Thursday, 31 December 2009

Job carving

In today’s complex world multi-tasking (which doesn’t actually exist but …) is the name of the job game. This results in more and more people with limited intellectual ability being left without gainful employment. Teach the boss to type and he doesn’t need a secretary (at least not for sending letters etc), get everyone to dust their own desks and you don’t need a cleaner and so it goes on, apparently.

Now, however, Stockport Council has turned round its recruitment process in order to provide equality of opportunity for people with learning difficulties. Instead of identifying an individual for a job the recruiter is identifying a job for the individual – and this is where the carving comes in. Many complex jobs today have elements of repetitive work within them, if these can be carved out of the main role they could provide a separate role that would suit the talents of someone with learning difficulties.

It seem that it’s taken me a while to catch up with this story. It was reported on the IDeA website in January of this year, in the Equal Opportunities review Number 190 in July and only just in 2009 at all by me.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

There must be a better way

I am, as is frequently the case, sitting in a Reading Room at the British Library. I am also muttering, under my breath of course – this is a library and the silence is palpable. On this occasion I am muttering about Children's Services Parliamentary Monitor – such a useful publication if only …. Is that the saddest phrase in the world? Maybe, in another context. In this context it’s just an annoyance.

Why do I have to be sitting here reading about measures agreed by the various legislative bodies in the UK during JULY? It’s December now. A November issue would be reasonable or even October (OK, a bit out of date but might highlight something I'd missed elsewhere) but July?

I'd probably be less annoyed at the tardiness of news that is no longer new six months after the event if this wasn’t by far and away the best commentary on activities in Westminster, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Stormont with regard to Children's Services!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Capitalist Unfree Labour: A Contradiction?

an article by Tom Brass (University of Cambridge) published in Critical Sociology


Disputed here is the view that a “fully functioning” accumulation process cannot operate efficiently – let alone profitably – without workers who are free. In non-Marxist political economy which eschews class struggle the idea that unfree labour might be acceptable to capitalists was dismissed on the grounds that such workers would necessarily be inefficient, unskilled, costly, and scarce. Because it was an obstacle both to market formation and expansion, and to the installation of advanced productive forces, they argued, unfree labour-power was incompatible with a dynamic process of accumulation within particular national contexts. In the present global capitalist system none of these objections continues to hold. Analysing a 21st century capitalism though the lens of class struggle confirms that today unfree workers are more profitable to employ but no less efficient than their counterparts who are free. Deskilling combined with a reserve army that is global in scope makes it possible for capitalists to use such production relations.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Re-Evaluating Road-Crossing: ...

The Chicken Was Pushed – a short guide to writing a research paper

Writing Research Papers via Stepcase Lifehack by Art Carden
No matter where you are in your intellectual journey, the ability to assemble and analyse large amounts of complex information is a skill that can pay large dividends both in monetary terms and in terms of your overall satisfaction with life.

The Abstract is usually 100-150 words long. The abstract tells the reader what you have done and why it is important. Your abstract tells the reader what you do, how you do it, and what it implies. Here, you’re saying the chicken was pushed, that you demonstrate this statistically or anecdotally, and that it implies we have to re-evaluate our understanding of chicken road-crossings.
I. Introduction
The introduction sets the stage for your analysis. You tell the audience what you are doing and why it is important. An introduction here would say that previous generations of scholars believed that the chicken crossed the road to get to the other side. Your paper shows that the chicken was pushed. In the introduction, you give a brief outline of the argument and the evidence used to support it. As much fun as it is to write long, twisting narratives filled with subtlety and nuance, it is important to remember that a research paper on a technical topic is not a mystery novel. Your readers are not reading for leisure. They are reading because they think your ideas are worth considering and factoring into their own research and decisions.
II. Literature Review
The literature review places your research in context. You aren’t the first person to ask why the chicken crossed the road. What questions do previous researchers ask? What questions remain unanswered? How does your idea fit? In this case, previous scholars have also argued that the turtle crossed the road “to get to the Shell station”. Is this relevant for your research? Why or why not? As tempting as it is, don't include too much in the literature review. The literature review is a place to highlight relevant contributions that address the question you are asking and to show how your contribution either fills gaps in our knowledge by answering questions we haven’t answered yet or creates gaps in our knowledge by showing that something we thought we knew is false. What does the reader take from the literature review? Is it a sense of the important questions that others have asked and how your research helps answer them? Or does the reader just come away with the knowledge that you've read a lot of stuff? Revise the latter until it becomes the former.
III. Theory
Your theory lays out the logical reasons for why we might believe your hypothesis to be true. It also explains why other hypotheses are unlikely to be true. Road-crossing is dangerous, and people have never explained what was on the other side that would have made it more attractive to the chicken. We can’t rule out the hypothesis that the chicken was pushed, and there are a lot of plausible conditions under which this might be the best explanation.
IV. Evidence
Here you report and explain the evidence you will use to verify that the chicken was pushed. Evidence can be statistical, anecdotal, narrative, or descriptive. Remember that not all good evidence is statistical, and not all statistical evidence is good. Perhaps you can show that chicken road-crossings are correlated with something, or maybe you find the chicken’s personal papers in which he, in a diary and a series of letters, accuses the cow of pushing him into the road.
V. Conclusion
The conclusion summarises your results and lays out very carefully exactly what needs to be done next. It is likely that your conclusion will be tentative. However, a well-written conclusion will elucidate the next steps that need to be taken before we can be absolutely certain as to whether the chicken crossed the road of his own volition or whether he was pushed.

Art Carden is Assistant Professor of Economics and Business at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee and an Adjunct Fellow with the Oakland, California-based Independent Institute.
His research papers have been published or are forthcoming in Public Choice, Contemporary Economic Policy, the International Journal of Social Economics, the Business and Society Review, the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Review of Austrian Economics, and other outlets, and they can be found on his SSRN Author Page.
His commentaries appear regularly at and in newspapers around the country, and he is a regular contributor to Division of Labour.
He and his wife, Shannon, had their first child in July, 2008.

Shocks, Stocks, and Socks: ...

Smoothing Consumption Over a Temporary Income Loss

an article by Martin Browning (University of Oxford, and Institute for Fiscal Studies) and Thomas F Crossley (University of Cambridge, and Institute for Fiscal Studies) published in Journal of the European Economic Association Volume 7 Number 6 (December 2009)

We investigate how households in temporarily straitened circumstances due to an unemployment spell cut back on expenditures and how they spend marginal dollars of unemployment insurance (UI) benefit. Our theoretical and empirical analyses emphasise the importance of allowing for the fact that households buy durable as well as non-durable goods. The theoretical analysis shows that in the short-run households can cut back significantly on total expenditures without a significant fall in welfare if they concentrate their budget reductions on durables. We then present an empirical analysis based on a Canadian survey of workers who experienced a job separation. Exploiting changes in the unemployment insurance system over our sample period we show that cuts in UI benefits lead to reductions in total expenditure with a stronger impact on clothing than on food expenditures. Our empirical strategy allows that these expenditures may be non-separable from employment status. The effects we find are particularly strong for households with no liquid assets before the spell started. These qualitative findings are in precise agreement with the theoretical predictions.

