Links & Contents I Liked 18

Hello all,

Some hopefully interesting reads this week, featuring the challenges of a single narrative vs. complex, incremental change (Nepal, poverty and 'Why Nations Fail'), interesting reflections on ICT4D and openess, a great three-generational essay on women and teaching and more on academic publishing and peer-reviewing!


New on aidnography
Boycotting Elsevier – when are politicians, grant makers and search committees speaking out?
I do support most of the arguments of the petition, but I also believe that this should not be about a single company or business model. Elsevier has been cashing in on the ‘impact culture’, an academic culture that is supported by more than expensive peer-reviewed journals with impact factors. The drive to prove ‘impact’ that higher education politicians, grant-making organisations and search committees have been demanding led to a situation where journal publications have become status symbols and the publishing industry realised that they are a key player in this discourse. The ‘evaluation culture’ that has been established for the neoliberal research and teaching industry focuses on measurable products – and journal articles have become the commodity of choice.


New publications worth checking out

From Subjects to Citizens? Labor, Mobility & Social Transformation in Rural Nepal
Our field research suggests that labor relations in rural Nepal have undergone major changes in recent decades accompanied by livelihood diversification and mobility. Although traditional forms of semi-feudal labor relations have not disappeared completely and some poorer households are still engaged in semi-feudal and caste-based labor arrangements in agriculture, there is clear evidence of increasing numbers of laboring households involved in wage labor within, or increasingly outside, the village. Overall, we argue that these changes indicate a clear shift in the social and economic position of the laboring population from subjects to citizens. This change has increased economic and political agency of the laborers and laboring households but is not free from vulnerabilities and risks.
See below for an interesting contrast of a recent 'Why Nations Fail' post on feudalism in Nepal.

Community Capacity and Rural Development: Reading Material for JICA Training Programs

There doesn't seem to be a website yet for this comprehensive 340-page ebook. The book is based on community-based development work in rural Japan and subsequent training and learning efforts globally. Lots in evaluation, planning and the One Village One Product Movement. Looks like a great resource to learn about rural Japan and community development.

'Some for All?' Politics and Pathways in Water and Sanitation
This IDS Bulletin looks back at the legacy of the UN’s New Delhi 1990 global consultation and the Dublin Conference that followed, assessing their meaning and significance, and challenging the wider global water and sanitation community to rethink approaches and emphases, shifting from targets and pronouncement to sustainability and local knowledge, in the context of 2015, the 6th World Water Forum and Rio+20 in 2012. Under the slogan, ‘Some for All Rather than More for Some’, the New Delhi Statement was expected to set a course for the global community to follow in the 1990s. Articles in this issue derive from Liquid Dynamics II, a STEPS Water and Sanitation Symposium, which brought together current thinkers and past architects of the Statement, as well as academics and those deeply involved in current policy and practice. The notion of Liquid Dynamics helps us address interdisciplinary perspectives and practical action to tackle upfront the challenges of sustainability, uncertainty and social justice in water and sanitation access.
The articles of the IDS Bulletin are free until the beginning of April - perfect readings around the World Water Day!

Caste and Coercion
The caste system is a rigid form of occupational segregation, handed down from parents to children and severely blocks the opportunities and life chances of those at the bottom of the hierarchy. A society with a caste system wastes a vast amount of its economic potential.Right up to the present day much of the economy of Nepal has been based on labor coercion, repression and exclusion – that is, on highly extractive economic institutions. And you guessed it: Nepal is a very very poor country, with per capita income only about 40th of the US.
Interesting contrast between 'Why Nations Fail' analysis and the more nuanced analysis and conclusions of the Feinstein paper shared above. I haven't got all the information and data, but I wonder whether this is also an interesting case study about contemporary academic research and publishing. 'Why Nations Fail' wants to present a clear line of thought and arguments to answer their very broad question from the title. Long-term field research by renowened experts on Nepal seems to paint a more nuanced picture of change and transformation, in short: more complexity, once you look beyond a headline or poignant blog post... 
So, what changed? Did increased funding and development interventions work their magic when growth rate was subdued to under 4 percent? Well, the remarkable feat in reducing poverty level has more to do with the bump in household income due to rising remittance inflows than government’s or donor’s development-related interventions. In fact, the remitters did in six years what the government and development agencies could not do for decades. Of course, development interventions such as construction of rural road, improvement in agriculture production, and other interventions related to the achievement of MDGs helped, but these were effectively dwarfed by the contribution of remittances in directly increasing household purchasing power, and reducing poverty and inequality.
With changing economic and political landscapes, the long held views about the extent of poverty and globalization in Nepal should also change. While Nepal is no more a country with the highest share of poor people below the poverty line, it still has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the region. Meanwhile, it is not the most open economy in South Asia and the potential to reap benefits from increasing degree of globalization is limited by supply-side constraints.
To round off the discussion on Nepal, Chandan Sapkota shares yet another nuanced story of how Nepal is changing - and the chances of limitations of 'development'.

Talkin' to the Next Generation
This week the Future Agricultures Consortium and the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana are convening an international conference in Accra on Young People, Farming & Food: the Future of the Agrifood Sector in Africa.
But the real gem of this post is a comment by 'Liny':
It's been more than 10 years ago since I was "chosen" to be one of the youth selected to represent my school and district at this youth forum, organised in Jakarta to collect / gather inputs and ideas on improving the quality of (informal) education with the aim to reduce youth criminal activity level.
Although critiques most accurately pointed out the tokenism, lack of feedback, etc. I personally would say, least the aim / objective behind it (hopefully) is useful. As I believe even increasing confident level for one youth, would have a multiplier positive effects to peers, and hopefully larger groups.
Whereas in the 1990s the constraints were experienced as the access issues of internet availability and hardware affordability, today the focus of ICT4D is shifting toward accessibility and effective use. Whilst access issues remain problematic for millions, the situation is improving. The same cannot always be said for accessibility and effective use.
The last fifteen years have taught us that success in applying ICT for Development is 10% about technology and 90% about people processes.
At the end of the day translating the potentials of ICTs into valued development outcomes is about building people’s agency and capabilities to appropriate the technology and to apply it effectively to their own valued ends.
Interesting reflections on how 'Computer Aid' evolved into a more sophisticated ICT4D program.

