Saturday, February 23, 2019

Being ugly helps you being victim (unless very ugly) and crime perpetrator (worse employment, more arrests, more illegal jobs); very unattractive persons are less victimized

"Ugly" Criminals and "Ugly" Victims. Brent Teasdale and Bonnie Berry. In Appearance Bias and Crime. Bonnie Berry (Ed.). Cambridge Univ Press, Mar 2019.

Conclusions, p57:

Happiness and the Resource Curse: Oil rents are negatively linked to improvements in happiness over time. This happiness ‘resource curse’ curse appears to be oil-specific

Happiness and the Resource Curse. Sabna Ali, Syed Mansoob Murshed, Elissaios Papyrakis. Journal of Happiness Studies, Feb 23 2019,

Abstract: There has been increasing interest in the so-called ‘resource curse’: the tendency of resource-rich countries to underperform in several socio-economic outcomes. More recently, several papers have looked beyond the traditional impact on economic growth and instead focused on the effects upon broader human welfare indicators. A separate empirical literature in recent decades has probed into the determinants of happiness and subjective well-being (using either country or household data). Our paper contributes to the literature by bringing these two empirical strands of research together. This is the first study, to our knowledge, that makes use of a large panel dataset to explore the links between changes in happiness across countries and several measures of resource wealth. Consistent with prior empirical evidence of a resource curse in oil-rich nations, we find that oil rents are negatively linked to improvements in happiness over time. This happiness ‘resource curse’ curse appears to be oil-specific and holds both for the levels as well as changes in happiness.

From 2016: Scientific quality, quantity, and to fix incentives

Fewer numbers, better science. Rinze Benedictus, Frank Miedema, & Mark W. J. Ferguson. Nature Volume 538, Issue 7626, October 2016, doi:10.1038/538453a

Scientific quality is hard to define, and numbers are easy to look at. But bibliometrics are warping science — encouraging quantity over quality. Leaders at two research institutions describe how they do things differently.

REDEFINE EXCELLENCE: Fix incentives to fix science. Rinze Benedictus and Frank Miedema

An obsession with metrics pervades science. Our institution, the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, is not exempt. On our website, we proudly declare that we publish about 2,500 peer-reviewed scientific publications per year, with higher than average citation rates.

A few years ago, an evaluation committee spent hours discussing which of several faculty members to promote, only to settle on the two who had already been awarded particularly prestigious grants. Meanwhile, faculty members who spent time crafting policy advice had a hard time explaining how this added to their scientific output, even when it affected clinical decisions across the country.

Publications that directly influenced patient care were weighted no higher in evaluations than any other paper, and less if that work appeared in the grey literature — that is, in official reports rather than in scientific journals. Some researchers were actively discouraged from pursuing publications that might improve medicine but would garner few citations. All of this led many faculty members, especially younger ones, to complain that publication pressure kept them from doing what really mattered, such as strengthening contacts with patient organizations or trying to make promising treatments work in the real world.

The institution decided to break free of this mindset. Our university medical centre has just completed its first round of professorial appointments using a different approach, which will continue to be used for the roughly 20 professors appointed each year. The institution is evaluating research programmes in a new way.

Moving beyond metrics

In 2013, senior faculty members and administrators (including F.M.) at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht, Utrecht University and the University of Amsterdam hosted workshops and published a position paper concluding that bibliometric parameters were overemphasized and societal relevance was undervalued1. This led to extensive media attention, with newspapers and television shows devoting sections to the 'crisis' in science. Other efforts have come to similar conclusions2, 3, 4. In the wake of this public discussion, we launched our own internal debates. We had two goals. We wanted to create policies that ensured individual researchers would be judged on their actual contributions and not the counts of their publications. And we wanted our research programmes to be geared towards creating societal impact and not just scientific excellence.

Every meeting was attended by 20–60 UMC Utrecht researchers, many explicitly invited for their candour. They ranged from PhD students and young principal investigators to professors and department heads. The executive board, especially F.M., prepared the ground for frank criticism by publicly acknowledging publication pressure, perverse incentives and systemic flaws in science5, 6.

