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Quantitative Methods in Geography Making the Connections between Schools, Universities and Employers

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Abstract

A report into the nature of and attitudes towards quantitative methods teaching in geography, with recommendations for how the benchmark statement might be changed.
... Because of such misrepresentations of quantification amongst human geographers, however, it may be that although introductory courses in quantitative analysis are available in most degree programmes, they are not given equal intellectual credence to other components. Most UK geography undergraduates experience (at least introductory) courses in quantitative methods during their degree programmes, as revealed by a recent survey (Harris et al., 2013). Furthermore, most of them are not averse to this exposure: in their survey of 800 UK geography undergraduates, Harris et al. (2013) found that – although almost half said that they 'struggled with quantitative methods' – only 19% either strongly agreed or agreed with a statement that 'there is too much focus on maths and stats', with a further 38% neither agreeing nor disagreeing and 43% disagreeing. ...
... Most UK geography undergraduates experience (at least introductory) courses in quantitative methods during their degree programmes, as revealed by a recent survey (Harris et al., 2013). Furthermore, most of them are not averse to this exposure: in their survey of 800 UK geography undergraduates, Harris et al. (2013) found that – although almost half said that they 'struggled with quantitative methods' – only 19% either strongly agreed or agreed with a statement that 'there is too much focus on maths and stats', with a further 38% neither agreeing nor disagreeing and 43% disagreeing. Similarly, only 12% indicated that knowledge of quantitative methods would be of little or no importance to their degree plans – although two added comments such as 'Useful but not an imperative as I'm a human geographer' and 'Not very important because I want to be a social/human geographer'. ...
... ac.uk/summerschool/ (accessed 23 April 2013) 13. A recent survey of Heads of Teaching in 16 UK university geography departments (Harris et al., 2013) revealed that all provided introductory instruction in descriptive and inferential statistics, visual presentation and spatial statistics, plus geographic information systems and the use of statistical software. Furthermore, with one exception all agreed with the statements that 'Quantitative methods are a fundamentally important part of a Geography degree' and 'The teaching of quantitative methods is valued by my department' – although one-quarter said that their department placed more importance on such teaching for physical than human geography. ...
Article
One consequence of the fragmentation of their discipline and the consequent lack of awareness amongst human geographers of what is being done by many of their colleagues is misrepresentation of certain types of work – in textbooks, for example. Amongst the areas often misrepresented in recent years are those commonly categorised by such terms as ‘spatial science’ and ‘quantitative analysis’. Critics of these areas often write as if the type of work undertaken in the 1960s–1970s still characterises them today, with little appreciation of contemporary activities. This article responds to such claims by presenting the current nature of work in those areas – very different from that of several decades ago – and makes the case for their inclusion in curricula so that students (most of whom will not proceed to research in the areas) can appreciate the underlying principles of quantitative analyses and their important role in the formation of an informed citizenry in data-driven, evidence-based policy societies.
... 28 Spatial science should be at the core of all such programmes, because it is so important, and will undoubtedly become even more so as Big Data increasingly come to dominate much public and private sector decision-making (particularly if those data are increasingly drawn from unrepresentative commercial sources with no reliable benchmarking provided by high quality census enumerations: see the essays in Walton-Roberts et al., 2014). Whilst it remains the case that geography is a relatively numerate discipline, in schools and, in fact, in Universities in the UK, a recent report to the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) raised concerns about students simply not having the computational or more 'advanced' skills needed to undertake quantitative research (or to compete with those from other countries where the training is to a much higher level: Harris et al., 2013). The ESRC's Benchmarking Review of Human Geography identifies similar concerns (ESRC, 2013). ...
... The extent to which research being undertaken in universities matches both the local industrial structures and the absorptive capacity potential of local firms is a critical factor in realising the 'promise' of regional innovation policies and the role of universities within them (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990). Harris et al. (2013) argue there is often a mismatch between the research taking place in universities and the innovation requirements of local firms. ...
