News from Project A01


On Wednesday, December 13, Gabriella Skitalinska successfully defended her PhD thesis titled "Learning to Improve Arguments: Automated Claim Quality Assessment and Optimization".

Being a member of both the former A01, now INF project and working in the field of Natural Language Processing (NLP), Gabriella obtained her PhD from the Faculty of Mathematics/Computer Science (FB 03) with a "summa cum laude". In her research, Gabriella looked at the possibilities to automatically assess argument quality and recommend improvements which may inform downstream applications like writing assistants.

On Wednesday, December 13, Gabriella Skitalinska successfully defended her PhD thesis titled "Learning to Improve Arguments: Automated Claim Quality Assessment and Optimization". In her thesis, she explores the following research question: What makes a good argument and how can we computationally model this knowledge to develop tools supporting individuals in improving their arguments? To do so, she suggests using human revisions of argumentative texts as a basis to understand and model quality characteristics of arguments. In her first paper (Skitalinskaya and Wachmsuth (2023)), she summarized the main challenges of performing argument quality assessments using revision-based corpora covering issues related to the representativeness and reliability of data, topical bias in revision behaviors, appropriate model complexities and architectures, and the need for context when judging argumentative text. As part of her second paper (Skitalinskaya et al. (2021)), she describes how revision histories of argumentative texts can be used to analyze and compare the quality of argumentative texts. Finally, as part of the third paper (Skitalinskaya et al. (2023)), she works towards not only being able to automatically assess but also to optimize argumentative text. Here, she presents an approach that generates multiple candidate optimizations of an argumentative text and then identifies the best one using quality-based reranking.

Beyond her research, Gabriella was actively involved in co-creating WeSIS right from the beginning of the CRC, and took responsibility for implementing many of the systems nowadays features. Together with further A01 members she organized the co-creation process which led to the first prototype successfully reviewed for the second funding phase. Later, she continued both her research and her work on WeSIS in the INF project before joining the working group on NLP of Henning Wachsmuth at the Institute of Artificial Intelligence, Leibniz University Hannover.

For more results of Gabriella’s research, access her publications here.

Contact: Gabriella Skitalinska (g.skitalinska@ai.uni-hannover.de)


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Andreas Breiter
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
E-Mail: abreiter@ifib.de

EPSA XIII 2023, Glasgow

Dr. Nils Düpont and Hannes Salzmann presented their paper “The Unforced Force of the Better Argument? Computationally Assessing Arguments in Parliamentary Debates” at the 13th annual conference of the European Political Science Association (EPSA) in June 2023. In cooperation with Gabriella Skitalinska and Prof. Henning Wachsmuth from the Institute of Artificial Intelligence, Leibniz University Hannover, the CRC members from the INF project are about to finish their work.

The article focuses on the analysis of parliamentary speeches in terms of the quantity and quality of arguments. Using a combination of manual annotations, machine learning, and pre-trained models, the authors hope to gain insight into how argument quality evolves over time and how it relates to other party factors such as government or opposition affiliation, ideological/policy positions, or status of the speaker.

The EPSA ranks among the largest political science conferences in Europe with about 1,900 participants in 2023. Within the panel “Qualities of Parliamentary Speech” the colleagues discussed the paper, which had been commented on by Prof. Kenneth Benoit from London School of Economics. Furthermore, Nils Düpont was chairman and moderator of the panel “Intra-Party Politics and Position-taking”.

Beforehand, Hannes Salzmann could introduce their work at this year’s COMPTEXT conference to a specialist peer group of 80 colleagues, also in Glasgow, in Mai 2023. The feedback received was helpful to further improve the article.

The engagement and exchange with colleagues on the latest methods and approaches in quantitative text analysis benefits not only the researchers but also the INF project. After the completion and publication of the paper, data on the average argument quality of government and opposition, for example, could also be added to WeSIS to provide further insight into the formation of social policy.


Contact:
Dr. Nils Düpont
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57060
E-Mail: duepont@uni-bremen.de

Hannes Salzmann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57061
E-Mail: h.salzmann@uni-bremen.de

Cases from India, Nepal and Sierra Leone

Dr. Elena Samonova from the Institute of Geography at the University of Bremen, presented her research on human rights-based approaches to education and social policy on 28.06.2023.

