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Q-Step Seminar Series

The University of Warwick Q-Step Centre research seminar series brings together staff and students from throughout the university who are interested in social science research using quantitative methods. All are welcome.

Autumn Term 2020

3 November 1200-1300 (Online)

Link to the talk:

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Meeting ID: 836 2589 5233
Passcode: 402389

Title: When Do Scientists Engage in Public Debates?

Achim Edelmann (Institute of Sociology, University of Bern)

When do scientists engage in contentious public debates and what keeps others from doing so? I examine the debate on whether to limit bio-medical experiments involving the creation of potentially pandemic pathogens. While hundreds of scientists have chose to publicly engage in this debate by signing petitions on it, far more have chosen not to do so. Using 1.1 M papers published by participants and their collaborators, I reconstructed the collaboration networks and research specializations of scientists at risk of engaging in the debate. I find that scientists in less constraint networks are more likely to take a public stance on either side of the debate. This suggests that scientists need structural autonomy to speak up on contentious issues in public. I also find that scientists who are less specialized in issues pertaining to the debate are more likely to publicly oppose “gain-of-function” research, whereas I find no such effect for its support. This might reflect the need for generalists to understand the wide ranging risks these experiments might pose for large parts of society.

Summer Term 2020

15th June 1400-1500 (Online)

Title: Terrorism, Trust, and Ethnic Identification: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Nigeria

Robin Harding (Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford)

Terrorism is increasingly a problem across Africa, but as yet little work has sought to investigate its political effects. Studies in Europe and the US suggest that terrorist attacks can increase political trust, but it is unclear whether we should expect these findings to hold in a context where political institutions are often fragile, and where political violence is frequent. We investigate this question in Nigeria, where terrorism has been widespread and increasing over the past decade. Making use of unexpected attacks by the extremist group Boko Haram, which occurred during the fieldwork of a public opinion survey, we show that even in a context of weak state institutions and frequent terrorist activities terrorist attacks significantly increase political trust. Previous studies in other contexts have attributed such effects to a "rally round the flag" mechanism, whereby people look to national state institutions as the legitimate source of security in the face of terrorist threat. A further implication of this argument is that terrorism should result in a stronger sense of collective national identity. Counter to this, we find that terror attacks in this context actually reduce the salience of respondents' national identity, instead significantly increasing ethnic identification. This fits with arguments from social psychology which suggest that fear and insecurity can lead people to identify more strongly with their in-group. These findings have important implications for understanding the political effects of terrorism in contexts where society is divided along ethnic lines and where ethnic divisions are politically salient.

Autumn Term 2019

6th December 1200-1300 (Room R0.03)

Title: Gender Differences in Fertility and Risky Sexual Behaviour: The Effect of Hard and Soft Skills

Ericka Rascon Ramirez (Department of Economics, Middlesex University)

Hard and soft skills have been shown to be relevant for labour market and educational outcomes, however, little is known about their influence on fertility decision-making and sexual behaviour. This paper analyses to what extent a hard skill (vocational training) and a soft skill (inspirational talk) intervention affected childbearing decisions, HIV testing and transactional sex in young people. Using baseline and follow-up data of a randomised control trial in Malawi, we find that receiving an offer to attend a vocational training programme decreased the chances of becoming a mother and increased the chances of being HIV-tested in both females and males when comparing with the control group. The chances of being demanded for transactional sex decreased for those women receiving the offer to attend the vocational training. Comparing the effects of both interventions between adolescents (under 20) and young adults (20-24), we observe that both ‘hard and soft skills’ reduced the chances of becoming a parent and increased the chances of being HIV-tested in both groups. For transactional sex, we observe opposite effects. While vocational training reduced the chances of being demanded for transactional services, inspirational talks increased the chances of demanding such services. Adolescents who received ‘hard skills’ are less likely to offer transactional sex after the intervention than those in the control group. These results shed light on gender and age differences in the impact of vocational training interventions on non-labour outcomes and on how low-cost ‘soft skills’ interventions, such as inspirational talks, may affect long term outcomes.

