Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rethinking the science of politics – Multiple methods strengthen scientific inference

04.06.2004


Why do political theories so often fail the test of common sense? And why do individual political studies often seem to stop short of providing general guidance about political matters?



James Granato and Frank Scioli, National Science Foundation (NSF), managers of the political science program, write in the newly published June issue of Perspectives on Politics that the separation of theory and real-world tests often sharply limit the usefulness of each. They identify three methods commonly used in political science studies – formal models, case studies, and applied statistical models - any of which, used alone, they say, may produce faulty results.

Theories need factual tests, Granato and Scioli say. Case studies need to inform theories. And statistical results need to be corrected by case study analyses and based on sound theory. Problems arise when researchers use only one method and do not compensate for its shortcomings, a challenge that plagues not only political science but the other social sciences as well.


What to do?

In a research program initiative called Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models (EITM), Granato and Scioli are managing new studies across all the social and behavioral sciences to give researchers who couple theoretical models and real-world tests of these models a chance to reveal findings that can provide help, for example, to new governments in developing constitutions, to economic policy makers in estimating the impacts of trade agreements, and to educators in facilitating learning in groups.

So far, 26 awards have been made through this NSF program.

"We think these awards will spark a new direction in political science – and in other social sciences as well," says Scioli. "These projects are not only good science, but they point toward a future in which an increasingly broad range of consequential policy decisions can be reliably informed by social science evidence."

In the EITM initiative, researchers are required to use or develop a formal model and to test that model with real data. The combined analysis leads to two desirable outcomes, say Granato and Scioli. First, using both theoretical models and empirical tests will result in research findings can lead to better-specified and more reliable understandings of what causes the political, economic, or social phenomena studied. Such understanding is crucial for the wise application of social science findings to public policy. Second, the robust results generated by this kind of analysis allow knowledge to cumulate. Scientists can discard theories that fail empirical tests and produce useful generalizations from real-world data.

For example, Carles Boix, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, is refining theoretical models with real-world data to predict how political institutions affect emerging democracies. Boix, through an EITM grant, will derive game-theory models that, first, characterize political agents with varying economic traits (i.e., amount and types of wealth) and organizational strengths; and, second, demonstrate how constitutional set-ups influence the strategies of these political agents in choosing political regimes. His empirical test comes from a survey of all sovereign nations over the past 200 years. These data allow him to assess the probability that a given democracy will collapse into a dictatorship. Early findings show that a mix of federalism and a parliamentary form of government is least likely to revert from democracy to dictatorship. The model, based on a plausible theory with real-world validation, could help in designing constitutions for new governments.

A subset of the EITM awards focuses on economic and policy questions such as:
  • the effect of tax increases and tax cuts
  • what effect financial structures have on economic growth and inequality
  • how people adapt to gains versus losses
  • how monetary policy can best respond to shocks (such as a credit crunch or technological innovation)
  • whether markets are overvalued
  • the effects of changes in international economic and trade policy such as those embodied in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Researchers are also examining social issues. One EITM project will link data on employers and employees to understand the workplace and human performance from both perspectives. Two other projects will investigate how residential communities form from the housing and neighborhood choices people make. Still others propose to increase understanding of how people learn in groups, how learners form generalizations from examples and how large social networks evolve.

The EITM initiative was part of NSF’s new priority area in Human and Social Dynamics in which formal modeling is an area of emphasis.

Elizabeth Malone | NSF
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New technique makes brain scans better

22.06.2017 | Medical Engineering

CWRU researchers find a chemical solution to shrink digital data storage

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Warming temperatures threaten sea turtles

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>