How to go from black tie to bathing suit? Gendered reflections on conference processes that shape our careers

By Luzan Koster & Thijs Willems | Reading time: 8 minutes

For many scholars, summer time means conference time. In winter we write an engaging abstract or paper to get accepted for a relevant conference. In summer we present our work to our scientific community who can challenge our line of thought. We hop from conference room to conference room to attend the presentations of others and engage in stimulating conversations during breaks and social events. Indeed, participating in conferences entails learning how to become a scholar and includes network activities that help sharpening our paper’s argument. The process therefore is a valuable and vital part of our work. But is this process as easy breezy as it sounds?

Smart debating does not only take place in the formal setting of conference buildings. Participants meet in various foreign countries, where one location is even more exotic than the other. In fact, so we argue in this blog, the informal events during conferences may potentially mark how our careers unfold. During such events, the boundaries between the formal/informal and professional/personal become blurred. This should urge us to be more aware of our role and that of others during conferences. We address this issue from one specific perspective: we show how our gender may shape how informal events at conferences are experienced.

Sunny setting

The following story takes place with the beautiful emerald blue Ionian Sea as its background. Here, at a yearly symposium, scholars gather to overthink theory and methods based on the theme ‘Process Philosophy’. The protagonists of the story are two PhD students, one male and the other female, who try to find subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways to blend in with ‘the professionals’. The convenor opens with: “This is not just a conference but a symposium, emphasizing the importance of good food, drinks, and company”. Work goals and holiday moods might seem contradictory, but scholars widely agree that the open and relaxed atmosphere is inspiring. Yet, it may be hard to follow work ethics when you are invited to after curriculum activities…

Conference evening of a woman: “Gender trouble”!

Tonight is the conference dinner, so I do my hair and put on a black springy gown. The long dress has a closed neckline and small see-through at the back, nothing too revealing. There normally are no strict dress codes, but most women do their best and bring their party clothes. When my Dutch colleagues and I arrive at the open-air venue, almost all tables covered with white linen at the seaside are already taken. The last table is held by only one man, so we ask if we can join him. We start talking and laughing, and when his group of friends arrives, we mingle. It turns out, the man is a renowned professor, but hierarchical positions do not matter now.

We move to a beach club to have more drinks. Everyone gets a big summery cocktail and sits down at the luxurious lounge. One of our new friends starts chartering everyone to go for a dive in the sea under the moonlight. While our group of the evening seems to have no problem to take their suits off, the rest of the conference participants raise their eyebrows. I feel somewhere in between, which presents a dilemma. On one hand, I do not want to be a spoiler and break the newly forged bond with an interesting group of scholars. On the other hand, I wonder how the image of my half naked body could harm my reputation in this scientific community! I hear a splash; the professor has dived in.

Conference evening of a man: Free your mind

Getting back to my room after an exhausting conference day, I take a cold shower to cool off. I unpack my suitcase to select the most fitting attire for tonight’s conference dinner. But what to wear? Stay on the safe side and wear something formal and too warm for the Mediterranean summer nights? “They won’t dislike me because of my choice of clothes”, I convince myself, “and besides, I’m a man and they would probably respect my laissez-fair attitude”. I hop on my comfortable short and airy t-shirt, and a few minutes later I am sipping a lovely local white wine with colleagues. Once seated, I notice that, while most women are dressed in a similar style as the luxurious setting of the restaurant, the other men wear their shorts, sandals, and half open shirts too.

At our table, theoretical approaches are casually merged in dinnertime stories. A heated discussion arises on Judith Butler’s ideas of ‘gender performativity’, referring to the fact that our gender is not given by nature, but very much socially constructed; the meaning of gender is created by humans as we act according to socially accepted and desired behavior. We leave the issue and move to the seaside bar where waves rhythmically hit the shore. When my mojito is almost finished, some part of our crew has raised the idea of a midnight swim. I waver for a second, hesitant to the idea of taking off my clothes in front of future colleagues. But the crowd clearly expects me to show some bravery, and shouts: “Come on man, don’t worry too much”. We jump in.

“Bodies that matter”: normative chains?