Attendees debated the right balance between research driven by curiosity and research inspired by clinical needs. They considered the role of patients' advice in setting research priorities, the definition of a good PhD trajectory and how to weigh up scientific novelty and societal relevance. We published interviews and reports from these meetings on our internal website and in our magazine.

We spent the next year redefining the portfolio that applicants seeking academic promotions are asked to submit. There were few examples to guide us, but we took inspiration from the approach used at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, which asks candidates for a package of scientific, teaching and other achievements.

Along with other elements, Utrecht candidates now provide a short essay about who they are and what their plans are as faculty members. They must discuss achievements in terms of five domains, only one of which is scientific publications and grants. First, candidates describe their managerial responsibilities and academic duties, such as reviewing for journals and contributing to internal and external committees. Second, they explain how much time they devote to students, what courses they have developed and what other responsibilities they have taken on. Then, if applicable, they describe their clinical work as well as their participation in organizing clinical trials and research into new treatments and diagnostics. Finally, the portfolio covers entrepreneurship and community outreach.

We also revamped the applicant-evaluation procedure. The chair of the committee is formally tasked with assuring that all domains are discussed for each candidate. This keeps us from overlooking someone who has hard-to-quantify qualities, such as their motivation to turn 'promising' results into something that really matters for patients, or to seek out non-obvious collaborations.

Another aspect of breaking free of the 'bibliometric mindset' came in how we assess our multidisciplinary research programmes, each of which has on average 80 principal investigators. The evaluation method was developed by a committee of faculty members mostly in the early stages of their careers. Following processes outlined by the UK Research Excellence Framework, which audits the output of UK institutions, committee members drew on case studies and published literature to define properties that could be used in broad assessments. This led to a suite of semi-qualitative indicators that include conventional outcome measurements, evaluations of leadership and citizenship across UMC Utrecht and other communities, as well as assessments of structure and process, such as how research questions are formed and results disseminated. We think that these shifts will reduce waste7, 8, increase impact, and attract researchers geared for collaborations with each other and with society at large.

Lasting change

Researchers at UMC Utrecht are already accustomed to national reviews, so our proposal to revamp evaluations fell on fertile ground. However, crafting these new policies took commitment and patience.

Two aspects of our approach were crucial. First, we did not let ourselves become paralysed by the belief that only joint action along with funders and journals would bring real change. We were willing to move forward on our own as an institution. Second, we ensured that although change was stimulated from the top, the criteria were set by the faculty members who expect to be judged by those standards. Indeed, after ample debate fuelled by continuing international criticism of bibliometric indicators, the first wave of group leaders has embraced the new system, which will permeate the institute in the years to come.

During the past few years of lectures and workshops, we were initially struck by how little early- and mid-career researchers knew about the 'business model' of modern science and about how science really works. But they were engaged, quick to learn and quick to identify forward-looking ideas to improve science. Students organized a brainstorming session with high-level faculty members about how to change the medical and life-sciences curriculum to incorporate reward-and-incentive structures. The PhD council chose a 'supervisor of the year' on the basis of the quality of supervision, and not just by the highest number of PhD students supervised, as was the custom before.

Extended community discussions pay off. We believe that selection and evaluation committees are well aware that bibliometrics can be a reductive force, but that assessors may lack the vocabulary to discuss less-quantifiable dimensions. By formally requiring qualitative indicators and a descriptive portfolio, we broaden what can be talked about9. We shape the structures that shape science — we can make sure that they do not warp it.

DO JUDGE: Treat metrics only as surrogates. Mark W. J. Ferguson

Some 20 years ago, when I was dean of biological sciences at the University of Manchester, UK, I tried an experiment. At the time, we assessed candidates applying for appointments and promotions using conventional measures: number of publications, quality of journal, h-index and so on.