Based on her research in India, Nepal and Sierra Leone, Dr. Samonova demonstrated the potentials and limitations of the introduction of human rights discourse in the field of social policy. By stipulating an internationally agreed set of norms, human-rights based approaches provide a stronger basis for citizens to make claims on their states and for holding states to account for their duties to enhance the access of their citizens to the realisation of their social, economic and political rights.

In her presentation Dr. Samonova argued that human rights are a multivocal discourse that should be understood as a polyphonic formation consisting of various meanings and interpretations. Using a case study on agricultural bonded labour in India and Nepal, she showed the liberatory potential of the human rights discourse which helps bonded labourers to regain their agency and restore beliefs in their own human dignity. In the context of structural oppression and systematic deprivation, such processes can positively affect self-image, reduce fear to oppose the oppression and motivate bonded labourers to raise their voices against injustice and search for appropriate methods of resistance. While it remains unclear whether these changes in perceptions will lead to the full abolition of the practice, this case has clearly shown that human rights discourse could serve as a tool for resistance against injustices at the grassroots level.

However, as another case from Sierra Leone shows, local interpretations of human rights not always have a liberatory potential: using the right to education as an example, Dr. Samonova argues that in the context of Sierra Leone the discourse of human rights is used to justify economistic neo-liberal approaches to education and social protection. Moreover, her study has also highlighted cultural and social tensions associated with human rights at the grassroots level. These tensions are related to traditional social hierarchies and an individualistic interpretation of rights that is widespread among people in rural areas and is often supported by the rhetoric of the government and big donor organizations such as World Bank.

Whilst Dr. Samonova points to the challenges associated with the introduction of the human rights discourse to social policy, she stresses significant potentials of human rights as powerful tools against poverty and discrimination.

 

Publications

Samonova, Elena. (2022). Human Rights Through the Eyes of Bonded Labourers in India. Journal of Modern Slavery: A Multidisciplinary Exploration of Human Trafficking Solutions, 7(2): 82-96.

Samonova, Elena et al. (2021). “An Empty Bag Cannot Stay Upright: The costs of “free” primary education in Sierra Leone”. International Journal of Educational Development 87: 102500.

Samonova, Elena et al. (2022). Picturing Dangers: Children’s Concepts of Safety and Risks in Rural Sierra Leone. Children and Society 37: 906–924.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Ivo Mossig
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49-421-218 67410
E-Mail: mossig@uni-bremen.de

What social policies did Eastern and Western Europe pursue during the Cold War? What influence had the competition between the systems? How did the transformation phase proceed from 1989 onwards? These were questions addressed at the 4th Hermann Weber Con

For the West, the communist welfare state represented a central challenge in the competition of systems. In the competition of systems, socio-political superiority was also supposed to be demonstrated. The end of the Cold War and the end of the pressure to legitimise against the other system were in turn reasons for the welfare state reforms in the 1990s and 2000s in East and West, which were also discussed at the conference.

Six CRC 1342 researchers took part in the conference:

  • Herbert Obinger explained the basics of the relationship between the Cold War, communism and social policy
  • Carina Schmitt and Maria Ignatova-Pfarr gave a presentation on Bulgaria's pension policy during the Cold War
  • Delia González des Reufels gave a presentation on the social policy of the last Chilean military dictatorship during the Cold War
  • Cornalius Torp gave a presentation on pension policy in East and West Germany during the Cold War
  • Lukas Grawe gave a presentation on the legitimisation of pronatalist family policy in the GDR.