The work of Judith Butler (1990, 2011) shows that our gendered behavior is always to some extent prescribed by roles, gestures, clothing, and speech that are socially desired, depending on our male or female body. Our stories above indeed reflect how our body and gender influenced our thoughts, doubts, emotions, and choices for action. Whereas females usually ‘have to’ behave according to some undefined feminine standard, their scholarly male counterparts can break the rules as this portrays some undefined sense of ‘masculinity’. A woman may be frowned upon when dropping her dress, showing her body, to dive into the water, while a man may be applauded for having the guts to do so.

In no way, of course, we mean to say that women are determined to behave as women, and neither that there would only be one way that a man is expected to behave. The variations are endless and gender comes in many different shapes. However, what we want to address with this blog is that conferences are not some self-evident trips just for fun (in Dutch: ‘snoepreisjes’). When it comes to informal events at conferences, it matters ‘who we are’ and ‘how we are seen’. Especially so when we consider that there may be a difference, or tension even, between who we are as a scholar and who we are in private time. There are certain rules and expectations we should be aware of, which can play out differently for men and women.

In the process of becoming a scholar, PhD’s are often asked what kind of scholar we want to be. Seniors advise us to carefully think through our written work and to reflect on producing novel, exiting work as opposed to automatically following the main stream. However, what about informal factors? Who we meet at conferences affects our research perspectives and interests, opportunities for future projects and jobs. If conferences and informal networking are career changers, do we really have a choice to break conventions? What are the consequences if we do or don’t? How do these choices differ for men and women?

We hope this blog has inspired you to better reflect on your own role during informal events. For now: Happy conference season! 


Luzan Koster is a PhD candidate in the department of Organization Science. Her research focuses on ‘the interpretation of the new discourse by patients, professionals and informal caregivers and on the way this affects their identities‘.

Thijs Willems is a PhD candidate in the department of Organization Science. His research focuses on ‘The role of collaborative routines during disruptions in the Dutch railway system’. 

References

Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge.

Butler, J. (2011). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex.” London: Routledge.

Brexit: Dirty, Spicy or Hairy? Why Metaphors Matter

By Britta Brugman | reading time: 6 minutes

Even for me as a teacher and researcher in political science, explaining world politics to students is often a challenge. The main reason is that many political issues and events are also difficult to understand. Fortunately, politicians often use metaphors that help me explain the political world to my students better. The metaphors I choose to use, however, considerably influence how my students understand the political issues and events under discussion.

Metaphors are figures of speech that define one concept in terms of another concept. In politics, metaphors work by connecting political concepts to non-political concepts. Political debates that are often explained metaphorically are EU debates. For instance, the most common way to discuss Brexit is by referring to a “hard Brexit” or “soft Brexit”. Yet, what does it mean when Brexit is described as “dirty”, “spicy” or “hairy?

Hard or soft Brexit

The metaphors “hard Brexit” and “soft Brexit” compare the negotiations between the EU and UK to the firmness of objects like rocks or pillows. They define how much the EU and the UK are prepared to compromise on issues such as UK’s access to the EU’s internal market. A “hard Brexit” implies firm positions of both parties and therefore a total divorce of the UK from the EU. In contrast, a “soft Brexit” implies that both parties will maintain as close a relationship as possible.

Clean or dirty Brexit

Prime Minister Theresa May introduced alternative metaphors to the Brexit debate. She uses the metaphor “clean Brexit” to describe the UK’s strategy in the Brexit negotiations. Political opponents within the EU have responded that a “dirty Brexit” may instead be more likely. The words clean and dirty generally mean the degree to which objects or places are cleaned and organised. By using the metaphor “clean Brexit” Theresa May emphasises a “clean break” from the EU, meaning that the UK will leave quickly and completely. A “dirty Brexit” rather entails no agreement after months of deliberation.

Nevertheless, there are multiple interpretations of the metaphors “clean Brexit” and “dirty Brexit” possible. They may for example also encourage people to think about the integrity of the Brexit negotiations. A “clean Brexit” would imply that the EU and UK take their time to negotiate a precise, comprehensive and mutually beneficial deal. A “dirty Brexit” may indicate hasty and unfounded judgements. The interpretation of these metaphors thus depends on the context in which they are used and the politicians who use them. 