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Article
The past 30 years has seen an escalating interest in the potential role of universities in contributing to their regional economies, reflected in the increasing trend for regional innovation strategies to ascribe a central role for universities, particularly in peripheral, institutionally thin places. The global economic crisis and subsequent austerity measures implemented in many developed economies have put further pressure on universities from national and regional policymakers to become more explicitly involved in contributing to their local economies in order to justify their public funding. This paper will draw on the academic literature to consider how justified this focus is by questioning whether universities are willing or even able to play the roles expected of them in contributing to regional innovation. It will critique an approach to policymaking that often views universities as homogenous actors in the regional innovation system and places an over reliance on imitating success stories from other places without sufficient consideration of the specificities of local conditions. It will argue for a more realistic and nuanced approach to involving universities in regional innovation policy, concluding with key insights for both universities and policymakers.
... 28 Spatial science should be at the core of all such programmes, because it is so important, and will undoubtedly become even more so as Big Data increasingly come to dominate much public and private sector decision-making (particularly if those data are increasingly drawn from unrepresentative commercial sources with no reliable benchmarking provided by high quality census enumerations: see the essays in Walton-Roberts et al., 2014). Whilst it remains the case that geography is a relatively numerate discipline, in schools and, in fact, in Universities in the UK, a recent report to the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) raised concerns about students simply not having the computational or more 'advanced' skills needed to undertake quantitative research (or to compete with those from other countries where the training is to a much higher level: Harris et al., 2013). The ESRC's Benchmarking Review of Human Geography identifies similar concerns (ESRC, 2013). ...
Article
Several commentaries on the original paper contributed valuably to one of its goals – promoting discussion about the contents of quantitative methods curricula for human geography undergraduate and postgraduate courses. But the only commentary relevant to the other goal, promoting fuller understanding of contemporary spatial science across the entire discipline, was disappointing, raising new critical issues – regarding, for example, the use of place and of data collected from individuals in spatial scientific studies. These are responded to in this reply. An extended version is available from https://research-information.bristol.ac.uk/files/26654167/DialogueReplyExtended.pdf
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For many years, statistical methods have been an auxiliary tool in drawing conclusions in almost all scientific disciplines. The paper presents in a short, compact form selected benefits, threats and new trends in the use of statistical methods in research related to socio-economic geography in the era of widespread digitization. The structure of the work is based on: a) a historical sketch concerning the beginning of the use of these methods, development and breakthrough moments, with particular emphasis on the influence of Polish researchers, b) a sketch of historical changes in education, resulting in changes in the use of statistical methods by researchers, and c) the presentation of selected contemporary problems with their application in research, benefits and new trends. Both the problems and benefits resulting from the use of these methods are not new, but they appear in a new version in a situation where we have high-performance computers and advanced software, including (which is particularly important for geographers) Geographic Information Systems.
Article
This article argues that the role of data skills in geography goes beyond measurement, analysis and the rote learning of statistical tests to embedding data into the heart of geographical curricula. It draws on materials produced for the RGS-IBG Data Skills in Geography Programme, which were presented at the Geographical Association's Annual Conference in 2017. It describes how the twin pillars of statistical and disciplinary knowledge provide the means to tell geographic stories with data and to assess the credibility of the stories told. It also argues that the skill of reasoning with numeric evidence is a tool for inclusivity and helps to challenge the propagation of misinformation.
Article
هدف البحث التعرف على فاعلية برنامج قائم على نموذج كمب المعدل لتنمية المفاهيم الجغرافية الإحصائية و مهارات التفكير الإحصائي لدى طلاب شعبة الجغرافيا بكلية التربية، واتبع البحث المنهج التجريبي، وتحددت مواد البحث في قائمة بالمفاهيم الجغرافية الإحصائية، وقائمة بمهارات التفكير الإحصائي في الجغرافيا، ودليل البرنامج القائم علي نموذج كمب المعدل ، وتمثلت أداتا القياس في اختبار المفاهيم الجغرافية الإحصائية، واختبار مهارات التفكير الإحصائي في الجغرافيا، وطُبقت تجربة البحث وفق التصميم التجريبي ذو المجموعتين المتكافئتين؛ الضابطة وعددها(33) طالباً والتجريبية وعددها(33) طالباً بشعبة الجغرافيا بكلية التربية بقنا، وتوصلت نتائج البحث إلي فاعلية البرنامج القائم على نموذج كمب المعدل في تنمية المفاهيم الجغرافية الإحصائية و مهارات التفكير الإحصائي لدى طلاب شعبة الجغرافيا بكلية التربية ، وفي ضوء ذلك وُضعت مجموعة من التوصيات والبحوث المقترحة.
