Practicing political science without a license, or, all the rants conveniently in a single place

Larry Bartels writes about how “the contemporary electoral landscape, which is less volatile and more partisan than it has been at any time in the past half-century or more.” Larry’s presentation is clean and well illustrated by graphs, adding nicely to earlier discussion of this topic by John Sides.

Larry also has some comments about the problems that can occur when a historian is “moonlighting as a political scientist.” Which reminds me of my own rants:

The astronomer moonlighting as a political scientist

The qual moonlighting as a quant

The physicist moonlighting as a computer scientist

The physicists moonlighting as political scientists

The legal scholar moonlighting as an electoral historian

– And, my favorite, the English political theorist moonlighting as an Americanist (“But viewed in retrospect, it is clear that it has been quite predictable”)

– And, really really my favorite, the sociologist moonlighting as a biologist (follow the links, if you can stomach it).

Seeing all this, you can probably conclude:

1. I spend way too much time focusing on the mistakes of others.

2. Political scientists (if I’m any example) are super turf-conscious.

But really I’m happy when people moonlight in political science, and I’m also looking forward to seeing this increase, as it appears there are more courses becoming available from universities like Norwich University. After all, I’m primarily a statistician and thus am myself a moonlighter. Whatever mistakes people make can ultimately be cleared up, and this is one way we share our knowledge with outsiders.

P.S. Larry’s entry is part of his new blog (with Nolan McCarty and others) on the 2008 election. Check it out.

1 thought on “Practicing political science without a license, or, all the rants conveniently in a single place

  1. A few tentative explanations:

    1. There are plenty of examples of successful research trespassing. The examples belong to the "work by people who don't do their homework".

    2. Political scientists are so conscious because barriers to entry are so low, and I am tempted to say, so is the average quality of research.

    3. No insult intended, but Bartels himself is a political scientist moonlighting as a statistician. Many of the statistical inferences contained in "Unequal Democracy" are plainly unwarranted. Is it too much to ask the blogger-in-chief to weight in on the subject matter (other than simply reporting on an old talk)?

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