PhD Books

This week, I’m revisiting several PhD books including Patrick Dunleavy’s Authoring A PhD (New York: Palgrave, 2003), and David Sternberg’s classic How To Complete And Survive A Doctoral Dissertation (New York: St Martin’s Griffin, 1981).

 

Dunleavy has some excellent advice on thesis structure, chapters, and writing sections. Sternberg deals in part with a PhD’s psychological journey and the dynamics of how a dissertation committee works.

 

I’m working to transform my working notes into redrafted chapters — so hope these books help.

 

I’m also eyeing off Patricia Goodson’s Becoming An Academic Writer (Thousand Oaks CA: SAGE, 2016) for further developmental work.

Paying Writers

Coauthor and collaborator Ben Eltham has recently argued for a new organisation to pay writers:

 

It is possible to imagine an organisation that pays Australian writers in an analogous way to a symphony orchestra.

With appropriate resourcing, an organisation could advertise for a series of full-time fellowships for writers at a reasonable wage. Writers could be selected by a panel of respected peers and then employed on 3-year contracts, with superannuation, sick leave and all the rest. In return, we would expect them to write. At the end of their contracts, a progress report would be submitted.

 

I’ve considered this issue at two times in my life:

 

In 1997-98, I was involved in initial discussions about a book imprint for 21C Magazine. Publisher Ashley Crawford, myself, and others worked on a book imprint proposal, book proposals, and marketing plans. But when 21C‘s European publisher withdrew funding the project did not proceed.

 

In 1999-2008, I was at The Disinformation Company Ltd (TDC) when it set-up what was for several years a successful book imprint. I was involved in discussions with publisher Gary Baddeley and creative director Richard Metzger when they hired Ultraculture‘s Jason Louv. In my view, the book imprint’s portfolio expanded too quickly, and Baddeley later divested it.

 

In academic publishing there are examples like Zero Books who promoted the late Mark Fisher’s writings. In music, Robert Fripp and King Crimson’s label Discipline Global Mobile remains a favourite. In both cases there is an intellectual property portfolio (to be defended), an online distribution platform, and effective marketing to a subcultural audience.

 

This is an area where Trebor Scholz‘s idea of a platform cooperative — a publishing company owned by its authors — might be another option. South Africa’s Skolion Writers collective (which includes authors Masha Du Toit and Nerine Dorman) illustrates how Scholz’s platform cooperative might be run.

 

Eltham’s proposal is an interesting one for arts policymakers to consider. In particular, Eltham highlights the Australia Council’s low investment in literature. I would personally go with a TDC, Zero Books, or Skolion Writers-like approach as suggested above. The Australian market is really too small for many local publishers to get a good return on their investment — or for authors to get a good royalty income stream.

Bloomberg Platform: Retail vs. Professional Traders

I’ve spent a few weeks with the Bloomberg Professional platform at Bond University. I’ve also been reading Alex Preda’s sociological study Noise: Living and Trading in Electronic Finance (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2017). Below are some trading diary notes on the differences between retail and professional traders:

 

Amateur / Retail Traders

 

  • Able to submit bid or ask market orders or limit orders.
  • News: company feed or Twitter sentiment data — herding.
  • Trade Execution: tied to chosen broker who sells order flow.
  • Order / Position Management: risk exposure, no post-trade analysis.
  • Market Surveillance: focus on company / single asset classes.
  • Trade Analytics: fundamental analysis, technical analysis which is ‘gamed’ by broker to encourage over-trading, and that is ‘gamed’ by HFT and Prop Trader algorithms.

 

Professional Traders

 

  • Able to submit orders with different sides, types and strategies — as well as quantity, ticker, limits, brokers, and instructions. Able to access market depth for BuyStrikeBid, BuyStrikeAsk, SellStrikeBid, and SellStrikeAsk orders (dealing with the order book and market microstructure).
  • News: alerts, company, market-moving, and sentiment.
  • Trade Execution: broker choice, liquidity, and transaction cost analysis. Execution focus on: Open Auction, Bid, Mid, Ask, Closing Auction, Blocks, and Dark.
  • Order / Position Management: firm positions, risk exposures, post-trade, and trade reconstruction.
  • Market Surveillance: economic events, global macro, asset classes, exchanges, company events, central bank activity, trading signals.
  • Trade Analytics: company and peer analysis, price and volume, market depth, broker volume and liquidity.