Full text PDF 24pp

Interactive visualization for opportunistic exploration of large document collections

an article by Simon Lehmann, Ulrich Schwanecke and Ralf Dörner (RheinMain University of Applied Sciences, Wiesbaden) published in Information Systems Volume 35 Issue 2 (April 2009)

Finding relevant information in a large and comprehensive collection of cross-referenced documents like Wikipedia usually requires a quite accurate idea where to look for the pieces of data being sought. A user might not yet have enough domain-specific knowledge to form a precise search query to get the desired result on the first try. Another problem arises from the usually highly cross-referenced structure of such document collections. When researching a subject, users usually follow some references to get additional information not covered by a single document. With each document, more opportunities to navigate are added and the structure and relations of the visited documents gets harder to understand.
This paper describes the interactive visualisation Wivi which enables users to intuitively navigate Wikipedia by visualising the structure of visited articles and emphasising relevant other topics. Combining this visualisation with a view of the current article results in a custom browser specially adapted for exploring large information networks. By visualising the potential paths that could be taken, users are invited to read up on subjects relevant to the current point of focus and thus opportunistically finding relevant information. Results from a user study indicate that this visual navigation can be easily used and understood. A majority of the participants of the study stated that this method of exploration supports them finding information in Wikipedia.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Genome Island: A Virtual Science Environment in Second Life

an article by by Mary Anne Clark published in Innovate Volume 5 Issue 6 (August/September 2009)


Mary Anne Clark describes the organisation and uses of Genome Island, a virtual laboratory complex constructed in Second Life. Genome Island was created for teaching genetics to university undergraduates but also provides a public space where anyone interested in genetics can spend a few minutes, or a few hours, interacting with genetic objects – from simple experiments with peas to the organisation of whole genomes. Each of the approximately four dozen activities available in the island's various areas includes background information, model objects with data sets, and suggestions for data analysis. The island also has a presentation theatre, an indoor conference setting, and separate meeting spaces suitable for small group conversations. Clark describes some of the activities available on the island, offers advice for their use, and discusses the results of a pilot project that identified some pedagogical and technical challenges arising in this virtual setting.

The Structure of the European Education Systems 2009/10

from Eurydice

Schematic Diagrams
This publication shows, in diagrammatic format, the structure of the education systems from pre-primary to higher education level in the 31 countries participating in the Eurydice Network.

Compulsory Education in Europe 2009/10
This table provides a comparative overview of the duration of compulsory education in the 31 Eurydice countries.

Both of these publications are available from the “Tools” page of the Eurydice Network website

Monday, 21 December 2009

Negotiating Feminist Politics in the Third Wave: ...

Labor Struggle and Solidarity in Live Nude Girls Unite!

an article by Jennifer L Borda (Department of Communication, University of New Hampshire) published in Communication Quarterly Volume 57 Issue 2 (April 2009)


This essay examines Live Nude Girls Unite!, a documentary about female exotic dancers’ successful efforts to unionize. The film rhetorically exposes an alternative perspective on the ideological evolution, and contradictions, that represent third-wave feminism by complicating the notion of gender oppression and the responsibilities of coalition politics. Through these women’s analyses of their political situation, the film rhetorically addresses complex issues, including the complicated distinctions between victimiser and victim in contemporary gender politics, women’s appropriation of sex work and capacity for labour activism, and the dominant culture’s attempts to regulate working women’s private and public lives.

The integration and realisation of the distributed edutainment biped humanoid robot

an article by An-Ping Wang and Pau-Lo Hsu published in International Journal of Computer Applications in Technology Volume 36 Number 2 (2009)

To achieve “education in entertainment”, this research has integrated mechanical design, manufacturing technologies, network-based synchronisation, and control technologies of an edutainment robot. With proper integrations, the distributed-control environment for a biped humanoid robot has been developed in five aspects: robot mechanism; joint servo actuator; main robot controller; ZigBee network; virtual-reality host interface. Furthermore, the authors propose three enhancements of the distributed-control protocol to improve robot agility. The results indicate that the barriers between modern technology and cost to develop a edutainment humanoid robot can be overcome with the proposed mechatronics modules.

Hazel’s comment:
I picked this for the title more than anything else.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

for our ESL readers

via Daily Writing Tips by Maeve Maddox

Sometimes readers write asking for basic English instruction that lies outside the scope of this site. This post is for them and for our readers who teach ESL.
Many good ESL sites exist online. The English Club seems to be one of the best.

The English Club is a site based in Cambridge, England. It was begun in 1997 by British-born Josef Essberger. Access to all parts of the site is free. Content is targeted to ESL teachers as well as to students. The site offers a huge amount of content that includes:
  • lessons
  • games
  • videos
  • lesson plans
  • forums
  • lists of idioms, sayings, slang, etc.
The English Club has four companion sites:
Some other ESL sites of interest

Reconnecting the Research–Policy–Practice Nexus in Higher Education: ...

“Evidence-Based Policy” in Practice in National and International Contexts

an article by William Locke (Centre for Higher Education Research and Information, The Open University) published in Higher Education Policy Volume 22 Number 2 (2009)


It is often claimed that research on higher education has had little or no impact on HE policy-making, which is regarded as being largely driven by political ideology and the media and reinforced by little more than management consultancy. Recent higher education policy, it has been argued, is “a research-free zone” or at best “policy based evidence”. Yet, “evidence-based policy” remains a key term in government rhetoric, and education ministries and higher education policy bodies continue to commission research of various kinds. This paper argues that dichotomous approaches to the research–policy–practice nexus may have adopted an unnecessarily restrictive conception of “research” and an idealised view of policy-making and implementation as a rational and linear process. It argues that new approaches to building relations between the three domains are needed if the various communities are to develop a forward-looking perspective on the needs for research on higher education in the next 10-20 years.

Ten trivial (i.e. non-work-related) items

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
"I woke up one morning and everything in the apartment had been stolen and replaced with an exact replica." A joke? Or intimations of receding reality?... more

How Titan Got Its Atmosphere via Technology Review Feed
The methane in Titan's atmosphere has puzzled astronomers for decades. Now they think they know where it came from.

Where to Hunt for New Life-forms in the Solar System via Technology Review Feed
The best place in the solar system to find new life-forms is not Mars, Europa, or even Earth, argues one astrobiologist. Instead, we should focus our efforts on Titan.

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
"We’re constantly told that we can’t do anything: we’re poor, dirty, hungry, corrupt, diseased. And we’re supposed to build a better Africa?"... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Leonardo da Vinci, maybe a little like you, was a hopeless procrastinator. Well, so what? He was just on his way to his next great idea... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The global warming bandwagon is stuck in a snowdrift, and there are signs the public is suffering from “green fatigue”. What's the problem?... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Outlawing payments to kidney donors is ostensibly a way to keep the system fair. All it does is give rich and poor an equally lousy chance of getting a kidney... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Do great cooks memorise countless recipes? No. They have a grasp of basic ingredients and the ratios of ingredients that make great food... more

Science of baby rhythm via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
I was really impressed when my son was just a baby but could clap along to the rhythm of a song. Turns out, babies are actually born with the ability to perceive beats. Researchers from Budapest's Institute for Psychology and the University of Amsterdam used EEG to measure how baby brains respond to sounds even when asleep. Understanding beat perception in babies could lead to earlier identification of kids who may have communication problems.

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Not so long ago conservatives were equating liberalism with fascism; today, they have done a 180-degree turn: liberalism is now synonymous with socialism... more

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Persisting weakness in the EU labour market

via Eurostat Statistics in focus

Labour Market Latest Trends

Second quarter 2009
This publication belongs to a quarterly series presenting the main results of the EU Labour Force Survey for the EU-27 and for all Member States. Indicators presented in this publication are:
  • activity rates,
  • employment rates,
  • part-time employment as share of total employment,
  • average actual hours worked in all jobs per week,
  • share of employees with temporary contracts,
  • share of persons whose job started within the past 3 months,
  • unemployment rates,
  • inactives willing to work as a share of the total population.
Read Issue number 87/2009

Birmingham needs to grow its private sector

via Centre for Cities by Dermot Finch

Here's a stark fact. Between 1997 and 2008, total private sector employment across the wider Birmingham economy actually fell by 50k jobs – and over the same period, public sector employment increased by more than 80k jobs.
With public spending cuts on the horizon, cities like Birmingham will not be able to rely as much on the public sector to drive future growth. Adding private sector jobs – especially in the knowledge economy – will be crucial.
We've just published a report on Birmingham, highlighting the need for the city to grow its private sector economy. Birmingham has a lot of assets, but needs to make better use of them – e.g. its young and diverse population, and big pool (over 30k) of research students.
The report has triggered quite a bit of debate in the city. Here's some reaction from the Birmingham Post and blogger Kate Cooper – - plus my comment in the Post.

