Anthropologists weigh in on Jared Diamond's latest: lack of citations, ethnographic carelessness, and the smoothing of complex narratives into quotable fables. The World Until Yesterday has prompted a flurry of commentary from anthropologists unenthusiastic about the physiologist turned evolutionary biologist turned geographer. In a recent London Review of Books, leading political anthropologist James C. Scott doesn't buy Diamond's description of the modern nation-state arising to curtail primitive tribal violence "[i]n a passage that recapitulates the fable of the social contract" given how "slaving was at the very centre of state-making." Anthropologist Alex Golub, who shares Papua New Guinea as a major research site, wrote "Still, it is telling that we live in an age when a member of America’s National Academy of Sciences and one of the world’s foremost public intellectuals has less concern for citations and footnotes than do the contributors to Wikipedia." David Correia pulls no punches in his opinion piece "F*ck Jared Diamond" calling Diamond's resurrection of environmental determinism as racist apologia and his latest book as essentializing primitivism in order to define Western industrialized exceptionalism. [more inside]
A few people at the Max Planck Society have put together an interactive visualizer of research paper quality called Excellence Mapping (Requires you to email a bot for a password). It shows the number of papers published at each institution in a given field, as well as the percentage of those papers in the top 10% of papers cited in that field. Some potentially surprising results come up, as noted by the Physics ArXiV blog: “In physics and astronomy, for example, two of the top three institutions in physics and astronomy are Spanish: the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona and ICREA (Institucio Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avancats) also in Barcelona. Ranked 8th, above Harvard and MIT, is Partners Healthcare System, a non-profit healthcare organisation based in Boston that funds research, mostly in the life sciences.” The creators of the tool also published a paper on the ArXiV about their techniques.
Digital Research Tools (DiRT) is a wiki created by Lisa Spiro, director of Rice University's Digital Media Center. Tons of "snapshot reviews of software that can help researchers" are categorized by what you're trying to accomplish ("Analyze Statistics," "Network With Other Researchers," "Search Visually"), as well as by general topic ("Authoring," "Linguistic Tools," "Text Analysis"). Via
The fifty most cited books. At the time the list was compiled in the 1980s, the most cited book in the humanities and social sciences was Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, followed by James Joyce's Ulysses. Noam Chomsky makes the top 20 with two works on linguistics. And, for those who prefer natural science, you should know the most cited scientific paper of all time is Protein Determination by Oliver H. Lowry. Alternately, you could just skip academia and go for the top 40 most important books according to World Literature Today, the 100 most loved according to the BBC, or you could just decide which books matter most to you. So what makes a book important, and which books qualify?
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