Saturday, 30 June 2012

10 stories and links I found educative, interesting or simply weird.

I know I’m late. I have an excuse! I was at a picnic – with a lot of librarians. It was fun.

Andromeda on Collision Course with the Milky Way
via 3quarksdaily by Robin Varghese
It’s headed straight for us: Ron Cowen in Nature
Read the full story and, incidentally, see a stunning impression of the collision.
No need to duck – it’ll not happen for about 4 billion years.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate>
Poe is often regarded with at least a hint of condescension. So here goes: He is the worst writer ever to have a claim to greatness... more

Are Prisons Better than Nursing Homes for the Poor & Elderly?
via Big Think by Orion Jones
For individuals with no assets and no family, the possibility of being committed to a Federal prison may be more promising than landing in a government-funded nursing home. Prison, after all, is not without certain benefits: “Prison is cheap (if not free), provides a steady supply of food, a relatively high level of healthcare, and some social interaction.”
Read More

TNT Zombies
via How-To Geek by Asian Angel
In this game the zombie apocalypse has come to pass and it is up to a lone construction worker armed with dynamite to stop it. Are you up to the task of eliminating the zombies or will you be their next meal?
Fortunately it is only a game so you are not going to be eaten for real. However, to avoid being eaten in some alternative reality you should, perhaps, read Asian Angel’s walk-through here or if you’re feeling confident then go straight to the game here.

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Freud and friends. The Vienna Psychoanalytic Society was a fraternity - albeit a dysfunctional one, which reeked like a cult... more

A practical use for volcanic lightning (besides metal album covers)
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Here’s a story that combines two favourite bits of volcano news into one interesting discovery. You know those great, freaky photos of volcanic lightning? (In case you don’t, I've got one posted above.) Remember how the Icelandic volcanic eruptions totally screwed up everybody’s airplane travel plans?
Apparently, studying volcanic lightning could lead to better eruption detection systems that could make it easier to predict how big a plume of ash off that volcano will be – knowledge that can help airlines and travellers be better prepared. At Nature, Richard Monastersky reports:
The researchers found that the amount of lightning correlated with the height of the plume, something they could not test using more limited data collected during an eruption at Alaska’s Mount St Augustine in 2006. This observation is important, says Behnke, because systems to monitor lightning could provide an estimate for the size of an eruption, which is not always easy to assess for remote volcanoes.
During a previous eruption at Mount Redoubt in 1989 and 1990, for example, the size of the plume wasn’t known and a plane nearly crashed after passing through the ash cloud and temporarily losing all power from its engines. Behnke and her colleagues suggest that VHF stations similar to the ones they installed at Mount Redoubt could be used to monitor volcanoes to give early warning of an eruption and an estimate of its size.
Read the rest at
Via Graham Farmelo
Image: Oliver Spalt via CC

Lift That Bale: 1910
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive - Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Lift That Bale: 1910
Memphis, Tennessee, circa 1910. “Unloading cotton. Sternwheeler City St. Joseph”
8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company.
See larger view and comments here
I don't know about lifting that bale when it takes three strong men to roll one!

Museums were once tangible manifestations of idealism. But creeping professionalism and a bottom-line sensibility have taken a toll. What remains? A cafe with art... more Web. Blog, Twitter feed, open-source code: gone. It’s called infosuicide... more

Attacking the Human Genome: Biological-Based Crimes
via Big Think by Marc Goodman
The successful decoding of the human genome was a phenomenal scientific achievement. For the first time in the world’s history, the entire genetic code of the human species was fully available to scientific researchers. The fantastic accomplishment will provide untold advances in medicine and and holds the potential to vastly decrease human suffering and illness.
Read More

Alphabets Heaven beat music and “Private Life of Plants”
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz

Gorgeous, choppy beat music ambience from Alphabets Heaven. The track is “Deartentonine” from their new EP “Boosh”, available on King Deluxe.
The video is cut from David Attenborough’s documentary “The Private Life of Plants”
“Boosh” by Alphabets Heaven [to preview and/or purchase].
Two comments:
a) “grogeous” is not the description that I would have used to describe this music but each to his own. Life would be very dull if we all liked the same things.
b) the embed code in vimeo was missing its closing angle bracket, a good thing I can read HTML.

Tomato: Common-Law Vegetable via Credo Reference Blog
The Featured Topic Page for 10th May was Tomato
On May 10, 1893, the US Supreme Court ruled in Nex v. Hedden that a tomato was classified as a vegetable for the purposes of the Tariff Act 1883, which taxed vegetables, but not fruits.
Read more

Friday, 29 June 2012

Higher Apprenticeships in engineering and aviation announced

Laura Hopperton at Eureka, the site for engineering design

The government has announced plans to create an additional 4,230 Higher Apprenticeships in sectors including aviation, low carbon engineering and space engineering.

The news has been welcomed by industry and employer organisations such as the CBI and the EEF.

“By radically increasing the number of degree level apprenticeships we are putting practical learning on a level footing with academic study,” said Skills Minister John Hayes. “Doing an apprenticeship should be one of the best gateways to university level study. Through the Higher Apprenticeship Fund we are creating 23,000 places for young people to take degree-equivalent Higher Apprenticeships in sectors like space engineering and renewable energy.”

At the CBI, director for employment and skills Neil Carberry said that building a higher-level skills base had to be an essential part of a successful plan for long term growth. He commented: “Future skills shortages in key sectors could hold back our economic performance, so boosting higher level apprenticeships now is the right thing to do. Sectors like high-technology and science-based advanced manufacturing and IT are a good place to start. Young people need to know that higher apprenticeships are a great route to a successful career, as they can build higher level skills while learning on-the-job with an employer.”

Tim Thomas, head of employment affairs at the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, welcomed government efforts to increase the number of opportunities available. He said: “Employers view vocational and academic qualifications and skills as complementary to one another, and higher apprenticeships are becoming a hybrid of both. As such they provide a viable solution to employers’ increasing desire for practical and academic skills. However, we must ensure that young people are receiving the right careers advice that demonstrates apprenticeships can lead to highly successful careers in manufacturing.”

My emphasis!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Oh, the joys of working in the cloud

Over recent days I’ve managed my personal objective of posting one interesting/apropriate item an hour for each of the hours of my working day and, as some of you will be well aware, that’s been achieved by scheduling.
So, today, as well as using the computer system in the British Library to read journals that are available as online subscriptions only I should have been transforming items from raw draft (often just a link I've emailed into my drafts folder) to something postable tomorrow.
Have I done either of those things?
Have I heck!
The British Library would not let me in to the server and the internet kept on crashing out on me on my laptop.
Tomorrow could be fun since I have some classification mapping that needs to be done as well.

Skills Funding Agency Accounts 2011-12

Amyas Morse, the Comptroller & Auditor General, has given a qualified audit opinion on the 2011-12 accounts of the Skills Funding Agency in relation to how the Agency has accounted for further education colleges.

Further education colleges’ results have not been consolidated in the Agency’s financial statements. The Agency considered that it would not be cost effective to seek to consolidate the bodies as costs would be incurred by both itself and the FE sector in doing so, especially as the powers over colleges were in the process of being changed during 2011-12. These changes were confirmed by Royal Assent of the Education Act in November 2011.

The audit opinion of the C&AG is that, under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), further education colleges should be treated as subsidiaries of the Agency until the date the powers changed. Therefore their financial results should have been consolidated in the Agency's statements until November 2011. The C&AG's opinion and report recognises that the Agency no longer had control over colleges at 31 March 2012.

Apart from this issue, there are no other matters that would have caused the C&AG to qualify his audit opinion on the 2011-12 accounts.

Full report (PDF 3pp)

Minimum wages in Europe under austerity

In this ETUI (European Trade Union Institute) Policy Brief Thorsten Schulten – researcher at the WSI in the Hans-Böckler Foundation and widely acknowledged as one of Europe’s foremost expert on the subject – analyses recent trends in minimum wages across Europe in the light of the economic crisis.