Web searching by the “general public”: ...

an individual differences perspective

an article by Nigel Ford, Barry Eaglestone, Andrew Madden and Martin Whittle published in Journal of Documentation Volume 65 Issue 4 (2009)


The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of a number of human individual differences on the web searching of a sample of the general public.
In total, 91 members of the general public performed 195 controlled searches. Search activity and ratings of search difficulty and success were recorded and statistically analysed. The study was exploratory, and sought to establish whether there is a prima facie case for further systematic investigation of the selection and combination of variables studied here.
Results revealed a number of interactions between individual differences, the use of different search strategies, and levels of perceived search difficulty and success. The findings also suggest that the open and closed nature of searches may affect these interactions. A conceptual model of these relationships is presented.
Practical implications
Better understanding of factors affecting searching may help one to develop more effective search support, whether in the form of personalised search interfaces and mechanisms, adaptive systems, training or help systems. However, the findings reveal a complexity and variability suggesting that there is little immediate prospect of developing any simple model capable of driving such systems.
There are several areas of this research that make it unique: the study’s focus on a sample of the general public; its use of search logs linked to personal data; its development of a novel search strategy classifier; its temporal modelling of how searches are transformed over time; and its illumination of four different types of experienced searcher, linked to different search behaviours and outcomes.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Glowing bacteria that finds landmines

via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Edinburgh University engineers have a plan to use genetically engineered bacteria that glow in the presence of explosives to detect landmines. The project is student-led, overseen by Alistair Elfick.
The bugs can be mixed into a colourless solution, which forms green patches when sprayed onto ground where mines are buried.
Edinburgh University said the microbes could be dropped by air onto danger areas.
Within a few hours, they would indicate where the explosives can be found.
The scientists produced the bacteria using a new technique called BioBricking, which manipulates packages of DNA.
Glowing bugs could find landmines (via Futurismic)

Hazel’s comment:
Beats blowing up humans, or even trained dogs, any day of the week! I just hope this stuff isn’t too expensive to produce.

The vulnerable worker in Britain and problems at work

an article by Anna Pollert (University of the West of England) and Andy Charlwood (University of York) published in Work, Employment & Society Volume 23 Number 2 (2009)


This article investigates the experience of low-paid workers without union representation. It reports on the findings of a recent survey of 501 low-paid, non-unionised workers who experienced problems at work. The results demonstrate that problems at work are widespread and, despite a strong propensity to take action to try to resolve them, most workers failed to achieve satisfactory resolutions. In the light of these results, we argue that the current UK government definition of vulnerability is too narrow because our results suggest that a large proportion of low-paid, unrepresented workers are at risk of being denied their employment rights. Therefore we question the ability of the UK's current system of predominantly non-unionised employment relations to deliver employment rights effectively and fairly.

Hazel’s comment:
1. Protect vulnerable workers.
2. Ensure that the small-business community is supported through provision of appropriate workers.
Unfortunately I’m not sure that these two mantras of government are compatible. My own experience of employment work is that the smaller the establishment the less likely it is that workers will have any representation and the less likely it is that workers who are denied their rights will be able to claim those rights.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Sporcle – cool games that make learning fun again

via by David Pierce on (don’t ask as I’ve had this for ages)

You've seen the “make your kids love learning!” toys before, right? Things like LeapFrog, and that computer game where you keep the spaceman alive by doing math problems… too fun. Once you hit about 9 years old, though, those games start to walk the fine line between fun and pathetic.
Thankfully, there's Sporcle – a site full of games that's the best way to learn cool things, and make it fun, for adults (or really anyone). Sporcle is a site of what it calls “mentally stimulating diversions”, and it's exactly that – games that are fun, exciting, and actually educational.

Read David’s full post and you’ll maybe think that the games are US-centric. Not so. It’s just that he is so finds listing the sovereigns of England a bit difficult (I assume since he can name all x American Presidents).

Addiction warning!!

Qualitative Evalution of the Adult Learning Option

This document presents the findings of a longitudinal qualitative evaluation of the adult learning option pilot to inform future integrated employment and skills initiatives.

Department for Work and Pensions Research Report 611

PDF 74pp published 16 December 2009

Hazel’s comment:
The summary looks fairly useful BUT and that BUT is deliberately made very large, you will have to approach HMSO to print any part of this publication – even the summary which appears to have taken the place of the very useful Briefs which used to be published under the old DfES régime.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Ten trivial (i.e non-work-related) items 9

Ant slaves' murderous rebellions
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
From the journal Evolution, a fascinating tale of slave rebellion among ants kidnapped by other ant species and forced to work for the rival colony.

When these youngsters mature, they take on the odour of their abductors and become the servants of the enslaving queen. They take over the jobs of maintaining the colony and caring for its larvae even though they are from another species; they even take part in raids themselves. But like all slave-traders, P.americanus faces rebellions.
15 Incredible Library Special Collections via Phil Bradley's weblog
Thanks to Ryan Caldwell for alerting me to the marvellous blog post:15 Incredible Library Special Collections This is a list of absolute gems.. The George Kelley Paperback and Pulp Fiction collection, The Nurse Romance Novels, Fore-edge paintings, the Baldwin Library of Historical Children's literature, the Comic Art collection - and many more. This is one to keep for a Friday afternoon, since you're likely to spend hours going through these. Fantastic stuff!

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Placebo effects: capsules work better than tablets, big pills work better than small, and the more expensive the medicine, the more its effect... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
We may well be genetically predisposed to appreciate listening to Sinatra or staring at a Seurat. But where did the genes come from?... more

Rare recording of James Joyce reading; Happy Bloomsday! via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Happy Bloomsday! Here's a rare reading of James Joyce performing his own work; as John Naughton notes, "When I first heard it I was astonished to find that he had a broad Irish-country accent. I had always imagined him speaking as a 'Dub' -- i.e. with the accent of most of the street characters in Ulysses."

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Democracy needs to know the serious reading of books. Long books. Hard books. Books with which we have to struggle... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
A brilliant talker, sparkling essayist, and champion of liberty, to be sure. So why do Isaiah Berlin's letters leave us with such a nasty taste?... more

Friday fun via Science, Engineering & Technology Blog by Anne
MathsChallenge provides a collection of mathematical puzzles of varying degrees of difficulty.

Afghanistan: Peace Through Accordions via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin
I loved this video produced in Afghanistan by Globalpost contributor Gregory Warner. For Which It Stands: Afghanistan, an accordion journey (Globalpost, via Bigthink, thanks Sepideh Saremi!)

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Was Einstein wrong? Quantum effects not only go against deep intuitions about the world, they undermine special relativity... more

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Christian job search – is it different?

via Business: Job Search Techniques Articles from

If you're a Christian, should you look for a job differently? How should that impact your resumé? You might be surprised at the answer.

Hazel’s comment:
As a Christian myself my eye lighted on this but I was not surprised at the answer. Job search is job search is job search! Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist or of no faith at all makes no difference to your skills and abilities in the job. Requiring Friday (Muslim), Saturday (Jew) or Sunday (Christian) as a non-work day is a different issue and is best discussed in a face-to-face situation.

Full article here

Are child prostitutes child workers? A case study

an article by Dr Heather Kate Montgomery published in International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy Volume 29 Issue 3/4 (2009)
This was a special issue on “Child work in the twenty-first century: dilemmas and challenges”


Based on a case study of a small community in Thailand this article analyses the explanations that child prostitutes give for selling sex. It looks at whether child prostitution can be considered as a form of labour and if children themselves understand what they do as work or exploitation. It focuses on children’s relationships within their families and argues that international legislation calling for child prostitution to be abolished, while well meaning, is too simplistic and does not deal with the complex social relations underpinning prostitution and the lack of alternatives for many children.

This article is based on ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation among a small group of child prostitutes in Thailand.

Certain children have very different understandings of prostitution to those campaigning to end the practice. They do not see prostitution as a form of work or necessarily as a form of abuse. Instead they claim it as a way of fulfilling perceived social and moral obligations to their families.