Article
This report is drawn from a project funded to better support the teachers of quantitative methods in UK social science. In it we identify the types of quantitative methods taught in the geography curricula for UK schools and universities, and discuss attitudes towards those methods amongst students and teachers. We argue that geography has benefitted from its position at the intersection of the sciences, social sciences and humanities, retaining a quantitative component. Consequently, levels of basic numeracy and data handling have remained relatively high, leaving the discipline well placed to respond to the call for greater quantitative training within the social sciences in the UK. However, we also suspect that the typical levels of quantitative training in university human geography courses are not sufficiently high to compete on the international stage. As the title suggests, our report is focused on geography. However we raise issues germane to other disciplines including what actually we mean by quantitative methods, what should be taught in a twenty-first century curriculum, how to meaningfully embed those methods in the substantive themes and teaching of a discipline, and whether more should be expected as a minimum standard of quantitative competence than the existing Quality Assurance Agency benchmarks require.
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Numbers dominate global politics and, as a result, our everyday lives. Credit ratings steer financial markets and can make or break the future of entire nations. GDP drives our economies. Stock market indices flood our media and national debates. Statistical calculations define how we deal with climate change, poverty and sustainability. But what is behind these numbers? In How Numbers Rule the World, Lorenzo Fioramonti reveals the hidden agendas underpinning the use of statistics and those who control them. Most worryingly, he shows how numbers have been used as a means to reinforce the grip of markets on our social and political life, curtailing public participation and rational debate. An innovative and timely exposé of the politics, power and contestation of numbers.
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Article
The teaching of quantitative research methods is an integral part of most postgraduate programmes in politics, but less common at undergraduate level. This article explores the extent to which research methods in general, and quantitative research methods in particular, form part of the curricula of Politics departments in the UK. We then discuss an approach for motivating interest in a subject that tends to be unpopular with many students. We recommend an approach that utilises the links between the general quantification of politics with the quantitative study of political phenomena, as well as a combination of basic research methods for all and more advanced student-focused training for some.
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Article
Essential Mathematics for Political and Social Research addresses an educational deficiency in the social and behavioral sciences. This 2006 book was the first of its kind to specifically address the comprehensive introduction to the mathematical principles needed by modern social scientists. The material introduces basic mathematical principles necessary to do analytical work in the social sciences, starting from first principles, but without unnecessary complexity. The core purpose is to present fundamental notions in standard notation and standard language with a clear, unified framework throughout. Through examples and exercises, this book is intended to not only motivate specific mathematical principles and practices, but also introduce the way that social science researchers use these tools. The intended emphasis is on conceptual understanding of key principles and their subsequent application.
Article
This article is a modified version of a report produced as an input to a Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA) seminar on A-level mental mathematics which I attended on behalf of the Geographical Association. In it I attempt to summarise the mathematical knowledge that might be expected at A-level for entry into a geography degree programme. In no sense is it a 'wish list' for all university geographers and it was produced largely with a mathematical audience in mind.
Book
Practising Human Geography is critical introduction to disciplinary debates about the practice of human geography, that is informed by an inquiry into how geographers actually do research. In examining those methods and practices that are integral to doing geography, the text presents a theoretically-informed reflection on the construction and interpretation of geographical data - including factual and "fictional" sources; the use of core research methodologies; and the interpretative role of the researcher. Framed by an historical overview how ideas of practising human geography have changed, the following three sections offer an comprehensive and integrated overview of research methodologies. Illustrated throughout. © Paul Cloke, Ian Cook, Philip Crang, Mark Goodwin, Joe Painter, Chris Philo 2004.