Instead, we decided to ask applicants to tell us what they considered to be their three most important publications and why, and to submit a copy of each. We asked simple, direct questions: what have you discovered? Why is it important? What have you done about your discovery? To make applicants feel more comfortable with this peculiar assessment, we also indicated that they could submit, if they wished, a list of all of their other scientific publications — everyone did.

That experience has influenced the work I do now, as director-general of the main science-funding agency in Ireland. The three publications chosen by the applicant told me a lot about their achievements and judgement. Often, they highlighted unconventional impacts of their work.

For example, a would-be professor of medicine whose research concerned safely shortening hospital stays selected an article that he had written in the free, unrefereed magazine, Hospital Doctor. Asked why, he replied that hospital managers and most doctors actually read that magazine, so that the piece had facilitated rapid adoption of his findings; he later detailed the impactful results of this in an eminent medical journal (a paper he chose not to submit).

I believe most committee members actually read the papers submitted, unlike in other evaluations, where panellists have time only to scan exhaustive lists of publications. This approach may not have changed committee decisions, but it did change incentives of both the candidates and the panellists. The focus was on work that was important and meaningful. When counts of papers or citations become the dominant assessment criteria, people often overlook the basics: what did this scientist do and why does it matter?

    “What did this scientist do and why does it matter?”

But committee members often felt uncomfortable; they thought their selection was subjective, and they felt more secure with the numbers. After all, the biological-sciences faculty had just been through a major reform to prioritize research activity. The committee members had a point — bibliometric methods do bring some objectivity and may help to avoid biases and prejudices. Still, such approaches do not necessarily help minorities, young people or those working on particularly difficult problems; nor do they encourage reproducibility (see Exercising judgement is what people making important decisions are supposed to do.

When I moved on from my position as dean, the system reverted to its conventional form. Changes that result in differences from a cultural norm are difficult to sustain, particularly when they rely on the passion of a small number of people. In the years since, bibliometric assessments have become ever more embedded in evaluations across the world. Lately, rumblings against their influence have grown louder3.

To move the scientific enterprise towards better measures of quality, perhaps we need a collective effort by a group of leading international universities and research funders. What you measure is what you get: so if funders focus on assessing solid research advances (with potential economic and social impact) then this may encourage reliable, important work and discourage bibliometric gaming.

What can funders do? By tweaking rewards, these bodies can shape researchers' choices profoundly. The UK government has commissioned two reports2, 10 on how bibliometrics can be gamed, and is mulling ways to improve nationwide evaluations. Already we have seen a higher value placed on reproducibility by the US National Institutes of Health, with an increased focus on methodology, and a policy not to release funds until concerns raised by grant reviewers are explicitly addressed. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the country's main funding body, has allocated funding for repeat experiments.

Research funders should also explicitly encourage important research, even at the expense of publication rate. To this end, at Science Foundation Ireland, we will experiment with changes to the grant application form that are similar to my Manchester pilot. We will also introduce prizes, for example, for mentorship. We believe that such concrete steps will incentivize high-quality research over the long term, counterbalance some of the distortions in the current system, and help institutions to follow suit.

If enough international research organizations and funders return to basic principles in promotions, appointments and evaluations, then perhaps the surrogates can be used properly — as supporting information. They are not endpoints in themselves.

Author information

    Rinze Benedictus is staff adviser at the University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands, and a PhD candidate at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands.
    Frank Miedema is professor of immunology, and dean and vice-chairman of the executive board of the University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands. He is one of the founders of Science in Transition.
    Mark W. J. Ferguson is director-general of Science Foundation Ireland, and chief scientific adviser to the Government of Ireland.

Full text and references in the DOI link.