In most European countries, workers earning the minimum wage suffered losses – in some cases quite considerable losses – in real pay. This reflects not least the fact that, in the context of austerity policies, minimum wage policy has been used to slow overall wage increases. This has served to exacerbate the demand-depressing effects of austerity policies and is one factor behind the economic stagnation that much of Europe is experiencing.

Full text (PDF 8pp)

Sustainable developments in knitting

an article by E.J. Power (affiliation(s) not provided) published in International Journal of Business and Globalisation Volume 9 Number 1 (2012)


The global community is aware that policies and practices regarding human consumption of resources need to change. Sustainability is a dominant factor within government policies worldwide.

A recent report compiled on behalf of the European Union identified clothing and textiles as key industries in terms of reducing environmental impact.

In response to this report, the UK government devised the clothing roadmap to investigate sustainable developments within these industries. Sustainable design was identified as one area for improvement.

This paper acknowledges that the clothing supply chains are not transparent. Consumers can purchase garments produced from organic and eco fibres since labelling identifies the raw material sources. However, it is less straightforward to purchase garments produced using sustainable technologies since processing information is not displayed at the point of sale.

This paper investigates sustainability within the knitwear industry and challenges the view that textile manufacturing industries are significant contributors to energy consumption.

Making sense of careers

an article by Helen Plant (NIACE) published in

The launch back in April of a National Careers Service for adults in England has been broadly welcomed across the learning and skills sector. Universally available to all adults via face to face, telephone and web-based provision, the service offers an opportunity to provide coherent information, advice and guidance to adults. But will it empower them?

Careers advice is essentially a means to an end. The test of its structures and processes will be their effectiveness in helping adults to navigate the increasingly complex and unpredictable worlds of learning and work.

Continue reading here where you will find sensible comment on how to “get it right” and ensure that careers advice is not an “intervention at point of crisis” but an ongoing interaction with IAG services.

Expanding and improving part-time higher education

BIS research paper no. 68 (URN 12/906) by Emma Pollard, Becci Newton and Jim Hillage (Institute for Employment Studies)

Report on research that explores whether part-time undergraduate study in England can be expanded as an alternative for young students (those aged 22 and under) to the full-time three- to four-year model of first degree undergraduate participation.
Also looks at how undergraduate part-time students of all ages can be encouraged and supported with their studies.

Full report (PDF 277pp)

Hazel’s comment:
You’d have thought I was asking for the moon trying to find more information to supplement that sketchy bit I’ve reproduced above but no, it seems to be all or nothing.

Skills, employment, income inequality and poverty: theory, evidence and an estimation framework

a research paper by Mark Taylor, Tina Haux and Steve Pudney published by JRF (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)

What is the likely impact of improving the skills of the UK population on income inequality and poverty?

Enhancing skills and educational attainment for poorer households will improve access to stable employment.

UK governments aim to raise employment levels and reduce poverty, with funding aimed at reducing the size of the low-skilled/ low-waged workforce. This approach rests on assumptions that enhancing people’s skills improves their employment prospects and that concentrating on those with the lowest skills will narrow the wage and income distributions.

This paper:
  • explains the meaning of “skills” and some of the theories about the relationships between skills, employment and earnings;
  • investigates the likely impact on income inequality and poverty of improving the skills of the population in the UK;
  • presents a new framework to assess the impact on income inequality and poverty of future changes to the distribution of skills and qualifications.
It found that:
  • The general consensus from evidence is that investment in education does genuinely enhance productivity, resulting in higher employment and earnings and less exposure to low income and poverty.
  • Access to stable and secure employment is also important, and enhancing skills and educational attainment among those in poorer households will improve access to stable employment.
  • However, it is important to improve more generic skills associated with labour market awareness and developing social networks that may be lacking among the most disadvantaged due to prolonged unemployment or economic inactivity.
Full text (PDF 52pp)

Tips For Getting Back Into Work For The Over 40s

via Blog by Andrew G. Rosen

So, you’ve hit or even passed the big 4-0. You have life experience, professional experience, a certain amount of wisdom that comes with age and yet, you are still struggling to secure that new job. You suspect that your age may have something to do with it. Unfortunately, you are probably right.

As an older job seeker, you need to be aware of the mindset that you will encounter in interviews and be prepared to adapt and ask questions accordingly. Here’s a few things that will help the over 40s overcome potential barriers to that much sought after new job.
  • Older people are stuck in their ways
  • You are overqualified
  • Does your resumé resemble a retirement speech?
  • Emphasise the advantages of your age
Details of the items above are here.

I don’t necessarily agree with what Andrew says but, as with everything I bring to you, take what you like and leave the rest.
And as an older worker myself I resent the idea that 40 is the new 55 which is where I felt the boundary was when I was working as an employment adviser.

How to thrive in the new civil service

an article by by Jane Dudman published in Guardian Government Computing: Central government

Ten top tips for civil servants looking to adapt to future changes

The government’s civil service reform plan wants civil servants to be part of a pacier, more unified, more skilled professional service.

Here are ten tips for those seeking to thrive in the civil service of tomorrow: [detail here]
  1. Be a specialist (but not too specialist).
  2. Get some experience outside the civil service (but not too early on, and don't move jobs too often).
  3. Get ready to step on the heads of those a couple of grades above you (but don't expect extra pay for the extra work you'll be doing).
  4. Hone your skills in crowdsourcing (but don't forget that the buck stops with you).
  5. Get ready for “rank and yank”.
  6. Make sure your CV includes operational experience and get out of Whitehall.
  7. Brush up on your impact assessment skills.
  8. Blog, tweet and get on Facebook (but stick to posts about your labrador).
  9. Get to know your Whitehall neighbours.
  10. Practise what to say to Margaret Hodge.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The leisure divide: can the ‘Third World’ come out to play?

an article by Payal Arora (Erasmus University Rotterdam) published in Information Development Volume 28 Number 2 (May 2012)


As billions of dollars are invested in mitigating the digital divide, stakes are raised to gain validity for these cost-intensive endeavours, focusing more on online activities that have clear socio-economic outcomes.

Hence, farmers in rural India are watched closely to see how they access crop prices online, while their Orkuting gets sidelined as anecdotal.

This paper argues that this is a fundamental problem as it treats users in emerging markets as somehow inherently different from those in the West. After all, it is now commonly accepted that much of what users do online in developed nations is leisure-oriented. This perspective does not cross over as easily into the Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) world, where the utilitarian angle reigns.

This paper argues that much insight can be gained in bridging worlds of ICT4D and New Media studies. By negating online leisure in ‘Third World’ settings, our understandings on this new user market can be critically flawed.

Hazel’s comment:
This article brought back strong memories of arguments that took place in the 1980s about the content of Training Access Point databases. A number of people of which I was one argued strongly that so-called “leisure learning” should be included in any database of learning opportunities. Learning, for its own sake, is important. Also, we felt that getting people started on learning how to knit or write creatively or whatever would help them to realise that learning could be fun and maybe they would then move on to more vocational subjects.

Understanding higher education in further education colleges

BIS research paper no. 69 (URN 12/905 ) by Gareth Parry (University of Sheffield) and  Claire Callender, Peter Scott and Paul Temple (Institute of Education, University of London)

Report on research to understand higher education (HE) in further education colleges (FECs) in England. Also investigates the options for expanding HE provision in FEC. The study took place between March 2011 and March 2012 by a team from the University of Sheffield and the Institute of Education, University of London.

Full text (PDF 218pp)

And that, I’m sorry to have to tell you, is that. No abstract, no more detailed press release that I could find – and the executive summary is 10 pages long!

Poverty: the role of institutions, behaviours and culture

a report by Susan Harkness, Paul Gregg and Lindsey MacMillan published by JRF (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) June 2012

How much do individuals, institutional structures and culture influence poverty levels?