Article
As digital social data have become increasingly ubiquitous, many have turned their attention to harnessing these massive data sets in order to produce purportedly more accurate and complete understandings of social processes. This intervention addresses the relationships between geography and big data and their intertwined futures. We focus on the impacts of an age of big data on the discipline of geography and geographic thought and methodology, as well as how geography might provide a useful lens through which to understand big data as a social phenomenon in its own right. Ultimately, we see significant potential in big data, but remain skeptical of the prevalent discourses around it, as they tend to obscure, more than reveal, the complexity of social and spatial processes.
Article
This short commentary summarises findings from an undergraduate dissertation exploring the ‘gap’ in physical geography teaching and learning between school and university. For human geography, Marriott (2007) reported a gap in both knowledge and skills, noting particularly that academic staff perceive a gap in particular learning skills such as note taking, essay development and writing, and in general organisational skills. This study explores staff and student perceptions of the skills disconnect focussing on physical geography. Whilst the same skills gaps are identified as for human geography, centred around writing, organising and understanding, a further significant gap is identified around field, laboratory (analytical) and numerical skills. To narrow this gap, dialogue is required at the FE/HE boundary, highlighting to degree applicants and teachers the ever-growing importance of scientific approaches in physical geography. Enhanced training in scientific approaches is also required, in schools and early in university degree programmes. The means to more closely connect school and university geographies requires further debate and action, and this commentary calls for students to be included as partners moving forward.
Article
I consider some arguments of social science and humanities researchers about the challenge that big data presents for social science methods. What they suggest is that social scientists need to engage with big data rather than retreat into internal debates about its meaning and implications. Instead, understanding big data requires and provides an opportunity for the interdisciplinary development of methods that innova- tively, critically and reflexively engage with new forms of data. Unlike data and methods that social scientists have typically worked with in the past, big data calls for skills and approaches that cut across disciplines. Drawing on work in science and technology studies and understandings of the ‘the social life of methods’, I argue that this is in part due to the fragmentation and redistribution of expertise, knowledge and methods that new data sources engender, including their incipient relations to government and industry and entanglements with social worlds.
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For more about this book see http://www.social-statistics.org/?page_id=85
Article
The research reported here is from the first national survey of British undergraduate attitudes to the methodological character of the discipline and specifically to quantitative methods.The study found that most sociology students saw their subject as closer to the humanities than the sciences. However, whilst as anticipated many students expressed anxiety about quantitative methods and `number', a slight majority nevertheless expressed no such anxiety. The methodological issue for sociology is perhaps less to do with a numeric deficit and more to do with a lack of student interest in the use of quantitative methods. It may be concluded that the views held by present undergraduates do not augur well for a methodologically pluralist discipline in the future, or more generally for key numeric and analytic skills sociology graduates can bring to other professions and occupations.
Article
This article argues that the binary between quantitative and critical geography is pseudo rather than real. The duality arose, the article suggests, because of the peculiar postwar intellectual history of human geography in which the critical approach followed the quantitative one. Accordingly, for internal sociological reasons, it was necessary for the critical approach to excise everything that went before in quantitative geography. In contrast, the article argues that there is no inherent contradiction between critical and quantitative approaches, and indeed there are good reasons to join them. The article makes its argument by suggesting, first, that Marx, the ultimate social critic, was sympathetic to mathematics in his own work; second, that this fact was lost to the radical geographers of the late 1960s and early 1970s because of their desire to distance themselves and ultimately to overthrow the dominant quantitative approach; and finally, that the supposed binary of quantitative and critical geography might be dissolved by engaging in what Galison (1998)21. Galison , P. 1998. Image and logic: A material culture of microphysics., Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. View all references, the historian of science, calls “trading zones.” En este artículo se sostiene que el binario entre la geografía crítica y la cuantitativista es más pretendido que real. El artículo sugiere que esta dualidad apareció debido a la peculiar historia intelectual de la geografía humana de la posguerra, en la que el enfoque crítico ocurrió enseguida del cuantitativo. En consecuencia, por razones sociológicas internas, para los seguidores del enfoque crítico se hizo necesario extirpar todo lo que antes estuvo relacionado con la geografía cuantitativista. En el artículo se arguye, al contrario, que no existe contradicción inherente entre los dos enfoques, y que en verdad hay muy buenas razones para juntarlos. El artículo presenta su argumento sugiriendo, primero, que Marx, el crítico social por excelencia, tenía simpatía por las matemáticas en su propio trabajo; segundo, que este hecho se les extravió a los geógrafos radicales de finales de los 1960 y comienzos de los 1970 por su afán de distanciarse del enfoque cuantitativo dominante y, en últimas, derrocarlo; y finalmente, que el supuesto binario de geografía crítica y la cuantitativista podría ser deshecho concurriendo en lo que Galison (1998), el historiador de la ciencia, denomina “zonas de negociación.”
