Sunday, October 4, 2015

American Sociological Review 80(5)

American Sociological Review, October 2015: Volume 80, Issue 5

Tradition and Innovation in Scientists’ Research Strategies
Jacob G. Foster, Andrey Rzhetsky, and James A. Evans
What factors affect a scientist’s choice of research problem? Qualitative research in the history and sociology of science suggests that this choice is patterned by an “essential tension” between productive tradition and risky innovation. We examine this tension through Bourdieu’s field theory of science, and we explore it empirically by analyzing millions of biomedical abstracts from MEDLINE. We represent the evolving state of chemical knowledge with networks extracted from these abstracts. We then develop a typology of research strategies on these networks. Scientists can introduce novel chemicals and chemical relationships (innovation) or delve deeper into known ones (tradition). They can consolidate knowledge clusters or bridge them. The aggregate distribution of published strategies remains remarkably stable. High-risk innovation strategies are rare and reflect a growing focus on established knowledge. An innovative publication is more likely to achieve high impact than a conservative one, but the additional reward does not compensate for the risk of failing to publish. By studying prizewinners in biomedicine and chemistry, we show that occasional gambles for extraordinary impact are a compelling explanation for observed levels of risky innovation. Our analysis of the essential tension identifies institutional forces that sustain tradition and suggests policy interventions to foster innovation.

Elements of Professional Expertise: Understanding Relational and Substantive Expertise through Lawyers’ Impact
Rebecca L. Sandefur
Lawyers keep the gates of public justice institutions, particularly through their roles in formal procedures like hearings and trials. Yet, it is not clear what lawyers do in such quintessentially legal settings: conclusions from past research are bedeviled by a lack of clear theory and inconsistencies in research design. Conceptualizing litigation work in terms of professional expertise, I conduct a theoretically grounded synthesis of the findings of extant studies of lawyers’ impact on civil case outcomes. Using an innovative combination of statistical techniques—meta-analysis and nonparametric bounding—the present study transcends previous work to reveal a domain of consensus for lawyers’ effect on case outcomes and to explore why this effect varies so greatly across past studies. For the types of cases researched to date, knowledge of substantive law explains surprisingly little of lawyers’ advantage compared to lay people appearing unrepresented. Instead, lawyers’ impact is greatest when they assist in navigating relatively simple (to lawyers) procedures and where their relational expertise helps courts follow their own rules. Findings for law generalize to other professions, where substantive and relational expertise may shape the conduct and consequences of professional work.

“No Fracking Way!” Documentary Film, Discursive Opportunity, and Local Opposition against Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States, 2010 to 2013
Ion Bogdan Vasi, Edward T. Walker, John S. Johnson, and Hui Fen Tan
Recent scholarship highlights the importance of public discourse for the mobilization and impact of social movements, but it neglects how cultural products may shift discourse and thereby influence mobilization and political outcomes. This study investigates how activism against hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) utilized cultural artifacts to influence public perceptions and effect change. A systematic analysis of Internet search data, social media postings, and newspaper articles allows us to identify how the documentary Gasland reshaped public discourse. We find that Gasland contributed not only to greater online searching about fracking, but also to increased social media chatter and heightened mass media coverage. Local screenings of Gasland contributed to anti-fracking mobilizations, which, in turn, affected the passage of local fracking moratoria in the Marcellus Shale states. These results have implications not only for understanding movement outcomes, but also for theory and research on media, the environment, and energy.

A Paper Ceiling: Explaining the Persistent Underrepresentation of Women in Printed News
Eran Shor, Arnout van de Rijt, Alex Miltsov, Vivek Kulkarni, and Steven Skiena
In the early twenty-first century, women continue to receive substantially less media coverage than men, despite women’s much increased participation in public life. Media scholars argue that actors in news organizations skew news coverage in favor of men and male-related topics. However, no previous study has systematically examined whether such media bias exists beyond gender ratio imbalances in coverage that merely mirror societal-level structural and occupational gender inequalities. Using novel longitudinal data, we empirically isolate media-level factors and examine their effects on women’s coverage rates in hundreds of newspapers. We find that societal-level inequalities are the dominant determinants of continued gender differences in coverage. The media focuses nearly exclusively on the highest strata of occupational and social hierarchies, in which women’s representation has remained poor. We also find that women receive greater exposure in newspaper sections led by female editors, as well as in newspapers whose editorial boards have higher female representation. However, these differences appear to be mostly correlational, as women’s coverage rates do not noticeably improve when male editors are replaced by female editors in a given newspaper.

