keeping the US “lily-white” is no lilliputian task

Reading the lastest offering by the Economist I can’t help but notice the fear-mongering discourse carefully weaved into the pithy writing.  A White America has apparently been taken over by a “much browner” cohort.  This article is steeped in lingustic manoueverings which leaves the impression that we are literally being swamped by ethnic minorities (gasp, majorities!), particularly poginant is the reference to the kids and the lack of white friends to play with.   I blame Brad and Angelina.

outnumbered, she contemplates a move to Finland

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Perhaps the most important study of our generation…

well think again, if you're outside of Ireland!

Does Guinness Travel Well? is perhaps one of the most important scientific questions of our generation.  My friend, and first author, Daniel Kotz and his expert colleagues have recently published this study, proving scientifically that Guinness, in fact, tastes far superior in Ireland than elsewhere.  I am, of course, in the process of writing a grant to secure funding so that I can be part of his next research expedition.  See below for abstract, and click here for link to paper.

Authors: Daniel Kotz, Liam G. Glynn, Christian D. Mallen, Jochen W.L. Cals

Keywords: beer; Guinness; international survey tasting

Abstract: This study aimed to test the much-pronounced but poorly supported theory that “Guinness does not travel well.” A total of 4 researchers from 4 different countries of origin traveled around the world for 12 mo to collect data on the enjoyment of Guinness and related factors. The main outcome was measured on a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) from 0 (enjoyed it not at all) to 100 (enjoyed it very much). A total of 103 tastings were recorded (42 in Ireland, 61 elsewhere) in 71 different pubs spread over 33 cities and 14 countries. The enjoyment of Guinness consumed in Ireland was rated higher (74 mm VAS) than outside Ireland (57 mm; P < 0.001). This difference remained statistically significant after adjusting for researcher, pub ambience, Guinness appearance, and the sensory measures mouthfeel, flavor, and aftertaste. This study is the first to provide scientific evidence that Guinness does not travel well and that the enjoyment of Guinness (for our group of nonexpert tasters) was higher when in Ireland. Results, however, are subject to further verification because of limitations in the study design.


Kotz et al 2011.  Does Guinness travel well?  Journal of Food Science, 76(2):S121-S125




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Filed under academia, alcohol, Random

Workshop Alert: Researching Inequality: A theory for everything?

Very interesting workshop on research inequality, hosted by the British Sociological Association.  See below for email from Godfred Boahen.  It only costs £10 to attend and sounds particularly useful for postgraduates.


Friday 6 May 2011
Faculty of Health and Social Care, the Open University, Milton Keynes

We welcome expressions of interest to participate in this one day conference, which is sponsored by the British Sociological Association as part of a series of events for postgraduate students. Hosted by the Faculty of Health and Social Care, The Open University, the conference intends to create a forum for exploring the current state of sociological theories and methodologies on inequality and to consider their application in research practices. The conference will be of interest to postgraduate and career researchers in the broad field of inequality, policy analysts, and practitioners in services which address the consequences of social inequality.

The conference commences at 10AM and finishes at 5PM.

Key Note Speakers

Professor Mary Maynard (University of York) – Conducting Research on Social Inequalities: Do Qualitative Research Methods Travel?

Dr Val Gillies (London Southbank University) – From theory to practice: methodological reflections on researching inequality through ethnography.

The conference will also feature presentations by postgraduate students:
•    Michel Green (University of Sheffield) – Visualising Inequality in London: A Different Approach
•    Doyin Atewologun (Cranfield) – Advancing Racio-Ethnic and Diversity Theorising Through Intersectional Identity Work
•    Ben Baumberg (LSE) – The need for an overarching ‘theory of inequalities’ in Sociology and Social Policy
•    Kate D’Arcy (Sheffield) – Home education and Traveller Families
•    Jaimie Ellis (Southampton) – The development of Innovative Research Methods with Excluded Groups
•    Marian Peacock (Sheffield) – Women’s Lives in Unequal Societies
•    Natalie Gupta (Manchester) – The Impact of a Declining Wage Share on Income Inequalities in a Heterogonous Production Set-up: The Relevance of Drawing on the Classical Framework
•    Sumi Hollingworth (London Metropolitan) – Social mixing in urban schooling: exploring the processes of power and inequality
•    Beatrice Lam (Manchester) – Inequalities in education with reference to a study on parental educational involvement in Hong Kong
•    Konstanze Spohrer (Strathclyde) – Adopting a “Foucaultian” approach to researching socio-economic inequality in education


The conference is free for BSA members and £10 for non-members. Please reserve a place on the BSA website (, alternatively contact Godfred Boahen ( or Ester McGeeney ( to reserve a place.

Please also contact Godfred or Ester with all enquiries.”

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Filed under Conference, inequality, theory

Neighbourhood watch foot patrol, I mean, food patrol

I’m watching you…eat that Twinkie.

