Matt Pearce Earns His PhD!

More great news:  Matt Pearce successfully defended his dissertation, entitled “Macro – Macro Emergence: The Internet as a Cultural Institution.”  The project draws on world society theory to make sense of the rapid expansion of internet participation.

Over the course of several chapters, Matt builds the argument that the internet isn’t just a set  of wires that serve the growing global economy.  Rather, the internet is rooted in all sorts of social and discursive material, which are now institutionalized in world society:  everything from international standards and engineering documents to new discourses that characterize internet access as a human right.

Matt uses time-series and panel models to explore the growth of the internet over time. Some findings are consistent with the conventional world society literature — for instance, countries with strong ties to international NGOs tend to expand the internet more quickly.  But, Matt also pursues several new directions.

Of particular interest to me, Matt explores the role of universities in the growth of the internet.  It is well known that the internet originally grew out of computer connections between universities & scientific research institutions.  However, Matt shows that universities are hubs that support the spread of the internet to different countries.  The more we study universities, the more it seems like they are foundational to world society.  While universities are grounded within nations, they have transnational connections and orientations, and serve as receptor sites for global ideas and cultural forms.

The dissertation defense went really well.  Matt presented and defended his research with clarity and poise… and very much earned his new title.  Congratulations Dr. Matthew Pearce!


Dr. Natasha Miric, PhD

Another overdue news item:

Natasha Miric successfully defended her dissertation entitled “Letting Nature Take Its Course? An Analysis of Global Institutional Conflict around the Proliferation of National Parks.”  Congratulations Natasha!

The dissertation examines the worldwide growth of national parks.  Natasha coded the newest version of the IUCN dataset, which has high quality data on protected areas around the globe.

The core of the dissertation is a cross-national and longitudinal founding analysis.  Among other things, she observes a classic world society “INGO effect” whereby countries strongly connected to the international community tend to expand parks faster.

The project has a number other novel and interesting findings.  Natasha originally planned to contrast pro-environmental “world society” pressures with economic & neoliberal pressures deriving from foreign  trade, investment, and international development finance, which might plausibly impede pro-environmental activities such as park establishment.  However, countries that received World Bank development assistance actually protect land area more rapidly than countries receiving little or no assistance, ceteris paribus.  Likewise, FDI and trade are often positively associated with parks.  This was quite unexpected… and for a long time I was quite skeptical.  However, the findings are rather robust.  It seems that any form of international connectivity speeds the diffusion of parks.

The project also has many layers… for instance, Natasha digs down into the different levels of park “quality”, which the IUCN tracks.  And, she uses fuzzy set QCA to explore whether some distinctive combinations of factors are necessary to generate lots of parks (or the converse).  Altogether, an impressive project!

Beth Gardner Defends

Beth Gardner earned her PhD at the end of Fall quarter!  Her dissertation is entitled “Speaking for the Public: How the Media Constructed Controversy and Consensus About Abortion from 1972 through 1994.”  Here is the abstract:

“How and when do journalists define the boundaries of acceptable controversy? And how do they do so while appearing to remain objective? To answer these questions, this research analyzes mainstream newspaper coverage of the American abortion debate from 1972 through 1994. Using qualitative content analyses and quantitative regression analyses, I explore how journalists rhetorically position themselves and other actors in news stories. More specifically, I analyze the use of analytic and outraged rhetoric in stories about the abortion controversy. I identify the actors who are ascribed analytic rhetoric or outrage rhetoric, as well as when journalists themselves use such rhetoric. I compare these uses across article characteristics and political contexts, as well as over time.”

“Findings show that to perform their objectivity, journalists adopt one of two roles: either that of neutral observer or that of guardian of consensus. Scholars have studied the first role but not the second. Both of these journalistic performances violate commitments to objectivity by implying certain conflicts and contenders are legitimate and others are beyond the pale of political acceptability. By serving as neutral observers and by serving as guardians of consensus journalists enact their commitment to objectivity not by being impartial but by being partial (to their understanding of shared public values). Ironically, however, when adhering to the norms of the guardianship of consensus, journalists undermine the paradigms of “objective journalism” (i.e., facticity, independence, balance) and a democratic public sphere (i.e., civil, representative or inclusive, and dialogic). In addition to this consequence, these performances also treat different groups of actors as either co-representatives of the public interest or as illegitimate challengers to those interests.”

I learned a bunch from being on the committee.  I came in knowing basically nothing about media and media reporting… but given how important media reports are for many kinds of data (e.g., social movements, etc) it really helps to have some understanding of how the process works, and how different kinds of claims get framed in the news.

Beth mainly worked with Francesca and Ed, but she helped me out in a huge way:  Beth massively (and pretty much single-handedly) improved our cross-national data on voluntary associations… which will be the basis for some terrific papers.  Thanks, and congrats!!!

Matt Pearce’s UCI Merge

The multitalented Matt Pearce has created a fantastic new Stata tool called “UCI Merge”, which facilitates the merging of cross-national datasets.

Check it out:

As many know first-hand, assembling and organizing large cross-national datasets is time-consuming, frustrating, and often error-prone.  Matt’s new tool will help automate the process and save countless hours of tedious work.

