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Measuring Ministerial Career Dynamics

I have a new article out in West European Politics with my colleagues Holger Döring and Conor Little which looks at the career dynamics of ministers in seven European countries over the last 50 or so years. We were interested in factors relating to their stability in the job to a large extent, but also more general things such as how power gradually turns over in most democracies. We find an important diversion in the career trajectories of senior and junior ministers in most countries, with a small core of senior ministers staying in power for long periods of time whilst a larger and more fluid mass of junior ministers move in and out of power more frequently.


Ministerial careers isn’t a core area of substantive research for me, but there was a fairly extensive computational element to the project which did get me interested. It makes use of the wonderful Parlgov political data structure, which was really useful for both organising collaborative data collection and storing the data.

This project was also my first foray into using SQL seriously for academic research. An SQL database is a wonderfully neat format for organising research projects if you’ve got lots of different types of data which only need to be mashed together for analysis. It does save time on the recombining element as well. But it does create a bit of overhead and I’m still not sure it is in the core computational social science toolkit (unless you are in Hadoop territory with the size of your dataset, in which case the SQL equivalent Hive really comes into it’s own).

By |2015-01-19T15:29:15+00:00January 19th, 2015|Research, Social Science Computing|3 Comments

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  1. […] Edit: Jon also has a post on this article over at his website. […]

  2. Darragh McCurragh 16 April 2015 at 1:27 pm

    I am a bit surprised to learn -implicitly- that relational databases and their analytic potential seem to so far play only a minor role in sociological or political research. Though it dovetails with what I see in data mining in many large companies (Fortune 100 etc.) – almost no one “at the top” has an idea of what being able to “slice and dice” data could mean for their (business) intelligence. Was intrigued with the Bremen ParlGov database. I wonder how they feed their tables – wouldn’t it be brilliant if -a good firewall presupposed- government’s HR systems would directly feed into such a collaborative effort using a common format?

    • jonathanbright 20 April 2015 at 8:28 am

      I think that’s right – in social sciences the emphasis is still very much on the dataset as one large matrix which can be saved as a spreadsheet. We do teach some SQL where I am but it’s a bit hard to know where to fit it into the curriculum.

      And, it would be absolutley brilliant if govt open data would feed directly into a political science database! Roll on open government data…

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