competitive. Even if you overcome the first hurdle and generate a valuable idea or piece of research – how do you then sum it up in a way that will capture the interest of reviewers?

There’s no simple formula for getting published – editors’ expectations can vary both between and within subject areas. But there are some challenges that will confront all academic writers regardless of their discipline. How should you respond to reviewer feedback? Is there a correct way to structure a paper? And should you always bother revising and resubmitting? We asked journal editors from a range of backgrounds for their tips on getting published.

The writing stage

1) Focus on a story that progresses logically, rather than chronologically

Take some time before even writing your paper to think about the logic of the presentation. When writing, focus on a story that progresses logically, rather than the chronological order of the experiments that you did.
Deborah Sweet, editor of Cell Stem Cell and publishing director at Cell Press

2) Don’t try to write and edit at the same time

Open a file on the PC and put in all your headings and sub-headings and then fill in under any of the headings where you have the ideas to do so. If you reach your daily target (mine is 500 words) put any other ideas down as bullet points and stop writing; then use those bullet points to make a start the next day.

If you are writing and can’t think of the right word (eg for elephant) don’t worry – write (big animal long nose) and move on – come back later and get the correct term. Write don’t edit; otherwise you lose flow.
Roger Watson, editor-in-chief, Journal of Advanced Nursing

3) Don’t bury your argument like a needle in a haystack

If someone asked you on the bus to quickly explain your paper, could you do so in clear, everyday language? This clear argument should appear in your abstract and in the very first paragraph (even the first line) of your paper. Don’t make us hunt for your argument as for a needle in a haystack. If it is hidden on page seven that will just make us annoyed. Oh, and make sure your argument runs all the way through the different sections of the paper and ties together the theory and empirical material.
Fiona Macaulay, editorial board, Journal of Latin American Studies

4) Ask a colleague to check your work

One of the problems that journal editors face is badly written papers. It might be that the writer’s first language isn’t English and they haven’t gone the extra mile to get it proofread. It can be very hard to work out what is going on in an article if the language and syntax are poor.
Brian Lucey, editor, International Review of Financial Analysis

5) Get published by writing a review or a response 

Writing reviews is a good way to get published – especially for people who are in the early stages of their career. It’s a chance to practice at writing a piece for publication, and get a free copy of a book that you want. We publish more reviews than papers so we’re constantly looking for reviewers.

Some journals, including ours, publish replies to papers that have been published in the same journal. Editors quite like to publish replies to previous papers because it stimulates discussion.
Yujin Nagasawa, co-editor and review editor of the European Journal for Philosophy of Religion, philosophy of religion editor of Philosophy Compass

6) Don’t forget about international readers

We get people who write from America who assume everyone knows the American system – and the same happens with UK writers. Because we’re an international journal, we need writers to include that international context.
Hugh McLaughlin, editor in chief, Social Work Education – the International Journal

7) Don’t try to cram your PhD into a 6,000 word paper

Sometimes people want to throw everything in at once and hit too many objectives. We get people who try to tell us their whole PhD in 6,000 words and it just doesn’t work. More experienced writers will write two or three papers from one project, using a specific aspect of their research as a hook.
Hugh McLaughlin, editor in chief, Social Work Education – the International Journal

Submitting your work

8) Pick the right journal: it’s a bad sign if you don’t recognise any of the editorial board

Check that your article is within the scope of the journal that you are submitting to. This seems so obvious but it’s surprising how many articles are submitted to journals that are completely inappropriate. It is a bad sign if you do not recognise the names of any members of the editorial board. Ideally look through a number of recent issues to ensure that it is publishing articles on the same topic and that are of similar quality and impact.
Ian Russell, editorial director for science at Oxford University Press

9) Always follow the correct submissions procedures

Often authors don’t spend the 10 minutes it takes to read the instructions to authors which wastes enormous quantities of time for both the author and the editor and stretches the process when it does not need to
Tangali Sudarshan, editor, Surface Engineering

10) Don’t repeat your abstract in the cover letter
We look to the cover letter for an indication from you about what you think is most interesting and significant about the paper, and why you think it is a good fit for the journal. There is no need to repeat the abstract or go through the content of the paper in detail – we will read the paper itself to find out what it says. The cover letter is a place for a bigger picture outline, plus any other information that you would like us to have.
Deborah Sweet, editor of Cell Stem Cell and publishing director at Cell Press