Research limitations/implications
The importance of listening to children themselves, even on such sensitive and emotive issues, is paramount as it reveals a gap between ground level realities and proposals put forward in international legislation.

The growing literature on child prostitution rarely takes into account children’s own perspectives. This article engages directly with children and takes seriously their own justifications and rationalisations.

Hazel’s comment:
If prostitution is “work” in the sense that most people understand this term then surely it should be subject to the laws which govern work. But doesn’t that legalise an activity that many people find repugnant? On the other hand child labour, as experienced by young people in many developing countries, is also something which we Westerners find hard to understand. I feel as though I could end up contradicting myself on this issue. How about you?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Resources 101

via PSD Blog - The World Bank Group by Brian Hoyt

The World Bank’s East Asia blog links to a fantastic graphic of the world’s resources by country. There is a clear correlation between size and supply: the United States, Canada, Russia, China and Brazil dominate the list. In many categories, such as soy, uranium, rice, natural gas, cotton, and corn, over half of the world’s supply is controlled by three countries or fewer.

Another interesting observation is that Brazil has almost 20 percent of the world’s water resources (roughly on par with Saudi Arabia’s share of oil reserves). Perhaps another reason to study Portuguese?

Labour market in Europe

Two items in EUbusiness Week (Issue 468 (27 November)) caught my eye.

  1. Climate holds key to post-crisis jobs
    European labour markets have seen employment gains since 2000 virtually wiped out by the economic crisis of the past two years, says the EC's Employment in Europe 2009 report.
  2. EU recession over, but sharp contrasts in east

The dynamics of qualifications:

defining and renewing occupational and educational standards


It is unfortunate (for me at least since I am hopeless at producing a decent précis) that there is no succinct abstract for this very useful document (PDF 84pp). I have, therefore, reproduced the Executive Summary for you which I think absolves you from reading the whole thing unless you are very “into” qualification standards.

Executive summary

Qualification standards are a powerful coordination mechanism for improving the match between demand and provision of education, training and learning. Accordingly, the comparative study of the 32 VET qualification systems of the countries participating in Education and training 2010 reveals much reform activity concerning the definition and renewal of occupational and educational standards, with consequences for the role and profile of qualifications.

Qualification standards are the result of interactions between the worlds of work (embodied by social partners, professional associations, employments services, etc) and of education (training providers, teachers, awarding bodies, education ministries, etc.). This interaction can be described as a feedback-loop, with different users of qualifications communicating either directly in the process of defining standards, or indirectly through the collection of information on employer expectations and the publication of learning requirements. The form taken by the feedback-loop in each country differs, but common challenges and trends can be identified.

Qualification standards, defined as norms and specifications regulating the award of qualifications, take various forms depending on the countries or the education segment. Approximately two thirds of the countries examined in this study have developed, or are in the process of developing, occupational standards. These standards, with their systematic occupation descriptions, are expected to simplify keeping qualifications up to date and relevant to the needs of the labour market while providing information to learners on the job profile targeted by the qualification. The forms and characteristics of occupational standards depend on how they fulfil this bridging function between the worlds of work and education. In one group of countries, occupational standards take the form of or a more or less elaborate but comprehensive classification system providing categories for monitoring the labour market. In a second group, occupational standards are designed as benchmarks for measuring occupational performance, in either a work or an educational context. In a third group, occupational standards describe the occupation targeted by a qualification and are developed in an integrated process with educational standards.

Educational standards can be distinguished from occupational standards because they follow a pedagogical logic, of progressive accumulation of knowledge and skills, and not the logic of a systematic description of occupational tasks, functions and associated competences. The variety of educational standards across Europe is as important as it is for occupational standards. Differences can be noted in the objects of standardisation (duration of study programmes, contents of teaching, teaching methods, etc.) and the degree of detail, with countries granting varying autonomy to local authorities, training providers and teachers to design and undertake curricula and learning programmes.

Qualifications are situated at the interface between the worlds of work and of education: they are awarded as the result of a learning process to be used on the labour market. Accordingly, the award of a qualification can be based on regulation of the learning process or on labour market requirements. In most countries, qualification standards address both aspects. Occupational and educational standards are integrated and linked together to make the relationship between employment requirements and learning more evident. In the second largest group of countries, qualifications are based solely on educational standards, either because reforms introducing occupational standards have not yet been fully implemented, or because other coordination mechanisms are used to ensure a strong link between competence-based qualifications and the labour market. This is the case in Germany or the Scandinavian countries, where social partners involvement in defining qualifications and providing training offers powerful coordination between VET and the labour market. Finally, in a few countries following the British NVQ model, qualifications are based solely on occupational standards, a feature that makes them particularly open to validation of non-formal and informal learning.

Comparison of qualification standards across Europe further reveals a general shift towards the use of outcome-based standards, independent from the type (occupational or educational) qualifications are based on. Learning outcomes are generally seen as facilitating the link between employment and education; they are formulated in terms of competences, a concept shared by both systems. In addition, learning outcomes have an important role to play in international mobility (credit systems and qualification framework) as well as lifelong learning and validation of various learning experiences. The majority of countries have adopted outcome-oriented standards or is in the process of doing so, even though the regulation of learning inputs (duration, contents, learning arrangements, etc.) still plays an important role in most qualification systems. However, despite these common developments and some formal similarities in formulating of skills, knowledge and attitude standards, a detailed comparison of outcome-oriented standards shows persisting differences which can be traced back to different understandings of ‘competence’ and different goals ascribed to vocational education and training.
The use of work analysis methods and the involvement of stakeholders in defining standards are crucial elements of a well functioning feedback-loop to ensure the relevance of qualification standards to the needs of employers and other users.

No single method is dominant in the countries under scrutiny, but common principles were identified in various European projects developing qualification standards. Based on analysis of tasks and activities, these projects focus, for instance, on developing common competence standards which are then translated into national training programmes, according to the principle of subsidiarity. It is worth noting that European cooperation on developing standards still happens solely on a case-by-case basis, although some projects have created transferable tools and platforms for sharing experiences.

Stakeholders are increasingly involved in developing national qualification standards across Europe. Participation is institutionalised even in countries with weak traditions of social partnership and attention is paid to a balanced representation of both employers and employees. Whereas patterns of involvement may differ greatly depending on national contexts and traditions, some common challenges can be identified. The lack of capacity of employers to articulate their expectations and needs, especially in emerging professions, is a first challenge faced particularly by countries with weak social partners. Even where stakeholders have a long tradition of self-organisation and involvement, institutional arrangements must be carefully designed to provide the participation opportunities for structurally weak actors such as SMEs and for professions not fitting into traditional sector categories. Finally, a challenge for every country is finding a way to balance conflicting interests of stakeholders; these conflicts originate from the multiplicity of social and economic functions of qualifications as instruments for fostering social inclusion, improving productivity, regulating tariffs and salaries, selecting employees, encouraging mobility, etc.

In the context of the Lisbon strategy and the establishment of a European education area, qualification standards are one important policy instrument for steering and reforming VET systems. Besides common trends such as the broad shift towards outcome-based approaches and the involvement of stakeholders in defining and renewing qualification standards, analysis of national systems reveals a continuing variety of approaches and systems. Qualification standards should, therefore, be further examined with other dimensions of the VET system, to identify whether the dynamics of qualifications are really converging.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The 12 psychological stumbling blocks of looking for a job

via career(s) information/guidance to TechRepublic

What a lot of career advice doesn't address are the psychological aspects of looking for a job.

Read the full article


i.e. those people who are outside, or on the outside edge of, the informationally aware group(s) in society.

The UK government is not the only government in the developed world to make rash assumptions about information needs and the ability of people to meet their needs without assistance. Who are the outliers, and how can advisers best help these to understand information and how best to use it?

Lark Birdsong wrote a very useful article in Searcher back in September of this year which will, I believe, help you to understand both the issues and the solution(s).