Spring Term 2019

21st March 1000-1300 (Room MB0.08)

Title: Applied Methods with Historical Data

Gunes Gokmen (Department of Economics, Lund University)

The goal of this lecture is to familiarize students with a range of techniques used in applied empirical
methods with historical data. The emphasis will be on practical issues that one faces and using
various statistical techniques rather than theoretical underpinnings. By the end of this lecture
students will have a basic understanding of the tools helpful for understanding causal inference in
empirical studies and familiarity with how to apply historical instruments. The lecture is suitable
for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. All members of the University with an interest in
social science research using quantitative methods are welcome to attend.

12th March 1200-1300 (Room S0.18)
Title: Peacekeepers against Criminal Violence – Unintended Effects of Peacekeeping Operations?
Jessica Di Salvatore (Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick)
Research shows that peacekeepers reduce conflict intensity; however, effects of deployment on non-political violence are unknown. This article proposes a two-fold mechanism to explain why peacekeeping missions can inadvertently increase criminal violence. First, less conflict opens up economic opportunities (so-called peacekeeping economies) and provides operational security for organized crime, thus increasing violent competition among criminal groups. Second, demobilized combatants are vulnerable to turn to crime because of limited legal livelihood opportunities and their training in warfare. While UN troops may exacerbate these dynamics, UN police peculiar role is likely to successfully contain criminal violence. Cross-national and subnational empirical analyses show that large UN military deployments result in higher homicide rates whereas UN police, overall, moderates this collateral effect.

Autumn Term 2018

4th December 1200-1300 (Room OC1.02)

Title: The talk is the new walk: UK universities’ formal commitments to inclusion and the reproduction of institutional status

Roxana Baltaru (Department of Sociology, University of Warwick

This paper explores UK universities’ formal commitments to inclusion as a by-product of universities’ attempts to meet cultural expectations about what they should look like, as opposed to an accurate reflection of inclusion at the structural level. Departing from a neo-institutionalist perspective, the author argues that universities’ formal commitment to inclusion has become an indicator of institutional status, as it articulates universities’ capacity to strategise for the pursuit of clearly defined goals and targets while affirming their alignment with individual empowerment as a culturally legitimised direction. Drawing on student and staff inclusion data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and primary data collected from universities’ websites, the author finds that universities’ formal commitments to inclusion have become disconnected from the structural pursuit of inclusion among students and staff. Interestingly, Russel Group universities exhibit greater formal commitment to inclusion compared to all other universities, irrespective of the shares of student and staff from non-traditional backgrounds. The findings reveal a new “walk” underlying universities’ formal commitments to inclusion, namely the reproduction of institutional status as opposed to more direct concerns of enhancing inclusion among students and staff. The findings have implications for current inclusion policies while also informing a (re)conceptualisation of the relationship between university reputation and the pursuit of institutional status in the neo-institutionalist tradition.

30th October 1200-1300 (Room H2.03)

Title: The Linguistic Ideologies of Deep Abusive Language Classification

Michael Castellle (Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick)

This paper brings together theories from sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology, along with the methodology of neural network-based machine learning, to critically evaluate the so-called “language ideologies”—the set of beliefs and ways of speaking about language—in the practices of abusive language classification in contemporary natural language processing (NLP). This argument is made at both a conceptual and empirical level, as I review approaches to abusive language from different fields, and use two neural network methods to analyze three datasets developed for abusive language classification tasks (drawn from Wikipedia, Facebook, and Stack Overflow). By evaluating and comparing these experimental results, I argue for the importance of incorporating theories of pragmatics and metapragmatics into both the design of classification tasks as well as in machine learning architectures.

Spring Term 2018

31st January 1300-1400 (Room S1.69)

Title: Socio-economic inequality in residential exposure to air pollution and noise

Dr Thomas Verbeek (Department of Sociology, University of Warwick)

Together with a growing empirical evidence on the health effects of environmental impacts, the fair distribution of these impacts across society receives increasing attention. However, today only a limited number of empirical studies exists, with varying results and usually focusing on a single environmental impact. This work presents a spatial data analysis in the city of Ghent (Belgium), combining residential exposure to both air pollution and noise with socio-economic variables and housing variables. Results show that more deprived neighbourhoods, with lower incomes, more unemployment, and a higher percentage of foreign origin people, are more exposed to modelled air pollution, but not to modelled traffic noise. We also found that neighbourhoods with more rental houses, more house moves, a shorter length of residence and lower house prices, bear a higher average exposure to air pollution, and to a much lesser degree to noise. Although the residential exposure variables are based on models and multidimensional analyses might lead to further understanding, the results provide a good starting point for discussions about environmental justice and the need to intervene.