11) A common reason for rejections is lack of context

Make sure that it is clear where your research sits within the wider scholarly landscape, and which gaps in knowledge it’s addressing. A common reason for articles being rejected after peer review is this lack of context or lack of clarity about why the research is important.
Jane Winters, executive editor of the Institute of Historical Research’s journal, Historical Research and associate editor of Frontiers in Digital Humanities: Digital History

12) Don’t over-state your methodology

Ethnography seems to be the trendy method of the moment, so lots of articles submitted claim to be based on it. However, closer inspection reveals quite limited and standard interview data. A couple of interviews in a café do not constitute ethnography. Be clear – early on – about the nature and scope of your data collection. The same goes for the use of theory. If a theoretical insight is useful to your analysis, use it consistently throughout your argument and text.
Fiona Macaulay, editorial board, Journal of Latin American Studies

Dealing with feedback

13) Respond directly (and calmly) to reviewer comments

When resubmitting a paper following revisions, include a detailed document summarising all the changes suggested by the reviewers, and how you have changed your manuscript in light of them. Stick to the facts, and don’t rant. Don’t respond to reviewer feedback as soon as you get it. Read it, think about it for several days, discuss it with others, and then draft a response.
Helen Ball, editorial board, Journal of Human Lactation 

14) Revise and resubmit: don’t give up after getting through all the major hurdles

You’d be surprised how many authors who receive the standard “revise and resubmit” letter never actually do so. But it is worth doing – some authors who get asked to do major revisions persevere and end up getting their work published, yet others, who had far less to do, never resubmit. It seems silly to get through the major hurdles of writing the article, getting it past the editors and back from peer review only to then give up.
Fiona Macaulay, editorial board, Journal of Latin American Studies

15) It is acceptable to challenge reviewers, with good justification

It is acceptable to decline a reviewer’s suggestion to change a component of your article if you have a good justification, or can (politely) argue why the reviewer is wrong. A rational explanation will be accepted by editors, especially if it is clear you have considered all the feedback received and accepted some of it.
Helen Ball, editorial board of Journal of Human Lactation

16) Think about how quickly you want to see your paper published

Some journals rank more highly than others and so your risk of rejection is going to be greater. People need to think about whether or not they need to see their work published quickly – because certain journals will take longer. Some journals, like ours, also do advance access so once the article is accepted it appears on the journal website. This is important if you’re preparing for a job interview and need to show that you are publishable.
Hugh McLaughlin, editor in chief, Social Work Education – the International Journal

17) Remember: when you read published papers you only see the finished article

Publishing in top journals is a challenge for everyone, but it may seem easier for other people. When you read published papers you see the finished article, not the first draft, nor the first revise and resubmit, nor any of the intermediate versions – and you never see the failures.
Philip Powell, managing editor of the Information Systems Journal

The fight to reform Econ 101 (Al Jazeera)

Economics is a dismal nonscience, but it need not remain that way

July 16, 2014 6:00AM ET

by 

During the last weekend of June, hundreds of students, university lecturers, professors and interested members of the public descended on the halls of University College London to attend the Rethinking Economics conference. They all shared a similar belief: that economics education in most universities had become narrow, insular and detached from the real world.

For a brief period after the financial crisis of 2008, the shortcomings of the economics profession and the way it is taught were recognized. Many economists offered up mea culpas of various kinds and conceded that since they did not foresee the biggest economic event since the Great Depression, there was probably something seriously wrong with the discipline. But as time passed and many economies began to experience gradual, somewhat muted recoveries, the profession regained its confidence.

When I was completing my master’s degree at Kingston University last year, I experienced this firsthand from the more mainstream faculty there. Lecturers offered potted explanations of the crisis using old analytical tools such as supply and demand graphs that cannot incorporate expectations to explain asset price bubbles. The same economists who, just a few years ago, told us that financial markets were the conduits of perfect information began to introduce doublethink phrases in the media such as “rational bubble” (in which investors allegedly act irrationally by bidding up asset prices in full knowledge that prices are heavily inflated but think they can bail out of the market before prices fall) to explain the events of the past few years. There is nothing rational about investors’ acting this way, because they cannot know when the bubble will burst and so cannot time their exit from the market. They cannot know when the herd movement that they are part of will come to an end, so any action that they take to ride the wave will be just as irrational as those of people unaware of the bubble. The entire exercise appeared to be an ad hoc attempt to reinterpret the facts to fit the pet theory — economic agents aware of relevant information act rationally — rather than to alter the theory in light of the facts.

It was difficult not to sense the Soviet-style revisionism that had occurred within the halls of learning: The party had tossed history down the memory hole and introduced a strange, seemingly self-contradictory language that they were busy foisting upon an unwitting public. One Chicago school economist, Ray Ball, argues that the now notorious efficient market hypothesis (EMH), which states that financial markets price in all relevant information, is actually supported by the recent crisis. He argues that the capital flight that led to the bank meltdowns lends support to the EMH because it shows how rapidly financial markets react to new information. But as many will remember, investigations clearly showed that information was not being processed efficiently by market participants in the run-up to the crisis. The most colorful example of this was the Standard & Poor’s employee who, responding to a colleague who said that they should not be rating a mortgage-backed security deal because the estimations of risk were incorrect, said that cows could be estimating the risk of a product and S&P would still rate it.

Shine a light

Despite such attempts to shore up the orthodoxy, students have sensed that something is wrong: Over the past two years, they have been organizing across more than 60 countries with the aim of forcing the vampire that is the economics profession into the light of day. While the students in the movement have a diversity of opinions on various issues, they have all come to believe that the best way to reform economics is to demand that a plurality of approaches be taught. They have rightly identified the key fault with contemporary economics teaching: the monoculture it engenders. Currently only one approach to economics is taught in the vast majority of departments in the U.S. and Europe: what is usually called neoclassical or marginalist economics, epitomized by Harvard’s Gregory Mankiw — a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush — and Chicago’s Gary Becker, a Nobel laureate. This is the economics of the rational, atomized individual purged of all social context, whose only goal is to maximize a mysterious, effervescent quantity called utility. In this view, the economy tends toward an equilibrium end point, at which everyone has a job and wages and profits are set in line with what each individual contributes to society.

Donald Gillies, a former president of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science, told a stunned audience that he had examined three well-known Nobel Prize–winning papers in economics and could find nothing in them that he could call scientific.

When I spoke with the students, they were struck by how even those who dissented from contemporary economic policies like austerity shared this overarching vision. Paul Krugman, for example, to whom many turned after the crisis to provide context — including many of the students I met — also accepted the orthodox view (although he has not embraced some of the worst excesses echoed by his peers).

True dissenters

The students at the June conference also said that there were true dissenters in the discipline who found that economics was a highly contested field. Cambridge University’s Ha-Joon Chang pointed out that there are any number of schools of economic thought, each with their own approaches and insights. Their opinions range from the Austrians, who believe that government interference in the economy leads to wasted resources, to post-Keynesians, who believe that capitalist economies are inherently unstable and require government intervention to stave off collapse and stagnation, to Marxians, institutionalists, Schumpeterians, neo-Ricardians and so on. Chang argued that none of these schools of thought were inherently right or wrong; they all had insights into the working of the economy, and every one of them had a right to be taught to students as a competing point of view. It was up to the students, he said, to find what they found interesting, useful and credible.

One of the conference speakers pointed out that this is required in all the other disciplines that study people and society. He told an anecdote about being in the psychology department of his university when an inspector from a psychological association turned up to ensure that there was an adequately pluralist approach being undertaken. The speaker quipped that it would be far more likely that an inspector from an economics association would turn up to ensure that the current doctrine was being firmly adhered to.

But what, exactly, constitutes this dogmatic thinking? For starters, the firm belief that economics is a science on par with physics and chemistry. After all, these economists say, only a crank would demand that a plurality of approaches to physics and chemistry should be taught in universities. But the truth of the matter is that economics is not a science on par with physics and chemistry and it never will be. Donald Gillies, a former president of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science, told a stunned audience that he had examined three well-known Nobel Prize–winning papers in economics and could find nothing in them that he could call scientific. Rather, he said, they utilized sophisticated mathematics to hide the fact that they were not saying anything remotely relevant about the real world that could be proved or disproved.

The dirty little secret about economics is that it cannot, like other sciences, undertake proper laboratory experiments. Even the experiments of the behaviorist economists are open to doubt in that it seems unlikely that the manner in which people act in a lab while under observation is identical to how they act day to day. Economics is therefore ill equipped to make claims with the same confidence as bona fide sciences. What economists offer are instead interpretations of the world around them. Once this is understood, it becomes very difficult to argue against a plurality of opinions in the discipline. This was what the students sensed, and this is why their clarion call became one for pluralism.