The 4th Hermann Weber Conference took place in Berlin from 8 to 10 June 2022. The organisers were the research group "The 'activating welfare state' - a political and social history of German social policy, 1979-2017" at the SOCIUM of the University of Bremen, funded by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung. The conference was financially supported by the Gerda-und-Hermann-Weber-Stiftung.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Delia González de Reufels
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institut für Geschichtswissenschaft / FB 08
Universitäts-Boulevard 13
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67200
E-Mail: dgr@uni-bremen.de

Dr. Lukas Grawe
Maria Ignatova-Pfarr
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57057
E-Mail: ignatova@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Dr. Herbert Obinger
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58567
E-Mail: herbert.obinger@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Dr. Carina Schmitt
Feldkirchenstraße 21
96045 Bamberg
Phone: 0951-863 2734
E-Mail: carina.schmitt@uni-bamberg.de

Prof. Dr. Cornelius Torp
In his monograph, the geographer analyses the dynamics of inter-state export relations between 1995 and 2018. In addition to a main core of the largest economies, Lischka identifies sub-centres in the Global South.

Michael Lischka's work is entitled "Dynamiken Transnationaler Interdependenzen – Veränderungen der Integration von Nationalstaaten im globalen Exportnetzwerk zwischen 1995 und 2018 und deren Bedeutung als politisches Machtpotenzial". In it, Lischka examined the changes in relevant inter-state export linkages.

In his macro-quantitative work, Lischka combines approaches from economic geography and political science. This operationalises inter-state interdependencies as cross-border flows of particular mutual importance. This enables a relational perspective on inter-state linkages, allowing them to be captured and analysed using methods of social network analysis.

Central results of the work are:

  • Global interdependence levels have grown steadily from 1995 to 2018.
  • Today's export network shows an import-heavy core and an import-weak periphery, if the similarity aspect 'importance as a sales market' is considered alone. The core consists mainly of the established industrialised countries and emerging economies. The periphery consists increasingly of countries with lower economic indicators.
  • The core-periphery dichotomy is based on highly divergent development patterns among the nation states.
  • If, instead of economic similarity indicators, the focus is on the interdependence of the states, a spatially differentiated multi-core structure emerges, consisting of a main core of the largest economies and a heterogeneous periphery with different groups of countries, each of which forms centres with a particular local density, i.e. they are more strongly interconnected than with the core.
  • On the one hand, the multi-core structure speaks for an existing economic North-South divide in the world economy. On the other hand, it highlights the importance of South-South linkages and thus enables a perspective beyond the popular core-periphery dichotomy.
  • Mainstream foreign trade theories cannot adequately explain the emergence of economic interdependencies, as they only focus on the monetary output of the complex interdependence structures and not on the interdependencies themselves. These are impressively demonstrated in the present network analysis.


Lischka_Abbildung.jpg (226 KB)

Figure: Network of above-average reciprocal export links that are constant over 24 years (1995-2018).

The examination committee consisted of: Ivo Mossig, Michael Flitner, Herbert Obinger, Julia Lossau, Gabriela Carolina Molina León, Daniel Schuster.


Contact:
Michael Lischka
In a joint edited volume the quantitative projects of CRC 1342 investigate if and how the global diffusion of a wide range of social policy programmes occurs through different network dimensions.

"Networks and Geographies of Global Social Policy Diffusion. Culture, Economy and Colonial Legacies", edited by Michael Windzio, Ivo Mossig, Fabian Besche-Truthe, and Helen Seitzer, is the CRC 1342’s sixth volume in the Global Dynamics of Social Policy series published with Palgrave Macmillan. On 272 pages the authors analyse the introduction of a wide range of social policy programmes – work-injury insurance, compulsory education, basis adult education, public health care, public long-term care, family policy, and antidiscrimination legislation. They use data reaching back as far as 1880 and look for the influence of global networks on the diffusion of these policies. In this perspective, networks of global trade, colonial history, similarity in culture, and spatial proximity are regarded as "pipe structures," or structural backbones, of the diffusion process.

The overall findings reveal that the importance of international linkages captured by different network types is not homogeneous across the social policies examined. "The findings suggest that spatial proximity is the most relevant network in this regard," Carina Schmitt and Herbert Obinger write in their summary of book. "Geographical proximity implies strong international linkages in many respects such as cross-border migration, cultural ties, and trade relations. Moreover, all these linkages are indicative of intensive cross-border communication, which is widely seen as a main prerequisite for policy diffusion." Interestingly, neither colonial ties nor trade relations have been identified as important explanatory factors.

