Month: January 2013

IAP Version of Getting Funding for your Research

MIT has a wonderful tradition of offering a variety of short courses during the Winter hiatus between semesters, known as IAP (Independent Activities Period). These range from how-to sessions, forums, athletic endeavors, lecture series, films, tours, recitals and contests. The MIT Libraries are offering dozens of courses on data and information management (among other topics) — I participated in a roundtable session on data management.

IAP period seems like an opportunity pass on some of the invisible knowledge of the academy; things like project management for science; managing bibliographies; care and feeding of professional networks; maintaining your tenure file; responding to reviewers; turning a dissertation into a book; communicating your work to the public & media; or writing compelling proposals.

So, for this year’s session, I updated my long-running “Getting Funding for your Research Course” with new resources, statistics, and MIT-specific information. This short course focuses on the area of communicating research projects and ideas in the form of proposals for support. The slides are below:

I aim to convert this to a webinar this year. Also, many of the main points are summarized in an article I’d written a few years ago, “Funding, Funding“.

Can Students Draw Better Election Maps than Professional Politicians?

Yes…at least in Virginia.

My collaborator Micheal McDonald and I are now just catching up to analyzing the data that resulted from the crowd-sourcing participative electoral mapping projects we were involved in. The results were surprisingly clear and consistent:

  • Students are quite capable of creating legal districting plans.
  • Student plans generally demonstrated a wider range of possibilities as compared to legislative plans.
  • The ‘best’ plan, as ranked by each individual criterion, was a student plan.
  • The student plans covered a larger set of possible tradeoffs among each criterion.
  • Student plans were generally better on pairs of criteria. 
  • Student plans were more competitive and had more partisan balance than any of the adopted plans. 

Most of these trends can be made clear through information visualization methods.

One of the visuals is below — it shows how each of the plans scored on different pairs of criteria. The blue elipses contain the student plans, the green ones contain the legislative plans, and the red lines show the commission plans. A tiny ‘A’ shows the adopted plan. In each mini-plot the top-right corner is where the theoretically best scores are.

(Click on the image below to enlarge)


Notice that blue elipses are almost always bigger, contain most of the green elipses (or at least the best-scoring parts) and extend further toward to the top-right corner. Go students!

More details on the data, evaluations, etc. in the article (pre-copy-edited version).