News from Project A01


On day twelve, we would like to share a blog-post that CRC 1342 member Gabriela Molina has writen on the disgn of chropleth maps used in social sciences and in research on the Global South.

Designing choropleth maps: What projection to choose?

Gabriela Molina discusses the advantages and disadvantages of different map projections in her article on medium.com. When using thematic maps, so-called choropleth maps, she advocates the use of equal-area projections, as they correctly represent the size of land masses and thus of countries and regions. 

Figure: Five examples of equal-area projections

 

Read the full blog-post at medium.com: Designing choropleth maps: What projection to choose?

More information on the work of Gabriela Molina and the Team of project A01: Measuring the Global Dynamics of Social Policy and Cross-national Interdependencies. Co-creating the Global Welfare State Information System

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Contact:
Gabriela Molina León
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57067
E-Mail: molina@uni-bremen.de

A short video for St. Nicholas Day: "Mapping Global Social Policy", an overview of the social policy areas that our project area A examines the global diffusion of.

More information on our project area A: Global Dynamics

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Contact:
Prof. Dr. Ivo Mossig
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 / 421 / 218 67410
E-Mail: mossig@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

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 5
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
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57061
E-Mail: lischka@uni-bremen.de

Gabriela Molina León
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
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
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58603
E-Mail: carina.schmitt@uni-bremen.de

In his contribution, CRC member Ivo Mossig discusses the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for socio-economic development disparities and the role of social policy in this context.

From 6 to 8 July 2020, the research group Transient Spaces and Societies of the Institute of Geography at the University of Innsbruck is organising a digital symposium on COVID-19 as a turning point? Geographic perspectives on spaces, societies and technologies in the pandemic. Ivo Mossig, co-director of project A01, participates with his lecture "Socio-economic differences in development and social policy in times of the COVID-19 pandemic".

Mossig starts from the observation that in times of a pandemic the social security systems in all parts of the world are put to a particularly hard test. At the same time, he notes that social policy and the security systems resulting from it are decisive elements in explaining the different consequences of the pandemic worldwide. Mossig is therefore all the more surprised that geographers have always analysed spatial socio-economic development differences but pay little attention to social policy. In his contribution to the conference, Mossig therefore highlights the interdependent relationship between socio-economic development differences and social policy. According to Mossig, the integration of such social policy research can contribute substantially to explaining social inequalities at different spatial scales. This only becomes more relevant in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Ivo Mossig
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 / 421 / 218 67410
E-Mail: mossig@uni-bremen.de

Prof. Dr. Carina Schmitt
Prof. Dr. Carina Schmitt
The book kicks off the series “Global Dynamics of Social Policy” and covers the influence of external actors on social protection in the Global South.

Carina Schmitt’s book "From Colonialism to International Aid - External Actors and Social Protection in the Global South" his published open access. "We have been aware for a long time, that external actors have been important for social protection in these countries from the very beginning," Carina Schmitt explains. "However, we didn’t fully understand how this influence exactly looks like. The book exactly addresses this question."

The book comprises of 14 chapters and takes a deeper look at the influence of colonialism, the Cold War, and internationals donors on the development of social protection in the past and present. It is based on the symposium "Building Social Protection Systems in the Global South. Different Trajectories and the Influence of External Factors" held at the University of Bremen in June 2018. It brought together experts in social policy in developing countries. "We tried to combine different research perspectives and traditions and also scholars from different regions of the world," says Carina Schmitt.

The CRC 1342 and Palgrave Mcmillan launched the book series "Global Dynamics of Social Policy" in order to publish research findings produced within CRC 1342, as well as from external colleagues. The series features studies on the waves, ruptures and transformative periods of welfare state expansion and retrenchment globally. It takes a comprehensive and globalized perspective on social policy, and the approach will help to locate and explain episodes of retrenchment, austerity, and tendencies toward de-welfarization in particular countries, policy areas and/or social risk-groups by reference to prior, simultaneous or anticipated episodes of expansion or contraction in other countries, areas, and risks.

One of the aims of this series is to address the different constellations that emerge between political and economic actors including international and intergovernmental organizations, political actors and bodies, and business enterprises. A better understanding of these dynamics improves the reader’s grasp of social policy making, social policy outputs, and ultimately the outcomes of social policy.

The editors of the series are the CRC 1342 members Lorraine Frisina Doetter, Delia González de Reufels and Kerstin Martens, as well as Marianne S. Ulriksen (University of Southern Denmark).


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Carina Schmitt
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58603
E-Mail: carina.schmitt@uni-bremen.de

Newly introduced Technical Paper Series as an essential part of the documentation of data collection

Documenting the data collection is an essential part of building WeSIS – the Welfare State Information System. Researchers, however, often struggle with the appropriate level of detail ranging from simple accounts of a final indicator to page-long descriptions about how an indicator came into being. Both WeSISPedia and the newly launched Technical Paper Series are an integral part of the documentation. The former serves as a codebook with basic information about variables and indicators collected and stored in WeSIS. As such it merely “describes” the data. The Technical Paper Series in turn allows for a structured way of documenting the data and the data generating process, for detailing country-specific definitions, or for describing complex coding rules. In short, the Technical Paper Series complements and eases the use of WeSIS and its data, and provides a more detailed description beyond a codebook and “hands on” suggestions for handling the data properly.

In the first paper Lara Eiser, Michael Lischka and Tobias Tkaczick describe the procedure of generating metric geographical distance data. Showing on which data basis (CShapes Dataset), with which software (ArcGIS) and which methods/features the WeSIS indicator 'Capital Distance' was created, they document the data generation in a transparent, comprehensible and replicable manner. In addition, the paper offers screenshots for adopting the calculations for further applications.