All chapters of this book also looked at the most important domestic factors that have contributed to the introduction of the respective social policy programmes, since only the interplay between international interdependencies and national factors explains the adoption and spread of social policies.

Below you can find a brief summary of the findings for the individual social policy programmes

Work-Injury Programmes

Nate Breznau and Felix Lanver have identified state formation and democratization processes as key driving factors for the introduction of work injury programmes. Spatial proximity and ties in the trade network also have a positive but smaller effect.

Compulsory Education

Helen Seitzer, Fabian Besche-Truthe, and Michael Windzio found that the cultural similarity network was consistently significant in the diffusion of compulsory education. Colonial legacies and trade networks on the other hand did not show significant results. "Research on education policy diffusion should not ignore economic factors”, the authors write, "but should include cultural factors in addition to the 'usual suspects'."

Adult Basic Education

Cultural similarity has no robust influence in the case of ABE, Fabian Besche-Truthe writes. "All the results lead me to believe in a diffusion process that might not be fully erratic but is also not structured through interdependencies between countries," he interprets his data.

Healthcare Systems

Trade networks cannot explain policy diffusion in this case, Alexander Polte, Sebastian Haunss, Achim Schmid, Gabriela de Carvalho, and Heinz Rothgang conclude. Nor do the links created through cultural similarity and colonial ties offer a universal explanation of healthcare system introduction. "Based on our knowledge of healthcare systems around the world, we actually assume that it is more likely the type than the timing of the system introduction that is influenced through transnational policy diffusion networks," the author team writes. The introduction of healthcare systems mainly occurred in economically prosperous countries before WWII, the effect of GDP decreases in subsequent periods. In addition, the effect of spatial proximity decreases over time, whereas the effect of trade networks seems to increase.

Long-Term Care Systems

Johanna Fischer, Alexander Polte, and Meika Sternkopf have identified several factors which advance the introduction of LTC systems – noting that we are still witnessing the early phase of diffusion in this social policy field. Aside from geographic proximity, there seems to be no horizontal diffusion via networks. Rather, the introduction of long-term care systems depends on problem pressure (population 75+), political empowerment of women, GDP per capita, and levels of democratization.

Family Policy

Paid maternity leave is confirmed as a showcase for the agenda-setting power of the ILO. Colonial and other imperial relations, Tobias Böger, Keonhi Son, and Simone Tonelli have found, play an important role in the origin of other family policies outside of Western Europe, e.g. the introduction of workplace childcare facilities. Family allowances are spurred by low fertility rates. 

Antidiscrimination Legislation in Employment and Occupation

With the exception of the geographical proximity network, the networks examined by Jenny Hahs do not play a significant role as a pipeline for diffusion. "The influence of ILO membership slows down the effect of ratification more than it supports it," Hahs concludes. "Surprisingly, the influence of the national de jure status of antidiscrimination rights is completely irrelevant. This supports a decoupling of transnational and national regulation in the field of antidiscrimination rights."

Workplace Antidiscrimination Regulations for the LGBTQ+ Community

Domestic factors, mainly the democratization index and the gender equality index have a very strong positive impact on the introduction of antidiscrimination regulations, Helen Seitzer writes in her contribution. "The most interesting result of the analysis is the negative effect of the cultural spheres network. Countries sharing cultural characteristics do not cause contagion, in contrast, it slows the diffusion down. However, this might be the case for only some countries."

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Windzio, Michael; Mossig, Ivo; Besche-Truthe, Fabian; Seitzer, Helen (Hg.), 2022: Networks and Geographies of Global Social Policy Diffusion. Culture, Economy and Colonial Legacies, Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, doi:10.1007%2F978-3-030-83403-6


Contact:
Dr. Fabian Besche-Truthe
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57066
E-Mail: fbesche@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Dr. Ivo Mossig
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49-421-218 67410
E-Mail: mossig@uni-bremen.de

Dr. Helen Seitzer
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57065
E-Mail: seitzer@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Dr. Michael Windzio
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 9
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58629
E-Mail: mwindzio@uni-bremen.de