Spicy or mild Brexit

In one of their reports, the European Commission has spoken about a “mild Brexit” scenario, which would be the opposite of a “spicy Brexit”. The words mild and spicy usually indicate whether or not food has a strong hot flavour. In the context of Brexit, one of the most straightforward interpretations is that the words illustrate the degree of consensus between the two parties about important decisions. A “spicy Brexit” is for instance characterised by increased tension between politicians, while in a “mild Brexit” scenario there may not be as much political conflict.

Hairy or shaven Brexit

Finally, Boris Johnson has even warned the UK public for the possibility of a “hairy Brexit”. The positive equivalent of this metaphor would be something like a “shaven Brexit”. In ordinary language, the words hairy and shaven indicate the amount of hair on a body. However, with regard to Brexit, Johnson meant to stress the perceived complexity of the negotiations between the EU and UK. Whereas a “hairy Brexit” is complex and potentially dangerous in terms of the political and economic implications, a “shaven Brexit” may simply run relatively smoothly.

Metaphorical reasoning

Taken together, these examples show how different metaphors can influence our understanding of political issues and events differently. The metaphors “hard Brexit” and “soft Brexit” limit our understanding of Brexit to what outcomes the EU and UK want to achieve. At the same time, metaphors like “dirty Brexit”, “spicy Brexit” and “hairy Brexit” focus on the nature of the negotiations (integrity, political conflict, complexity). These metaphors each emphasise a different aspect of Brexit, which means that they can only provide a complete picture of the political dynamics of Brexit when they are used in combination.

Previous research shows that the degree in which metaphors influence our understanding of politics depends on multiple factors. My own research also focuses on examining when political metaphors are most persuasive. One factor that already seems to be important is the complexity of the topic. The more a political topic is difficult to understand, the more likely people are to rely on metaphors to understand political debates. Since many political issues and events are considerably complex to begin with, metaphors can play a crucial role in our political reasoning.

Thus, explaining world politics to my students becomes easier by using metaphors but it is important to be aware of how these metaphors may influence their understanding of political issues and events. Because each metaphor uses a different non-political concept as the basis for comparison, each metaphor emphasises different aspects of the political concepts under discussion. Therefore, to do justice to the complexity of today’s political world, a diverse set of metaphors is necessary to make my students adequately understand world politics.


Britta Brugman is a PhD candidate in the department of Political Science & Public Administration. Her research focuses on ‘the effects of metaphorical frames on voters’ political attitudes‘.

References

Brugman, B. C., Burgers, C., & Steen, G. J. (2017). Recategorizing political frames: A systematic review of metaphorical framing in experiments on political communication. Annals of the International Communication Association, 41(2), 181-197. doi:10.1080/23808985.2017.1312481

Burgers, C., Konijn, E. A., & Steen, G. J. (2016). Figurative Framing: Shaping public discourse through metaphor, hyperbole and irony. Communication Theory, 26(4), 410–430. doi:10.1111/comt.12096

Lakoff, G. (2002). Moral politics: How liberals and conservatives think. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Doing your first conference presentation – Tips and Tricks

By Jitske Both-Nwabuwe | reading time: 5 minutes

At one point in your PhD career you will most likely present some of your work at a conference. The first time can be scary. I know I was! It was pretty scary to fly halfway across the globe to present to people I did not know.

I had my first conference presentation at the 2nd Meaningful Work Symposium in Auckland, New-Zealand. In this blog I share my experiences and give you some tips and tricks on how to prepare and survive your first conference presentation.

Phase 1: Preparations before the conference

You got the acceptance e-mail: you are going to present at a conference!  I do not know about you, but for me – after the initial thrill – I started to worry: How am I going to pull this off? Well just follow these tips:

  • Contact your hero – fellow PhD student (if you have one)

Maybe be you have a fellow PhD student who can present very well. He or she is your hero concerning presentation skills. Well, find this fellow PhD student and ask for help.

  • Choose your key message

Usually your paper, which you are about to present, contains multiple key messages. However, you cannot tell them all! A general rule: for every key message you need 10 minutes. Try to find out how much time you will actually have and choose your key message wisely. I ended up choosing the ‘wrong’ key message. So make sure you know the reason why your article was accepted. Don’t worry if you can’t tell about everything that is important. People will ask you to share more during the round of questions. They did so after my presentation, so be prepared!