The Technical Paper Series is coordinated by Nils Düpont.


Contact:
Dr. Nils Düpont
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57060
E-Mail: duepont@uni-bremen.de

Dr. Nils Düpont
Dr. Nils Düpont
Nils Düpont spent several weeks in Göteborg for project A01 in order to foster cooperation with the Swedish democracy research institute. In an interview, he tells us what he expects from it.

You were visiting scholar for some time during the summer at the V-Dem Institute in Gothenburg , which aims to measure democracy worldwide. Your stay in Gothenburg has resulted in a cooperation between our CRC and the V-Dem Institute. How did this come about?

One of my tasks at the CRC is to collect information on national and especially political variables. My personal interest is above all in the parties and their ideology or positions and the question of what influence this has on the introduction and spread of social policy. So far, there is little data that reaches back far or has a global scope. For this reason, I had begun to work with Holger Döring, a colleague at Philip Manow's chair, to collect data, first on election results and parties in all the countries we study at the CRC - from 1880 until today. Holger had been in contact with Anna Lührmann from the V-Dem team for some time. She is Deputy Director there and had initiated a new project where they wanted to go all the way to the party level in their investigation. It quickly became clear that the data that we had collected at the CRC, most of which had already been validated, was actually the basis for what V-Dem had in mind. And it was through this connection that the cooperation came about.

So what does the CRC contribute to the cooperation?

We provide information on elections, parties and election results from all over the world since 1880. These data form the basis for the V-Party project. And on the basis of this data it is also controlled for which parties and which year the V-Dem experts subsequently receive questions about the parties, their ideology and their organizational characteristics.

And what does the CRC get?

The decisive thing is that this is the first time that we will receive information about parties' ideology or some organizational characteristics that have not yet been the focus of party research. In party research, too, we have a relatively strong OECD bias - similar to the social policy research of the CRC. Latin America is still relatively well covered. But as soon as you look at Africa or Asia, it becomes scarcer with expertise, information and analyses. And the nice thing about V-Dem is that they have this global network of experts, that the survey has been running for a few years now and that we also get to work with experts who assess parties for which we still have little or no information. This information helps us to assess the parties ideologically in the first place. And together with the information we collect about, for example, strength in parliament, independent variables can then be created for social policy research and the question: What influence do parties have on the introduction or expansion of social policy? In sum, we get information back for the CRC, which we can test as variables in the style of partisan politics.

What did you actually do in Gothenburg at V-Dem?

Essentially, we discussed a few things conceptually and harmonized the data we had collected so far. We then sent these preliminary data to country and regional experts for a validation check. All in all, we were able to lay the first foundation on which we are now building.

Who did you work with in Gothenburg?

Essentially with Anna Lührmann, who also heads the V-Party project. V-Party is based on V-Dem, the methodology and the whole setup. The special thing about it is that V-Dem has always been based on a macro-quantitative country/year logic and that V-Party is the first project that looks into countries, one level lower. This, of course, brings with it its own difficulties in collecting data. But the time was ripe to try it. Anna Lührmann as project manager is the central figure that also holds the network of experts together.

What can we expect from the survey?

The preparation for the survey is now entering the hot phase. After the plausibility check and validation by the regional experts had been completed, we incorporated the feedback and practically finalised the data collection. At the same time, the technical stack is being set up so that the survey can be rolled out in January. The last experts are currently being recruited for this purpose. They can then log on to a web platform and see the relevant information. It is therefore very important that the raw data is correct so that the coder can see what is right and what can be done with it. If all goes well, the survey should be completed in January. Then the usual process begins for the V-Dem people: data cleansing and preparation. We hope that in spring of next year the data will be ready so that initial analyses can be made. And that we will then learn a little more about parties in the world about which we know little or nothing.


Contact:
Dr. Nils Düpont
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57060
E-Mail: duepont@uni-bremen.de

Dr. Stefan Giljum
Dr. Stefan Giljum
Stefan Giljum from the Vienna University of Economics and Business presented his database and analysis project on commodity flows and their ecological and social consequences.

Stefan Giljum from the Vienna University of Economics and Business has visited CRC 1342 to present his database and analysis project FINEPRINT. The aim of FINEPRINT is to generate knowledge that allows the connection between production and consumption behaviour (focus: "Global North") and the ecological and social consequences of resource extraction on site (focus: "Global South") to be analysed. Basically, global value chains are broken down into their material composition. The result is a growing database with disaggregated and georeferenced data.

In front of a larger audience, Giljum traced the paths of selected material flows from the point of resource extraction through production to the value-added segment in the consumer regions and analysed their ecological consequences at the point of raw material extraction (e.g. water scarcity, deforestation, land use). The subsequent discussion also focused on how these data enable analyses with regard to socio-economic effects. For the CRC members, a very interesting point of discussion was how subnational data can supplement the (inter)national perspective of the CRC.

In the morning, the A01 project had an internal meeting with Stefan Giljum. There he presented in detail the database and analysis project FINEPRINT, which is equipped with an ERC consolidator grant. This was followed by an intensive exchange of experiences on challenges and possible solutions in setting up large information systems such as WeSIS or the FINEPRINT database. In particular, the following points were discussed:

  • Handling copyrights when using existing data sets
  • Documentation and maintenance of your own databases
  • Implementation of the Open Source Principles
  • Data quality (e.g. validation, harmonisation)


It turned out that FINEPRINT is a good example for the construction of a database with excellent visualisations and possibilities for analysis, which WeSIS can use as orientation in some respects. During the discussion, some intersections between the projects emerged, which gave rise to ideas for future cooperation.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Ivo Mossig
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 / 421 / 218 67410
E-Mail: mossig@uni-bremen.de