Network of global economic competition on export-markets
Network of global economic competition on export-markets
Ivo Mossig, Hendrik Heuer, Michael Lischka and Fabian Besche-Truthe have developed two new indicators to better study the relationship between competition and social policy. The associated data sets comprise annual data on interdependence for 164 countrie

CRC 1342 members Ivo Mossig, Hendrik Heuer, Michael Lischka and Fabian Besche-Truthe have developed two indicators that capture economic competition between countries in a novel way. As a result, the link between economic competition and social policy developments can be analysed more precisely. The four authors have described in detail how the indicators are calculated in Volume 8 of the CRC 1342 Technical Paper Series: Measuring global competition in export markets and export sectors. In the following interview, Ivo Mossig explains briefly what it is all about.

In what ways is international competition a factor in the diffusion of social policy?

Ivo Mossig: Our Collaborative Research Centre aims to explain the dynamics of social policy not only based on the national constellation, but also on international interdependencies, including economic relationships. Competition is discussed - somewhat controversially - in two respects in this context: On the one hand, there is the efficiency thesis, according to which states regard social benefits as a burden in international competition. According to this theory, the consequence is a "race to the bottom": in order to achieve cost advantages, social standards and benefits are reduced. On the other hand, there is the compensation theory: small economies in particular are often active in highly specialised segments on the world market. And their overall economy depends very much on their world market integration because they do not have a large domestic market. As a buffer, e.g. to cushion unforeseen developments and shocks on the world markets, social systems are expanded. Despite these controversial theses, one thing is indisputable: competition, and especially economic competition, is a relevant factor for the development of social policy.

How do you operationalise this competition? How do you make it measurable?

Ivo Mossig: In the past, the degree of trade linkages served as an indicator, e.g. the size of trade flows between countries. If country A mainly exports coffee and country B computer monitors, then there is global trade integration, but country A and B are not necessarily in competition with each other, but complement each other.

That is why we have now come up with two new indicators: One indicator represents competition in export markets, for which we look at the importance of the individual sales markets for each of the countries, measured in terms of export volume. If two countries have proportionally similar sales markets, they meet as competitors on the sales markets. With a second indicator we measure competition between countries in export sectors. If the exports of two countries are distributed across similar sectors, then they are competitors on the world market in these sectors: if the export focus is on different goods and services, they are not.

Are there major differences between the two indicators?

Ivo Mossig: Definitely. In the technical paper we use Norway as an example to demonstrate the difference very clearly: In Norway's export markets, other Scandinavian countries are the main competitors because Norway exports a lot to EU countries, as do Finland and Denmark. If we look at the economic sectors, Norway's main competitors are, on the other hand, the United Arab Emirates or Colombia, because in these countries, as in Norway, oil is the predominant export product.

How large is your data set?

Ivo Mossig: The dataset ranges from 1962 to 2017/2018, with values for each year. And it covers not only the OECD world, but 164 countries. For each of these 57 years, we have a numerical value regarding competition in markets and export sectors for every possible country pair, so over 13,000 linkages per year and indicator. The next step is now to analyse whether this new data can be used to better capture the competition argument with regard to global dynamics of social policy development, i.e. whether we can contribute to sharpening the competition argument.

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Read the full paper: Measuring global competition in export markets and export sectors


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Ivo Mossig
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49-421-218 67410
E-Mail: mossig@uni-bremen.de

The dataset, to which Nils Düpont of CRC 1342 contributed, gathers information on political positions of parties since 1970, according to which ruling parties in democracies are becoming more illiberal, with the US Republicans among the leaders.

According to the "V-Party Illiberation Index", the Republican Party has since 2006 gradually abandoned the idea of upholding democratic norms. The illiberal swing in 2016 was so strong that the Republicans' campaign rhetoric has since been closer to that of the AKP in Turkey and Fidesz in Hungary than to the average ruling parties in democratic countries around the world.

Although the Republicans under Trump are an extreme example, it is representative of a trend: according to the V-Party Illiberation Index, the ruling parties in democracies worldwide have become more illiberal on average over the past decades. This means that they tend to feel less committed to pluralism, tend to demonise political opponents, ignore minority rights and even encourage political violence.