With unemployment rising, pressure on incomes, and cuts to public services, it is not unreasonable to believe poverty will become a pressing issue over coming years. What role will individuals, institutions and cultures play in any rise in poverty?

This programme paper assesses some of the causes of poverty and examines the role played by:
  • family structure;
  • employment and intergenerational worklessness;
  • geographical concentrations of poverty;
  • educational outcomes;
  • addiction to alcohol and drugs; and
  • debt.
Choosing themes which are prominent in current policy thinking, this study makes a useful contribution to an established social policy debate.

Full report (PDF 53pp)

Action research into the evolving role of the local authority in education ...

The Final report for the Ministerial Advisory Group

by Natalie Parish, Andrew Baxter and Leigh Sandals (ISOS Partnership) for


The purpose of this research has been to explore how local authorities are evolving and adapting their role to meet the needs of a more autonomous education system. The particular focus of the research has been on three core responsibilities of the local authority in education:
  • ensuring a sufficient supply of school places,
  • tackling under-performance in schools whilst ensuring high standards, and
  • supporting vulnerable children.
There has been discussion in the system about what the function of the middle tier and local authority should be in the future, but this research does not aim to second‐guess that ongoing policy debate. Furthermore, just as local authorities are evolving in the context of a new education landscape, so too have schools been contending with how their role as system‐leaders develops.

The purpose of this study is to provide a picture, drawn from a small number of local authorities from across the country, of how currently local authorities are practically responding to the challenges and opportunities afforded by a more autonomous education system.

Nine local authorities were selected to take part in the action research, based on criteria which were designed to ensure a broadly representative sample. The selection included authorities with:
  • a high percentage of well‐established academies,
  • a high percentage of newly converted academies,
  • a rich diversity of schools including academies, free schools and teaching schools, and
  • a high proportion of community, voluntary aided and voluntary controlled schools
  • Executive summary
  • The context and strategic response
  • Ensuring a sufficient supply of school places
  • School improvement
Reference: DFE-RR224 Published:June 2012
Full text (PDF 102pp)

Returning to the job market: strategies for a mid-career job search

Clare Whitmell in Guardian careers: The Careers Blog

Whether you’re job seeking again following redundancy, having children or just a change of direction, here’s some advice for getting your career back on track A recent Guardian Careers live Q&A on job seeking for mature graduates highlighted many of the difficulties and frustrations that older job seekers face.

Mid-career job seekers have a unique set of challenges. Family circumstances might make it impossible to relocate at short notice, commute long distances, accept longer or flexible hours or take on lower-paid work. Other problems may arise from a diverse career history, lack of specialisation, or even employer bias against older (or overqualified) applicants.

If you’re a mid-career job seeker, certain strategies will enhance your strengths and make you attractive to an employer.

Continue reading

Support for providers working with unemployed adults

via NIACE News Feed
NIACE has produced two useful guides for providers delivering skills for unemployed adults, which were launched at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers’ (AELP) annual conference on 19 June.

Managing challenging behaviour within skills provision for unemployed adults
The difficult circumstances of many unemployed learners and the introduction of skills conditionality have caused learning providers to perceive there to be a greater risk of unemployed learners exhibiting challenging behaviour. NIACE hopes this guide helps providers to support learners at risk of challenging behaviour to succeed in gaining skills and employment. Although primarily developed for use by providers of unit offer provision for unemployed adults, NIACE believes the guide on managing challenging behaviour will be useful within any provision for unemployed adults that is delivered in group settings.
Full text (PDF 65pp)

Engaging micro-businesses: A guide for learning providers delivering skills provision for unemployed adults
With UKCES reporting that 24% of UK job vacancies are within businesses employing 1 to 4 employees, it was important that work was carried out to learn how learning providers could engage micro-businesses to facilitate the recruitment of unemployed learners. Although primarily developed for use by providers of unit offer provision for unemployed adults, NIACE believes this guide will be useful in any content in which providers might wish to engage micro-businesses.
Full text (PDF 52pp)

Socio-emotional support of apprentices during the school-to-work transition

Karin Du Plessis and Tim Corney,(Incolink, Melbourne, Australia) and Robyn Broadbent and Theo Papadopoulos (Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia) published in Education + Training Volume 54 Issue 5 (2012)


The aim of the paper is to locate the role of social and emotional support during the school-to-work transitions of apprentices, within the Australian vocational education and training context.
The research reported here is based on an independent evaluation of an apprentice suicide prevention and support program. This program has been implemented in rural and regional Australia, and findings highlight the program’s retention of key messages in the long-term (i.e. 6 months to 2 years post-completion). The work is based on both quantitative questionnaires from 119 apprentices as well as 18 face-to-face interviews.
The research showed that apprentices’ resilience to face school-to-work transitional challenges can be enhanced by increasing knowledge of suicide risk factors and sources of social and emotional support had increased. Findings indicate that a number of apprentices had made significant changes in their lives as a result of participating in the program. While 10 per cent of apprentices identify as “socially isolated”, it was encouraging to note that peer support, as a result of the program, can be considered an informal referral point to formal help-provision and support.
Research limitations/implications
While the program has been successfully applied to building and construction industry apprentices, there is overlap in school-to-work transition issues of other types of apprenticeships/traineeships; this merits consideration of wider application of apprentice support programs within the Australian vocational education sector.
This paper draws together a focus on school-to-work vulnerabilities and social-emotional support (similar to that found in youth development programs) as it can be applied to the vocational education and training sector.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Tools for Reducing and Managing Link Rot in LibGuides

an article by Wilhelmina Randtke and Matthew D. Burrell (Florida State University Libraries) published in code{4}lib journal Issue 17 (June 2012)


While creating content in LibGuides in quite easy, link maintenance is troublesome, and the built-in link checker offers only a partial solution. The authors describe a method of using PURLs and a third-party link checker to effectively manage links within LibGuides.

Full text (HTML)

Flexible friends? Flexible working time arrangements, blurred work-life boundaries and friendship

an article by Vivi Bach Pedersen (Aarhus University, Denmark) and Suzan Lewis (Middlesex University Business School, UK) published in Work, Employment & Society Volume 26 Number 3 (June 2012)


The changing nature and demands of work raise concerns about how workers can find time for activities such as friendship and leisure, which are important for well-being.

This article brings friendship into the work-life debate by exploring how individuals do friendship in a period characterized by time dilemmas, blurred work-life boundaries and increased employer- and employee-led flexible working. Interviews with employees selected according to their working time structures were supplemented by time-use diaries.

Findings indicate that despite various constraints, participants found strategies for making time for friendship by blurring boundaries between friends and family and between friends and work. However, the impacts of flexible working time structures were complex and double-edged.

Major dispersion in consumer prices across Europe

Eurostat Statistics in focus Issue number 26/2012

Comparative price levels in 37 European countries for 2011

In 2011, price levels for consumer goods and services differed widely across Europe. Among the EU Member States, in Denmark consumer prices were 42% higher than the EU average, while the cheapest country was Bulgaria (49% below the average).