Constrained by hours and restricted in wages: ...

the quality of matches in the labor market

an article by Keith A Bender (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and John Douglas SkÅtun (University of Aberdeen) published in Economic Inquiry Volume 47 Issue 3 (2009)

© 2009 Western Economic Association International


This paper examines the explicit loss born by workers who face constraints in their working hours by analysing differences in actual and desired hours and wages. Men tend to be under-employed while women are evenly split between over- and under-employment. Losses in surplus are generally small, but 10% of under-employed men and women experience losses of more than 34% or 50% of surplus, respectively. The loss measure is also an important determinant in predicting labour market transitions, meaning increases in surplus losses generate a higher probability of changing from workers’ present jobs or changing the number of hours.

Hazel’s comment:
An interesting read even if some of the maths was beyond me! For those of you with access to the British Library it’s on display in the Social Sciences Reading Room.

OECD in Figures 2009

OECD’s original, simple to use, pocket-sized data book. As ever, this year’s edition contains key data on the OECD-wide economy, society and the environment. There are comparable tables covering the entire spectrum of the organisation’s work.

Now available from the Online Bookshop
The e-Book - PDF format is Free
Also sold as a subscription

Friday, 27 November 2009

Checking the time-line

Just moved from Twitter to blog – checking that the link is OK and happened to see my archive figures for 2009. You can really see the “down” times when life seemed like too much of a hassle to bother with.
Maybe I shouldn't be saying something like that in a business environment but as I’ve got older I’ve come to realise that the brick walls we as a society and I as an individual erect around our mental health are not a good idea. There is, however, a very fine line between honesty and wallowing and I’m not entirely sure which side I’m on this morning!
Of course, now I’ve said that I will definitely start feeling better.
It is now nearly four months since I started working at home and the balance between time in the office (half the dining room partitioned off) and the rest of the house is still not right. For example, I have to walk through the other half of the dining room, up the stairs to get to the bathroom and will inevitably end up carrying something up or bringing something down that is not in the right place and then notice a cobweb (or ten) and then ...
Advice on self-discipline, and someone to nag me into adopting it, could be useful!

Further Education: ...

policy hysteria, competitiveness and performativity

an article by James Avis (School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield) published in British Journal of Sociology of Education Volume 30 Number 5 (September 2009)

I picked this to read from the e-content alert for this journal since it has no online abstract and found myself immersed in a stunningly useful critique of government policy in relation to the further education agenda, primarily but not exclusively as evidenced in England.

It is not my intention to contravene copyright law by reproducing the whole of this essay nor to reduce my fingers to stumps copy typing; and regular readers of this blog will know that producing any kind of meaningful summary of an article is not one of my strengths.

The other option is to provide you with parts of the introductory paragraph as a flavour of the whole.

This essay addresses a number of issues that bear upon further education (FE) in England. It examines the socio-economic context in which the sector is located, considers its policy framework, touching upon the lived experience of those working and studying in the sector. Whilst the substantive focus is FE, the issues debated have a wider currency. ... One common feature of this turbulent environment is the manner in which policy is frames by an emphasis upon the skills agenda and the allied development of competitiveness. ... The aim is that learners of whatever age are readied for waged labour with practitioners prioritising this aspect of their work. ...
So there you have it – as if you didn’t already know. Further education is not about education it’s about turning out workers for the waged labour market.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The dictator and the Web design

You just have to love a man who can write like this:

You come ready for a fight. A switchblade in a boot. A length of chain casually deposited in a briefcase. A pry bar hidden under a raincoat. After all, few settings are more deadly, more provocative, more ready to explode into a riot than a committee called for the purpose of redesigning a website.

One of the reasons that I really enjoy reading Computer is the regular column from David Alan Grier of the George Washington University. The above came from Volume 42 Number 6 (May 2009) and continues to describe the in-fighting that ensues when "finance" finds that "human resources" has more pages and/or a direct link to the home page.

David is the author of two books., When Computers Were Human and Too Soon to Tell, neither of which I've read but am intending to find the time to do so.

Find? Time? No way. And you can’t make it either you just have to use the 86,400 seconds you are given each day to the best of your ability.

The best of my ability at the moment says "go and find a cup of coffee" before tackling any more reading.


You and I know, do we not, that completely discharging a recargable battery and then charging it completely before starting to re-use it is the best way to prolong its life?

Maybe you do it with your phone, your MP3 player or your camera. Do you do it with your laptop? Not on your life you don't unless you are a) very disciplined or b) control your laptop’s battery with BatteryCare

Don't thank me – thank Tips & Advice Internet which in issue 19 of year 13 tells us that the integrated battery meter in Windows is not very helpful (you can say that again). The recommendation also covers Battcursor but since that doesn't work with XP it was of no interest to me Luddit that I am.

MPs expenses

I make no apology for bringing up this subject yet again as it highlights an issue that some people working in or, more importantly, on behalf of a public authority may have not been aware or may have failed to remember.

The article “Freedom of Information update” by Ibrahim Hasan in Bulletin: Records Management Society (Number 150 (July 2009)) looks at the decisions reached by the Information Commissioner and the Information Tribunal during March and April this year.

Obviously top of the list is the fallout from the disclosure of MPs’ expenses by the Daily Telegraph. It’s worth remembering that we have Freedom of Information to thank for the knowledge that, while the rest of us were getting to grips with the credit crunch, MPs were using our money to buy such essentials as hanging baskets, bath plugs, designer rugs and mock-Tudor beams.
On 11 May The Times wrote that “a Labour plot to suppress the future release of MPs’ expenses has been uncovered ....” Senior Labour figures were reported as saying that the future privatisation of the House of Commons Fees Office, which processes expense claims, would mean that the information would no longer be held by the Commons and so not subject to the FoI régime.
Readers of this blog and of ADSET’s Members’ Update publication are, of course, aware that this is a load of twaddle (to put it politely). The Act covers public bodies and those working on their behalf e.g. delivering a careers service.

Take care my friends, please.

The rest of the article is of a more technical nature and aimed at managers of information who will, hopefully, be members of the Records Management Society and will get their own copy of Bulletin and won’t have to wait for to get catalogued and into the British Library lending scheme.

Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful, very grateful, that the British Library collects all these journals and makes them available to readers like me. I’m even more grateful that not only can I sit in the Reading Room with laptop plugged in so I don’t have to hand write and then transpose when I get home but that I can type straight into a blog post and send it “up the wire” and all for free.

Should we be concerned that the eldery don’t text?

an article by Rich Ling (Telenor R&D, Oslo and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) published in The Information Society Volume 24 Number 5 (November-December 2008)


The elderly are generally “out of the loop” when it comes to texting and other new technologies. On the one hand, the elderly do not often send text messages and thus signal their ability and willingness to use the medium. On the other hand, stereotyping by the younger users perhaps inhibits them from sending texts to the elderly. Is the non-use of texting by the elderly because of self-exclusion or lack of exposure or both? Should this be of concern to us?

Hazel’s comment:
I’ve been meaning to read this article for some time but more work-related items kept getting in the way. I finally realised that it would be more than a year old if I didn’t get around to it soon! The article presents some interesting sociological ideas about exclusion – by design, by choice, imposed by others and so on. What’s your first thought when wishing to communicate with someone who is aged 80+? It’s unlikely to be “send a text”. Why is that? Your Auntie Amy doesn’t have a mobile phone? Why should she when so many of the modern devices called phones are games machines, email readers, cameras and have lots of buttons which don’t aid the making of simple phone calls or the sending of messages? And given the size of the buttons she’ll need to get out a magnifying glass to use the thing even if she can get her poor arthritic fingers into the right place! (With sincere apologies to my late Auntie Amy who would have been one of the first to embrace new technology if she was physically able so to do.) Perhaps the technology is excluding the elderly rather than the other way round.
Apropos this there was an advert in the newspaper this morning for a phone which will be an ideal Christmas present for my father-in-law (aged 84) which not only has larger buttons and a larger screen to display text messages but comes in at a reasonable price of 49.99 GBP from Orange. (This type of gadget was available a couple of years ago priced well over 100 GBP.)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Today's score

at the British Library

journals requested: 7
journals received: 4

issues requested within the 4 journals received: 10
issues received: 13 but got 4 I didn’t ask for

I’ll update you on tomorrow’s score tomorrow! Let’s hope it’s better than today.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

R is not at the end of the alphabet ...

but the RSA Journal was at the bottom of a large pile of journals that I have been ploughing through today in the British Library.