Article
The rapprochement of humanism and structuralism on the one hand, and quantitative and qualitative approaches on the other hand, has not addressed an implacable difficulty which continues to haunt both spatial science and 'critical' human geographies. That difficulty concerns the ontological and ethical status of numbers, and their relationship to concepts, events, and sensations. The paper engages with this difficulty through a combination of theoretical and literary writings, most notably Woody Allen's film Deconstructing Harry, Samuel Beckett's play Not I, and Derrida's work of Dissemination. Insofar as 'one' lacks consistency-by disavowing difference, alterity, and innumerable numbers-its deployment is invariably unbecoming, repressive, and ill-mannered. The ethical response is to divine 'another way of working with numbers', as Derrida once intimated; to prevent some ones from taking hold. The outcome is a form of poststructuralist geography that takes flight from all kinds of pointillism. After an opening scene that lays out the general setup of quantification and its qualification, the first section of the paper employs the notion of a soft ontology in order to prepare the way for 'another way of working with numbers' that is occasioned by a sensitivity towards the ontological buzzing and solicitation that accompanies processes of subjectification, objectification, identification, and enumeration. The paper concludes with an affirmation of a 'disturbing geography' that leaves everything in perpetual suspense.
Article
Discusses the Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre for Geography (CTICG), part of a network of 21 subject-based centers in the United Kingdom, intended to promote computer-assisted learning in higher education. Examines courseware sources and suggests developing a database of available software or a distribution service. Lists CTICG's aims in tables. (CH)
Article
This study compares the skills of professional geographers and the needs of employer organizations across major sectors of the U.S. workforce. Following a series of focus groups, two surveys were developed to explore: (1) the extent to which specific skills were performed by geographers in different professional positions, and (2) the value of and anticipated demand for those skills from the perspective of employers. Overall, respondents in the focus groups and both survevs emphasized the need for general skills ranging from time management and writing ability to information management and computer literacy. Employers also cited many geographic skills as being vital for enhancing the work of professionals in all types of organizations. Competency in field methods, the ability to work across disciplinary boundaries, and spatial thinking were three skill areas that characterized the work of geographic professionals irrespective of specialty.
Article
Controversy exploded in 2005 over a paper at the Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers which claimed that ethnic segregation in Britain was increasing, ghettos had formed and some British cities were more segregated than Chicago. The paper asserted that indexes failed to measure segregation and should be abandoned in favour of a threshold schema of concentrations using raw data. These assertions were repeated by Trevor Phillips, Director the Commission for Racial Equality, in an inflammatory speech claiming that Britain was sleepwalking into American-style segregation. The argument of this paper is that the index approach is indeed necessary, that ethnic segregation in Britain is decreasing, that the threshold criteria for the claim that British ghettos exist has manufactured ghettos rather than discovered them. A Pakistani ghetto under the schema could be 40 per cent Pakistani, 30 per cent White, 20 per cent Indian and 10 per cent Caribbean. In 2000, 60 per cent of Chicago's Blacks lived in a true ghetto of tracts that were 90–100 per cent Black.
