So here is a list of side projects--two lone wolf, two collaborative--that I hope to finish during downtime.
1. the tragedy of hawkish altruism
I've developed a mathematical model to analyze the conditions when group selection can increase within-group aggression beyond an individually optimal level toward a higher group level optimum when the byproduct of within-group aggression is better performance in inter-group contests. The model is cool for two reasons. First, it flies in the face of a growing fallacy--fueled by mathematical proofs that group selection can in some cases lead to within-group altruism--that group selection is something that leads to socially desirable outcomes. Jung Kyoo Choi and Sam Bowles and others have already argued that group selection can promote inter-group warfare. I'll argue that group selection can promote people being shitty to their brothers in arms.
2. the joker effect?
A while ago, some people published an article in the Journal of Theoretical Biology showing that the presence of destructive individuals can promote cooperation in a voluntary public goods game. I submitted a short letter outlining some reasons why the published model doesn't present a strong solution to the collective action problem. The reviewers didn't like the letter, to say the least, and I cried into my academic pillow before resolving that I'm still worth a damn. I'm still convinced I am right and am going to resubmit the letter as a full article, addressing all of the reviewers concerns and improving the paper greatly.
3. human-environment interaction
I've been collaborating with a sociologist, a public affairs researcher, and a geographer. We are comparing the explanatory power of different measures of environmental quality when predicting rural-to-urban and urban-to-rural migration in Nang Rong, Thailand. We're using a pretty unique, very large, truly longitudinal migration history dataset, and developing some sophisticated statistical tools to tackle the problem.
My colleagues will present the first paper associated with this project at the Population Association of America meetings this year. This project has a lot of potential. We're assessing the predictive value of easy-to-obtain, global scale environmental measures (El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation events), versus local scale remote sensing data measuring plant health from light reflectance, which requires several steps of time-expensive processing.
We're using high-level signal processing methods to find environmental measures that match the rules of thumb people use when making difficult decision about where they should live. Anyway, I want to help my colleagues finish this paper and others we've got in the works, to the best of abilities.
4. Parental Investment Vignette Project
Dr. Geoff Kushnik has designed a clever experiment meant to highlight the factors that influence mothers' decisions about the tradeoffs they face when investing in their children. He wants to make this project cross-cultural. And I want to help him do that. Plus it will be pretty easy to get the n of 40 women necessary to participate.