  • Use pictures

Ask yourself, what do you like to see: a picture or a sheet full of words? Right, the idiom “a picture is worth more than a thousand words” is also very true for your conference presentation. Try to use pictures instead of words. The slides are there to support your verbal message. Do not write down the whole story on your slides.

  • Make it fun

Your audience members are human beings. Human beings like to be entertained. So present your main message with some fun. This can be a story, an anecdote or a funny picture. In my case I used the anecdote of President Kennedy visiting NASA Space centre.

  • Practice for a variety of audiences

This includes practicing in front of yourself in the mirror.  Then, practice in front of your family. Most likely your family will listen and nod friendly. They will, however, not understand the message. But they can give you great feedback on the speed of your words, pronunciations, jokes etc. Also try to practice in front of your supervisors. And finally, practice in front of yourself in the mirror again. Especially when you are not a native speaker it is good to practice with pronunciations. The general rule is: practice at least three times and one time more than you think is necessary.

Phase 2: During the conference and presentation

So it is your time to present. Whether you are first or last, it does not matter. This is your moment and you should grab it. If you have practiced your presentation, you will do fine.  Here are some tips if:

  • The computer/beamer is failing.

If your presentation does not start (like mine), do not panic. Just ask for help.

  • You get difficult questions

When your presentation is finished and you get a question you cannot answer: do not panic. It is a good sign if you get questions.  People relate to your story and you made them think. Difficult questions are a good sign as well: you made them think deeply! If you do not know the answer, no problem, just ask a question in return. Can you explain?  What do you mean? And make it interactive. You are here to exchange ideas and to get feedback on your work to improve it.

Phase 3: After the presentation

Be proud (no matter how it went). You have survived and made your introduction to the scientific community! Enjoy the rest of the conference and the pub later. Connect with the people who asked questions and the other presenters. In the end this is the main purpose of presenting at conferences; getting to know colleagues in your field of expertise.

Veni, vidi, vici

So I survived my first conference presentation. Although it did not go perfectly, I had fun, got thought-provoking questions, learnt a lot, and met interesting colleagues. I hope my experiences, tips and tricks will help you to prepare and survive your first conference presentation.

For more tips on tricks on presentations you can also read the blog: ‘how to make a successful research poster‘.


Jitske Both-Nwabuwe is a PhD candidate in the Organizational Science department. Her research focuses on ‘The role of meaningful work in the sustainable employability of nurses‘.

N.B. trip was partially funded by the VU Graduate School of Social Sciences (VU-GSSS), for which I was really grateful

Annual PhD Day ’17

Friday afternoon May 19th from 14.00-17.00pm, we will have our annual PhD day! This lively afternoon is filled with a variety of research conducted by PhD candidates of the Faculty of Social Sciences from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. We would like to welcome you all to drop by at the Department of Organization Science (3rd floor, Wing A).

PhD’s can join the PhD day by oral or poster presentations, you can register your contribution in a google document. Please provide:

  • Your name
  • Your department
  • A preliminary title (50 words max.)
  • A short intro of your topic (100 words max).
  • Select one option: A poster presentation or an oral presentation.

Previous PhD days were a huge success thanks to the large number of faculty members paying a visit to the presentations and we look forward to an even higher attendance this year.

Facts or myths about the brain? Check your knowledge after March for Science!

By Ewa Międzobrodzka | Reading Time: 4 Minutes

On April 22nd scientists around the world went out of their university labs and offices and joined the March for Science. They marched to show society how important evidence-based research is. I joined the March in Amsterdam.  As a young brain-researcher I would like to raise people’s awareness about popular fake information about brain that many people consider to be true. I decided raise awareness about brain facts and myths, because according to the international report (Howard-Jones, 2014) many teachers believe in neuro-myths and that may negatively influence the way they teach students at schools, or even at universities… For that reason, I prepared a short quiz about the brain for the March for Science. I shared it with the March attendees. Here you can learn more about popular neuro-myths and re-take the quiz!

Did you select your answers? Now you can check them: Only statement 3,7 and 10 were correct! All other statements are neuro-myths – popular fake believes about the brain. How many correct answers did you have? Are you curious how many teachers from different countries mistook brain-myths as brain-facts?