People seek-out ideologically consistent news; resulting re-inforcem't of leaning is hampered by relatively low overall ideological selective exposure & significant degree of cross-cutting news exposure

Reinforcing spirals at work? Mutual influences between selective news exposure and ideological leaning. Peter M Dahlgren, Adam Shehata, Jesper Strömbäck. European Journal of Communication, Feb 21 2019,

Abstract: The growth of partisan news sources has raised concerns that people will increasingly select attitude-consistent information, which might lead to increasing political polarization. Thus far, there is limited research on the long-term mutual influences between selective exposure and political attitudes. To remedy this, this study investigates the reciprocal influences between selective exposure and political attitudes over several years, using a three-wave panel survey conducted in Sweden during 2014–2016. More specifically, we analyse how ideological selective exposure to both traditional and online news media influences citizens’ ideological leaning. Findings suggest that (1) people seek-out ideologically consistent print news and online news and (2) such attitude-consistent news exposure reinforces citizens’ ideological leaning over time. In practice, however, such reinforcement effects are hampered by (3) relatively low overall ideological selective exposure and a (4) significant degree of cross-cutting news exposure online. These findings are discussed in light of selective exposure theory and the reinforcing spirals model.

Keywords: Political ideology, political polarization, reinforcing spirals model, selective exposure

Friday, February 22, 2019

Burnout is substantially associated with paranoid ideation; emotional exhaustion correlated as strongly with paranoid ideation as it correlated with depersonalization

Burnout, depression and paranoid ideation: a cluster-analytic study. R Bianchi, L Janin
Occupational Medicine, Volume 69, Issue 1, Feb 7 2019, Pages 35–38, Correction:

Background: A link between burnout and paranoid ideation has long been suspected. However, systematic research on the association has been scarce.

Aims: We investigated the relationship between burnout and paranoid ideation. Because burnout overlaps with depression, depression was also examined.

Methods: A total of 218 Swiss schoolteachers participated in the study (58% female; mean age: 47). Burnout symptoms were assessed with the emotional exhaustion (EE) and depersonalization (DP) subscales of the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Educators Survey, depressive symptoms with the PHQ-9 and paranoid ideation with the Green et al. Paranoid Thought Scales.

Results: Burnout, depression and their subdimensions showed raw correlations ranging from 0.42 to 0.55 with paranoid ideation. Burnout, depression and paranoid thoughts were found to cluster together. Lower levels of burnout and depression coexisted with lower levels of paranoid ideation and higher levels of burnout and depression coexisted with higher levels of paranoid ideation. When corrected for measurement error, the correlations of EE with depression and DP were 0.96 and 0.57, respectively. A principal component analysis confirmed that EE was indistinguishable from depression.

Conclusions: Burnout is substantially associated with paranoid ideation. Interestingly, EE correlated as strongly with paranoid ideation as it correlated with DP. Moreover, if burnout is a syndrome of EE and DP that excludes depression, then the EE-depression correlation should not be close to 1 and EE should not correlate more strongly with depression than with DP. These basic requirements for construct distinctiveness and syndromal unity were not satisfied.

Keywords: Dysphoria, exhaustion, health, mood, paranoia, personality, suicidal ideation, work stress

Most sleep does not serve a vital function: Evidence from Drosophila melanogaster

Most sleep does not serve a vital function: Evidence from Drosophila melanogaster. Quentin Geissmann, Esteban J. Beckwith and Giorgio F. Gilestro. Science Advances Feb 20 2019:Vol. 5, no. 2, eaau9253, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau9253

Abstract: Sleep appears to be a universally conserved phenomenon among the animal kingdom, but whether this notable evolutionary conservation underlies a basic vital function is still an open question. Using a machine learning–based video-tracking technology, we conducted a detailed high-throughput analysis of sleep in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, coupled with a lifelong chronic and specific sleep restriction. Our results show that some wild-type flies are virtually sleepless in baseline conditions and that complete, forced sleep restriction is not necessarily a lethal treatment in wild-type D. melanogaster. We also show that circadian drive, and not homeostatic regulation, is the main contributor to sleep pressure in flies. These results offer a new perspective on the biological role of sleep in Drosophila and, potentially, in other species.