Full text (PDF 8pp)

Enhancing students' employability through business simulation

an article by Alex Avramenko (Salford Business School, University of Salford) published in Education + Training Volume 54 Issue 5 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to introduce an approach to business simulation with less dependence on business simulation software to provide innovative work experience within a programme of study, to boost students’ confidence and employability.
The paper is based on analysis of existing business simulation literature, which is synthesised with contemporary pedagogic trends and the outputs of the authors’ longitudinal research on improving the effectiveness of business simulation as a teaching method.
The use of business simulation as a pedagogic tool can be considerably extended beyond built-in functionality to match the needs of various business-related disciplines. Learning from their own mistakes enabled students to appreciate the gap between theory and its application.
Research limitations/implications
Business simulation can provide an innovative provision of work experience for students, if its design utilises continuous formative feedback and reflective practice amongst other pedagogical elements rather than relying on sophisticated business simulation software.
Practical implications
This paper offers a blueprint for the provision of business simulation exercises in higher education as means for equipping participants with a work-like experience.
The article presents a fresh view on the use of business simulation in the educational process, while contributing to the long-standing debate on bridging the gap between theory and practice.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Romantic relationships in organisational settings: Attitudes on workplace romance in the UK and USA

an article by David Biggs and Claire Fultz (University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham) and Lisa Matthewman (Westminster Business School, University of Westminster) published in Gender in Management: An International Journal Volume 27 Issue 4 (2012)


Research illustrates that workplace romance is on the rise and has potentially negative and beneficial consequences. The purpose of this paper is to understand, from an individual manager and employee perspective in the UK and USA, what personal experience individuals had on workplace romance and what this meant to them personally and in terms of company policy.
A thematic analysis approach was taken to understand what experiences individuals had on workplace romance and how this experience should be reflected in company policy. The research utilised qualitative interviews which were preferred over other methods, such as focus groups by the participants. These interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded to formulate themes in the research.
The sample consists of 21 employees and 15 managers from Maryland, Oregon, Pennsylvania and England. Regardless of whether participants were from the USA or England, their opinions were similar. Managers and entry level employees feel that workplace romance was acceptable if it has minimal impact on the workplace. Managers and entry level employees are most concerned with the negative impacts of workplace romance on the atmosphere of the workplace, more so than the risk of sexual harassment lawsuits. Managers and entry level employees agree on the importance of companies having a policy on how workplace romance will be handled.
Practical implications
Both managers and employees stress that company policy should not place a complete ban on workplace romance; that workplace romances should be handled on a case by case basis.
The paper adds to existing research by comparing managers’ and entry level employees’ perceptions of consensual romantic relationships between people who work for the same organisation.

Developing women's career competencies through an EMBA

an article by Aurora Chen, Noeleen Doherty and Susan Vinnicombe (Cranfield University School of Management) published in Gender in Management: An International Journal Volume 27 Issue 4 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to report a qualitative study with British women managers, which explored the career competencies accrued from undertaking an Executive MBA (EMBA).
The research drew on in-depth interviews with a sample of 18 female alumni from three British business schools. Data were analyzed using NVivo 8.0. within the career-competencies framework of Knowing-how, Knowing-why and Knowing-whom.
Women aged between 30 and 34 years emphasized the importance of gaining confidence (Knowing-why) and skills (Knowing-how) while those aged between 35 and 45 years focused on developing networks (Knowing-whom). This study suggests that age and career stage may have considerable impact on perceptions of acquired career competencies.
Research limitations/implications
This is an exploratory piece with limited generalisability; however, it exposes the need to clarify the concept of career stage for women.
Practical implications
Business schools have historically stressed the career benefits of MBA programmes in terms of improved capital and of changing career directions. This research indicates that an EMBA may offer a more level playing field for women with respect to networking activities. In the competitive global environment, business schools may benefit from more fully exploring career competencies, such as networking skills, for increasing the appeal of EMBA programmes. The paper also draws attention to the need for HR managers to increase efforts for improving women’s career competencies.
Findings extend previous research on the development of career competencies from an EMBA, indicating the importance of developing networks, particularly at mid-career. The paper highlights the need to redefine women’s mid-career stage.

Individual employment, household employment and risk of poverty in the EU: a decomposition analysis

by Vincent Corluy and Frank Vandenbroucke published as Working Paper no 12/06 (June 2012) by the Centre for Social Research, Antwerp University


In this paper we explore missing links between employment policy success (or failure) and inclusion policy success (or failure), relying on the EU Labour Force Survey (EU LFS) and the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU SILC).

At the inclusion side of the equation, our focus is on the share of individuals at risk of poverty in the 20-to-59 age cohort.

The analysis proceeds in two steps.

The first step considers the distribution of individual jobs over households, thus establishing a link between individual employment rates and household employment rates. Following the work by Gregg, Scutella and Wadsworth a ‘polarization index’ is defined in terms of the difference between, on the one hand, the hypothetical share of individuals living in jobless households assuming that individual employment is distributed randomly across households, and, on the other, the actual share of individuals living in jobless households. Actual changes in household joblessness are decomposed in:
(i) changes due to changes in polarization and
(ii) changes due to changing individual employment rates and changing household structures.

The second step in the analysis decomposes changes in the at-risk-of-poverty rates on the basis of
(i) changes in the poverty risks of jobless households, and
(ii) changes in the poverty risks of other (non-jobless) households;
(iii) changes in household joblessness due to changes in individual employment rates and changing household structures (changes one would expect if no changes in polarization would occur) and
(iv) changes in polarization.

The proposed technique does yield interesting insights into the trajectories that EU welfare states have followed over the past ten years.

The role of numeracy skills in graduate employability

an article by Naureen Durrani (School of Health, Community and Education Studies, Northumbria University) and Vicki N. Tariq (School of Social Work and Social Policy, University of Central Lancashire) published in Education + Training Volume 54 Issue 5 (2012)


The purpose of this article is to explore the role and importance of numeracy skills in graduate recruitment within a diversity of employment sectors.
The results of a mixed-methods study, involving three online surveys (including an employer survey), student focus group sessions and interviews with tutors, are presented.
The results reveal the importance that employers attach to graduates’ numeracy skills and the extent to which employers use numeracy tests in graduate recruitment. They thus highlight the potential for poor numeracy skills to limit any graduate’s acquisition of employment, irrespective of their degree subject; especially since numeracy tests are used predominantly in recruitment to the types of jobs commensurate with graduates’ career aspirations and within sectors that attract graduates from across the diversity of academic disciplines, including the arts and humanities.
Research limitations/implications
Since participants were self-selecting any conclusions and inferences relate to the samples and may or may not be generalisable to wider target populations.
Practical implications
The paper highlights what actions are necessary to enhance undergraduates’ numeracy skills in the context of graduate employability.
Social implications
The vulnerability of particular groups of students (e.g. females, those not provided with any opportunities to practise or further develop their numeracy skills whilst in higher education, those with no (or low) pre-university mathematics qualifications, and mature students) is highlighted.
The article is timely in view of national policy to extend the graduate employability performance indicators within quality assurance measures for UK higher education.

The Impact of Back Pain on Sickness Absence in Europe

a research paper from The Work Foundation (part of Lancaster University) by Professor Stephen Bevan published June 2012

Opening paragraphs

Back pain is one of the most common conditions reported by adults across Europe. In fact, it is estimated that half of the European population will suffer back pain at some time in their lives and in excess of a third of the European workforce suffer from low back pain. In fact, the latest survey of workers from across the EU suggests that 46% of women and 47% and men reported back pain at some time in the last 12 months. Thus, it is a condition which regularly affects:
  • 14.2m Germans
  • 9.6m Britons
  • 8m French people
  • 6.4m Spaniards
  • <5m Poles
  • 1m Danes
We know, then, that back pain is common, episodic, often recurrent and generally self-limiting. Long term absence from work is greatest amongst the minority of employees whose condition is chronic (if pain lasts for more than 12 weeks) or is recurrent (if there are several episodes of pain in one year lasting less than 6six months).

Continue reading the full report (PDF 8pp)

Test, Learn, Adapt

Michael Sanders writing in the CMPO blog

If there is a phrase more likely to attract rolled eyes than “Behavioural Economics it is probably “Evidence based policy” – one has in the past been derided for not really being economics, and the other for being more apt with the first and third words reversed. Supporters of both have often despaired. There is now, however, a glimmer of hope.

The Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team, charged by the coalition with bringing behavioural science to policy-making, this week launched a paper with the title Test, Learn Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials, which is part manifesto for randomised controlled trials (RCT), and half handbook on how to conduct them. Although not comprehensive, its nine steps offer a simple guide to the basics of designing and running a trial.