Autumn Term 2017 

18th October 1500-1700 (Room R3.41)

Compensating or compounding effects: Can school attended alleviate the effects of family background on academic achievement?

Dr Jenny Chesters (Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne)

Social mobility via education is one of the cornerstones of the Australian democratic state, however, previous research finds evidence of a strong association between parental education and child’s educational achievement and attainment suggesting that social origin plays an integral role in the achievements of successive generations of Australians. Sociologists draw on a range of theoretical perspectives to explain this association including Bourdieu’s cultural and social capital theories. Using data collected by the Longitudinal Survey of Australian Youth 2009 (LSAY09) project, I examine the associations between student SES, school SES and two outcome variables: PISA score and university enrolment. The results indicate that low SES students attending high SES schools perform better on PISA tests than low SES students attending low SES schools. High SES students attending low SES schools perform less well than their high SES peers attending high SES schools. After controlling for PISA score, low SES students were less likely than their high SES peers to enrol at university.

This seminar is organised in collaboration with the Department of Sociology seminar series.

22nd November 1300-1400 (Room S0.09)

Reproducible science is easy and difficult: Species Distribution Modelling and the ZOON project

Greg McInerny (Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies)

Like many activities in quantitative science, the massive growth in Species Distribution Modelling (SDM) has been fuelled by the increasing availability of modelling software and online data. By interpolating species’ distributions in terms of environmental variables these models are used to understand the determinants of biodiversity patterns and predict their futures across a wide range of pure and applied areas of ecological and evolutionary science. In this talk I will present our work on the ‘ZOON’ R package that enables reproducible approaches to SDM, and that could help solve some of the key controversies surrounding this set of methodologies. By composing SDM workflows from modifiable modules, ZOON allows users to approach SDM as an open science that can be validated and make advances more rapidly. Whilst the software is ‘user friendly’ and makes open and reproducible science ‘easy’, it also makes research much more difficult. Progress requires that we disentangle the traditional analytical, theoretical and methodological concerns of science from the cultural, social and technological drivers that determine how we approach science. Understanding these ‘unscientific’ components of science, and using them to re-design science, could lead us to a more scientific (and reproducible) approach to computational science.

Spring Term 2017

7th February 1300-1400 (Room S0.13)

The Fifty American States in Space and Time: Applying Conditionally Autoregressive Models

Dr Jamie Monogan (Department of Political Science, University of Georgia)

This paper makes the argument that spatial conditionally autoregressive (CAR) models in a hierarchical Bayesian framework can be informative for understanding American state politics, or any similar population of border-defined observations. Whenever observations are referenced geographically, there is a good possibility that neighbors' error terms correlate. CAR models can account for this, and can easily be included into a wide range of modeling frameworks. This paper shows how to incorporate this kind of error structure into cross-sectional, panel and event history models with applied examples related to public policy liberalism, public opinion on social policy, and the adoption of education lotteries in the 50 American states. With Monte Carlo analyses, we illustrate that as spatial correlation rises, the CAR model offers efficiency gains relative to standard linear models.

Book your place here.

22nd February 1200-1300 (Room S0.17)

Educational Transitions of Disabled Youth in England: The Role of Attainment, Stigma, and Parental Education

Dr Stella Chatzitheochari (Department of Sociology)

8th March 1200-1300 (Room S0.17)

Maintaining high response rates in surveys, is it worth the effort?

Professor Ian Brunton-Smith (Department of Sociology)

Autumn Term 2016

13th October

Feeling at ‘home’ in the private rented sector (PRS): using mixed methods to explore different facets of ‘home’

Dr Nigel de Noronha (Department of Sociology)

27th October

Language, Happiness and Big Data Across One or More Lifespans.

Professor Thomas Hills (Department of Psychology)

10th November

Does employer size affect graduates’ skill utilisation?

Dr Daria Luchinskaya (Warwick Institute for Employment Research)

24th November

Is big data the demise of the social sciences?

Dr Emma Uprichard (Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies)

8th December

Framing the Choice in EU Referendums

Dr Ece Atikcan (Politics and International Studies)