The dataset "Varieties of Party Identity and Organization Dataset (V-Party)" was compiled by the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg and comprises data on 1560 elections and 1955 political parties worldwide between 1970 and 2019. 665 international country experts have analyzed and coded the political positions of the parties over the entire period using 30 indicators.

The V-Dem Institute has summarized the most important results from the analysis of the V-Party dataset in a short report: V-Dem Institute Briefing Paper #9.

The entire dataset can be downloaded free of charge.

Information about the participation of Nils Düpont and the CRC 1342 in the production of the V-Party dataset can be found here.


Contact:
Dr. Nils Düpont
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57060
E-Mail: duepont@uni-bremen.de

Gabriela Molina León, Michael Lischka
Gabriela Molina León, Michael Lischka
Gabriela Molina León and Michael Lischka asked 20 social scientists how thematic maps should be designed for their purposes. They presented the study at the IEEE Visualization Conference.

Choropleth maps (also called areal density maps - e.g. population density maps) are a common means of presenting research results visually. There are a number of variables that influence the appearance of the map, including the type of projection, the scale, the centre of the map and the colour scheme. Gabriela Molina León and Michael Lischka, in collaboration with Andreas Breiter, conducted a survey to find out which variants of thematic maps social scientists prefer for their work. For this purpose, the 20 participants had the opportunity to customize a thematic map according to their needs and preferences using the variables mentioned above.

In a short interview, Gabriela Molina León and Michael Lischka explain their findings, which they presented on 28 October 2020 at the IEEE Visualization Conference (a preprint version of the article, which will be published in the Conference Proceedings, is available here).

The most popular world maps - at least in Europe - use the so called Mercator projection. It was invented in the mid-16th century, and is still widely used today (with some variations) e.g. in news programmes. Is it time for a new type of world map if it comes to social policy research?

Michael Lischka: It's not time for a new kind of world map, but you should be sensitive to the properties of a map if you understand it as an information medium. Every map is an attempt to depict a three-dimensional object (globe) in two dimensions. A direct transfer of all properties is simply impossible, so every world map projection is a compromise. Accordingly, better or worse decisions can be made depending on the purpose of map use. Basically, one can distinguish between maps that preserve one of three properties at a time: areas (equal-area projections), angles (conformal) or distances (equidistant). Since we were not concerned with distance measurements at any point, we excluded equidistant maps from the beginning.

Conformal projections make sense when it comes to navigation. In small map sections, angle and area fidelity are almost identical to reality. This is a great advantage especially for route planning (e.g. google maps), road maps, air and sea traffic. But on a global level you see strong size distortions. Since you just mentioned Mercator: This projection represents spatial units larger the closer they are to the poles. Thus, Russia, Canada, the USA, China and Europe appear to be much larger. Especially since Europe lies in the centre of the representation and thus appears dominant compared to Africa. This may also make sense in a Eurocentric news coverage. Some news formats even have sections like "Europe and the World". But such a projection cannot be used for research that includes countries of the 'Global South' on an equal footing. At least not if maps are used as an information medium to disseminate knowledge. Projections offer a perspective on the world.

For choropleth maps, equal-area projections are generally recommended. Can you briefly explain why?

Lischka: Equal-area maps correctly represent the size of land masses and spatial units. On the negative side, the shape of the land masses inevitably get distorted. But if you colour countries based on certain data without showing their correct area, you lose the possibility to compare countries regarding the density of the shown variables. The representation of the correct relative areas is therefore an essential property of maps to be able to make reliable comparative statements between world regions and countries. The simplest examples are population density, forest coverage and agricultural use. Information of this kind on maps that are not true to area can lead to misinterpretations by the viewer.

Since equal-area maps can distort countries to such an extent that they cannot be recognized, maps that strike a compromise between area size and shape are often used. For example, the Winkels-Projection, which is used in German school atlases. World maps of this kind offer both area fidelity and the recognition of spatial units due to their shape.

You studied the preferences of social scientists. How does their favourite choropleth map look like and why?

