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Teaching R to 200 students in a week

By Michael Levy - Posted on 19 September 2015

I just taught a week-long “R Bootcamp” to 200 R newbies. It went quite well, and I thought it would be valuable to jot down some thoughts on what worked and what I might change if doing it again.

The course design and my approach to teaching scientific computing in general have been deeply shaped by Greg Wilson and the Software Carpentry pedagogy, and this was an experiment in scaling that approach. Software/Data Carpentry workshops are typically two days, cover 3-4 computational tools, and have a student:instructor/assistant ratio of about 8:1. Here, we had five days, just one computational tool, and a ratio of about 50:1. The mission was also different. My goals, in descending priority, were to get students:

Governing the Murray Darling Basin

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 18 September 2015

Fine, I admit I like Twitter as an outreach tool. My fondness for Twitter was recently reinforced when I replied to a message from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) regarding the various agencies and planning processes around the Murray-Darling watershed in Australia.   I was pleasantly surprised when the MDBA directly responded to a couple of questions that I posed regarding the complexity of the MDBA governance system.

All 15 home teams win! What are the odds?

By Michael Levy - Posted on 12 August 2015

My dad just sent me an article saying that yesterday was the first time in the modern history of Major League Baseball that all 15 home teams won in a single day. Seems pretty incredible, right? To get 15 of 15 winners in a 50/50 contest is a 0.5^15 = 1-in-32,768 shot. To get a better sense of just how rare an event this is, we need to know two things: 1. how often is it possible for it to happen (i.e. all 30 teams play in a day), and 2. when it’s possible, what is the probability of it happening (i.e. all 15 home teams winning).

What we're reading -- and how it ties us together

By Michael Levy - Posted on 29 March 2015

Network of an interdisciplinary environmental social science lab as tied together by the journals we read. A few key journals, especially Social Networks, hold us together. R code follows.

The Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior, my grad lab, is remarkably interdisciplinary. For some sense of our breadth, consider that our nine core graduate students represent five different graduate programs: Ecology, Geography, Hydrology, Political Science, and Transportation Technology and Policy. That's great for many reasons, not least that it's an intellectually exciting environment in which to live, but it sometimes leaves me wondering what ties us together. So I thought I'd see if the journals we read could answer that question.

What we're reading -- and how it ties us together

By Michael Levy - Posted on 28 March 2015

tl;dr: Network of an interdisciplinary environmental social science lab as tied together by the journals we read. A few key journals, especially Social Networks, hold us together. R code follows.

The Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior, my grad lab, is remarkably interdisciplinary. For some sense of our breadth, consider that our nine core graduate students represent five different graduate programs: Ecology, Geography, Hydrology, Political Science, and Transportation Technology and Policy. That’s great for many reasons, not least that it’s an intellectually exciting environment in which to live, but it sometimes leaves me wondering what ties us together. So I thought I’d see if the journals we read could answer that question.

An Ode to the Network Periphery

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 06 March 2015

Social network research often focuses on the core of a network instead of the periphery.  There are practical and theoretical reasons for this.  The practical reason is that it is often difficult to measure the periphery of the network, for example peripheral actors are less likely to answer a survey or be mentioned by survey respondents.  The theoretical reason is that many people think all of the “action” is in the core.  For example, in policy networks, the core actors might have the most political resources and therefore have control over how policy decisions are made. 

The Ecology of Games Framework: Some Responses to Critics

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 05 February 2015

A major branch of my research is devoted to studying complex institutional systems, which I argue are the defining feature of real-world environmental governance and public policy more generally.    Along with my colleagues (especially John Scholz and Ramiro Berardo) and students, we have updated the “ecology of games” idea originally developed by sociologist Norton Long in 1958 to describe the many different types of political actors and institutions operating in local political contexts.  Our ecology of games framework (EGF) synthesizes a number of existing theoretical concepts, with a strong basis in the work of Elinor Ostrom and new institutional economics, network analysis, and complex adaptive systems.

What is Network Governance?

By Mark Lubell - Posted on 14 January 2015

Blogs are sometimes good for making arguments that might not be published. Of course a good blog doesn’t just invent nonsense.  Rather, it focuses on expert-based opinions.  In the next couple of months, I’m going to write some expert-based opinions about theories of environmental governance that I use in my research.  I begin with a long-standing criticism I have of the term “network governance”, in particular when it is used to describe a form of governance that is different from markets and hierarchies. 

The limits to Limits

By Neil McRoberts - Posted on 07 January 2015

Do milestone events (like the publication of Earthrise, December 24 1968, or The Limits to Growth (1972)) have a lasting impact on global econmic and environmental policy?  What's "gestation period" for a work such as Limits to Growth, that has profound implications for sustainable management of global resources, before it's message begins to influence policy formulation?  Why doesn't growth make us happy? I've been trying to grapple with these and other connected questions.  Read more at: http://1680kcal.org/?p=184. 

Social science, all shook up

By Michael Levy - Posted on 09 October 2014

The Times Higher Education recently published an article titled Do the social sciences need a shake up? which is a response of sorts to Nicholas Christakis' NY Times op-ed, Let's shake up the social sciences. The central thesis of both is that the social sciences have stagnated, largely because of disciplinary silos, and would better serve society if reorganized. Here are my thoughts as a recent transplant from the biophysical to social sciences.

On the Christakis piece:

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