New curriculum

These students are well organized, and their numbers are growing; their commitment is unlikely to go away anytime soon. They are focused in a manner that is impressive for a protest movement, willing to transcend their political differences in order to fight for a common goal. Every week a new group springs up. At the conference I attended, organizers went around with pads and pens collecting the contact details of sympathetic faculty members and other students in countries where the movement was only partially developed.

Even institutions are hopping on board. Many employers complain that the mainstream departments are churning out employees with mathematical skills completely out of proportion to the jobs they do but who seem unable to undertake basic economic analysis. Often these employees have to be retrained on the job in order to function at their institutions. The chief economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, wrote in the foreword to the students’ international manifesto that “employers of economists, like the Bank of England, stand to benefit from such an evolution in the economics curriculum.” Given that mainstream economists often claim that the consumer is king and competition is sacrosanct, it is increasingly difficult to see how they make a case for their current monopoly over the educational process.

In September another conference will take place in New York, and rumor has it that an enormous international meeting will soon be organized too. If and when the movement reaches that level of international organization, it could start putting real pressure on companies, governments and economics departments to rethink their models and their ways. If the profession wishes to uphold what is left of its credibility, it would do well to pay attention.

Philip Pilkington is a London-based economist and member of the Political Economy Research Group at Kingston University. He runs the blog Fixing the Economists.

Descolonização do pensamento (Ciência Hoje)

Em entrevista à CH, o antropólogo brasileiro Cláudio Pinheiro analisa a dominação cultural da Europa e dos Estados Unidos sobre os países menos desenvolvidos, como o Brasil, e aponta mudanças que podem levar a uma produção de ideias e conhecimentos multipolarizada.

Por: Henrique Kugler, Ciência Hoje/ RJ

Publicado em 20/03/2014 | Atualizado em 20/03/2014

Descolonização do pensamento

‘Table bay’, tela de Samuel Scott datada de 1730. Na esteira da colonização, países menos desenvolvidos, entre eles o Brasil, importam padrões culturais e estruturas políticas e intelectuais da Europa e dos Estados Unidos.

Sejamos honestos: nós, brasileiros, tornamo-nos praticantes passivos de alguma espécie de mimetismo pós-colonial. Imitamos padrões europeus e estadunidenses em quase tudo – desde detalhes aparentemente banais, como vestimentas que usamos ou músicas que ouvimos; até estruturas políticas ou intelectuais reproduzidas a partir de matrizes do Norte. E a academia não foge à regra. Os autores que lemos, afinal, são quase sempre os clássicos do Velho Mundo.

Nos ventos do século 21, porém, as periferias geopolíticas pedem um mundo multipolarizado – e, cada vez mais, esse movimento configura a nova realidade global. Ainda perdura, no entanto, a clivagem do cenário internacional em dicotomias datadas que reforçam a segregação do mundo em dois hemisférios simbólicos.

Sobre esse instigante tema, Ciência Hoje ouviu o historiador e antropólogo Cláudio Pinheiro, diretor da Sephis, agência holandesa dedicada à formação de quadros intelectuais de países do Sul, agora sediada no Fórum de Ciência e Cultura da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. Pinheiro denuncia o colonialismo tardio do qual apenas começamos a nos libertar. E, dono de um papo tão pertinente quanto sofisticado, aposta suas fichas nos países austrais como promissores espaços de enunciação política, cultural e intelectual.

É correto afirmar que no Brasil, como em muitos países em desenvolvimento, ainda somos intelectualmente colonizados?

Essa colonização intelectual e acadêmica que vivemos não é uma conversa nova. Sua denúncia sistemática vem dos anos 1960. Mas, agora, a ideia está sendo desenvolvida com muito mais substância e continuidade. Dois anos atrás, veio ao Brasil uma das grandes intelectuais que debate a ideia de Sul: a antropóloga australiana Raewyn Connell. Sabe o que ela disse? “No evento acadêmico do qual participei aqui, as bancas de livros vendiam o mesmo que eu encontraria em um evento acadêmico na Austrália: Pierre Bourdieu, Jürgen Habermas, enfim, os autores clássicos europeus. Mas eu gostaria de ler, na verdade, autores clássicos brasileiros! E também os africanos, os indianos…”

Se o debate já tem quatro décadas, por que essa colonização permanece?

As agendas de pensamento estão muito profundamente ancoradas em conjuntos de teorias, temas, categorias de análise e agendas de financiamento à produção científica que se referem a uma experiência histórica particular, que é a do Atlântico Norte – tanto europeia, quanto norte-americana. É nessas experiências que nós, da periferia, acabamos baseando nosso discurso intelectual sociológico, antropológico, político e historiográfico.