Read the blog post in full here and get links to many appropriate documents as well.
Having sat on both sides of the policy-evidence fence I am, 20+ years after leaving the civil service, astounded that policy is still being made based on the whim of a politician, or group of them, with the evidence being sought after the event.

Why the Happy Planet Index is the ultimate measure of economic efficiency

Why the Happy Planet Index is the ultimate measure of economic efficiency
via the new economics foundation by Sagar Shahn(Researcher, Centre for Well-being)
The latest edition of the HPI should be a reminder to economists about what economics is really about.
     Original post has a relevant image at this point but I can’t
     find it to check copyright.
On the day of the launch of the Happy Planet Index, my colleagues here at nef created an infographic comparing some statistics of Costa Rica and the USA, asking “which economy is more efficient[infographic posted to Facebook].

Original post

Sunday, 24 June 2012

E-learning: ageing workforce versus technology-savvy generation

an article by Karen Becker and Wilhelmina Keijsers (QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane) and Julie Fleming, (Office of Learning and Teaching, CQ University Australia, Rockhampton) published in Education + Training Volume 54 Issue 5 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to provide description and analysis of how a traditional industry is currently using e-learning, and to identify how the potential of e-learning can be realised whilst acknowledging the technological divide between younger and older workers.
An exploratory qualitative methodology was employed to analyse three key questions:
- How is the Australian rail industry currently using e-learning?
- Are there age-related issues with the current use of e-learning in the rail industry?
- How could e-learning be used in future to engage different generations of learners in the rail industry?
Data were collected in five case organisations from across the Australian rail industry.
Of the rail organisations interviewed, none believed they were using e-learning to its full potential. The younger, more technologically literate employees are not having their expectations met and therefore retention of younger workers has become an issue. The challenge for learning and development practitioners is balancing the preferences of an ageing workforce with these younger, more “technology-savvy”, learners and the findings highlight some potential ways to begin addressing this balance.
Practical implications
The findings identified the potential for organisations (even those in a traditional industry such as rail) to better utilise e-learning to attract and retain younger workers but also warns against making assumptions about technological competency based on age.
Data were gathered across an industry, and thus this paper takes an industry approach to considering the potential age-related issues with e-learning and the ways it may be used to meet the needs of different generations in the workplace.

10 stories and links that I found educative, interesting or simply weird

The Smoking Dog: 1927
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive - Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
The Smoking Dog: 1927
March 18, 1927, Washington, D.C.
“Margo Couzens, daughter of Senator Couzens”
An heiress whose early life might be outlined thusly: aspiring artiste; leadfoot horn-honker; teenage bride (eloped); hothead horn-honker; divorcee.
National Photo Company Collection glass negative.
View original post

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Every week, Martin Kemp hears from people convinced they’ve found a lost Leonardo. Then one day, someone really did. “I experienced a frisson”... more

Portraits of a Dot: Earth from Space via Britannica Blog by Richard Pallardy
NASA called its 1972 image of Earth – captured from the Apollo 17 spacecraft—the Blue Marble. Carl Sagan dubbed the 1990 photograph of our planet – taken at his request from the Voyager 1 space probe – the Pale Blue Dot
 Images of our planet from space tend to bring out the existential in those that examine them. How can they not? Object lessons in the subjectivity of perspective, they're simultaneously self-portraits and group portraits, landscapes and still-lifes.
Earth seen from Apollo 17, December 7, 1972. Credit: NASA
Earth seen from Apollo 17, December 7, 1972. Credit: NASA
Read more – and feel very small!

Esquire’s Automobile Parade, 1935 via Retronaut by Amanda
Since I am not that much “into” motor cars my choice of picture, and the reason why I picked on this entry in the first place, is the cover.

You can view all the cars, pictures and information, here.
Source: Old Car Brochures

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
No mere cad, Casanova was a spy, astrologer, friend of Voltaire. History’s greatest lover? Maybe. Enlightenment polymath? Definitely... more

Scientists lift lid on turtle evolution
via 3quarksdaily by Azra Raza
From PhysOrg:
The turtle is a closer relative of crocodiles and birds than of lizards and snakes, according to researchers who claim to have solved an age-old riddle in animal evolution. The ancestry of the turtle, which evolved between 200 and 300 million years ago, has caused much scientific squabbling – its physiology suggesting a different branch of the family tree than its genes do.
“The evolutionary origin of turtles has confounded the understanding of vertebrate evolution,” the scientists wrote in a paper published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. Until the latest study, that is – which claims to have been the biggest of its kind. &ldquoOur study conclusively shows that the genetic story is that turtles are more closely related to birds and crocodilians,” research team member Nicholas Crawford from Boston University told AFP. Anatomy and fossil studies of turtles and their reptilian relatives generally place the shelled creatures in the family of lepidosaurs – snakes, lizards and tuataras (rare lizard-like animals). Genetic studies, however, say they have more in common with crocodiles and birds – which fall into the archosaur group of animals that also included the extinct land-bound dinosaurs. The latter finding has now been confirmed by the most exhaustive genetic study on the topic ever done, said Crawford – having gathered “ten times as much” information as previous research efforts.
More here.

Pin-Up Girls Before and After II, 1950s
via Retronaut by Chris

All images by Gil Elvgren
See the rest of the images here – and read the comments!!

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Want to understand the states of the former Soviet Union? Scrap political science and get acquainted with Gogol, Chekhov, and Dostoyevsky... more

Bugs Galore, a new book illustrated by Bob Staake
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Bugs Galore is a kids’ book written by Peter Stein and illustrated by Bob Staake, one of my favorite illustrators (see my review of Look! A Book!, a video of Bob's unusual drawing process[went to 404 when I tested it] The making of one of his New Yorker covers, a review of The Donut Chef, his version of Struwwelpeter, and a review of The Orb of Chatham [this one not working either]) .
One neat thing about Bugs Galore, besides its funny/gross poetry and delightful artwork, is that Bob's six year old niece, Amelia Leonard, drew some of the bugs that appear in the book
Go to the Boing Boing post to see these:
(right). Jane and I had a great time seeking them out in the colourful, busy pages.
Below, a couple of sample pages, so you can hunt for Amelia's bugs, too.
Buy Bugs Galore on Amazon [was – is now £8.39]

Disaster Will Strike
via How-To Geek by Asian Angel
In this game your mission is to become a “master or mistress” of destruction as you attempt to destroy all the dinosaur eggs on each level of the game.
Are you ready to unleash madness and mayhem on dino-kind?
Asian Angel's walk-through is here or you believe you don’t need any help go straight to the game here.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

10 stories and links I found educative, interesting or simply weird!

Castle made of Starburst
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

DeviantArt’s Ashleyisthebomb shows off a Starburst chewies castle whose individual bricks were melted together with a glue-less hot glue gun: “because there was no glue or anything, it was completely edible. My family and I had fun eating it until we got sick of starbursts, then I threw it out. It took FOREVER and ended up weighing about 60 pounds.”
Starburst Castle (via IZ Reloaded)

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
The petulant and sometimes maladroit Václav Havel never became a shrewd politician, but he managed to remain a moral one. His example is more relevant than ever... more

Rules of the Sale: 1920
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive - Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Rules of the Sale: 1920
Washington, D.C., circa 1920
“Coubro [?] clothing store, interior”
Happy shopping, everyone.
National Photo Company glass negative.
View original post and note when you get there and view the larger image that it’s only the salesmen who appear to be aware of the camera.

Brit Lit Map
via Big Think by Frank Jacobs
Maps usually display only one layer of information. In most cases, they’re limited to the topography, place names and traffic infrastructure of a certain region. True, this is very useful, and in all fairness quite often it’s all we ask for. But to reduce cartography to a schematic of accessibility is to exclude the poetry of place.
Or in this case, the poetry and prose of place. This literary map of Britain is composed of the names of 181 British writers, each positioned in parts of the country with which they are associated.
Read More
It’s all very well reading more – for example that Bram Stoker is shown at sea on the approach to Whitby where the ship featured in Dracula runs aground but I wanted to see this wonder whilst reading the commentary. The place in the Big Think post where it should be is blank apart from the title. Thank you, Google. It’s available on Flickr. All rights reserved but you can at least look at it. 