In 2014 Paul Howard-Jones published his report about neuromyths among teachers from the UK, the Netherladnds, Turkey, Greece, and China in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Recently, together with my colleauge, Krzysztof Cipora, we replicated the findings from Paul Howerd-Jones in Poland among a group of teachers, as well as undergraduates, high school students and adult readers of a popular-science Polish online portal (Badania.net).  Despite different countries, the most popular neuromyths are number (2), (3), and (4). Below, you can find detailed information about the percentage of people who agreed with false statement about the brain.

Does it matter?

Perhaps you’re wondering now “Well, I’m not a neuroscientist… does it matter at all if I believe in myths of facts about brain?”. Yes, it does matter. For example, if you’re a teacher or a student your misbeliefs about brain may affect the way you’re teaching or learning. Moreover, you could save a lot of time and money by not spending them on “brain-trainings” like Lumosity that may actually NOT train your brain according to the research.

Take action and march for science!

As a (young) scientist I feel responsible for good quality of science communication and science popularization. I personally think that our scientific research findings should be shared with society in a way more accessible manner to lay audiences. Perfect opportunities for that are science blogging (like the Socializing Science blog), popular-science presentations (e.g. TED), and popular-science books (e.g., see Kijken in het brein – book in Dutch about brain). I hope that thanks to scientists’ involvement in science popularization, we could limit the misbeliefs about science, for example in myths about brain. That is why we should take action and march together, march for science!

 

Below you may find a few pictures from March for Science:

 


Ewa Międzobrodzka is a psychologist and a PhD candidate at the Department of Communication Science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In her PhD project she investigates possible effects of violent video games on social and cognitive skills of adolescents. Her passion is neuroscience and science popularization.

 

Dealing with the review process – The artist and the PhD

Thijs WillemsBy Thijs Willems / Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Imagine you’re an artist. You’re a painter currently carefully transforming an empty canvas into a magical landscape. No less than eight months you spent inside your musty little attic room to paint. But without complaining for a second, as you believe to be creating what will become your masterpiece. Autumn passed, as you were convinced that the colors of the leaves falling off the tree would be inspiration enough to turn the white canvas into a mosaic of playful colors. Winter was spent inside, to reflect the shadows and contrasts in the sky onto your painting in order to give it that necessary touch of drama. The summer passed and, instead of enjoying warm, long evenings in the park with your friends and a bottle of wine, you spent hour after hour to capture the right hue of color for the sunbeams behind the clouds.

Picture1

Eight months passed and, after much deliberation, you decide the time has come to show your masterpiece to the public. You invite an eclectic bunch of experts, big names and hotshots in the world of art, to give their initial thoughts and suggestions. They seem to love it! “Amazing colors, I can see you put your heart in it”, says one. “This is really interesting, it tells the Big Story of Life”, another adds.

The conversation continues for a while, and after all the compliments have been shared, the Cubist starts: “But…” As an artist you’re used to critique, so you recognize this word as the start of some, hopefully constructive, commentary.

“But… you really need to add some straight lines to make it more contemporary.” The others nod. The Minimalist: “I agree, but I also think you’ve painted way too much. Too much is happening on the sides of the painting, way too much.” Finally, the Impressionist adds: “I agree with the aforementioned comments. And yet… You haven’t captured the true essence of the sun. There’s too much detail and I’d rather see short, thick strokes of paint.” The experts leave and, slightly blown away, you start redoing your masterpiece with care. To satisfy the Minimalist, you cut off three inches from the sides of the painting; for the Impressionist to be happy, you transform the subtle colors of the sun into thick, broad patches of yellow and red; to make your painting more contemporary, as the Cubist requested, you fill the sky with random squares. You slowly step back to ponder your masterpiece and in awe you come to realize that this is not your work anymore.

This story could easily be told in a different context, where the PhD is the artist, the painting his/her paper, and the experts the reviewers of a journal. Getting your work published may be a daunting task, especially for new scholars. You spent a great deal of time, energy, and sometimes even love, in writing about your research. You are the proud artist of this text and you feel it is a worthwhile read for others in your field. You know you will have to reach this broader public by getting your paper published in one of the journals in your field. You finish the paper, submit it to a journal, wait, wait some more, wait a bit longer, and then you finally receive the review reports. It may be a desk rejection (the most common response of journals), a major or minor revision, or a straightforward acceptance (that seldom happens).

