Category: research

Case Studies and Formal Models

I’ve just finished a paper with a colleague from graduate school, Peter Lorentzen, and a talented graduate student at UC Berkeley, Jack Paine.

In the paper, we explore how case studies (and in particular the process tracing of causal mechanisms) can be used to evaluate formal models.

Here’s the abstract:

In the ongoing debate about how to test formal models, the role of qualitative evidence has been oddly neglected, even though it is a commonly used by formal theorists. Moreover, qualitative research has played an important role in shaping our collective assessment of the value of many models. We argue that this is no accident, but rather reflects the shared focus of formal theorists and qualitative researchers on mechanisms. Despite this, the flourishing literature on qualitative methodology pays little attention to the specific issues involved in evaluating formal models, and formal modelers generally offer qualitative evidence with very little methodological self-consciousness. This paper takes a first step toward constructive engagement between the two literatures, offering ways that formal modelers can make their qualitative evidence more rigorous as well as providing insights for qualitative scholars interested in empirically evaluating formal theories.

The paper is available through SSRN.

Let us know what you think!

The Twimpact Factor

Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic reports on a new study from the Journal of Medical Internet Research about the relationship between tweets of a journal article and scholarly citations.

The conclusion:

articles that many people tweeted about were 11 times more likely to be highly cited than those who few people tweeted about.

Apparently, the number of tweets an article receives within the first three days can predict its scholarly impact.  This new measure of impact is the “twimpact factor.”

For more, see “Highly Tweeted Articles Were 11 Times More Likely to Be Highly Cited” – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic.

Maritime Security in the South China Sea

In this chapter, I explore the recent competition over maritime rights in the South China Sea.  This competition over maritime rights is related to but distinct from other components of maritime security in the region, including competing claims to territorial sovereignty over island groups, freedom of navigation and naval modernization.

I argue that despite the recent escalation of tensions between 2009 and 2011, armed conflict in the South China Sea is far from inevitable:

  • The competition over maritime rights in the South China Sea has not become militarized, nor has it reached the levels of instability that the region witnessed between 1988 and 1995.
  • Although some observers focus on China as the primary antagonist, the competition stems from an increasing willingness of all claimants, especially Vietnam, to assert and defend their claims.
  • The July 2011 agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China over guidelines for implementing the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea has created diplomatic breathing space that has been exploited to reduce tensions.
  • Cooperative initiatives could reduce future competition over maritime rights but will require political will and diplomatic creativity to move forward.

The disputes over maritime rights and territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea pose distinct challenges that the United States must navigate:

  • The United States should reaffirm its interests in the region when they may be challenged and maintain its longstanding principle of neutrality and not taking sides in the territorial disputes of other countries.
  • The United States must balance efforts to maintain stability in the South China Sea against actions that could inadvertently increase instability, especially greater involvement in the resolution of the dispute itself – an action that would be seen in the region and beyond as moving away from the principle of neutrality.
  • The United States should affirm the principles that Secretary Clinton articulated in July 2010 and apply them equally to all claimants in the South China Sea disputes, not just China.
  • The United States should not take a position on what specific modes or forums should be used to resolve or manage these disputes, so long as they are agreed upon by the claimants without coercion.
  • The United States should not offer to facilitate talks or mediate the dispute.

The chapter is part of a volume on the South China Sea, Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China and the South China Sea, published by the Center for New American Security, a research organization in Washington, DC.

Read the chapter.