The Wellbeing of Nations

Allin, P., Hand, D.J. (2014) The Wellbeing of Nations: Meaning, Motive and Measurement 

This book shows how it is possible to measure national wellbeing, as well as explaining the motivation for doing so. With a title which pays homage to Adam Smith’s classic, The Wealth of Nations, Allin and Hand explain why it is important to move beyond economic measures like GDP in order to measure wellbeing – an objective in which they succeed admirably.

By drawing on research from disciplines as diverse as philosophy, economics, psychology, social policy and journalism, the authors convincingly argue that one can measure wellbeing. Indeed, their assessment is a welcome antidote to the scepticism of those who believe that economic measures are all that matter.

One might imagine that this book will primarily appeal to official statisticians, who may be tasked with collecting national wellbeing data, but such a view would be unwarranted.

Admittedly, there is much discussion of the role of national statistics offices, and much of the book seems to be a dialogue between the authors and prominent theorists, with the recommendations of the Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi Commission being particularly noteworthy throughout.

However, this book will appeal to a broad audience. Although there are brief discussions of technical topics like measurement theory, the book will be useful to researchers across a range of disciplines and the interested general reader.

Review originally published in Reviews. Significance, 12:3 44{45. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-9713.2015.00833.x

Using R for Introductory Statistics

Versani, J (2013) Using R for Introductory Statistics (Second Edition)

This book has a laudable aim: to introduce R and topics from an introductory statistics curriculum to students “outside of a classroom environment”. Now in its second edition, the book introduces the reader to exploratory data analysis and manipulation, statistical inference and statistical models. Particular attention is given to thoroughly learning base R before extending R’s capabilities with packages.

Author John Verzani includes information on computationally intensive approaches and manages to explain these topics with interesting, topical and challenging examples. The text includes a plethora of exercises which encourage the reader to test their understanding of the material as well as a useful appendix on R programming and a valuable bibliography.

Although informative, I don’t think this text will be useful for readers without any previous exposure to either statistical computing or statistics. The text does begin simply enough, but my impression is that the reader will need to refer to additional resources. I’m therefore not convinced by claims that the book may be used without a teacher. Indeed, the fact that the solutions to exercises are only available to those who adopt the book as a course text suggests that the book is intended for use by university teachers rather than autodidacts.

In short, a stimulating read for the classroom-based student, but too challenging for a neophyte learner studying at home.

Review originally published in Reviews. Significance, 12:2 44{45. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-9713.2015.00818.x

Lingua, politica, cultura

 

Books which honour the achievements of a notable scholar don’t conventionally have much of a readership outside of the select group of peers who are familiar with the honorand’s work. Such a view would be unwarranted in the case of Lingua, politica, cultura: Serta gratulatoria in honorem Renato Corsetti

Edited by Federico Gobbo, Professor of Interlinguistics and Esperanto at the University of Amsterdam, the book includes 29 chapters written by an international cohort of established scholars and friends of the honorand in the broad areas of language policy, language learning and Esperanto studies with two additional sections of miscellanea……

The complete review of Lingua, politica, cultura: Serta gratulatoria in honorem Renato Corsetti is available here

Handling the Media

John Illman – a former Media Editor at The Guardian  – has published Handling the media: communication and presentation skills for healthcare professionals.

The book is exceptionally well written as well as being packed full of information and would therefore appeal to any health professional who wants to work with the media but who does not know where to begin. It’s short too which will appeal to the time limited reader!

Take a look at my review of Handling the media in the April issue of Significance magazine – the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association – for further details…….

Writers’ Rights

….a lucid, informative and passionate defence of the central role that journalists continue to play in enriching democratic debate and a valuable addition to the literature on self-employment more broadly…

If you believe that good journalism is an indispensable part of living in a democratic society, then take a look at my review of Nicole S. Cohen’s new book, Writers’ Rights: Freelance Journalism in a Digital Age here.

Digital Scholarship

In Being a Scholar in the Digital Era: Transforming Scholarly Practice for the Public Good, Jessie Daniels and Polly Thistlethwaite explore how digital media can be used to support scholarship and teaching and also further the pursuit of social justice. Paul Webb recommends this fascinating book for showing how digital scholarship can help generate robust research with genuine impact and can enable the convergence of academia, activism and journalism in productive ways.

If this appeals, take a look at my review at LSE Review of Books here.

 

Ethnography

In Watching Closely: A Guide to Ethnographic Observation, Christena Nippert-Eng presents a new guide to undertaking ethnographic observation, providing both exercises and advice for researchers. This book will be of use to scholars regardless of their level of experience [….. and combines] solid instruction in the technicalities of ethnographic research methodologies with an engaging, inspiring and insightful approach.

If this sound interesting, why not check out my review at LSE US Centre  here ?

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