How National Institutions Mediate the Global: Screen Translation, Institutional Interdependencies, and the Production of National Difference in Four European Countries
Giselinde Kuipers
How do national institutional contexts mediate the global? This article aims to answer this question by analyzing screen translation—the translation of audiovisual materials like movies and television programs—in four European countries: France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland. A cross-national, multi-method research project combining interviews, ethnography, and a small survey found considerable cross-national differences in translation norms and practices, sometimes leading to very different translated versions of the same product. The analysis shows how differences between national translation fields are produced and perpetuated by the interplay of institutional factors on four interdependent levels: technology, and the organizational, national, and transnational fields. On each level, various institutions are influential in shaping nationally specific translation norms and practices by producing institutional constraints or imposing specific meanings. I propose a model that explains the persistence of national translation systems—not only from the logics of specific institutions, fields, or levels—but by the feedback loops and interdependencies between institutions on various levels. This analysis has implications for the sociological understanding of globalization, the production of culture and media, cross-national comparative research, as well as institutional theory and the role of translation in sociological practice.

Rage against the Iron Cage: The Varied Effects of Bureaucratic Personnel Reforms on Diversity
Frank Dobbin, Daniel Schrage, and Alexandra Kalev
Organization scholars since Max Weber have argued that formal personnel systems can prevent discrimination. We draw on sociological and psychological literatures to develop a theory of the varied effects of bureaucratic reforms on managerial motivation. Drawing on self-perception and cognitive-dissonance theories, we contend that initiatives that engage managers in promoting diversity—special recruitment and training programs—will increase diversity. Drawing on job-autonomy and self-determination theories, we contend that initiatives that limit managerial discretion in hiring and promotion—job tests, performance evaluations, and grievance procedures—will elicit resistance and produce adverse effects. Drawing on transparency and accountability theories, we contend that bureaucratic reforms that increase transparency for job-seekers and hiring managers—job postings and job ladders—will have positive effects. Finally, drawing on accountability theory, we contend that monitoring by diversity managers and federal regulators will improve the effects of bureaucratic reforms. We examine the effects of personnel innovations on managerial diversity in 816 U.S. workplaces over 30 years. Our findings help explain the nation’s slow progress in reducing job segregation and inequality. Some popular bureaucratic reforms thought to quell discrimination instead activate it. Some of the most effective reforms remain rare.

The Power of Transparency: Evidence from a British Workplace Survey
Jake Rosenfeld and Patrick Denice
Does the dissemination of organizational financial information shift power dynamics within workplaces, as evidenced by increasing workers’ wages? That is the core question of this investigation. We utilize the 2004 and 2011 series of the British Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS) to test whether employees who report that their managers disclose workplace financial data earn more than otherwise similar workers not privy to such information. Our findings suggest that disclosure results in higher wages for workers after adjusting for profit and productivity levels and a range of other workplace and worker characteristics. We estimate that workers who report their managers are “very good” at sharing organizational financial information outearn those who report their managers are “very poor” at financial disclosure by between 8 and 12 percent. We argue that disclosure is a key resource that reduces information asymmetries, thereby providing legitimacy to workers’ claims in wage bargaining. More broadly, our focus on managerial transparency and its effects on worker earnings reveals a largely ignored characteristic of modern workplaces that has implications for contemporary trends in inequality and wage stagnation in Great Britain and other liberal market economies.

Choice, Information, and Constrained Options: School Transfers in a Stratified Educational System
Peter M. Rich and Jennifer L. Jennings
It is well known that family socioeconomic background influences childhood access to opportunities. Educational reforms that introduce new information about school quality may lead to increased inequality if families with more resources are better able to respond. However, these policies can also level the playing field for choice by equalizing disadvantaged families’ access to information. This study assesses how a novel accountability system affected family enrollment decisions in the Chicago Public Schools by introducing new test performance information and consequences. We show that a substantial proportion of families responded by transferring out when their child’s school was assigned “probation.” Poor families transferred children to other schools in the district, but at a lower rate than non-poor families, who were also more likely to leave for another district or enroll in private school. Most striking, we show that despite family response to the probation label, access to higher-performing schools changed very little under the new policy; students who left probation schools were the most likely of all transfer students to enroll in other low-performing schools in the district. Although new information changed families’ behavior, it did not address contextual and resource-dependent factors that constrain the educational decisions of poor families.