Early 2017 Reading Pile

The following books will be on my reading pile for early 2017:

 

  1. Sheelah Kolhatkar’s Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street (New York: Random House, 2017). Kolhatkar is a staff writer at The New Yorker. I followed the insider trading case against Steve A. Cohen and his hedge fund SAC Capital for several years. I thought about writing a PhD chapter on it — but getting access to the court records was going to be expensive and it was out-of-scope to my main focus. Kolhatkar has saved me the trouble — and illustrates why investigative journalism is important.
  2. Ed Thorp’s A Man For All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market (New York: Random House, 2017). Thorp is a giant in quantitative investing and card counting in poker. There’s a lengthy interview with Thorp in Jack D. Schwager’s book Hedge Fund Market Wizards, and this book promises more revelations. Features a foreward by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
  3. Andrew W. Lo’s Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017). Lo is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor, a Professor in Finance, and the Director of the Laboratory for Financial Engineering at the MIT Sloan School of Management. This book outlines Lo’s Adaptive Markets Hypothesis – a challenger to the Efficient Markets Hypothesis – and offers a conceptual basis for why some hedge fund trading works.
  4. Siva Vaidyanathan’s Intellectual Property: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). Vaidyanathan is Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Intellectual Property (IP) is an intangible asset class that includes copyrights (works of creative expression), trademarks (logos and symbols that differentiate a company in the marketplace), patents (know how and processes), and trade secrets (confidential and secret information). Vaidyanathan explains how IP works and examines its legal / cultural debates. A good primer for content creators.

Picks & Pans

Constructing Public Opinion: How Political Elites Do What They Like and Why We Seem to Go Along with It by Justin Lewis (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001). (TS-3). Lewis is Professor of Communication at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media, and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University. This book explains how opinion polls are constructed, and how political elites use them to create ideological support on controversial issues. Throughout, Lewis considers the ideological role of information and how an informed citizenry can arise. This book provides some answers for the role of opinion polls in the US Presidential election in 2016, and in particular, the specific tactics used by the Clinton and Trump campaigns.

 

Psychological Operations and Political Warfare in Long-Term Strategic Planning edited by Janos Radvanyi (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1990). (TS-4). An academic collection of late Cold War comparative thinking about psychological operations and political warfare in the United States, the Soviet Union, Poland, West Germany, France, and in insurgent, militant and terrorist groups. This book illustrates one attempted way to implement Hari Seldon’s psychohistorical thinking (the Foundation trilogy) in the realm of special warfare between different political blocs and systems. Secondhand copies are expensive so look for library copies.

 

Psychoanalysis in the Age of Totalitarianism edited by Matt Ffytche and Daniel Pick (New York: Routledge, 2016). (TS-4). Fascism’s rise in Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and Hirohito’s Japan posed a challenge to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic circle. This essay collection by cultural historians and psychoanalysts documents how Freud and colleagues analysed fascism and totalitarianism. It explores the spillover effects for Western democracies, post-colonial events in Communist Yugoslavia and Apartheid South Africa, and US intelligence agency interest in exploring mind control. The final essays reconsider psychoanalysis and the ‘talking cure’ in a post-psychoanalysis and post-totalitarian world.

 

Capital Without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percent by Brooke Harrington (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016). (TS-4). Harrington is Associate Professor of Sociology at Denmark’s Copenhagen Business School. Economist Thomas Piketty and anthropologist David Graeber have popularised the study of the top 1% of income earners in the on-going debate about income inequality. But how do the 1% perceive themselves as high net worth individuals? Harrington studied wealth management for two years with the London-based Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners. She then undertook an ethnographic study between 2008 and 2015 to interview 65 wealth managers in 18 countries. The results document how wealth management actually works as a professional elite.

 

Dog Days: Australia After The Boom by Ross Garnaut (Collingwood, Australia: Black Inc, 2003). (TS-3) Australia survived the 2007-09 global financial crisis due in part to a mining and resources sector boom. It was truly the ‘lucky country’ (David Horne). Then the mining and resources boom burst: Australia faced a socio-economic crisis, rising income inequality, and uncertainty. This book for a broad audience by a noted Australian economist was one of the first responses to this ‘dog days’ scenario of limited economic growth and unstable governments. For an update see the Quarterly Essay by George Megalogenis called ‘Balancing Act: Australia Between Recession and Renewal’ (2016).

