My contribution on “The Politics of Demography in Unequal Societies: Argentina and Brazil Compared”

Along with two colleagues from my time at the Inter-American Development Bank, Diego Wachs (corresponding author) and Vitor Goncalves Cavalcanti, I have coauthored a book chapter in Global Political Demography: The Politics of Population Change. The book will be open-access and available this year. It was edited by Professors Achim Goerres and Pieterand Vanhuysse, and published by Palgrave Macmillian.

The book is “the first study of population change and politics that explicitly covers all major global macro regions” and “looks at how population change features in political power, political regime stability and legitimacy, and policy output”. 

Our contribution covers the region of Latin America, and we concentrate specifically on Argentina and Brazil. In brief, we argue that:

Argentina and Brazil, like other countries in the region, are quintessential case studies of the relationship between inequality and social conflict. Incorporating this dynamic is fundamental to understanding the political, economic and societal implications of the region’s most pressing demographic issues. (Wachs, Cavalcanti & Galeazzi, 2021)

It was a pleasure to work with both Dr Wachs and Dr Cavalcanti. Thank you to both.

Top 5 productivity and networking tools discovered since starting my PhD

  1. Calendly – eliminates one of the worst types of email exchanges. Never again use back-and-forth emails to decide on a time to meet – just send a link and your colleagues will choose from available times and it will be added to your calendar.
  2. Lunch club – Artificial intelligence platform that sets you up with people you are likely to have things in common with. Input your availability, your professional background and interests, and receive an email with date, time, and connection details sorted for you. Join here with my invite link
  3. Toggl track– Do you like the Pomodoro technique? Are you still tallying up Pomodoros by hand? Or, do you ever wonder how you spend your time while using your computer? Toggl helps you track and review your time in front of any screen.
  4. Grammarly – I never thought I needed any help with simple writing (emails, Facebook, LinkedIn), but I stand corrected. Even the free option provides a high return.
  5. Bullet journalling – A method of organizing your thoughts that was created by Ryder Carroll. You can get lost in this cultural phenomenon, which led to countless beautiful Instagram pages, Youtube tutorials, and spin-offs. Take what works for you.
  • Shortlisted: Fishbowl (anonymous app for genuine conversations with other professionals that are working in similar roles and industries); Prezi (helps you create visually appealing presentations, but if your want to restrict access to your research before its published, prices are not student-friendly); Keep (hands down the easiest way to keep notes across devices); Microsoft To Do across all devices (including watches!) for recurring chores.
  • What never stuck: Microsoft 2016 Onenote (versus physical notebook), Forest (ironically too distracting), Trello (Kanban-style, list-making application for more organized work), and Scrivener (writing app for all kinds of projects, including dissertations couldn’t win against Word when I needed it to connect with citation software like Mendeley).

Presenting at On Deck Climate Tech Fellowship

On April 30th, I had the opportunity to share my ongoing work on the materials for the energy transition. This time, it was in a practitioner environment, at a community session of the On Deck Climate Tech Fellowship.

As would be expected, I reviewed the motivation, methods, and conclusions behind two ongoing PhD projects, but the best part was the discussion and connecting further with attendees afterwards. It was rewarding to meet others, witness interest in my research, and share my work despite some public speaking anxiety.

Thank you Tobias Egle, PhD student in Materials Science at Harvard University, for the opportunity and facilitating the event. (We met through LunchClub connections, see more on it in the next post).

The image is from my presentation, which I hosted on Prezi. Prezi, if you see this, I’d love to purchase a long-term Prezi Plus subscription, if there was a student option!

Preparing for my first contribution as a peer reviewer

After having been invited to peer review my first article, I looked into a few readily available peer review courses. These include PublonsAcademy, Elsevier’s Researcher Academy and Nature’s Focus on Peer Review. I found Nature’s course the easiest to access and it took about three hours to complete. I also recommend PLOS’s Peer Review Center.

Was it absolutely necessary? Opinions are mixed – according to studies summarized in this blog post, “there is little evidence to suggest peer reviewer training programmes improve the quality of reviews”.

Additionally, I complemented the course with a couple of extra sources specifically for social sciences. Here are two I used: an article by The Scholarly Kitchen on how peer review in social sciences and humanities differs from sciences, and a report on peer review by The British Academy specifically for humanities and social sciences.

23 Things: A workshop for the modern researcher

23 Things is an online 14-week program to help researchers strengthen skills that complement their research and that increase the impact of their research. Following a timetable in support “pods” of similar researchers from several participating universities around the world, researchers are introduced to a total of 23 “things”, from motivation and data management to networking.

One of the main outputs from the program is the creation of a website and blog for each researcher. I suppose I can lay back and relax for bit :), but I definitely have some more “things” to learn. If you think this is a program you’d like, check it out here.