If you are familiar with this publication you may appreciate my dismay at reaching the final item in the pile just half-an-hour before closing time.
If you're not familiar with it then you may not understand why I gave up and have marked it for re-requesting on my next visit in two weeks.

It’s a “good read” – but not necessarily an easy one. A quick glance tells me that there are at least two articles that I'd want to blog about – but a) not in half-an-hour and b) not at the end of a long day. (The BL opens at 09:30 and closes at 20:00. I got here soon after opening time and won’t be leaving until time is called at 19:45.)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Location is still important when it comes to career development

via The Management Blog by Adrian Gaskell

Location is increasingly important when it comes to people attending university, according to new research.The Location, Location, Location study carried out by the University and College Union shows that the education and career development gap between rich and poor people has continued to widen under the Labour government. According to the study, in the 20 poorest areas of the UK the number of adults with a degree has fallen over the past three years.
The announcement comes after a £2 billion government initiative to widen access to university education and management qualifications.
General secretary of the University and College Union Sally Hunt said: "The current government has rightly prioritised investment in education but this report shows that the problem is even more deep-seated than previously thought."

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

European statistics from A to Z

via Eurostat News releases

  • How much have infant mortality rates in the EU fallen since 1965?
  • In which fields are there the most PhD students and what is the split between men and women?
  • Which sectors have increased their importance in the EU economy in recent years?
  • What proportion of those employed in the EU have a second job?
The answers to these questions and to many more can be found in the 13th edition of the Eurostat yearbook, published by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities.

More ...

Hazel’s comment:
Serious data or, to be more precise, data on serious subjects, but also some which are the food for pub quizzes.

Culture, identity and information privacy in the age of digital government

an article by Rowena Cullen published in Online Information Review Volume 33 Issue 3 (2009)


The emergence of digital government and the requirement for citizens to exchange information with government online have raised a number of issues related to personal information held by government. These include questions about the confidence of citizens concerning the security and privacy of information they provide to government, on- or offline, and whether different cultural attitudes to issues such as personal identity might impact on citizens’ attitudes towards privacy. This paper aims to investigate these issues.
This paper reports and comments on the experiences and concerns of citizens in both New Zealand and Japan, based on focus groups and interviews. The New Zealand research included indigenous Maori, immigrant Pacific Islands groups and other ethnic communities.
Although all groups had concerns about information privacy, the nature of these concerns varied among the different groups interviewed and among individuals. Explanations of the attitudes and perceptions made in each group reflect cultural values and concepts of personal identity, and illustrate the importance of being aware of the differences between individualist and collectivist cultures.
Research limitations/implications
The research was based on a number of small studies, with limited numbers of participants. The findings would be strengthened by expanding the research to include larger numbers of participants.
The findings are significant to the development of policies for securing the confidentiality of citizens in the way government handles personal information in the online environment and in the ways in which these policies are communicated to citizens.

Hazel’s comment:
Before reading about this study I thought that everyone would be wary of central government organisations holding personal information and this is, to an extent, true but the level of wariness (not sure about that as a phrase but I’m sure you understand) varies quite considerably across different cultures.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

University as vocational education: ...

working-class students’ expectations for university

an article by Wolfgang Lehmann (The University of Western Ontario, Canada) published in
British Journal of Sociology of Education Volume 30 Issue 2 (March 2009)


Labour market conditions, a pervasive public discourse about the benefits of higher education, and parental hopes push many young working-class people into university. The institutional culture and demands of university, however, often remain elusive and fraught with uncertainty. In this paper, I draw on qualitative interviews with first-generation, working-class students at a Canadian university to analyse the ways in which these students discuss their reasons to attend and their expectations for university, and the implications of their attitudes for their future success at university. Analysis of the interview data shows how the relatively high and risky investment of working-class youth in education leads to strong utilitarian and vocational orientations toward university. Although a narrow focus on the career potential of university is generally perceived as problematic, I argue that it may also help working-class students in their transition to university. Nonetheless, a critical educational process is necessary that not only helps working-class students achieve their educational and occupational goals, but also understand their unique status in a social institution that they entered as outsiders.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Happenstance Learning Theory

an article by John D Krumboltz (Stanford University) published in Journal of Career Assessment Volume 17 Number 2 (2009)


What-you-should-be-when-you-grow-up need not and should not be planned in advance. Instead career counsellors should teach their clients the importance of engaging in a variety of interesting and beneficial activities, ascertaining their reactions, remaining alert to alternative opportunities, and learning skills for succeeding in each new activity.

Four propositions:

  1. The goal of career counselling is to help clients learn to take actions to achieve more satisfying career and personal lives – not to make a single career decision.
  2. Assessments are used to stimulate learning, not to match personal characteristics with occupational characteristics.
  3. Clients learn to engage in exploratory actions as a way of generating beneficial unplanned events.
  4. The success of counseling is assessed by what the client accomplishes in the real world outside the counselling session.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Tax Credits: help us to help you get it right

A new 4-page (A5) leaflet (WTC10) from HMRC explaining that you have to tell HMRC when your circumstances change or you may build up an over/under-payment.

Friday, 2 October 2009

QCF readiness support programme opportunities

via LSIS September e-Newsletter (30 September)

Is your organisation ready for the QCF?
All vocational qualifications will be accredited in the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) by the end of December 2010 and in preparation the QCF Readiness Support Programme is hosting two pan-regional QCF readiness conferences and has launched a new QCF Champions' Training Programme.

Career learning for the 21st century

via LSIS September e-Newsletter (30 September)

LSIS has published a series of projects on Career Learning, Information, Advice and Guidance (CLIAG) for young people in FE for DCSF.

It became clear that how organisations deliver CLIAG effectively for young people and their organisation is an issue sector leaders need to address.

Read more

European Social Fund (ESF)

Received from LSC this morning.

The LSC funds and manages programmes and contracts funded in part by the European Social Fund (ESF).

A consultation about the future direction of ESF is now open until 4 November 2009.

Below are some examples of how people have benefited from these programmes:
Creches for the community
Micah Gains Skills for Life
Totally Inclusive Education project

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

EVENT: Whither welfare-to-work? IES annual public employment policy conference 2009

9-10 Portland Place
Oxford Circus
London W1B 1PR

12 November 2009
10.00am – 4.00pm
Public and private sector organisations : £130 + VAT
Registered charities : £80 + VAT

From 2008, receipt of out-of-work benefits was made conditional on completion of work-directed activities for virtually all claimants. However, circumstances have changed and the unemployment registers are now replete with people able and willing to work; people without inherent barriers to work and for whom the unavailability of jobs is the main problem. This conference will consider:
· How should welfare-to-work policies adjust to higher unemployment?
· Where will this leave harder-to-help groups?
· What lessons can be learned from previous economic cycles or from abroad?
· Looking ahead to years of austerity imposed by the public finances: where does welfare-to-work go from here?

EVENT: Moving towards the creation of the Skills Funding Agency

Dearing House
1 Young Street
Sheffield, S1 4UP

6 November 2009
Time: 2pm - 4pm
Cost: £99 plus VAT. Friends membership rate £89.10 plus VAT

Bobbie McClelland, Deputy Director, Post 19 at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, will be setting out the legal position of the SFA and its functions as it becomes established in April 2010. Of particular importance will be the implications for learners, employers, colleges and providers.

Contact information:
Name: Karla McLaren
Telephone: 020 7766 0010

EVENT: Increasing participation for young people: have we cracked the youth unemployment problem for 16-17 year olds?

