Friday, March 5, 2010
Over at Abu Muqawama last week, Ex posted a quantitative analysis manifesto that he thinks quantitative analysts in security studies should follow - a post that has generated a moderate amount of buzz around the interwebs. I'm not going to through each of his six points individually, but I encourage you to read the whole post. Suffice it to say and not surprisingly, this has really pissed off a lot of the IR community, with interesting commentary here, here, here, here, and here. I didn't look too much, but here is a supportive post on Ex's position and I'm sure there are others.
I certainly appreciate Ex's position on this, there are few things more irritating than some social scientist who creates models completely at odds with reality. So my interpretation of Ex's manifesto is that social scientists who employ quantitative measures should use humility in describing their systems and recognize and acknowledge the downsides of their models. On the other hand, I understand why these IR folks are upset - specifically about the last three points (which strike me as unnecessary swipes at social scientists, but hey, flippant statements are a hallmark of blogging).
I've written on a related topic before (metrics specifically), and having an undergraduate in math, I firmly believe there are uses for quantitative analysis in security studies. As long as that analysis framed with qualitative analysis to better describe these complex human endeavors. In fact, I would argue most social scientists would agree with this. But I think the same goes for qualitative analysts - while logic and common sense can often win a debate, those two things could often simply be conventional wisdom. Qualitative analysis is much more persuasive when backed by quantitative analysis, otherwise it's pretty much somebody's opinion.
This whole argument strikes me as silly. Both factions need to (and many do) understand and state the limitations of their chosen methods of analysis. I firmly believe bad analysis is and will be identified for what it is, no matter if the analysis uses words or graphs. As for me, I like both.