In my opinion, the major revision is the most challenging kind of review report to deal with. It often implies the editor and reviewers see, somewhere hidden between the lines of your text, the merits or contributions of your paper. The reviewers, then, often ask questions, critique your argument or provide suggestion on how to make the still implicit contribution of your paper more explicit. This may often involve serious and even impossible requests: “You position your paper in the context of Theory A, but we think it is more appropriate for Theory B, C or D. Please write a new paper”; “The theoretical point is really interesting, but the research is not convincing enough. Do the research again”; “We need much more detail in the theoretical and empirical part of the paper. Also elaborate your discussion further and include points 1 to 7. Oh… and please shorten the paper with at least 2,000 words”; “I don’t like your chosen methodology. Can you make a survey study out of your ethnographic data?”

I exaggerate a little bit, but the point I’m trying to make is that the review process is challenging, especially when you realize ‘your’ paper turns into a text that is different than you had intended. Below are some suggestions that may help you deal with this process:

  1. Even in case of a major revision, realize the reviewers and editors see considerable potential in your paper. Congratulations!
  2. In case of truly rigorous revisions you need to deal with a dilemma: re-write your paper to satisfy the reviewers with a chance on publication, re-write the paper and still end up with a rejection and a paper that only remotely looks like yours anymore, thank the journal and find another outlet (although the chances are pretty high the process at the other journal might be quite similar)
  3. When do you submit your paper? It might be easier to re-write a paper that was good enough but not yet perfect than a paper in which every word or punctuation mark has been deliberated at least three times. Maybe write a paper that is good enough to be taken in review? The perfect paper does not exist and reviewers will always have certain demands for a revision
  4. Make a careful choice about the fit between your paper and the journal you plan to submit to. Be aware of the current debates, what interests the readers of this journal, what is their writing style, etc. The reviewers need to understand why they should publish your paper instead of one of the other 50 submissions.
  5. Turn the problem around: journals have a ‘problem’ too (see Hollenbeck, 2008). They often have very limited space to publish interesting work, so the role of editors is to find the right paper to attract readers.
  6. Use footnotes. Sometimes, the reviewers want you to expand on certain concepts while you simply do not have the space to do so. You can still acknowledge their comments (and show the readers of your paper you have considered alternatives), without taking up too many valuable words.
  7. Treat the reviewers as experts, as in most cases they will be (provided you chose a respectable journal). So, their suggestions are not meant just as critique but are actually potential ways to make your paper more interesting.
  8. However, do not follow all suggestions religiously. Show some guts and refuse certain points of critique if you do not agree with them. However, always write an extensive cover letter when you submit the revision. Here you can explain choices made, how you went about revising the paper, and carefully argue why you did not follow some of the reviewers’ suggestions. In the end, this is all of help in constructing a more convincing argument.
  9. Leave the review report for a while. The moment you receive a report that contains more pages than your initial submission, it is quite difficult to digest it all at once. Read it, leave it, and then read it again after a week or so.
  10. Read the reports together with colleagues. They are a little more distanced than you are and will probably be able to distinguish the reviewers’ main points from only minor remarks.
  11. If all still does not go well, ventilate your aggression. I highly recommend the Facebook page ‘Reviewer 2 Must Be Stopped
  12. There may be many more tips… Please share your tips below!

In the end, the goal is to end up with a paper that has become better. A part of becoming a scholar is, perhaps, to learn how to deal with critique and use it to your own advantage. Even Albert Einstein’s applications have been rejected.

2

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Thijs Willems is a Phd candidate in the Organizational Science department. His research projects focuses on ‘The role of collaborative routines during disruptions in the Dutch railway system’.

