Sunday, 17 June 2018

Investigation into government-funded inquiries

a press release from the National Audit Office

The government has spent more than £200 million on inquiries completed since 2005, but it is not always clear to taxpayers what action government has taken in response to recommendations and whether inquiries have had the intended impact, according to an investigation carried out by the National Audit Office (NAO). The focus of the NAO’s investigation was on completed inquiries, not those that have yet to conclude.

The government can decide to hold an inquiry in response to public concerns about a particular event. Inquiries often investigate complex issues and their nature, size and subject matter can vary significantly. However, all inquiries face the challenge of maintaining public confidence and accomplishing what they set out to achieve within an acceptable timescale and cost.

The NAO found that the government has spent at least £239 million on the 26 inquiries which have concluded since 2005, and that the average duration of these inquiries was 40 months. Departments were not able to provide the NAO with evidence that they had consistently monitored and scrutinised the cost and progress of the inquiries they have sponsored.

No single department is responsible for running inquiries across government and there are no formal criteria to determine the type of inquiry. Since 2014, the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Justice have committed to various actions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of inquiries originating from two parliamentary select committee reports. None of these commitments have been fulfilled. For example, they have not acted on recommendations to share best practice from inquiries, or update and publish guidance for inquiry chairs and sponsor departments.

There is no overall oversight across government for monitoring and tracking whether inquiries have achieved their intended impact and whether recommendations, where made, have been implemented. Departments vary in how transparent they are about actions taken in response to recommendations. For example, of the eight inquiries examined by the NAO that made recommendations, readily accessible information on progress was only available for half of these.

The scale of these inquiries is much larger than other forms of inquiry, such as select committee inquiries. The costs for the ten inquiries examined by the NAO ranged from £0.2 million to £24.9 million, and the nature of expenditure varied significantly. Overall, legal staff costs were the largest item of expenditure (an average of 36% of an inquiry’s cost, although this varied from less than 1% for the Morecambe Bay Investigation to 67% for the Mid Staffordshire Inquiry). The ten inquiries also varied in length, from 16 months (the Harris Review and Leveson Inquiry) to 84 months (for the Iraq Inquiry). For those inquiries for which information was available, teams spent an average of 102 days hearing testimony from 200 witnesses and considered more than 52,000 documents.

Full report and summary

Seems as though there&rsquo's a lot of money being spent on reaching conclusions, making recommendations and then nothing.

Mom I want it: impact of anthropomorphism on pester power among children

an article by Vandana (Jagannath International Management School, New Delhi, India) and Vinod Kumar (International Management Institute, New Delhi, India) published in International Journal of Business Innovation and Research Volume 16 Number 2 (2018)


The present research investigated the impact of anthropomorphised product and animal on pester power among children.

To achieve this objective, a scale on anthropomorphism is developed and two independent studies have been carried out to test the reliability and validity of the developed scale taking children and parents as respondents. Findings of the study revealed a significant impact of anthropomorphism on pester power.

However, anthropomorphic animals are found to be more impactful than anthropomorphic products in influencing pester behaviour among children. Moreover, parent respondents revealed that anthropomorphic stimuli create significant impact in generating pester behaviour among children.

On the contrary, child respondents did not disclose their impact on their behaviour in similar way. The study thus provides implications for marketers, academician and government.

Cultural alignment can make bedfellows out of autocracy and literacy

a column by Nuno Palma and Jaime Reis for VOX: CEPR’s Policy Portal

Can less democratic forms of government lead to higher literacy rates?

This column uses a sample of over 4,000 individuals from military archives in Portugal to show that an autocracy can have greater educational success than a democracy if it has closer cultural alignment with the preferences of the masses. This understanding has implications for development policy in poor countries today.

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Acceptability of a custom-designed game, CityQuest, aimed at improving balance confidence and spatial cognition in fall-prone and healthy older adults

an article by Niamh A. Merriman, Eugenie Roudaia and Fiona N. Newell (Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland) and Matteo Romagnoli and Ivan Orvieto (Testaluna, Milan, Italy) Behaviour & Information Technology Volume 37 Issue 6 (2018)


Virtual reality or video games show great potential as low-cost and effective interventions for improving balance and cognitive function in older adults.