Does ‘openness’ enhance development?
Should any research done with public funds be publicly open and available? Can something be open and not public? Is openness fundamentally decentralizing or does it lead to centralization? How to ensure it’s not data for data’s sake?
Many great questions, few definite answers. Summary of an ICTD2012 panelon 'openness' in development.

Foundation Transparency: We Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
Here's the thing: no matter what reasons foundations give for secrecy, even if philanthropy finds ways to justify it internally, doesn't the secrecy itself invite the public to wonder if the real secret is that the foundations can't defend their processes? Or that it's just easier and more comfortable for them to keep it on the down low. Do foundations want to invite those suspicions?
In addition to making corruption much more difficult, one of the most valuable rewards that has come from public meetings laws is that it has shown us we are courageous enough and tough enough and collectively wise enough to go through a process that is awkward, clumsy - even painful - and emerge stronger than ever. Even though that public discussion and vote was one of the most tortured things I've ever done because it was in public, I came out of the experience with a much greater appreciation for the delicious taste of democracy. I felt it made me a better person. I felt it made Oregon a better place. It gave me more trust in humanity.
Talking about openness and transparency...interesting reflections from Oregon.

Growing Market for Human Organs Exploits Poor
A Michigan State University anthropologist who spent more than a year infiltrating the black market for human kidneys has published the first in-depth study describing the often horrific experiences of poor people who were victims of organ trafficking.
Moniruzzaman said it's important to note that most sellers do not make "autonomous choices" to sell their organs, but instead are manipulated and coerced.
Disturbing read...I find it particularly interesting that it's not simply a 'market' that responds to 'demand' but that organ donors do not make autonomous choices...I also wonder how widespread that his in other parts of development.
As teachers in today’s world, where public education budgets are constantly being cut and poorly paid adjunct positions have largely replaced full-time instructor positions at most universities, my grandmother’s story taunts my mother and me with a quality of life and financial security that no longer exists for most teachers.
Teaching was the reason my grandmother—a single mother and Holocaust survivor—was able to buy a house, put her kids through college, and retire with dignity. And the education she provided to her students was the reason so many of them overcame their challenges and forged a path to success. “Only in America,” my grandmother always says. It’s a reminder that now more than ever, with all the economic obstacles facing this country, it’s time to invest in our future, rather than borrow against it.
A fascinating three-generational portrait about (women) teachers in the US and how things have changed over time.

Mentoring Madness
That said, I can still relate a bit to the sentiment that inspired the anti-mentoring comment, especially if it is rephrased as an anti-whining comment, rather than specifically being against mentoring. I think that mentoring has its limits -- both from the point of view of the mentor, however well meaning and engaged in mentoring they may be, and the mentee, some of whom tend to ignore the wise advise of their mentor -- and I have little patience with those who say "but no one told me that I'd have to spend so much time [insert major time-consuming activity]", whether or not they had an official mentor.
Great post by 'Female Science Professor' and discussionon the concept and limitations of 'mentoring'. 
Has anyone ever reported their univeristy for unethical practices? I'm been seeing some shady things in the last year, grade fixing, students telling me they were forced to start a class several weeks into the term when they said they didn't want to, higher ups telling me I "don't need to contact anyone" when I question what is going on. I dont want to shoot myself in the foot, I need the money but I am also starting to feel like a need a shower. Say something? Keep my head down? Suggestions?
Another interesting debate on an issue that probably many academics have experienced...

Op-Ed: How Traditional Publishing Hurts Scientific Progress
If you think that scientific research makes the world a better place through treatments for disease, technologies that improve our lives, or just knowledge about the world around us – that is, if you believe in science – then you have to also believe that delaying scientific advances costs lives and diminishes the quality of our society. When a paper describing a new idea, method or observation spends months bouncing around from journal to journal in the name of “peer review,” any major advance to which it might someday contribute is put off by months as well. The effect of these delays is compounded when you count all the steps – one group of scientists building on the work of others – there are along the path to most great discoveries.
And the access restrictions that are a central part of traditional publishing make things worse. There are many great scientists at research institutions that lack anything like comprehensive access to the literature. Imagine the discoveries that are never made because these researchers are not fully plugged in to what their colleagues are doing.
Many commentators make good points about the value that peer review adds - especially in a viral culture where there is always some web editor looking for a story and research study with a catchy title. Peer review is not value-free, 'perfect' or apolitical - but it often adds value and throws back tough questions to the authors. But why does the process has to take that long? This question is partly rhetorical: Because faculty are often over-worked, swamped with demands and supposed to do 2-3 full-time jobs within a working week. And as much as grant-makers, politicians and evaluators like high impact publications - they also don't like those ghastly 'overhead cost'. Yes, having an administrator, research assistant or other help could make a difference - or having funds to pay (more) editorial staff for processing manuscripts.
It's ironic that two articles on development blogging and Tweets that I have been working on with colleagues have been in the publishing pipeline for more than 6 months and are unlikely to be published in 2012...they may not be the biggest advances in science or safe lives, but they illustrate that need for change to sync digital realities and knowledge and academic publsihing a bit more.


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