Campaign for Learning
19 Buckingham Street
13 October 2009

Time: 2.30pm - 4.30pm
Cost: £99 plus VAT

Rob Wye, Director, Young Peoples Learning Agency, will be giving an update on the September guarantee for 16 and 17 year olds, the extent to which unemployment among 16-17 year olds will remain a problem, and the transfer of funding for 16-17 year old to local authorities. Tricia Hartley, Chief Executive of the Campaign for Learning, will chair the event. Following the presentation there will be plenty of opportunities for delegates to raise questions and discuss the issues.

Contact information:
Name: Karla McLaren
Telephone: 020 7766 0010

Monday, 28 September 2009

Making Citizens in the Classroom: ...

An Urban Geography of Citizenship Education?

an artilce by J Pykett published in Urban Studies Volume 46 Issue 4 (2009)


This paper considers the construction of young people’s experiences in city schools through a new curriculum subject, Citizenship Education, in secondary schools in England. It demonstrates how citizen identities are constructed through discursive practices in the classroom and are shaped by geographies of education. The place-based identities formed within urban schools both reflect and refute the inequalities inherent in the selective education system which pertains in many UK cities today. A discussion of the urban context in which the research was undertaken is followed by an analysis of empirical research in two schools in and around Bristol, south-west England. This explores the ways in which particular place-based subjectivities are actively and knowingly enacted by teachers and pupils in the classroom through their talk about what constitutes the ideal citizen.

Getting educated about tax


Full-time students pay income tax just like everybody else but research from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) reveals that more than half of the UK's 2.3 million university students don't realise this.

Read the full press release

Sunday, 27 September 2009

On the economics of controlling an invasive plant: ...

a stochastic analysis of a biological control agent

an article by Morteza Chalak, Arjan Ruijs and Ekko C Van Ierland in International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management Volume 11 Number 1/2/3 (2009)


Invasive plants can cause significant problems in natural and agricultural ecosystems. It is recognised that biological agents may assist in controlling invasions, but due to stochastic effects of biological control, the biological agent may not be effective. In this article, we analyse to what extent the stochastic effects of a biological control agent affect the optimal choice of control strategies to deal with the invasion of the Californian thistle in New Zealand. A stochastic dynamic optimisation model is set up that derives the path and combination of control options that maximise the expected net present value of returns from a pasture. The analysis focuses on two situations: a deterministic case and a second case in which the effect of introducing the insect Apion onopordi to reduce thistle density is stochastic. Although one would expect that the stochastic specification would lead to different results, we show that the stochasticity of the efficacy of the insect in this specific setting does not affect the optimal control measure adopted compared to the deterministic case. It is also shown that chemicals can be replaced as a control option by more environmentally friendly control options at relatively low costs.

Hazel’s comment:
Knowing how many gardeners there are in the world I make no apologies for posting this abstract that I happened across.

(Re)Analysing Community Empowerment: ...

Rationalities and Technologies of Government in Bristol's New Deal for Communities

an article by Julie MacLeavy (School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol) published in Urban Studies Volume 46 Number 4 (2009)


Urban regeneration is increasingly framed around notions of community empowerment. Policy programmes seek to make communities visible and then strengthen and support them through the establishment of a leadership role in urban regeneration practices. At first glance, this appears to be a positive development. Yet commentators note how community partnerships – seen to invoke a “rolling back” of the state – are indicative of a particular economic logic that is governing urban policy provision. Partnerships, it is argued, constitute tokenistic organisations that do not represent the diversity of interests within a particular area. Instead, they work primarily in support of business or government agendas. This paper re-orientates this critique. Focusing on one example of a community-led urban regeneration programme – New Deal for Communities in Bristol – it explores the subjects and spaces to emerge in and through this new form of governance. By identifying the manner in which New Deal for Communities composes all participants as partnering subjects, it posits community engagement as the medium through which power is being reconstituted in extremely comprehensive ways. It then questions the possibilities for developing and sustaining alternative forms of collaborative practice.

Emotional journeys: young people and transitions to university

an article by Hazel Christie (Edinburgh Napier University) published in British Journal of Sociology of Education Volume 30 Issue 2 (March 2009)


This paper offers an interpretation of the role of emotions in understanding the transitions that young people make to university. I draw on qualitative research with a group of non-traditional students, entering élite universities, to argue that youth transitions are emotional as well instrumental affairs. I argue that choice-making processes incorporate both trust in, and fear of, the transitions infrastructure, and that these emotions infuse more instrumental judgements about the economic benefits of higher education. I also demonstrate that emotional aspects of class – including feelings of entitlement to education and the rejection of normative student identities – constitute the experience of “being” or “doing” a student. A broader understanding of how young people become university students then depends not just on developing a new identity but on the complex interaction between emotion and infrastructure.

Ten trivial (i.e non-work-related) items

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Alberto Fujimori defeated evil in Peru. On the other hand, he used evil to accomplish it. Who is to judge? Whom to be judged? Theodore Dalrymple wonders... more

The Vivarium (via Blisstree » Arts & Crafts by Cyndi Lavin) is a treasure trove of digitised rare books, old manuscripts, art, photographs, and other objects of beauty and wonder, all made possible by two Benedictine communities in Minnesota: the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University. Some of the treasures are located in private collections, and The Vivarium was able to secure permission to photograph and document them for the use of scholars and artists in the future. The Ethiopian Manuscript collection is one of these: the manuscripts and scrolls are located in private collections all over North America. Gorgeous illustrated texts, pottery, Syriac manuscripts and artifacts… there's just amazing stuff in this collection, all available online.

Six-potato gatling gun via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Here's a video and how-to for making your own potato six shooter. Family fun at its finest!
The Potato Gatling Gun

Ethics & Overuse of Cost-Free Resources via The Business Ethics Blog by Chris MacDonald
How much water does it take to make a latte? That's the question asked (and answered) in this cool little flash video from the World Wildlife Fund: How Much Water?. The answer: 200 litres (about 53 US gallons). That number is shocking, and it's intended to be. What the video points out is that each ingredient of the latte – from the milk, to the coffee beans, to the paper that makes up the cup – requires water to grow or manufacture it. But the video is a wonderful little piece of awareness-raising, and a good opportunity to highlight an economic concept that is crucial to understanding questions about sustainability.

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“I’ll scarcely be persuaded that anything good can come from Arabia,” said Petrarch. Little did he grasp the depth of Islamic thought... more ... more

Food ingredients with hard-to-pronounce names are perceived as scarier via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow
Patrick sez, “I'm a neuroscientist and I've written up in lay-speak a really fascinating little study I came across recently. The gist of the research was thus: people were presented with the names of fictional chemical food additives and asked to judge which ones they thought were more ‘dangerous’. What they found was that the harder it was to pronounce, the riskier it was perceived.”

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Looking for real adventure? Then stay off Mount Everest, where Base Camp now offers hot showers, Web access, TVs, and fresh strawberries... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Literacy, the most empowering achievement of our civilisation, is to be replaced by a vague and ill-defined screen savvy. All in the name of progress... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
W.H. Auden, E.M. Forster, William Empson, and Philip Larkin: four men who lived and died by, with, and for the English language. Steven Isenberg had lunch with them all... more

via Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The killer's blood was on the weapon, but a DNA search yielded nothing. Why not comb through DNA records to find the killer's relatives? Just might crack the case... more

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Employment Outlook 2009 Country Notes: United Kingdom

a recent publication from the OECD


The recession is slowing or even ending in the United Kingdom as well as in other OECD countries. This being said, the average unemployment rate for the OECD area reached a post-war high of 8.5% in July and may approach 10% in the coming months.

Unemployment has risen about as sharply in the United Kingdom as it has in the OECD area as a whole. The 2.6 percentage-point increase in the UK unemployment rate between December 2007 and the second quarter of 2009 is nearly identical to the average rise for the OECD area (Figure 1). The recent upsurge in unemployment has been much sharper in several other countries where the banking and housing sectors also suffered strong reversals, in particular Spain, Ireland and the United States. By contrast, the rise in unemployment has been modest in a number of European countries, including large economies such as Germany and Italy.