References:

Hollenbeck, J. R. 2008. The role of editing in knowledge development: Consensus shifting and consensus creation. In Y. Baruch, A. M. Konrad, H. Aguinus, & W. H. Starbuck (Eds.), Journal editing: Opening the black box: 16 -26. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Social information: using the crowd to crowdfund a project

claire_teunenbroekBy Claire van Teunenbroek / Reading Time: 4 Minutes

In figure 1 you can see the famous Cloud Gate of Chicago designed by Anish Kapoor, or as it is more commonly referred to ‘the Kidney Bean’ at the Millennium Park. I took this picture during my conferences-attending in Chicago and I was personally quite impressed by this picture. It looks really ‘arty’, doesn’t it? At first, I felt really foolish taking a picture of a giant bean while trying to maneuver the camera is such a way that you could see me in the reflection of the bean. You could also say that I felt uncertain if it was appropriate to be so self-centered. However, when I looked around I concluded that it was more than ok since everyone was doing it. In other words, the behavior of others decreased my uncertainty and I, therefore, felt more comfortable with my one behavior.  Essentially, this is a very practical explanation of the effect of ‘social information’.

claire_1

Figure 1

Social information is simply described as any information concerning the behaviour of other individuals and tells you about what is normal in a given situation. For example, think again about the situation of the Kidney Bean. The individuals around me were also taking selfies, which informed me that it was normal to do so. The Kidney Bean has served a nice example which will help us move onto the main theme of this blog: philanthropic crowdfunding. Philanthropic crowdfunding is a funding method that uses an online context, meaning that donors can make their donations online. Crowdfunding is more that this, but for now we will keep  this description and explain it in more details below. Philanthropic crowdfunding is not as successful in assembling money as it should and could potentially be. My goal is that of using social information ton increase the success of philanthropic crowdfunding. I have opted to focus  on one specific type of social information: the donation behaviour of previous donors.

Before I explain more about social information, I will first define what I mean with philanthropic crowdfunding. Philanthropic crowdfunding is a way of assembling money online using an open call, meaning that anyone can make a donation. Crowdfunding builds on a large group of individuals, who each make a small donation, ultimately contributing to assembling a larger amount. If you make a donation at a philanthropic crowdfunding platform like Voordekunst, you will not receive a financial return. However, you might receive a small token of appreciation, but the value of the token is smaller than your donation. Meaning that you give more (in money terms) than you receive. In other words: it is philanthropic. But ultimately, can we increase the donations by adding social information?

I would like to live-test my idea with you! So, let’s see how you would react to social information on the donation behaviour of previous donors. Please imagine the following situation: after looking at my inspiring picture and description of the Kidney Bean art sculpture you are persuaded to make a donation to an art project. You have heard about a site called Voordekunst, which assembles money for art projects. On this site you find an interesting art project and start reading the project description.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 11.50.44

You notice that the project’s information mentions that the average donation amount of this project is 80 euros (depicted in figure 2). Based on previous research, (e.g. Shang & Croson, 2009, Martin & Randal, 2008) we expect you to increase your donation amount, to more closely resemble the social information the website has provided you with (mention of 80 euros). What do you think, would you be persuaded by the crowd? Be honest, would you have changed your donation amount?

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 11.51.05

By using social information I would then use the social power of the crowd to increase the success of crowdfunding. Researchers have also found that if you are a woman you are likely to be more influenced by social information, while men are less affected (Klinowski, 2015). Additionally, if you are a new donor you are also more likely to be affected by social information (Shang & Croson, 2009), since they are assumed to be more uncertain about the amount they should/would donate. However, the effect of social information is not unlimited. What I mean by this is that if the amount mentioned (in our example it was 80 euros) is too high (for example 300 euros), you would most likely not be influenced by this amount (Croson & Shang, 2013; Shang & Croson, 2006).

To sum it up, I want to use social information to increase the donations individuals donate at a philanthropic crowdfunding platform. I expect that confronting (potential) donors with the donation behaviour of previous donors increases the success of crowdfunding projects.

What do you think, is adding such a small amount of extra information enough to increase one’s donation amount?

___________
Claire van van Teunenbroek MSc is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Organization Sciences and works closely together with the Department of Philanthropy. Her research project is about developing and testing multiple techniques to increase the success of philanthropic crowdfunding. 