 

“Enhancing” the Australian-U.S. Defense Relationship: A Guide to U.S. Policy by Dr Thomas-Durrell Young (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 1997). (TS-3). In 2016, several current and former Australian politicians questioned the survival of the United States-Australia security alliance under incoming President-Elect Donald Trump. This Strategic Studies Institute paper lays out the historical context and the importance of this bilateral security relationship from a United States perspective. It is also helpful in understanding the Five Eyes signals intelligence alliance in the Anglo-American sphere.

 

Takeover: Foreign Investment and the Australian Psyche by David Uren (Sydney: Penguin Australia, 2016). (TS-3). Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board can be a flashpoint for protectionist fears about the role and influence of foreign nation-states in domestic economies. Uren, who is The Australian’s economics editor, provides historical, political and cultural analysis of how debates about foreign investment have shaped Australian mind-sets, attitudes, and values. Takeover explains how rent-seeking in Australia’s ill-fated car industry occurred and why Chinese investors are targeted in fears about a housing investment bubble.

Academic Moneyball

Inside Higher Ed reports that a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology academics have created a Moneyball style data analytics model to predict and evaluate tenure track applications and performance.

Here are some of my thoughts on Academic Moneyball from December 2014:

The Moneyball Thesis

 

Oakland A’s coach Billy Beane faced a dilemma: competing teams poached his high-performance players and the baseball team faced budget restraints. Beane used Bill James’ sabermetrics – the statistical analysis of baseball player skill – to build a team of contrarian baseball players using performance-based optionality; that experienced positive asymmetric payoffs (a winning streak of successful games); and that achieved a dramatic change in competitive tournament rankings.

 

Definition of Academic Moneyball: develop a Moneyball valuation framework for academic research programs.

 

Definitions

 

Academic: a higher education staff member who does teaching, research, and academic service.

 

Researcher: a higher education staff member whose main work activity Is to conduct research.

 

Research Program: a programmatic suite of research activities including collaboration, dissemination, publishing, and contract research.

 

Structure

 

  1. The University’s Enterprise Bargaining Agreement defines the Minimum Standards for Academic Levels (MSALs): the expected scope and observable impact of an Academic’s teaching, research, and academic service activities (i.e. MSALs establish the baseline for expected performance).

 

  1. An Academic’s work can be modelled as a Present Value cashflow stream of value creation activities from: (i) undergraduate and postgraduate student fees for the Academic’s units of study; (ii) Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) funding, and Research Support and Research Training program funding, received from the Australian Government for the Academic’s eligible research publications, competitive grants, Higher Degree by Research student completions, and other eligible research income (Category 1 to 4); (iii) consulting and contract research income that is non-HERDC eligible; (iv) intellectual property rights income such as patents, joint ventures, and spin-outs; and (v) Academic contribution to Field of Research scores in national and international performance rankings, such as the Excellence for Research in Australia and Shanghai Jiao Tong ranking exercises.

 

  1. The gap between the MSALs and the Academic’s Present Value cashflow stream creates a potential spread in terms of work expectations versus value creation activities that create arbitrage conditions. The University can extract Alpha (excess return above a benchmark) through active management of an Academic’s research program, such as gaining new contract research income, exercising options on intellectual property rights, or creating new, scalable research enterprises. Alternatively, the University can extract Beta (passive returns from a market index) through cultivating an Academic cohort / group’s expertise, and matching it to relevant grant and consulting income sources.

 

  1. Developing an Academic’s research program is one way to change the Future Value cashflow stream from research activities, in a structured process.

 

  1. Moneyball strategies for research programs include: (i) scalability and international scope; (ii) target journals for publication; (iii) book publisher selection for publication; (iv) research methodology training (as a Doctoral candidate and as a Post-Doc); (v) co-authors or collaborative research team; (vi) international conference attendance for collaborative network and referral building; (vii) matching to grant and consulting income opportunities; and (viii) research enterprise development.

Academic Inequality in University Hiring

Slate‘s Joel Warner and University of Colorado’s Aaron Clauset have detailed a study by Clauset and his colleagues on academic inequality in university hiring.

 

Clauset and his colleagues found:

The data revealed that just a quarter of all universities account for 71 to 86 percent of all tenure-track faculty in the U.S. and Canada in these three fields. Just 18 elite universities produce half of all computer science professors, 16 schools produce half of all business professors, and eight schools account for half of all history professors.

 

Clauset’s findings echo what David D. Perlmutter (Promotion and Tenure Confidential) and Karen Kelsky (The Professor Is In) have written about the tenure track process in United States universities. What matters is doctoral degree prestige, having a fundable research program, productivity in research publications, and making a definable impact on a field or domain of knowledge, that is validated through academic networks.

 

These findings mirror what I have seen in research management:

 

  1. The doctoral experience is important to a subsequent research career. It provides an opportunity for the doctoral candidate to immerse themselves in a field or domain, to read its best journals, to be mentored by established researchers, to present research findings at conferences, to master research methods, and to develop a personal voice as a professional author.
  2. Having a research program that is focused and fundable is important to success in competitive grant schemes, and to attracting contract research income. The research program needs to address a significant research or social problem. You need to be aware of the four or five other research teams in the world that are exploring the same research or social problem. You need to address current scholarly debates. The research program should develop expertise that can be shared with government policymakers and industry partners.
  3. Knowledge of journals gained in doctoral education, and a focused research program, can support productivity in research publications. A key is to get a stream of publications that advance the research or social problem identified in the research program. Being strategic about co-authored and collaborative publications is also important. Your publications track record should have a narrative to it that implements your research program. It should systematically build your expertise at national and international levels.
  4. The sum of the first three activities is that, over time, you have a definable impact on a field or domain. Universities look for this definable impact in the minimum standards for academic levels criteria used in promotions and tenure applications. This definable impact can be measured in several ways. Academic publisher prestige can be important for books. National and international conferences can be used to build networks and to workshop material that will later be published in a book or refereed journal article. Social media outreach and the careful use of sites like Academia.edu, ResearchGate and Google Scholar can increase citations. Academic networks can validate the definable impact.

 

Clauset’s study findings support earlier research: Lazear and Rosen’s work on labour tournaments, and Robert K. Merton’s work on the Matthew Effect or success to the successful. Doctoral candidates and Post-Docs who follow the above advice will improve the probability of career and research funding success.

John Birmingham Goes Indie

ABC News reports that Brisbane-based author John Birmingham is embracing indie self-publishing.

 

Birmingham’s David Cooper series had poor sales after its Australian publisher broke an embargo, and the first book was pirated. He waited eight months to pursue self-publishing.

 

A Girl In Time is Birmingham’s “first self-published novel” out now.

 

Birmingham’s experience has several lessons. Authors create unique intellectual property that reflects their voice. Publisher contracts have non-compete clauses that embargo new books. Agents respond to publisher incentives.

 

Birmingham will still work with trade publishers in the future. For now, indie publishing enables him to build up a mail list of readers and to diversify his intellectual property portfolio. If his self-published books are successful, it may improve Birmingham’s negotiation stance with trade publishers.

 

In negotiation terms, indie self-publishing is Birmingham’s Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

 

I follow a few indie authors including South Africa’s Nerine Dorman and Masha du Toit, and Amy Lee Burgess of the United States. They have each been successful in indie self-publishing – sometimes after being signed to indie publishers. They have each developed a niche and effective, targeted self-marketing.

 

Birmingham shows that there are plenty of good indie self-published authors to discover.

Crossing The Rubicon of Recognition

The Atlantic Magazine’s Daniel Lambroso has posted a brief documentary about the white supremacist think tank National Policy Institute and its alt-right founder Richard B. Spencer.

 

His goals include the reformation of the Roman Empire, the strengthening of white tribalistic European heritage, and the rollback of identity and immigration laws in the United States. Spencer is also involved with the racialist publisher Washington Summit.

 

The Atlantic‘s short documentary also features Scottish blogger Millennial Woes.

 

The racialist philosophers Madison Grant (The Passing of the Great Race) and Alfred Rosenberg have returned, and are now armed with blogs, tweets, and video blog casts. Gavriel D. Rosenfeld foresaw this also in his book Hi Hitler!: How The Past Is Being Normalized In Contemporary Culure (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).