Lischka: For their own research projects, the Equal Earth projection was the dominant choice among the social scientists that participated in our study. They had a whole conglomerate of reasons – ranging from 'aesthetically appealing' to 'looks right', 'true to form' and 'true to area'. In the end, the first task of our study aimed at the individual needs of the researchers. Some of them focused their research on certain regions of the world, so they used the zoom function and paid close attention to the recognition of the respective region.

Figure 1. Choropleth map of the world, using the Equal Earth Projection

Figure 1. Choropleth map of the world, using the Equal Earth Projection

For the best presentation of research on the Global South, the Gall-Peters projection prevailed in our study, but only by a narrow margin. Actually, the distribution was very balanced. This small deviation is probably due to the instructions for task two we gave the participants and the claim to the map mentioned there. Gall-Peters most obviously distorts the country shapes and shows a rigorous coordinate system that demonstratively suggests fidelity to the area size. The researchers did not know that all projections that we offered them were equal-area and thus decided 'in the sense of objectivity', partly against aesthetic convictions and recognition value.

Figure 2. Choropleth map of the world, using the Gall Peters projection

Figure 2. Choropleth map of the world, using the Gall Peters projection

It is not only the type of projection that makes for a "good" choropleth map of the world - what about colours?

Gabriela Molina León: There are well-known tools that recommend and let you test multiple colour schemes for choropleth maps, such as Color Brewer. Therefore, we selected the five colour schemes of our study according to its recommendations.

Since the choropleth map of our study visualised life expectancy data, we used sequential scales. When choosing a colour scheme, the data determines what type of scale fits best: if the visualised variable encodes two opposite directions (e.g. negative and positive temperature values), then a scale with diverging colours (e.g. from dark red to dark blue) is most suitable. If the data is categorical, a categorical scheme is recommended.

For the case of sequential scales, it was recently confirmed that readers tend to associate darker colours with higher values, so we favoured colour schemes that follow this association.

What were the colours of choice among the scientists you worked with?

Molina León: The yellow-green-blue colour scheme (YlGnBu, available at https://observablehq.com/@d3/color-schemes) was the most common scheme chosen. From the 40 maps created by the researchers, 23 used this scheme.

Interestingly, they mentioned something in their reasoning that we did not expect: They wished for a gray colour scheme (or one that would look good in grayscale) because they often do not have the option to use colours in their publications.


Contact:
Michael Lischka
Gabriela Molina León
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57067
E-Mail: molina@uni-bremen.de

In a three-day CRC/ERC workshop, international researchers are discussing the influence of political practices and structures of European colonial powers on the development of social security in the Global South.

In her keynote at the start of the workshop "Colonialism and Social Protection" on 26 September, Gurminder Bhambra from the University of Sussex spoke about the varieties of European colonialism, which at the beginning had been shaped mainly by trade interests. From the middle of the 17th century, the focus had shifted to the expansion of the conquered territory. The prosperity of the European nation states - then as today - was based on colonialism, says Bhambra, which is still the root of global inequalities today. With regard to the colonial powers, she considers the term nation state to be inappropriate, imperial states or colonial empire more accurate.

Bastian Becker of SOCIUM explained in a presentation why an actor-centred research approach can provide important insights. After all, colonialism had been influenced by various actors at different levels (both within the colonies and on a transnational level).

Michele Mioni of SOCIUM explained the influence of Great Britain and France as well as international organisations on social policy in the (former) colonies after 1945. Mioni said that although the colonial powers and the IOs (ILO and UN) had different socio-political views, there had also been cooperation.

Jessica Lynne Pearson of Macalester College outlined colonial health policy. The first public health programmes were mass vaccination and mother-child programmes. In general, the focus of colonial health policy had been on prevention.

Marlous van Waijenburg of Harvard Business School analysed the fiscal policy of the colonial powers. One aim was to cover the costs of social policy programmes in the colonies through local taxes. The result was a wide range of different taxation systems within the colonial states, but taxation of labour (including forced labour) was typical.

The workshop "Colonialism and Social Protection", organised by Carina Schmitt, will enter its second round on 2 October and will end with a third session on 9 October.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Carina Schmitt
Feldkirchenstraße 21
96045 Bamberg
Phone: 0951-863 2734
E-Mail: carina.schmitt@uni-bamberg.de