This story really has to be perceived as the final straw in the fight against childhood obesity.  In getting kids to stop purchasing cheap candy (and cheap thrills from the sound of it), concerned parents are patrolling shops and physically stopping kids from entering convenient stores (corner shops for folks in the UK).  I think this strategy speaks to our desperation in trying to prevent the long-term harms of overweight and obesity, particularly in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

This story reminded me of the very first webinar I attended last week, entitled “What shapes health?”, courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  Watching slides over the Internet and listening to the presentation over the phone, I heard experts present evidence on the harms of stressful, unhealthy living in adults and its consequences for children, with the effects being ‘written into the body’ as early as pre-conception (this comes from research presented by Professor Jack P. Shonkoff).  More than a scare tactic, what I think it suggests (although not explicitly) is that health is not the individualistic endeavor we imagine it to be.  We are not the only ones affected by years of physical inactivity, poor diet and stress.  Future generations literally become embodiments of our excesses.   Having said that, reading about mothers on foot patrol to prevent children in their neighbourhood doesn’t seem so extreme.  If we consider health as a collective responsibility and take action accordingly, we may just get somewhere in terms of reducing the alarming rates of child obesity witness around the world.

Click here for Publications from the Webinar: What shapes health?

For more fascinating webinars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, visit their website.  Of particular interest are their upcoming webinars on childhood obesity prevention.

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Filed under children, community, disadvantage, environment, Health, obesity

tenuous tenure

the real appeal of tenure?

Some interesting insights into the world of tenure track professorships (otherwise known as the pie in the sky for most Ph.D. candidates).

1. American Federation of Teacher’s 2009 publication American Academic: The State of the Higher Education Workforce 1997-2007

Highlight: The number of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty members declined from approximately one-third of the instructional staff in 1997 to just over one-quarter in 2007.

2. Patricia Cohen, April 16 2010.  New York Times article The Long-Haul Degree

Highlight: The average student receiving a Ph.D. today is 35 years old, $23,000 in debt and facing a historically bad job market. Adjunct jobs — with year-to-year contracts, no benefits and no security — may be the only option.

The tenure track, appears particularly challenging for women.

3. Auriemma & Klein 2010.  Experiences and Challenges of Women Combining Academic Careers and Motherhood Presented at the AAUP Conference, Washington DC, June 11, 2010

Highlight: women continue to “leak” from the academic pipeline, especially from the tenure track. Of women faculty nationally, 31% hold non-tenure-track positions, 26% are on the tenure track, and 43% have tenure

4. Mason et al 2010.  Keeping Women in the Science Pipeline (outlines the trajectory of women in academia and makes recommendations on how women can be better accommodated)

Highlight: Our current inadequate family responsive benefits for America’s researchers makes no economic sense. In the world of federal grants individuals who drop out of science after years of training represent a huge economic loss and are detriment to our nation’s future excellence

Other resources and interesting reads:

American Association of University Professors – Resources on Tenure

New York Times – Room for Debate – The Professors who won’t retire

New York Times – Essay – The end of tenure?

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Filed under academia, Culture, Random

smokers need not apply

All fired-up, or, just plain fired.

Today, the New York Times is reporting that more and more hospitals in the US are using a potential employee’s smoking status as a screening tool.  This is clearly bad news for unemployed smokers looking for work in the health industry.  While it infringes on private lifestyle decisions, it does become a public issue when it involves public money.  Some wonder whether these kinds of restrictions represent a growing encroachment of our work lives into our private lives, where dangerous hobbies such as motorcycle riding may be next on the chopping block.  My colleague from New Zealand was just telling me the other day that doctors working in her hospital were banned from mountain biking because of the potential for broken arms and legs.   Makes sense I guess; what good is a doctor that cannot perform exams or operate?

Hospitals need healthy doctors and nurses – they represent a large investment with caring responsibilies that extend beyond themselves.  I hope to see this policy taken forward in other countries.

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Filed under policy, smoking, USA

The buzz…

… these days is around young scientists who ask tough questions and come up with intelligent studies.   It’s also much cuter when they are between 8-10 years old, experimenting on bees, and publishing in major journals.  Read about the Blackawton bees here on Gawker, or access the abstract or PDF.

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In/visible Race

Credit: NY Times

“What does this tell you?” is the question posed by one multi-racial/ethnic student in the recent New York Times article, when confronted with surveys attempting to gauge her race.

This is an important question that perhaps go neglected when we fill out forms and check boxes that best corresponds to our personal hertiages, characteristics, traits and positions (such as ethnicities, height/weight, eye colour, income).  These things that have come to shape us are then reduced to a count for complex algorithms, calcuated to support one policy over another; provide evidence for this study and not that one; and to unequivocally “demonstrate” how diverse we are as a school/organization/country.  Data about race and ethnicity tells us what we want to hear the most – that we are moving in the right direction in terms of how we approach and treat race.

Ethnicity and race are variables used strategically.  While I diligently fill out forms and check off the “appropriate” boxes I think about the importance of being able to illuminate systematic differences in diseases prevalence, or injustices and discriminatory practices, that may not otherwise be revealed.  I rarely think about how the introduction of increasingly complex race variables can also be used to hide these very same concerns.

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Filed under Ethnicity, multiculturalism, Race, Statistics, USA

multiculturalism according to David Cameron

David Cameron has been making some incendiary comments on multiculturalism.  Cameron defines “state multiculturalism” as “the idea that we should respect different cultures within Britain to the point of allowing them – indeed encouraging them – to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.” A speech on what constitutes a ‘British’ identity is surely to follow such provocations.  You can read about it here, here and here.

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Filed under Ethnicity, Multi-culturalism, UK