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“I am happy,” wrote Leonardo, a young Etruscan from tiny Vinci. It was fleeting. His were the insecurities of a spotty education and an illegitimate birth... more

Airplane converted into Space Shuttle food truck
via Boing Boing by David Pescovitz
The out-of-this-world Space Shuttle Cafe can be yours for $150,000. It sure would make a far-out food truck. (Sweet old car not included.)
From the eBay listing:
This kitchen is built inside the only road worthy DC3 Airplane licensed for street use in the world that we know of, painted in the theme of NASA’s Space Shuttle.
This is a once in a life time opportunity to own not only a great money making business, but a piece of American History also. This aircraft was built in 1944 and flew during World War II. It also flew as an airliner during the 50s and 60s and was alleged to have been hijacked to Cuba during that time.
It was converted for street use in 1976, mounted on a GMC Bus frame. We purchased the vehicle in 2001 and converted the empty shell into this completely self-contained commercial kitchen… 

Mother's Day ad: support the energy industry and we'll give you flying cars!
via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow

Another Vintage Ads gem for Mother’s Day: this bit of corporate futurism from the energy sector.
Mother’s Day (full size so you can read the small print)

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Big computers and complex algorithms battered financial markets. Now the quants behind that debacle are turning toward the social sciences... more

Women Driving Automobiles, 1907-1915
via Retronaut by Chris

Source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress
See the rest of Chris’s selection here.
Hazel’s comment: You might be interested, or maybe not, to know that the reason I chose this image was that the little girl has the same hairstyle that I had at about the same age some 35 years later.

Plagiarism doesn’t work
via Boing Boing by Rob Beschizza
Just how hard is it to use quotes?
How hard is it to provide attribution to sources?
It is clearly very hard indeed!
A writer at The Next Web copied a post from a relatively unknown blogger and got caught. Worse, TNW quietly edited the post and then denied that the original had failed to credit the author. After all, one editor pointed out, it linked to the original – a link tucked amid the text of a sentence a few paragraphs in.
Also, is that tilde thing already the fig leaf of choice for self-deluding plagiarists, just as God intended?

Friday, 22 June 2012

HMRC writes to first batch of contractors facing IR35 probe

The first contractors to face investigation under HMRC’s new IR35 tax regime have received letters telling them that they have been identified as potentially falling within the scope of the rules. The letters ask contractors who believe the IR35 rules do not affect them to provide supporting evidence for that claim.

There is more on the IR35 letters at the ContractorUK website

You may wish to note that the 47-page guidance notes issued by HMRC have not changed despite the rules having been revised.

EU-27 government revenue and expenditure stood at 44.6 % and 49.1 % of GDP respectively in 2011

Eurostat Statistics in focus Issue number 27/2012

Total EU-27 government revenue surpassed pre-crisis levels

In the European Union (EU-27), the compilation of government revenue and expenditure data is well established by reference to the European System of Accounts (ESA95). This publication focuses on the developments in annual data in the context of the economic and financial crisis, examining the finances of EU governments over recent years.

Full text (PDF 12pp) with some clear graphs and charts for the non-statistician.

Religion, spirituality and entrepreneurship: The church as entrepreneurial space among British Africans

an article by Sonny Nwankwo, Ayantunji Gbadamosi and Sanya Ojo, (Royal Docks Business School, University of East London) published in Society and Business Review Volume 7 Issue 2 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to explore the intricate interconnection between religion, spirituality and pursuits of economic opportunities among ethnic entrepreneurs, using British Africans as a frame. Against the backcloth of institutional constraints confronting ethnic minorities, the paper investigates how African immigrants in the UK utilise ethnic-based religious resources in the enactment of entrepreneurship. It focuses on the intersection between religion, spirituality, and entrepreneurship for the purpose of providing “below the surface” understandings of African entrepreneurship.
Rooted in the context of discovery rather than verification, the research approach involved the use of a focus group as an “entry point” in the collection of field data. This was followed up with one-to-one interviews so that key issues were then probed deeper whilst simultaneously allowing considerable scope to idiosyncratically explore particular meanings with research participants. The sample was drawn from British Africans in London.
African Pentecostal churches have become a significant force in nurturing business start-ups and encouraging entrepreneurship among the population group. Social capital generated within the religious organizations has a catalytic effect on entrepreneurial propensities.
Research limitations/implications
The boundaries between enterprise and religion can be delicately thin and confusing, with wide-ranging implications for policy interventions. For the entrepreneurs, reconciling religious orientation with the imperatives of entrepreneurship can be hugely problematic and this presents an opportunity in terms of support needs.
Ethnic-based religious spaces have become a fecund ground for stimulating a brand of religion-based ethnic entrepreneurship. This hybrid entrepreneurship is unique and offers a novel platform for constructing new understandings of ethnic entrepreneurship.

Online tutoring and emotional labour in the private sector

an article by Sue Webb (Monash University, Melbourne) published in Journal of Workplace Learning Volume 25 Issue 5 (2012)


What happens when computer software is designed to replace the teacher and the human role is to service the relationship between the software and the learner? Specifically, this paper aims to consider whether or not emotional labour is performed in contexts mediated by technology in the private sector.
The research is a single site, the online tutoring centre, in a large global education company in Europe servicing learners based in companies elsewhere. It is a critical case study with strategic importance for understanding the effects of the transformations to the education work afforded by a work design based on digital Taylorism. Qualitative methods are used, including observation, analysis of tutor/student e-mail exchanges over a ten-month period and interviews with key personnel.
It was found that in spite of the drive for standardisation and consistency, online tutors engaged in considerable levels of emotional labour, individualised in its performance along a spectrum.
Research limitations/implications
The work has value in that it extends into new sites the study of digital Taylorism. In finding emotional labour in this critical case, it suggests that emotional labour will be present in less extreme cases.
Practical implications
The article is a useful source of information for practitioners in online learning centres, as well as researchers in the area of recruitment and training of online tutors.
Social implications
The article provides insights into effects of the recruitment of under-qualified people in private learning centres.
The article provides insights into an area of work-based learning that is under-investigated to date – i.e. the recruitment and practices of tutors in private learning centres and the role of emotional labour.

Not learning in the workplace: austerity and the shattering of illusion in public service

an article by Helen Colley, (School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield) published in  Journal of Workplace Learning Volume 24 Issue 5 (2012)


This paper seeks to discuss the impact of UK government austerity policies on learning in public service work, specifically youth support work. It also aims to argue that austerity policies intensify “ethics work”, create emotional suffering, and obstruct workplace learning in a variety of ways.
The research adopts narrative methods and a critical interpretive paradigm to investigate practitioner perceptions within a broader analysis of neo-liberal change. It draws on Bourdieu’s sociology as an interpretive framework.
Austerity is shifting the “stakes” of the youth support field from a client-centred ethos to the meeting of economically-driven targets. This shatters the illusio of practitioners committed to client-centred ethics, resulting in emotional suffering, difficulty in learning to cope with new demands, and an erosion of professional capacity.
Research limitations and implications
A particular limitation is the lack of longitudinal data. There is a pressing need for more research on ethics work, emotional suffering and (not) learning in public service workplaces facing austerity, and to continue theorising this nexus more thoroughly.
Practical and social implications
There is a need to promote a feminist ethics of care in such workplaces. There is also a need to stimulate public debate about the ethical impact of austerity on public service work as a whole. These might allow workplaces to encourage learning more effectively.
This paper departs from traditional discussions of workplace learning to consider instances of “not learning”. It introduces the innovative concept of “ethics work”, discusses ethics as a form of work, through a sociological rather than philosophical lens, and utilises Bourdieu’s key concept of illusio, not previously addressed in workplace learning research.