Article
Since the early 1970s, critical theorists in geography and other social sciences have worked to build what Steinmetz (2005)61. Steinmetz , G. 2005. The politics of method in the human sciences, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. [CrossRef]View all references calls a “pluralistic postpositivist counterworld.” Postpositivist intellectual currents emerged in the shadow of, and in opposition to, mainstream science at a time when positivist epistemology, quantitative methodology, and conservative political ideology seemed always to go hand in hand. This neat alignment was contingent and contextual, but every postpositivist movement committed to progressive or radical politics has portrayed the nexus as essential and immutable. Over time this caricature has been reinforced and reproduced, as strident postpositivists and defensive spatial scientists pursue ever more sophisticated, challenging specializations that make it harder to bridge the binaries of our field. In this article, I suggest that the presumed linkages between epistemology, methodology, and politics were never fundamental or immutable—and that recent years have brought significant realignments. Right-wing political operatives have coopted many of the epistemologies and methods traditionally associated with the postpositivist academic left. A new generation of progressive, critical geographers is doing first-rate work—like that appearing in this Focus Section—that is revitalizing the scientific rigor, policy relevance, and political power of the left. I analyze how this movement of strategic positivism is an integral (but single) element of a pluralist geography that mobilizes trust and deference to synthesize individual specialization and collective goals to build emancipatory geographies. Desde principios de los 1970, teóricos críticos de la geografía y de otras ciencias sociales han trabajado para construir lo que Steinmetz (2005) denomina un “ant-mundo pluralista pospositivista.” Las corrientes intelectuales pospositivistas aparecieron a la sombra de la línea vertebral de la ciencia, y en contra de ésta, cuando la epistemología positivista, la metodología cuantitativa y la ideología política conservadora parecían ir de la mano en todo momento. Este claro alineamiento era contingente y contextual, pero cualquier movimiento pospositivista comprometido con política progresista o radical denunciaría aquel vínculo como esencial e inmutable. A medida que el tiempo pasaba, esa caricatura ha sido reforzada y reproducida, por la estridencia con la que pospositivistas y científicos espaciales a la defensiva promovían especializaciones desafiantes cada vez más sofisticadas, que hacen mucho más difícil zanjar los binarios de nuestro campo. En este escrito, sugiero que los supuestos lazos de la epistemología con la metodología y la política nunca fueron fundamentales o inmutables—y que los años recientes han traído realineamientos significativos. Operativos políticos de la derecha han retomado muchas de las epistemologías y métodos tradicionalmente asociados con la izquierda académica pospositivista. Y una nueva generación de geógrafos críticos progresistas adelanta trabajo de primera clase—como el que aparece en esta Sección Focal—que está revitalizando el rigor científico, la relevancia de sus políticas y el poder político de la izquierda. Analizo cómo este movimiento de positivismo estratégico es elemento integral (pero individual) de una geografía pluralista, que moviliza confianza y deferencia hacia la síntesis de la especialización individual y las metas colectivas, a partir de la cual edificar geografías emancipadoras.
Article
This paper asks why we teach what we teach to geography undergraduates in quantitative methods courses. We re-consider the origins of quantitative geography and note how partial and historically contingent the traditional syllabus is. From this basis, we suggest that other approaches should be considered in order to provide a broader training in quantitative methods. We then propose an example syllabus that attempts to integrate a range of quantitative methodologies within a common, applied context that is also connected to relevant social, economic and political issues. We conclude that students with a better understanding of methods in physical and social science could be very valuable to the betterment of society, but to achieve this may require a change to our quantitative methods teaching.
Article
A discipline's changing agenda involves the introduction of new practices which challenge those already deployed and may at least partly replace them. Historians of human geography have identified several major changes over recent decades but have been less successful in accounting for them. This paper adopts a recently-formulated model of disciplinary change, to which it adds a missing political element. It argues for the importance of mobilizing support for a new agenda among students and other new entrants to the discipline, in which textbooks can play a substantial role. Several recently-published texts are analysed to illustrate their use as political tools in attempts to promote particular visions of human geographical practices.
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