About

I’m a unique person, for better and for worse.  I like data analysis and trying to understand human behavior (sometimes in vain).  I also like my brain and learning new things, though I feel like neither is being utilized effectively at the moment.  I have too many degrees.  You can learn more about me by reading my short resume or full-length academic CV or checking out my minimal online presence here and at LinkedIn.

un·re·fined

  1. not processed to remove impurities or unwanted elements.  unprocessed, untreated, crude, raw, natural, unprepared, unfinished
  2. (of a person or their behavior) not elegant or cultured.  uncultured, uncultivated, uncivilized, uneducated, unsophisticated; boorish, lumpen, oafish, loutish, coarse, vulgar, rude, rough, uncouth

Everything you never cared to know about this site, author, the name, and lots more.

I will continue to edit and update things until I am happy with them.  I’ve decided to start using this site more openly, so it’s worth adding some details here.

First, why “unrefined economist,” you probably are not asking yourself?  I should start by saying that I’m a fan of dual-meanings and the like, which means there are a few ways to interpret the name.  Some thoughtful, some not so thoughtful.

I sometimes like explaining things with examples, so I’ll use one from someone else.  I’ve been a fan of Rob Lind’s (a.k.a. White Trash Rob’s) music for a long time, starting many years ago with Blood for Blood.  He started regularly posting videos on Youtube and calls them “Nodcasts.”  He explained the name and the dual-meanings once.  The obvious one, for anyone familiar with him or his music, is that he was doing heroin for a bit in the past, hence the nod to “nodding off” (sorry for the bad pun, but I had to take the opportunity).  The other one is that it refers to the Biblical land of Nod, where Cain was exiled after murdering Abel.  If you know his music, you’ve immediately thought of “Livin’ in Exile.”  If you don’t know his music, enjoy…

Back to the original topic… why “unrefined economist.”  Well, we might as well just ask why “unrefined”?

  1. A simple interpretation is that some may think I am “not elegant or cultured” or that I am rough around the edges.  It may be true, but let’s call this the self-effacing interpretation.
  2. I have been known to use certain naughty words on occasion.  So, you know, there’s that.  I prefer to communicate effectively, which often means using the common vernacular.  Or maybe that’s just my excuse for being uncultured swine.
  3. Digging a bit deeper, though, the term reflects a large amount of frustration I have towards the way “science” is done these days, which emphasizes style over substance.  I prefer the substance.  I understand that reporters and mainstream presentation of science needs to focus on style so that the content is simply and effectively conveyed to a larger audience (including the indirect funders of much academic research, taxpayers).  As someone now transitioning to applied research in industry and government type jobs, I see the need for both substance and style (such as story-telling to convey information).  However, I’ve seen lots of good research be published in “crap” journals and lots of terrible crap get published in “good” journals because of a cute story.  By itself, I wouldn’t care, but it is part of a wider trend, such as the expectation by funding agencies that researchers become bloggers, give TED Talks, and join the Twitterati.  (Is Twitterati a term?  Probably so, and I’m just out of touch.)  Public relations experts exist for a reason, and I don’t see why scientific researchers are expected to be PR people.  Do we expect PR people to be scientists?  Maybe this is just my inner-economist coming out, but the concept of division-of-labor exists for good reasons.
  4. Building on the previous meaning a bit more, my use of “unrefined” is similar to the idea of my approach is “like watching sausage being made” in the sense that I care about the details.  I want to know your assumptions.  I want to know your model.  I want to know what empirical method(s) you used.  I want to know if your findings are robust (because you could have just searched for the one specification that gave you p<0.05).  THESE THINGS MATTER!  They don’t – and shouldn’t – matter to most people.  But they damn well should matter to the ones doing the research and data analysis.  And if you’re trusting those people to recommend good business decisions or government policies, then those things should matter to you, albeit indirectly.