I’m an expert reviewer for the IPCC 6th Assessment Report and you can be one too

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced five assessment reports (ARs) that communicate the state of knowledge on climate change. Each assessment report is divided into three Working Groups (WGI examines the physical science of climate change, WGII assesses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability and WG III addressess mitigation), drafted by international chapter groups, and reviewed in several stages.

The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) will be published in 2022 and the Expert Review for Working Group III lasts until 14 Mar 2021. I believe many readers would be able to contribute to the stage as expert reviewers. According to the IPCC, “because the aim of the expert review is to get the widest possible participation and broadest possible expertise, those who register are accepted unless they fail to demonstrate any relevant qualification” (see more here and here, the drafts may not be cited, quoted or distributed).

I have made a small contribution to the AR6 as contributing author (providing specific knowledge or expertise in a given area) in Chapter 16 on Innovation, technology development and transfer (Working Group III). I have also taken a stab as a reviewer. If you’re an Early Career Researcher, here’s more on how you can get involved.

Hosting Professor Sovacool at the C-EENRG seminar series

Last week Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy, and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG) hosted its first seminar of the term, with the outstanding Professor Benjamin Sovacool from the University of Sussex. Lucky for me, I was invited to host the talk, entitled Accelerating energy and low-carbon transitions.

Given the breath of the subject, and Professor Sovacool’s expertise, we broached topics spanning the speed of uptake for different technologies, to the utility death spiral, and the need for interdisciplinarity in the subject – enough material to fill at least a couple large volumes!

Thank you to my departamental colleagues for the opportunity! Take a look at our coauthored paper with Professor Sovacool, and tune in each Tuesday 2-3pm (UK times) to the C-EENRG seminar series.

Africa’s Resource Export Opportunities and the Global Energy Transition

Sub-Saharan Africa has vast non-fuel mineral resources that in some countries constitute major shares of their gross domestic product. The region also contains large oil and natural gas resources, which have been reliable sources of revenue for decades. In this peer-reviewed World Bank publication, we examine the potential impacts of the energy transition on mineral- and hydrocarbon-rich economies in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) over the coming decade and focus on so-called “mineral energy materials” (MEMs) such as cobalt, nickel, and copper that are expected to play an important role in the energy transition.

Below is one of the main figures, and the study can be found here.

Who wins Pennsylvania if uncounted ballots are like the past mail-in ballots?

Productivity may well decrease this week as the world places so much attention on the US presidential election results. The evolving vote count for Pennsylvania is a major source of anxiety for Democrats and Republicans alike. So, to placate my own need for certainty, I created a mini-model forecasting the final vote for the state.

It’s a model that needs only basic input: the current number of votes for each candidate below line 39, and an estimate of how many votes are left in cell B2. My source for these inputs is the Associated Press via updates to the election results in the US map featured in The Guardian. (Yes, I really have input these one by one as the results came in). The model requires no expertise or county-specific details and answers the following two questions: Who wins if the past mail-in ballots are an indication of the remaining ones? By how much do uncounted ballots need to change for the result to flip?

Up to Friday 6 November, 6:20am EST, the results of my model show that Biden wins. Since Wednesday 4 November morning, there have been more than 900,000 ballots counted. Of these, about 75% have favored Biden. The difference between both candidates is now 18,042 (for Trump) and only 3% of the total ballots are left to count.

If Biden wins 75% of the remaining ballots, he wins. In fact, he wins even if they decrease to about 55%. You can play around with the model yourself downloading it here. It can be applied to states other than Pennsylvania.

Below is one of the graphs output from the model.

Deep diving vs sailing: Avoiding the PhD expertise trap

The PhD teaches students to become researchers. Though the literature review may take them through a relatively large pool of knowledge, the end result of the thesis is more akin to deep diving than to sailing through open seas. As a result, I think it’s up to me to enrich my understanding of topics outside economics of energy and climate change.

I could navigate far and wide. But this year, I have simply enjoyed drifting to the basics of economics and history of economic thought. I’ve remembered ideas taught in Economics 101 (and got flashbacks of learning how Solow’s growth model accounted for technological progress with Professor Marcelo Clerici-Arias in a lecture hall of 400 people). I’ve also explored topics I’d never learned, like utopian societies and financial regulation.

Books have included 50 Economics Classics, and 50 Politics Classics (by Tom Butler-Bowden), Ha Joon Chang‘s Economics: The User’s Guide and Niall Kishtainy’s A Short History of Economics. Currently, I’m reading The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today by Linda Yueh. Please send any other suggestions my way!

According to Stephen Leacock, “The meaning of [the PhD] is that the recipient of instruction is examined for the last time in his life, and is pronounced completely full. After this, no new ideas can be imparted to him.” Let’s hope that’s not true – I’ll keep on sailing the wide open seas, just in case.