Today's Top 10 is a guest post from Ben Davies, Sophie Hale, Kate Preston, and Dom White, research analysts at the Motu public policy and research institute.
As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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(Cartoon above from hedgeye).
Earlier this year, President Trump claimed that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” The team at FiveThirtyEight tested that proposition by pitting their readers against each other in a series of simulated trading games. The results contradict the presidential advice: 58% of the time, trade war winners were worse off than they would have been under free trade. Moreover, readers became less cooperative and more retaliatory over successive iterations, epitomising the fragility of trade agreements in the modern era.
The World Cup this year was full of surprises, new technologies, and a familiar winner in France. Some countries, like France, seem to have continued success on the world stage and some do not. To investigate this, the Economist built a statistical model to try and discover the underlying sporting and economic factors that determine a country's footballing potential. The main variables incorporated into the model include: how poor a country is, the passion for football within the country, home advantage, and strength of opposition.
From this they developed a measure, using goal difference, to see which countries have over or under performed on the world stage. The issue they found was that these factors only explain 40% of the variation in goal difference between countries. Therefore, the success of a national team appears to be largely out of the control of football administrators. Nonetheless, the article provides four areas where administrators can help their cause.
The first is to encourage children to develop their football skills creatively. The second is to stop talented teenagers from falling through the cracks and develop a more robust scouting network. The third is to make the most of footballs’ vast global network. The last is for countries to prepare properly for each tournament. By improving on these areas, a country can apparently improve the quality of their national side but as with the randomness of football, it does not guarantee success.
Researchers examined over 120 years of historical data and found that these traits are no longer increasing, despite further continuous nutritional, medical, and scientific progress. This plateau is demonstrated for example in sports records and in highest life expectancy, where more people are reaching these limits, but little or none exceeding them. The authors highlight the damaging effects on human health of anthropogenically-driven environmental constraints. They suggest this may push up the costs (in both energy and investment) necessary to maintain performance levels in the future.
The appeal of an open office plan has grown in recent times due to the expected increase in collaboration and teamwork. But a recent study has shown that this collaboration comes with its costs. Distraction to workers can reduce a worker’s ability to concentrate and their productivity.
There is also evidence that increased crowding and low levels of privacy can place strain on workplace relationships.
These issues can be reduced by planning out the collaborative space effectively. This includes improving the visual appeal of the office through: the layout, the availability of natural light, and views of nature. While employers are following the open plan trend, they need to be aware that they are trading privacy and productivity for collaboration.
Researchers in the UK conducted a qualitative analysis of participants opting to stand in normally-seated meetings, and found that many experienced psychological discomfort, with standing perceived as a violation of social norms, an appropriation of power or a misperceived challenging of authority. They encourage office managers to explicitly promote the acceptability of standing in the workplace as a health promotion strategy if it is to benefit wider workplace wellbeing.
Economists routinely endure criticism for using simple models to understand complex phenomena, with the usual charges being that we have “physics envy” or that our assumptions are “empirically false”. Such criticisms ignore the abstractive power of economic models, which this post by Chris Auld at Canada’s University of Victoria explains, along with the supposed distinction between economists and “Real Scientists.”
It is not well understood how teacher collective bargaining can affect student outcomes. Many of the law changes in the US that would enable researchers to study this concept predated the collection of data on student performance that was linkable to the student’s school district. But this study looks at labour-market and educational outcomes in 35-49-year-olds that were at school around the time of the law changes.
The effect of duty-to-bargain laws, which are associated with increased teacher collective bargaining, are shown to have a negative impact on the outcomes of males. A decomposition by race shows that this effect is concentrated among African-Americans.
Many graduate programmes are structured with the belief that teaching effort and research success are inversely correlated. These researchers found that graduate students were not hindered by training; in fact, investing in the training of graduate students did not reduce publication numbers or science communication skills, and may increase the students' preparedness for a research career.
9. From data to viz.
From Data to Viz purports to lead you to the most appropriate graph for your data. It links to the code that will allow you to build it and lists common caveats. This particular website has provided much discussion about how new methods for presenting data can be useful. It is especially relevant as we continue a conversation about whether the academic paper is a dying format.
10. And finally...
A joke from the very funny @KarlreMarks
So an economist walks into a bar. It's hard to tell what the punchline is without more data.