Readers can access the full version of the OECD Employment Outlook 2009 by choosing from the following options:
Subscribers and readers at subscribing institutions can access the online edition via SourceOECD, our online library.
Non-subscribers can browse or purchase the PDF e-book and/or paper copy via our Online Bookshop or order it from your local distributor.

[American] Careers advice in 140 characters

JT O’Donnell is the founder of, a site for career news and perspective for job seekers and young careerists, ages 18-40. Adding to the list of career services, O’Donnell devised The Twitter Advice Project or T.A.P., which would be a series of experts tweeting advice in response to questions posed by readers. All advice would appear in the @CAREEREALISM Twitter feed and users could easily see all the answers to specific questions.

“Can't be done,” said the experts. JT, as she is known, went ahead anyway and – it works.

I'm not sure how well it will work for UK users but some advice is globally applicable, some you have to do a bit of language translation (a resumé is a CV for example) and some is pure American.

Monitoring and Evaluating the Performance of the Labour Market in Scotland

Working Paper 18 from the Centre for Public Policy for Regions by John Sutherland


Given the Scottish Government’s decision to benchmark the performance of the labour market as one of the seven targets identified in its “Economic Strategy”, this paper examines how the performance of the labour market might best be monitored and evaluated. It recommends that, with some caution with regard to the need for frequent disaggregation. four indicators are used:
  • the activity (or participation) rate;
  • the employment rate;
  • the unemployment rate; and
  • the inactivity rate.
The paper proceeds to apply these four indicators to examine the performance of the labour market in Scotland over two periods: 1995-2005 and 2005 (third quarter) - 2007 (fourth quarter). For the latter period the performance of the labour market in Scotland is compared with that of the labour markets in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Finally, the paper employs two of these labour market performance indicators (the activity rate and the unemployment rate) to examine the Scottish Government’s “cohesion” aspiration.

PDF 35pp

Benefit Simplification

A publication from the Centre for Policy Studies (August 2009) which I would argue is essential reading for anyone involved in careers guidance or job-search or people advice or .... You name it you'll probably find it useful. Not a short read at 81pp but my skim through it tells me that it will be worth the effort.

Free PDF here or purchase hard copy for £10.

Oh that “they” would. No more trudging from Jobcentre to council office to HMRC to DWP and back round the loop again – whether actually or virtually – and getting different answers from each point of call. Personal experience tells me that it has, over the years, cost me a lot of money!

Friday, 25 September 2009

The effective use of technology in personal knowledge management: ...

A framework of skills, tools and user context

an article by by Raj Agnihotri and Marvin D Troutt published in Online Information Review Volume 33 Issue 2 (2009)


The objective of this paper is to further explore the emerging concept of personal knowledge management (PKM) and to bring researchers’ attention to this notion. Specifically, this paper aims to address issues related to the effective utilisation of technology in PKM practices.

A theoretical framework incorporating PKM skills, technology tools, user context and skills-tools fit is proposed. Arguments are built on the task-technology fit theory, which explores the link between technology tools and task characteristics (PKM skills).

The impact of effective PKM will depend increasingly on skills-tools fit.

Practical implications
The success of technology utilisation resides not simply in whether individuals use technology, but if this usage actually improves effectiveness. For their own benefit, individuals should consider and assess the technology tools in the context of how they will be aligned with specific PKM skills.

Proposing a conceptual framework of PKM, this paper suggests that the core focus is individual inquest, that is, the effort to discover, share, learn and explore through combinations of technology and information skills. The importance of the user's context in the PKM process is also discussed.

Urban Regeneration: ...

From the Arts “Feel Good” Factor to the Cultural Economy: A Case Study of Hoxton, London

an article by A C Pratt (London School of Economics) published in Urban Studies Volume 46 Number 5-6 (2009)


This paper seeks to examine critically the role of culture in the continued development, or regeneration, of “post-industrial” cities. First, it is critical of instrumental conceptions of culture with regard to urban regeneration. Secondly, it is critical of the adequacy of the conceptual framework of the “post-industrial city” (and the “service sector”) as a basis for the understanding and explanation of the rise of cultural industries in cities. The paper is based upon a case study of the transformation of a classic, and in policy debates a seminal, “cultural quarter”: Hoxton Square, North London. Hoxton, and many areas like it, are commonly presented as derelict parts of cities which many claim have, through a magical injection of culture, been transformed into dynamic destinations. The paper suggests a more complex and multifaceted causality based upon a robust concept of the cultural industries as industry rather than as consumption.

Hazel’s comment:
If you want to know more about Hoxton then there is a good (in my opinion) article on Wikipedia (where else?) here. Recommended as time-waster for those interested in history!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Blogs, news and credibility

an article by by Barrie Gunter, Vincent Campbell, Maria Touri and Rachel Gibson published in Aslib Proceedings Volume 61 Issue 2 (2009)


The purpose of this paper is to examine the emergence of blogging in the news sphere. If blogs represent a genuinely new breed of news provision, then they should adhere to some of the founding principles of mainstream news and journalism. A key principle in this respect is news credibility.

This paper presents a review of recent literature about news blogging and assesses whether news blogs manifest many of the core attributes of mainstream news and journalism. The review considers the attributes that have previously been identified as defining good quality news and competent journalism and then applies some of these principles to “news” blogging.

There is no doubt that blogs have emerged as news sources of increasing significance and there have been occasions when they can be influential in setting news agendas. The essential qualities of credibility and capturing public trust in the news sphere, however, often depends upon the established reputation of known news “brands”. Although some blogs have emerged as reliable information sources in some specialist areas, they have yet generally to assume the key characteristics of mainstream news that drive public trust.

This paper provides an up-to-date review of a topic that is rapidly developing and attempts to set out some foundations on which further analysis of news blogging can be constructed.

Who actually offers opportunities for non-formal learning?

Companies provide the largest part of non formal learning activities in almost all countries (where final data are available).
Link to the full article and to further information via

Thursday, 17 September 2009

via Prospero by R.B. | LONDON on 15/09/11

INDUSTRIAL art is thriving. The shortlist has just been announced for a new pylon design in Britain, a government-sponsored competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects. The finalists have all come up with possible replacements to the 1927 construction of Sir Reginald Blomfeld, which continues to march across the landscape barely changed (except a little taller). The winner is announced on October 5th and National Grid, the company that runs the electricity network, will consider whether to use that design in the future.

There are some interesting structures in the mix: one is a painted, lattice cylinder; another has slivers of steel pointing up to the sun. Others seem to perform the function—there is a Y-shaped offering, for example—albeit with a less-striking form.

My personal favourite in design terms, though, is a pylon that didn't make this list but won the 2010 Boston Society of Architects Unbuilt Architecture award. Called "The Land of Giants", it features huge lattice men who look as though they're carrying the wires across the landscape (pictured). It was designed by Choi+Shine Architects, and the images on the firm's site are simply stunning. A feasibility study was under way in Iceland to see if the figures could be used, but when things got a little tricky in the Icelandic economy in 2010, the project was put on hold. It's unlikely to thaw any time soon.

These designs all try to do something laudable: make the functional beautiful. The problem for pylons is that they're not really meant to draw the eye. They should be chameleons that blend in to the landscape rather than dominate it.

In other spheres that constraint is not so marked. In March 2011, for example, in a triumph of clever thinking, a new design of energy-efficient light bulb, called the plumen, won a British design award. The original Edison bulb was pear-shaped, built around an internal filament. Until now, in a prime example of path dependency, most energy-efficient bulbs have roughly assumed that shape.

What the Plumen's creators did was to acknowledge that the new technology was more flexible: the bulb they sculpted has intertwining swirls of light which seem to flow like a current. I suspect others will follow this thinking and energy-efficient bulbs may become a little more interesting over the next few years, even if they still take a while to brighten a room.

Reclaiming industrial structures for aesthetic purposes has been a trend in real estate for some time. On September 8th the Tate Modern, a London art museum that was itself once a power station, announced plans to open three new gallery spaces inside former oil tanks. The chambers, measuring 30m high and 7m wide, will show art for the first time in the summer of 2012, in time for the Olympics.

Things you can do from here: