Sacha Raoult: DO NOT TOUCH! (if not tenured). Academic Careers and Polarized Research Questions in the U.S.

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 11:00 to 12:30
Life Science Building, 3314 - UCLA

I will present an ongoing research in the sociology of quantification and of the academic profession. I am interested in the way U.S. academia deals with polarized research questions and in the contribution of quantitative research to different political agendas.

I look at a diverse array of academics who have published quantitative evaluations of public policies such as gun laws, capital punishment, minimum wage or nuclear non-proliferation since the 1970s. These academics come from a variety of discipline affiliation (mainly economics, sociology, political science, medicine, psychology).

I first show that some questions are more polarized than others: a meta-analysis of the results produced on those questions shows at least two distinct "poles" instead of results gravitating towards a consensus. I then classify, when possible, the contributions of academics in three categories ("conservative", "liberal" and "radical") depending on where they are situated in these poles, and assess different models to test the effect of a specific type of contribution on an academic career, along other usual variables such as academic, scientific, social and media capital. I also look at the effect of obtaining tenure and discuss the difficulties arising from trying to make a causal assertion. This quantitative analysis is completed by a series of formal and informal interviews with the actors.

Sacha RAOULT  is an assistant professor at Aix-Marseille University and a former Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the University of Chicago. He is currently working on a book on “hot academic topics” and is the author or co-author of several papers on this question, including “Empirische Sozialforschung und ihre Macher. Die soziale Produktion des Wissens über die Wirksamkeit der Todesstrafe” in Soziale Probleme, “A Prophet in his Hometown? The Cross Disciplinary Reception of Piketty’s Capital in French and U.S. Academia” in The American Sociologist and “Sociologie du désaccord académique en doctrine” in Revue de la recherche juridique.


This event is sponsored by the EpiDaPo Laboratory, a collaboration of UCLA and CNRS.

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