Government deficit improves in all quarters of 2011

via Eurostat Statistics in focus Issue Number 25/2012

In 2011Q4 seasonally adjusted general government deficit stood at -4.5% and -3.8% of GDP in the EU-27 and EA-17 respectively.

In recent years Eurostat has significantly expanded the range of integrated quarterly data on government finances available, providing a timely and increasingly high quality picture of the evolution of government finances in the EU. The data presented in this publication reflect both non-financial and financial transactions and cover all European Union (EU-27) countries. This publication is based on data transmitted to Eurostat at the end of March 2012 and includes data coverage of all quarters of 2011.

Full text (PDF 8pp)

Get these 10 things off your resumé

Alison Green writes the ask a manager blog as well as contributing to various media in the US on the vagaries of managers.

Some of the career-type advice is specific to the US, as one would expect, but I rather liked this summary of a talk she gave to U.S. News & World Report – the ten things that don’t belong on your resumé, including your salary history, your photo, an objective, and other such odoriferous things.

You can read it here together with the comments which come in with statements such as: “I don’t think you’re right about number x”.

And do, of course, remember that this is about the US of A. It’s about resumés not CVs (although some of the points will stand for both).

Issue ownership, unemployment and support for government intervention

an article by Tor G Jakobsen and Ola Listhaug (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway) published in Work, Employment & Society Volume 26 Number 3 (June 2012)


In this article an examination is made of the association between unemployment and public demand for government intervention in the economy.

The main hypothesis is drawn from the theory of issue ownership: public opinion is likely to shift to the left in times of high unemployment combined with a leftist government. Research on issue ownership has typically focused on case studies of particular countries.

We extend the discussion to a much larger setting. Relying on data from the International Social Survey Programme from 23 OECD countries in the time period 1985–2007 we find a combined effect of issue ownership and agenda setting.

An increase in unemployment leads the public to hold more leftist economic opinions when the government belongs to the left. However, ownership of an issue cannot be guaranteed to last if a party fails to deliver outcomes that are promised and expected from its historical legacy.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Precarious Nature of Social Class-Sensitivity in Literacy: …

A Social, Autobiographic, and Pedagogical Project

an article by Mark D. Vagle and Stephanie Jones The University of Georgia, Athens, USA) published in Curriculum Inquiry Volume 42 Issue 3 (June 2012)


Using Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s (1947/1964) phenomenological notion of the threads of intentionality that tie subject and object together meaningfully and Pierre Bourdieu’s (1986, 2000; Bourdieu & Waquant, 1992) reflexive sociology and constructs of habitus, field, capital, and nomos, we theorize social class-sensitivity in literacy education as a social, autobiographic, and pedagogical project; a recognition of the powerful unnamed context of middle-class normality; and an illumination of the precarious ways in which working-class and poor students are positioned in schools.

We assume that although issues related to race, gender, and sexuality intersect in complex ways with class, social class issues in classroom pedagogy are too often ignored and under-theorized. Therefore, there is a need to spend concerted time considering social class specifically.

We close by asking pedagogues to think seriously about the reality that working-class and poor students enter classrooms each day saturated in precariousness; to not label students and families as the problem; and to be the ones to take responsibility for alleviating the precarious positions in which working-class and poor students and families live while in educational institutions.

Those who are in the gutter look at the stars? …

Explaining perceptions of labour market opportunities among European young adults

an article by Tim Reeskens (Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium) and Wim van Oorschot (Tilburg University, The Netherlands) published in Work, Employment & Society Volume 26 Number 3 (June 2012)


In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, youth unemployment has risen worldwide.

In cross-national perspective, research on youth employment has thus far paid attention to the transition from school to work, but under-emphasized the importance of the social psychology of labour market entrance.

In this article, European young adults’ perceptions of the first-job opportunities in their country are analysed. The result of a multilevel regression analysis on the 2008 wave of the European Social Survey (ESS) shows that differences across countries can mainly be explained by the public’s perceptions of levels of unemployment, and public spending on education.

At the individual level, youth in a precarious socioeconomic situation have a rather pessimistic view on these opportunities. Moreover, women perceive the opportunities as less positive than men while young people of foreign origin have, contrary to the expectations, a more positive outlook on the chances for young people.

Workplace stress in libraries: a case study

an article by Liz Farler (Coleg Sir Gar, Ammanford) and Judith Broady-Preston (Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University) published in Aslib Proceedings Volume 64 Issue 3 (2012)


This paper seeks to analyse the results of a case study conducted in 2008/2009 investigating workplace stress in a further education college library service.
Results from questionnaires and a series of semi-structured interviews held with library staff are analysed and discussed in the paper.
Librarians reported that interaction with students can be stressful or enjoyable, depending on context. The need to control noise levels, modify student behaviour and balance the needs of different user groups are cited as stressors. The results also show that the library staff exhibit a degree of humour and self-awareness in their work and employ a range of methods to cope with stress.
Research limitations/implications
Repeating the study more widely amongst a range of differing library services would add credibility to the findings.
Practical implications
This study shows that positive stress may motivate librarians to engage actively with students and thus create job satisfaction. Negative stress may be managed by measures such as zoning and flexible governance.
The study contributes to knowledge and understanding of stress in the library profession by contributing a case study of stress in the college sector.

Employment down by 0.2% in the euro area and stable in the EU27

euroindicators via Eurostat News releases

The number of persons employed decreased by 0.2% in the euro area (EA17) and remained stable in the EU27 in the first quarter of 2012 compared with the previous quarter, according to national accounts estimates published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, employment fell by 0.3% in the euro area and by 0.1% in the EU27.
These figures are seasonally adjusted.

Full text (PDF 4pp)

The Impact of Fathers’ Job Loss during the 1980s Recession on their Child’s Educational Attainment and Labour Market Outcomes

a working paper (12/288) by Paul Gregg, Lindsey Macmillan and Bilal Nasim published by Centre for Market and Public Organisation, Bristol Institute of Public Affairs (April 2012)


The research on intergenerational correlations in outcomes is increasingly moving from measurement into assessment of causal transmission mechanisms.

This paper analyses the causal impact of fathers’ job loss on their children’s educational attainment and later economic outcomes. To do so, we isolate the effect of job loss associated with major industry contractions, mainly in manufacturing, during the 1980s recession by mapping industry level employment change data from 1980 to 1983 into the British Cohort Study (BCS).

Children with fathers’ who were identified as being displaced did significantly worse in terms of their GCSE attainment than those from non-displaced families. A child with a displaced father obtained on average 17 grade points lower or half a GCSE grade A-C less than their otherwise identical counterparts, the equivalent of 2.2% lower wages as an adult.

There is also a small effect of fathers’ displacement on the early labour market attachment of children, but no direct impact on their earnings at 30/34. This does not mean that the impact of job loss will not affect social mobility. Those with lower income, education and social class were most affected by job losses and there is a direct effect on education and youth unemployment which we know to be drivers of later earnings.

This suggests that the recent recession may have significant long-term consequences for the children of those who lost their jobs.

Full text (PDF 33pp)

Older employees under pressure? Theorizing reasons for declining commitment

an article by Michael White (University of Westminster) published in Work, Employment & Society Volume 26 Number 3 (June 2012)


If employees are asked to extend their working lives, equity requires that their conditions of work should be improved or at least maintained.

This article argues that employees have in the past received relatively favourable treatment from employers in their later careers, consequent on the long-term employment relationship that employers maintain for motivational purposes. But changes in costs, competition and technologies are likely to have affected motivational policy, leading employers to renege on the implicit bargain with older employees.

The analysis provides strong evidence of declining organizational commitment, consistent with the proposed theory.