References

Croson, R., & Shang, J. (2013). Limits of the effect of social information on the voluntary provision of public goods: Evidence from field experiments. Economic Inquiry, 51(1), 473–477. doi:10.1111/j.1465-7295.2012.00468.x

Klinowski, D. (2015). Reluctant donors and their reactions to social information. Retrieved from http://spihub.org/site/resource_files/publications/spi_wp_120_jasper.pdf

Shang, J., & Croson, R. (2006). The impact of social comparisons on nonprofit fund raising. Research in Experimental Economics, 11, 143–156.

Shang, J., & Croson, R. (2009). A Field Experiment in Charitable Contribution: The Impact of Social Information on the Voluntary Provision of Public Goods. The Economic Journal, 119(540), 1422–1439.

 

Congratulations to Andrea Bandelli

By Socializing Science / Watching Time: 10 Minutes

On April 18, 2016 Andrea Bandelli successfully defended his Phd thesis entitled Contextualising Visitor Participation:Science Centers as a Platform for Scientific Citizenship”.

Andrea Bandelli examined how science museums support this scientific citizenship from the perspective of the museum and its visitors. He found that these museums are places where the public is encouraged and empowered to talk about science, especially the less educated visitors, who have few other opportunities to get involved in science.

Science centers and science museums are not just places where visitors can learn about science; They are also a forum for discussions and debates on the role of science in society. They are, as it were platforms where visitors are “scientific citizens”: places where visitors learn about science and participate in the discussions that shape the role of science and technology in our society.

Bandelli notes that science centers play an important role in the “democratization” of public participation in science. At the same time however, there are barriers that keep them from fully engaging the involvement of the public. For example, fear of doing it wrong, which may block further action.

For more information on Andrea Bandelli, visit his website   at : http://www.bandelli.com

Socializing Science would like to congratulate him and invite you all to watch his defense in this clip.

Early Summer Workshops at the Graduate School of Social Science

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The Graduate School of Social SciencePh.D. Comic 1s (VU-GSSS) is happy to announce its upcoming (early) summer workshops which will take place in May 2016. The intensive workshops focus on specialized qualitative and/or quantitative methods, and provide you with hands-on experience. Summer workshops are a great way to develop and/or strengthen your skills in between busy semesters of study and work. This year VU-GSSS gives you the chance to start planning ahead with (early) summer workshops.

  • Conducting Meta-Analyses

    (By Prof. Brad Bushman, May 17-20, 2016)

Meta-analyses have become an increasingly important method to summarise a body of evidence on a specific question. More so than traditional narrative reviews, a meta-analysis allows you to objectively combine and test the result of several studies that focus on the same hypothesis. This hands-on workshop is aimed at researchers with general knowledge of conducting quantitative analyses, but who want to learn how to conduct a meta-analytic review.

  •  Programming and Analyzing in R.

     (By Dr. Wouter van Atteveldt, May 23-27, 2015)

R is a statistical toolkit that is becoming increasingly popular for more advanced analyses in the social sciences. Getting started with using R, however, can be quite challenging. This intensive hands-on workshop will get you started using R on your own dataset.

So, what are you waiting for???  Check the Summer Workshops Manual for more information on the courses, credits, fees and timetable here.

Remember to spread the news to fellow colleagues at the VU and at other universities.

To sign up for the courses, or to ask questions and request additional information, email the VU-GSSS at graduate.school.fsw@vu.nl

 

 

Congratulations to Dr. Victoria Galán-Muros

By Socializing Science / Watching Time: 7 Minutes

On April 1st, 2016 Victoria Galán-Muros successfully defended her Phd thesis entitled “Universities at a cross-road – how European universities can engage business in research, education and valorisation to the benefit of all”. 

European universities are at a crossroad. Modern societal demands mean that governments are pushing universities to undertake more ‘usable’ research that solves societal problems and to better educate students for the world of work. These demands push universities closer to markets and businesses, which are eager to access talent and cutting-edge research. However, the university culture and structure are often not aligned to this new paradigm and thus cooperation and its management remain challenging.

In her thesis, Galan-Muros Victoria tackles this complex topic to increase the understanding of how European universities engage with business in education, research and valorization.In he dissertation, a comprehensive framework is developed: the University-Business Cooperation Ecosystem, which supports research and practice.

Socializing Science would like to congratulate her and invite you all to watch her defense in this clip.