Why one should lose the academese

3 Apr

Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown University is spot on:

“One of the reasons economics is more successful than any other social science discipline in getting its message across is that it’s unreadable. Really. Think about it. An article in economics has an abstract, usually in English, that anyone can understand. There is then a very short introduction before it dissolves into hyper-complex mathematics. If you skip all that, as almost all people in the policy world do, you then get to a very clear set of conclusions written in words-you-can-understand that ‘proves’ all the mathematics and the policy lessons derived therein. Compare that to the task of reading a 12,000 word discipline-intoned history or political science article that says “one the one hand, on the other hand…” and you can see why less is more.”

“Folks who get into the study of political economy do so (by and large) because they want to understand how the world works. Since this is inherently non-obvious, all their work should be of interest. The problem is that either disciplinary obsessions and intellectual ghettos develop where publishing on topic X is rewarded no matter how banal the research, or (increasingly) new graduate students get so ‘teched-up’ that they are unable to say anything to anyone unless there is a readily available dataset and a series of standardized statistical techniques that can be applied. Again, this results from the reward structure of disciplines and not from the nature of academic ideas themselves. The incentives are changing due to the world changing around the disciplines, but we call them ‘disciplines’ for a reason: this is exactly what they do… Academics have hoped for generations that our ideas impact the world but very few succeed. Now there are technological ‘leg ups’ for those who choose to use them.”

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/03/09/five-minutes-with-mark-blyth/

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