This research describes the design and acceptability of a serious game (CityQuest) aimed at improving balance confidence, spatial navigation, and perceptual function in older adults with the use of a virtual environment and a balance board.

Community-dwelling healthy (N = 28) and fall-prone (N = 28) older adults were pseudo-randomly assigned to train with CityQuest or one of two control games developed to evaluate the specific effects of the CityQuest game.

Following completion of 10 training sessions, participants completed questionnaires measuring their acceptability of the game as a falls-related intervention, game experience, and subjective cognitive or balance confidence changes associated with the game.

The results revealed high acceptance scores of the game and positive game experiences for all three game conditions. Older adults prone to falls reported a greater reduction in fear of falling and greater improvement in vigilance following training, compared to healthy older adults.

These findings suggest that a serious game based on VR technology that trains both motor and cognitive processes is perceived to be beneficial and acceptable to healthy and fall-prone older adults.

Student psychological distress and degree dropout or completion: a discrete-time, competing risks survival analysis

an article by Stefan Cvetkovski, Anthony F. Jorm and Andrew J. Mackinnon (University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) published in Higher Education Research & Development Volume 37 Issue 3 (2018)


Studies of psychological distress (PD) in university students have shown that they have high prevalence rates. These findings have raised concerns that PD may be leading to poorer student outcomes, such as elevated dropout rates.

The aim of this study was to examine the association of PD in undergraduate university students with the competing risks of degree dropout or completion. It analysed data from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.

The sample comprised 1265 university students. PD (i.e., probable depression and/or anxiety) was measured with a validated cut-off score of ≤65 on the 5-item Mental Health Inventory (MHI-5) from the Short Form 36 (SF-36). The study used an accelerated longitudinal design with student year of study as the metric of time and estimated dynamic discrete-time, competing risks survival models.

Contrary to expectations, the study found that students with PD had lower odds of degree dropout and higher odds of degree completion than students without PD in year 4 of their degrees.

This study contributes to the empirical literature on university student mental health by showing that, while PD can be debilitating and negatively affect students’ general educational experience, it is not as harmful to academic progress as might be assumed.

Why We Fear Ending Destructive Habits (Try this Experiment)

a post by Mike Bundrant for the NLP Discovewries blog [via World of Psychology]

good habits and bad habits

Are we really afraid to end bad habits? Here’s how to know.

Try this simple thought experiment:

  1. Think of your bad habit. It could be anything. Biting your nails, smoking, raging, spending too much money, overeating, dating the wrong people; you name it.
  2. Say to yourself, with firmness and a matter-of-fact tone, the following:

I will never (insert bad habit) again. For as long as I live, I will simply abstain from (insert bad habit).

Notice what happens next. If you have a destructive habit that you’ve tried in vain to quit – and if you declared with firmness to yourself that you will NEVER do it again, the most common emotion that arises is fear (in my experience).

A few people experience relief – as if they never realized that they could just quit their bad habit. Like an affirmation, the statement just hits home.

Some people laugh at themselves after making this statement. Yeah, right, like I’ll never do again. And Mickey Mouse is real, too!

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Using Storytelling as a Job-Search Strategy

an article by Karl L. Smart and Jerry DiMaria (Central Michigan University, USA) published in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly Volume 81 Issue 2 (2018)


This article demonstrates and reinforces the role that well-told stories play in the success of the job-search process. Building on narrative theory, impression management, and an increased use of behavioral-based questions in interviews, well-crafted stories about work and educational experiences demonstrate skills applicants possess and convey them to interviewers in memorable ways.

The article shows how to construct stories based on an applicant’s experiences and shaped to the needs of a potential employer.

Additionally, the article demonstrates how a job seeker can create a collection of personal stories that can be adapted to varying job interview situations.