Um dos grandes autores a denunciar isso, nos anos 1990, foi o indiano Dipesh Chakrabarty, da Universidade de Chicago. Ele escreveu um livro, em 2000, chamado Provincializando a Europa [Provincializing Europe, editado pela Princeton University Press, sem tradução para o português]. O argumento básico está no título: a Europa é uma paróquia. Só que essa paróquia se mundializou, a partir de um longo processo histórico associado ao colonialismo. E passamos a acreditar que nela estaria alguma espécie de grande verdade.

Conhecemos mais detalhes sobre a queda da Bastilha do que sobre grandes revoluções africanas

Pense em um estudante de ensino médio. O que ele estuda em história? História europeia. Estudos sobre África entraram para o nosso currículo apenas recentemente, em 2003, por uma medida governamental. Certo: o estudante sabe então sobre Europa e África. O que falta? Falta tudo. Conhecemos mais detalhes sobre a queda da Bastilha do que sobre grandes revoluções africanas. Estas passam completamente ao largo de nosso conhecimento. Como estudar história mundial sem estudar a história da África? Como entender o impacto que teve a diáspora de africanos nas Américas e na própria África? Como isso interferiu, por gerações e séculos, na capacidade africana de recuperar sua economia? Nossa própria forma de datação do tempo é marcada pela experiência europeia. Compreendemos o mundo em termos de história antiga, medieval, moderna e contemporânea. E é nesse trem que nos localizamos: o Brasil passa a existir no mundo a partir da história moderna – durante a expansão europeia.

Com a emergência de novas forças geopolíticas, a exemplo dos BRICs (Brasil, Rússia, Índia, China e África do Sul), essas ‘categorias de análise’ podem ser remodeladas?

Não obstante países como os BRICs sejam mais e mais importantes no cenário político internacional, continuam não sendo donos do próprio arcabouço que define a maneira pela qual se conhece o conhecimento: a forma de datar o tempo, a forma de classificar sociedades, as categorias de compreensão do mundo. Exemplo: se falamos em ‘família’, um aluno do ensino médio pensa em pai, mãe, avós, tios, filhos, netos. Em muitas sociedades é assim. Mas em muitas outras, não. Para povos nativos brasileiros ou sociedades asiáticas, por exemplo, a noção de família engloba relações mais amplas, que podem incluir até animais.

O conceito ocidental baseado na experiência europeia não dá conta de toda a realidade

O conceito ocidental baseado na experiência europeia não dá conta de toda a realidade. Acontece que os demais modelos são invisibilizados por outros que nos fazem compreender o mundo de forma engessada. Isso vale não só para a ideia de família como também de Estado, política, democracia. Para alguns autores, não é o dinheiro que faz uma sociedade ser classificada como “periférica”. Mas sim o não domínio sobre as categorias que organizam o pensamento, a política e a sociedade.

Essa imitação subalterna é muito perceptível na academia…

Quase todo aluno de graduação no Brasil (desde enfermagem a agronomia, passando pela engenharia) estuda ciências sociais como disciplina obrigatória. Em muitos casos isso envolve a leitura dos ‘clássicos’: Karl Marx [1818-1883], Max Weber [1864-1920], Émile Durkheim [1858-1917]. Eles são interessantíssimos, não há dúvida. Mas parece uma igreja com seus santos principais. Cadê os santos da periferia? Que autores pensaram as sociedades que hoje são periféricas? É um desafio contemporâneo incluir outros clássicos no ensino e no debate. Muito se perde diante do fato de que as estruturas para conhecer o ‘outro’ estão marcadas pela experiência de uma província, de uma paróquia específica, que é a Europa. É preciso universalizar o vocabulário de categorias de análise de modo que o mundo seja mais polifônico.

Você leu apenas o início da entrevista publicada na CH 312. Clique no ícone a seguir para baixar a versão integral. PDF aberto (gif)

Female Anthropologists Harassed (The Scientist)

[Why the photo of Maasai people? -RT]

A new survey finds a high incidence of sexual harassment and rape among women doing anthropological field work.

By Jef Akst | April 15, 2013

The Maasai tribe in Kenya. WIKIMEDIA, MATT CRYPTO

More than 20 percent of female bioanthropologists who took part in a new survey are victims of “physical sexual harassment or unwanted sexual contact” in the course of their scientific research, primarily at the hand of superior professional colleagues, even their own mentors.

After talking to a friend that had been raped by a colleague, anthropologist Kathryn Clancy of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign decided to look into the matter further.  “It was like a slap in the face to learn that this was happening to my friends,” Clancy told ScienceInsider.

She began posting anonymous stories of sexual harassment, shared with her by her female colleagues, on the Scientific American blog Context and Variation. The stories began to draw comments of other researchers’ harassment stories. “This is definitely not limited to just my discipline,” Clancy told ScienceInsider—nor is it limited to females, she found.

To get a better handle on the frequency with which such harassment occurs, Clancy and colleagues conducted a (still ongoing) online survey, asking scientists to report on their field-work experiences. Preliminary results, presented Saturday (April 13) at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) annual meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee, indicated that about 30 percent of both men and women reported the occurrence of verbal abuse “regularly” or “frequently” at field sites. And 21 percent of women reported having experienced physical sexual harassment or unwanted sexual contact; one out of 23 men also reported such abuse.

Notably, fewer than 20 percent of the reported cases of harassment involved the local community; rather, most of the abuse came from other researchers, primarily those further along in their careers. But why are such experiences so rarely reported?

“Quitting a field site, not completing and publishing research, and/or loss of letters of recommendation can have potent consequences for academic careers,” collaborator Katie Hinde of Harvard University told ScienceInsider. “Taken together, these factors result in a particularly vulnerable population of victims and witnesses powerless to intervene. As a discipline, we need to recognize and remedy that an appreciable non-zero number of our junior colleagues, particularly women, are having to endure harassment and a hostile work environment in order to be scientists.”

European Commission backs calls for open access to scientific research (The Guardian)

Move follows announcement by UK government that it wants all taxpayer-funded research to be free to view by 2014

Reuters/guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 17 July 2012 14.41 BST
Neelie Kroes

Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president for digital agenda, said: ‘Taxpayers should not have to pay twice for scientific research.’ Photograph: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images

The European Commission, which controls one of the world’s largest science budgets, has backed calls for free access to publicly fundedresearch in a move that could force a major change in the business model for publishers such as Reed Elsevier.

“Taxpayers should not have to pay twice for scientific research and they need seamless access to raw data,” said Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president for digital agenda.

The EC saidon Tuesday that open access will be a “general principle” applied to grants awarded through the €80bn Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation.

From 2014 all articles produced with funding from Horizon 2020 will have to be accessible and the goal is for 60% of European publicly funded research to be available by 2016.

The news follows the announcement by the British government that it wants all taxpayer-funded research to be free to view by 2014. David Willets, the universities and science minister told the Gaurdian: “If the taxpayer has paid for this research to happen, that work shouldn’t be put behind a paywall before a British citizen can read it.”

The most prestigious academic journals, such as Nature, Science and Cell, earn the bulk of their revenues through subscriptions from readers.

They have lucrative deals with university libraries, worth about £150m to £200m a year in the UK, to give access to the same scientists who produce and review, usually without payment, the research they publish.

Open-access journals, such as the Public Library of Science, are ofteninternet-based and charge researchers a fee for publication, allowing free access for anyone after publication.

The open-access market has been growing rapidly over the past decade but still only accounts for about 3% of the £5.1bn global market for scholarly journals.

The subscription model has come under attack from some scientists, who argue that publishing companies are making fat profits on the back of taxpayer-funded research.

Elsevier publishes more than 2,000 journals with a staff of about 7,000. It made a profit last year of £768m on revenues of £2.1bn, giving a margin of about 37%.

Publishers argue that quality does not come cheap and their subscription charges reflect the need to maintain large editorial departments and databases of published research.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European commissioner for research, innovation and science, swept this argument aside. “We must give taxpayers more bang for their buck,” she said in a statement. “Open access to scientific papers and data is an important means of achieving this.”

The commission’s move follows recent news that the European medicines regulator will open its data vaults to allow independent researchers to scrutinise results from drug companies’ trials.

“The EU’s decision to adopt a similar policy to that of the UK will mean that the transition time from subscription-based to open-access publishing will be substantially reduced,” Professor Adam Tickell, who was involved in a recent UK government-commissioned report on the issue, told Reuters.

Tickell, of the University of Birmingham, predicted a rapid and substantial reduction in the cost of subscriptions, adding: “With the support of the EU, UK government and major charities, such as the Wellcome Trust, open access to research findings will soon be a reality.”