Routine allomaternal nursing in a free-ranging monkey: Largely confined to the first 3 months of an infant’s life, occurred predominantly between related females who nursed each other’s offspring in a reciprocal manner

Routine allomaternal nursing in a free-ranging Old World monkey. Zuofu Xiang et al. Science Advances Feb 20 2019:Vol. 5, no. 2, eaav0499, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav0499

Abstract: While regular allomaternal nursing (suckling) has been documented in a number of rodent and carnivore species, as well as in some prosimians, New World monkeys, and humans, it is not common in Old World monkeys and apes. Here, we present a detailed field study of allomaternal nursing in golden snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana, Colobinae). We found that more than 87% of infants were nursed by females other than their mothers. Allomaternal nursing was largely confined to the first 3 months of an infant’s life and occurred predominantly between related females who nursed each other’s offspring in a reciprocal manner. Allomaternal nursing enhanced infant survivorship and did not have a negative impact on the future reproductive success of allonursers. Our findings expand the taxonomic distribution of allomaternal nursing and provide fresh insight into the possible factors driving evolution of allomaternal nursing behavior in primates, including humans.

From 2016... An exploration of how therapists experience erotic feelings in therapy

Kotaki, V. (2016). An exploration of how therapists experience erotic feelings in therapy. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London).


Aims and objectives: This study has three aims. The first aim is to explore how therapists experience erotic feelings in therapy. The second aim is to examine how therapists’ experience of the erotic is constructed, and the third aim is to identify how therapists’ accounts construct the social world. The objectives of the study are to (1) make meaning of therapists’ experience, (2) theorise the basic social processes, contexts and structural conditions that influence the construction of their experience, and (3) suggest practical applications (Braun & Clarke, 2006, 2013, 2014).

Methodology: The Constructionist model of Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006, 2013) is used to analyse the collected qualitative data.

Method: Data were collected by conducting semi-structured interviews with thirteen therapists. The participants were six male and seven female who had more than five years of post-qualification experience. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed and analysed.

Results: The findings suggest that the majority of participants are not prepared for their encounter with the erotic. Most of them perceive it as a mysterious phenomenon, view it as a professional taboo, and argue that it has personal and sensitive meaning for both themselves and their clients. The majority of participants appear to encounter a series of challenges, which they process internally while they handle the erotic explicitly, implicitly or not at all. Participants’ understanding of the erotic is mostly influenced by their clinical experience and the quality of supervision they receive. Their experience of the erotic is constructed through their interaction with society, training institutions, the profession and the regulation of clinical practice. At the same time, due to the inter-relationship between social systems and therapeutic practice, participants’ accounts construct the social world. Participants understand the erotic as a product of therapy and highlight that it can be either constructive or destructive. At last, they advocate that a practical approach to learning, open conversations on the subject and strategies to overcome the restrictions set by society, culture and regulation are required to enable their work with the erotic.

Discussion: Research findings and implications for practice are discussed. The methodology used to conduct the study is evaluated. Suggestions for further research are provided.

On the Content of “Real-World” Sexual Fantasy: Results From an Analysis of 250,000+ Anonymous Text-Based Erotic Fantasies

On the Content of “Real-World” Sexual Fantasy: Results From an Analysis of 250,000+ Anonymous Text-Based Erotic Fantasies. Martin Seehuus, Amelia M. Stanton, Ariel B. Handy. Archives of Sexual Behavior,

Abstract: A recurring problem with the study of sexual fantasy is that of social desirability bias. Study participants may report fantasies that are consistent with general societal expectations of fantasy content, as opposed to themes characterized by their actual fantasies. The wide availability of erotic material on the Internet, however, facilitates the study of sexual fantasy narratives as they are anonymously expressed and viewed online. By extracting approximately 250,000 text-based erotic fantasies from a user-generated website, we sought to examine “real-world” sexual fantasies, determine the themes that were typical of these narratives, and explore the relationship between themes and story popularity (as assessed by story views per day). A principal components analysis identified 20 themes that commonly occurred across the massive corpus, and a path analysis revealed that these themes played a significant role in predicting the popularity of the sexual fantasy narratives. In particular, the empirically identified themes reflecting familial words (e.g., mother, father) and colloquial sexual words (e.g., cock, fuck) were predictive of story popularity. Other themes identified included those not obviously erotic, such as those consisting of words reflecting domesticity (e.g., towel, shower) and colors (e.g., brown, blue). By analyzing a sexual fantasy corpus of unprecedented size, this study offers unique insight into both the content of sexual fantasies and the popularity of that content.