Welsh digital inclusion research shows access to the internet is not a magic bullet

LASA ICT E-Bulletin (June 2012)

The Welsh Government devised a programme of research, including analysis of national survey data, mapping of internet use rates at neighbourhood level, and case studies of older people to understand the lived experiences of those affected by digital inclusion policies.

Findings revealed, according to the LSE Media Policy Project (PDF 2pp) that internet access alone will not raise participation in education, impact the job market or civic life.

The World Within Wikipedia: An Ecology of Mind

an article by Andrew M. Olney (University of Memphis), Rick Dale (University of California, Merced) and Sidney K. D’Mello (University of Notre Dame) published in Information Volume 3 Number 2 (2012)


Human beings inherit an informational culture transmitted through spoken and written language. A growing body of empirical work supports the mutual influence between language and categorization, suggesting that our cognitive-linguistic environment both reflects and shapes our understanding.

By implication, artefacts that manifest this cognitive-linguistic environment, such as Wikipedia, should represent language structure and conceptual categorization in a way consistent with human behaviour.

We use this intuition to guide the construction of a computational cognitive model, situated in Wikipedia, that generates semantic association judgements. Our unsupervised model combines information at the language structure and conceptual categorization levels to achieve state of the art correlation with human ratings on semantic association tasks including WordSimilarity-353, semantic feature production norms, word association, and false memory.

Full text (PDF 27pp)

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Harnessing the Benefits of Publicly-Funded Research

an article by Pluvia Zuniga (UNU Maastricht Economics and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology) and Sacha Wunsch-Vincent (Economics & Statistics Division, WIPO) published in WIPO Magazine 3/2012 (June 2012)

Introductory paragraph

Over the last 30 years, high-income economies have sought to maximize the benefits of publicly-funded research to accelerate knowledge transfer and entrepreneurship and to fuel innovation and economic growth. As a consequence, universities and public research organizations (PROs) in these countries are becoming more strongly business-focused.

In light of the perceived benefits of strengthening university-industry links, particularly in terms of stimulating innovation and promoting technology transfer, many middle- and low-income economies are adopting similar approaches. This is causing analysts to look more closely at these policies.
  • Can they be readily exported from one setting to another?
  • Is university patenting an efficient driver of business innovation?
  • What is the impact of such policies in terms of economic growth and knowledge generation?
This third article in WIPO Magazine’s Innovation Trends series takes a closer look at the evolving landscape and considers the merits of more active use of the intellectual property (IP) system by universities and PROs in middle- and lower-income settings.

Full text (HTML)

The Big Society, values and co-operation

an article by Fiona Wilson and Donald MacLean (University of Glasgow) published in Work, Employment & Society Volume 26 Number 3 (June 2012)


In a context of government promotion of co-operatives, a growth in the co-operative economy, and in times when use of the term ‘co-operative’ appears to have broadened to include any form of employee ownership, this article sets out a research agenda for exploring producer co-operatives, focusing on what co-operation means to those who work in them.

Based on exploratory research in three producer co-operatives, the article argues that the values and principles are being used so liberally that co-operatives have a very wide appeal, making co-operation attractive to a wide spectrum of political ideals and values – perhaps surprisingly, those associated with individualism alongside those of co-operation.

Does self-employment measure entrepreneurship? Evidence from Great Britain

SERC Discussion Paper 109 by Giulia Faggio (SERC) and Olmo Silva (SERC, Department of Geography and Environment, LSE and IZA) published May 2012


Research on entrepreneurship often uses information on self-employment to proxy for business creation and innovative behaviour. However, little evidence has been collected on the link between these measures.

In this paper, we use data from the UK Labour Force Survey (LFS) combined with data from the Business Structure Database (BSD), and the Community Innovation Survey (CIS) to study the relation between self-employment, business creation and innovation.

In order to do so, we aggregate individual and firm-level data at the Travel-to-Work Area (TTWA) and investigate how the incidence of self-employment correlates with the density of business start-ups and innovative firms.

Our results show that in urban areas a higher incidence of self-employment positively and strongly correlates with more business creation and innovation, but this is not true for rural areas. Further analysis suggests that this urban/rural divide is related to lack of employment opportunities in rural areas, which might push some workers into self-employment as a last resort option.

JEL Classifications: L26, J21, R12, R23

Full text (PDF 56pp)

Do You Have a Career Plan? That's Nice. Now It's Time to Improvise.

Daniel Honan, writing in Big Think, uses the example of Ann Veneman to show that a direct trajectory to a fixed goal is not always the best way of achieving success.

Ms Veneman has broken so many glass ceilings that she is understandably asked about her career strategy quite often. One would assume that the former Secretary of Agriculture had a very clear career plan right from the start. And yet, Veneman tells Big Think her approach was very unorthodox, as she rose to a cabinet post in the White House and a top leadership position at the UN.

According to Veneman, career success for her was a matter of taking advantage of opportunities, not having a set plan.

The short piece in Big Think contains a video clip [the sound and vision tracks are way out of sync!]

Public sector information and open data: which way forward for the UK?

an article by Stephen Saxby and Chris Hill (affiliation(s) not provided) published in International Journal of Public Law and Policy Volume 2 Number 3  (2012)


Since 2009, the move towards open data policies in the UK, also currently under review in proposals to replace PSI Directive 2003/98/EC on access and re-use of data, is having a profound impact on UK policy towards public sector information (PSI) that, as a resource, goes to the core of its function and purpose.

Driven by principles of openness and transparency, the process now supports the systematic release into the public domain of PSI in the form of datasets. The government believes that collective scrutiny of such data, while contributing to transparency, may also offer new insights into policy. Expectations have grown and new partnerships are emerging that blur traditional distinctions as to what is “public” and “private” in this regard.

Government has also been listening to the ideas of the founder of the World Wide Web that much more can be secured from today’s web via adoption of new techniques for linking data. The important contribution that location data, “information rich” in content, can make towards policy development has been recognised and acted upon.

Career Concerns, Inaction and Market Inefficiency: Evidence From Utility Regulation

an article by Severin Borenstein (University of California, Berkeley and National Bureau of Economic Research) Meghan R. Busse (Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois and National Bureau of Economic Research) and Ryan Kellogg (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and National Bureau of Economic Research) published in The Journal of Industrial Economics Volume 60 Issue 2 (June 2012)


We study how incentive conflicts known as ‘career concerns’ can generate inefficiencies not only within firms but also in market outcomes. Career concerns may lead agents to avoid actions that, while value-increasing in expectation, could potentially be associated with a bad outcome.

We apply this theory to natural gas procurement by regulated public utilities and show that career concerns may lead to a reduction in surplus-increasing market transactions during periods when the benefits of trade are likely to be greatest.

We show that data from natural gas markets are consistent with this prediction and difficult to explain using alternative theories.

Developing business. Developing careers.

How and why employers are supporting the career development of their employees

A report, funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, produced by the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby and the Policy Research Institute at Leeds Metropolitan University. It was authored by: Jo Hutchinson and Tristram Hooley (iCeGS, University of Derby) and Dave Devins and Sarah Kelsey (PRI, Leeds Metropolitan University)

Focusing on career development can help businesses maximise the potential of their staff. There are a variety of strategies and activities that can be used to support career development and this report showcases the approaches taken by seven different employers. The case studies outline the approaches taken and highlight the real business benefits that employers have identified.

The case studies include Morrisons Supermarkets’ work with social enterprises to deliver its growth strategy; BeOnsite, which recruits and trains disadvantaged adults; the partnership arrangements between Barclaycard and a trade union; and Gentoo, which uses its career management structure to build a strong community brand.

The approaches are diverse and taken together demonstrate the advantages that focusing on career development can bring. There isn’t one solution that will work for everyone and we hope the case studies will inspire businesses and provide a starting point for considering how career development approaches can work for them.

The case studies are underpinned by a more detailed project report, Tackling unemployment, supporting business and developing careers which discusses the ideas mentioned here. Full text (PDF 22pp)

Both these documents were published in May 2012.