As an aside:  One of the reasons the Stanford world society/world polity research group has been so productive over many decades is the cumulation of expertise with cross-national datasets (as well as the sharing of data more generally).  Knowledge about data was passed down through many generations of graduate students.  I personally benefitted tremendously from the generosity of Marc Ventresca.  Marc taught me all about how to organize datasets, and helped me figure out the big datasets that had been previously assembled at Stanford.  (I remember asking “What is this variable called newid3?”)  Anyhow, Matt has continued this important tradition of generosity with his knowledge and expertise.

An excerpt from the README file is below.  This is new, so please report bugs or problems to Matt so they can be fixed.  And, consider buying Matt a beer at ASA…  He has earned it.

# UCIMerge – a framework for harmonizing cross national time series data

## Read Me
UCIMerge is a framework in STATA to standardize the merging of international comparative datasets. This project creates conventions and a library of functions so that it becomes easier and faster to merge time series datasets, incorporate updates, make sure observations are consistent across years, conserve N and encourage reproducible research.

This framework came about from conversations at the [UC Irvine International Comparative Workshop](

Download the [latest release]( Join the [announcement list]( to receive notifications of updates.

## How to use UCIMerge

The first time you run the scripts, it will take an extremely long to update the datasets from the web. If you would like to jumpstart this, you can use this [starter pack]( by drop these files into the /source directory. If you want to force the system to refresh a dataset, just delete that dataset file from /source.

1. Set the UCIMerge folder as the working directory for STATA (‘cd ~/UCIMerge’)

2. Edit the file with the configuration that you would like.

3. Run ‘do master’ -> your new dataset will be opened and saved within the UCIMerge folder.

UCIMerge requires STATA 13. The .csv files which link countries across datasets can be used independently.

## Currently Supported Datasets

* [Norris 2009](
* [Freedom House 2015](
* [Polity IV](
* Polity IV Coups
* [World Development Indicators](
* [KOF Index of Globalization](
include lib/lied
* [The Lexical Index of Electoral Democracy (LIED)](
* [CIRI Human Rights Dataset](
* [Quality of Government Standard dataset](
* [Cross National Time Series](
* [Penn World Table version 8.1](

Dr. Rachael Russell, PhD

Rachael Russell successfully defended her dissertation last week!

It will go down in history as one of the most memorable defenses ever.  Rachael was not only calm and composed under difficult questioning from her committee, but she managed to stay cool during the FIRE ALARM that erupted in the middle of the defense.  I’m not kidding, the whole building was evacuated.  But, Rachael wasn’t flustered at all and picked up right where she left off when we returned to the seminar room.  That kind of poise definitely scores points during a defense.  🙂

The dissertation is entitled “Constructing Global Womanhood: WINGOs, Women’s Ministries, and Women’s Empowerment.”

The project builds directly on Nitza Berkovitch’s terrific book “From Motherhood to Citizenship”, which examined the growth of international women’s organizations.  Rachael turns to many of the same issues, but with a quantitative lens.  She content-coded the aims of women’s INGOs and traces their aims and agendas.  Then, she does a standard world society diffusion analysis, showing that WINGOs (as well as other international factors, like ratification of CEDAW) accelerate the formation of national ministries devoted to women and gender issues.  Finally, she uses panel data models to show that those same international forces are also associated with improvements in the status of women, as measured by things like labor force participation and participation in higher education.  The project thus adds to the growing body of work showing that “world society” is not just associated with policy reform, but also seems to affect tangible outcomes.

Congratulations to Rachael!

Tricia Wins Academia

The other big news this month is that Tricia Bromley was hired at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford.

One look at her CV, and you’ll know why Stanford wanted Tricia back.  She has been producing great papers like crazy — such as her recent ASR with Amanda Sharkey on actorhood among US firms and her stream of outstanding comparative papers on school curricula.

Huge congrats to Tricia!

Stanford is quite a place to build a career, especially if you can come in with a big leg-up on tenure, as is the case here.  The status and resources are a enormous… but the really amazing thing about Stanford is the phenomenal people that are there or always coming across the transom.  A huge win for Tricia…

And, it is great to see the world society tradition staying so vital at Stanford, with John and Chiqui showing no signs of slowing down and two outstanding younger people (Tricia and Christine Wotipka) who bring lots of energy.

By coincidence, we are fortunate that Tricia will be visiting UCI this week to give a talk… something that was set up before the Stanford job came through.  Hopefully the trip won’t interrupt all her packing…

Soo-yong Byun tenured at PSU!

First, some wonderful news:  Last week Soo-yong told me he was promoted to associate professor with tenure at Penn State!

If anyone deserves tenure it is Soo-yong.  He is incredibly bright and motivated, and has a stunning publication record.  Last time I looked he had something like 40 refereed publications and almost a dozen chapters, with terrific pieces in Soc of Ed, Comparative Ed Review, AERJ, and so on…  He has already established himself as a leading scholar of comparative education, who has really contributed to our understanding of social capital, shadow education, and several other important topics.  But even if tenure is expected, it is always very exciting when the final news comes through.

Soo-yong is the very first student that I worked with who has earned tenure.  I had the pleasure of co-chairing his dissertation with Dave Chapman a the U of Minnesota.  It has been incredibly rewarding to watch Soo-yong launch his career right in front of my eyes.

Congratulations, Soo-yong!  Your accomplishments are well-deserved!