Keywords: Sexual fantasy Language Meaning extraction method Text analysis

From 2014: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases

From 2014... The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study. Petroc Sumner et al. BMJ 2014;349:g7015. doi: (Dec 10 2014).

40%... of the press releases contained exaggerated advice, 33%... contained exaggerated causal claims, and 36%... contained exaggerated inference to humans from animal research

Effects (removing details of confidence intervals): When press releases contained such exaggeration, 58% ..., 81% ..., and 86% ... of news stories, respectively, contained similar exaggeration, compared with exaggeration rates of 17% ...., 18% ..., and 10% ... in news when the press releases were not exaggerated. Odds ratios for each category of analysis were 6.5 ...times..., 20 ...times..., and 56 ...times...


Objective To identify the source (press releases or news) of distortions, exaggerations, or changes to the main conclusions drawn from research that could potentially influence a reader’s health related behaviour.

Design Retrospective quantitative content analysis.

Setting Journal articles, press releases, and related news, with accompanying simulations.

Sample Press releases (n=462) on biomedical and health related science issued by 20 leading UK universities in 2011, alongside their associated peer reviewed research papers and news stories (n=668).

Main outcome measures Advice to readers to change behaviour, causal statements drawn from correlational research, and inference to humans from animal research that went beyond those in the associated peer reviewed papers.

Results 40% (95% confidence interval 33% to 46%) of the press releases contained exaggerated advice, 33% (26% to 40%) contained exaggerated causal claims, and 36% (28% to 46%) contained exaggerated inference to humans from animal research. When press releases contained such exaggeration, 58% (95% confidence interval 48% to 68%), 81% (70% to 93%), and 86% (77% to 95%) of news stories, respectively, contained similar exaggeration, compared with exaggeration rates of 17% (10% to 24%), 18% (9% to 27%), and 10% (0% to 19%) in news when the press releases were not exaggerated. Odds ratios for each category of analysis were 6.5 (95% confidence interval 3.5 to 12), 20 (7.6 to 51), and 56 (15 to 211). At the same time, there was little evidence that exaggeration in press releases increased the uptake of news.

Conclusions Exaggeration in news is strongly associated with exaggeration in press releases. Improving the accuracy of academic press releases could represent a key opportunity for reducing misleading health related news.

EU Commission said subsidies to UK renewables were €1.57 bn; correct figure is closer to €7bn

Authors of EU Commission Report Confirm Mistake
In his column earlier this week, Dr John Constable, the GWPF's energy editor, pointed out that the EU Commission’s recent study of the effect of climate and other policies on international competitiveness contained a substantive error. The report claimed that annual levies on UK consumers in 2016 for subsidies to renewable electricity were €1.57 billion, whereas the correct figure is closer to €7 billion.

The EU Commission’s consultants have confirmed the mistake in writing to Dr Constable:
“You are correct that the largest part of the other subsidies was from the Renewables Obligation and that these were not allocated to ‘financed by end users’ as they should have been. Thank you for spotting this error, we are correcting the figures and expect a revised report to be online soon."
Correcting this error will certainly have significant consequences for all sections of the report relying on calculations of Renewable Energy support costs for electricity consumers in 2016. Because of its magnitude it is likely to have consequences for the study’s estimates of the competitiveness impact on the EU28 overall as compared to the G20.
This is impact is already estimated to be very significant, with both domestic and industrial electricity prices being very substantially above those in the G20, with EU domestic prices being more than double those in the G20 and industrial prices approximately 50% higher.

Dr Constable said:

"The study is an important and major statement on the economic consequences of the EU’s energy and climate policies, and it is crucial that such work is as accurate as possible."

Notes for Editors
2. The EU Commission study can be found here: