Understanding meritocracy

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


In today’s edition of TODAY, there was an article contribution by Mr Pravin Prakash from the Department of Political Science at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on meritocracy in Singapore. He opined that it is important that we identify meritocracy as a principle rather than a system of government because making this distinction allows us to examine the various facets of the system without attributing all of it to meritocracy. He noted that the system of governance needs to evolve beyond meritocracy to address inequality to a greater degree than before.

Click here to read the full article.

4 faculty members recognised as Provost’s Chair Professors

The Faculty is pleased to announce that the following faculty members have been appointed as Provost’s Chairs, in recognition of their outstanding and impactful scholarly accomplishments, which are internationally acknowledged.  The Faculty looks forward to their continued leadership and successful contributions to the growing international profile and standing of the University:

  • Professor Chew Soo Hong, Department of Economics
  • Professor Mohan Dutta, Head, Department of Communications and New Media
  • Professor Theodore (Ted) Hopf, Department of Political Science
  • Professor David Taylor, Department of Geography  

FASS Panel Discussion: Publishing Your First Journal Article (Social Sciences Session)

The FASS Graduate Studies Division organised a panel discussion specially catered for FASS graduate students to provide guidance on the writing and publishing of journal articles. Held on 22 April 2014, the seminar, chaired by Associate Professor Bruce Lockhart, Assistant Dean (Graduate Studies), drew on the expertise of three academics who have been extensively involved with journal editorship.  The panellists were Prof Neil Coe from the Department of Geography, A/P Vineeta Sinha from the Department of Sociology & South Asian Studies Programme and A/P William Bain from the Department of Political Science.

Apart from clarifying on the expectations of academic journals and providing advice to students on the publication strategies from an “insider perspective”, the panellists also shared their own experiences submitting their very first journal article.  Among other points:

  • A/P William Bain highlighted the importance of choosing the right journal by thinking clearly through aspects such as what the article is about and who you want your audience to be, and matching it with a journal’s editorial policy and mission, including the type of articles it prefers to publish in terms of methodology.  A mismatch simply wastes time.  He also advised students to seek advice from faculty members.  In addition, he noted the importance of taking time (about a week) to reflect on referees’ comments before dealing with them.
  • A/P Vineeta Sinha reflected on the need for and logic of publishing.  While acknowledging that publishing is part of ‘playing the game’, it is crucial to formulate strong ideas and present evidence to make a tight argument.  In terms of knowledge dissemination, she raised the issues of the language of publication (e.g. is it always necessary to publish in English?) and journal rankings (e.g. should one always select “international” over “regional” journals?).  Like A/P Bain, she reiterated the need to respond with respect to referees’ comments, and appreciate the fact that someone has taken time to read your work seriously.
  • Prof Neil Coe emphasised that first impressions count, hence the quality of writing is especially critical.  The abstract and introduction of a manuscript needs to be presented crisply, and clearly position the paper in the current debates.  He also alerted the audience to the path-dependency of converting one’s thesis into publications and the importance of considering one’s publication strategy holistically.  He also provided a valuable insider’s tip: that some journals are more supportive of early career academics.

The seminar ended with a Q&A session and tokens of appreciation presented to the panellists by A/P Shirlena Huang (Vice Dean, Graduate Studies).  Based on the feedback, the session was generally well-received, with students finding the panellists’ sharing of personal experiences and advice both practical and insightful.  They also appreciated that the session provided an excellent overview of publication strategies and pitfalls.  The majority now feel better equipped to tackle their first publication, and look forward to more sessions on publishing.

 Panel Discussion 1

A great turnout for the seminar

Panel Discussion 2

Happy students after a fruitful session

Panel Discussion 3

A Group Photo for Remembrance (L to R): Professor Neil Coe, A/P Shirlena Huang, A/P Vineeta Sinha, A/P William Bain and A/P Bruce Lockhart.

Odds are that gambling’s a genetic trait, study shows

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

 The Straits Times

 It was reported that a study by Professor Chew Soo Hong from NUS’ Department of Economics and Professor Richard Ebstein from NUS’ Department of Psychology and their collaborators from University of California, Berkeley and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that strategic decisions made in a competitive betting game were influenced by five genes that regulate dopamine, a chemical released in the brain that signals pleasure and motivates people to seek rewards. The study revealed how people have hardwired biases in decision-making and strategic thinking that can impact business decisions. The findings were published on 16 June in the online edition of the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Precarious jobs, precarious living in South-east Asia

Thursday, 12 June 2014

 The Straits Times

In today’s edition of The Straits Times, there was an article contribution by Professor Jonathan Rigg from the Department of Geography at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Citing the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness report last September and a report by the International Labour Organisation in 1972, Prof Rigg pointed out that employment data has indicated that in the modernising economies of South-east Asia, the formal work sector has become increasingly casual, flexible, outsourced, unregulated, non-unionised and contract based. It has, in short, become more informalised. He added that the economies are thus becoming both more formal and more informal and mentioned Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam as examples. He also highlighted that the pressures of global competition have forced companies to be more agile and this has had real implications for workers in terms of job security and workplace conditions.

Click here to read the article.


Write way to mark nation’s 50th birthday

Wednesday, 11th June 2014

The Straits Times

In today’s edition of The Straits Times, it was reported that the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), a think-tank within the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, will be launching “The Singapore Chronicles”, comprising 50 books, to mark the nation’s golden jubilee next year. The series will help Singaporeans deepen their understanding of the nation’s journey from fishing village to global city.

IPS Special Research Adviser Mr Arun Mahizhnan is one of two editors of the project. So far, 47 books have been commissioned. Writers for the books include Professor Chan Heng Chee, Ambassador-at-large and also a member of NUS Board of Trustees, who will give a broad view of political developments; Mr Janadas Devan, IPS Director, who will write on Singapore’s separation from Malaysia; Professor Chua Beng Huat, Department of Sociology at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, who will explore Singapore’s policies in managing different cultures; and Mr N Sivasothi, Department of Biological Sciences at NUS Faulty of Science, who will write on Singapore’s ecological development to showcase the country as a petri dish for Southeast Asia.

In new textbook, story of Singapore begins 500 years earlier

Wednesday, 11th June 2014

New York Times

The article reports on Singapore’s decision to rewrite its history by backdating 500 years, focusing more on Singapore’s origin and her connections to the world rather than how she was stumbled upon by Sir Stamford Raffles, a British colonial administrator. The revision of history was guided by John N. Miksic, an American Archaeology Professor at National University of Singapore, who advised the government on the new text, “Singapore: The Making of a Nation-State, 1330-1975”. This aims to bring about different changes, particularly, altering the mindsets’ of Singaporeans on migration and to bring about a smoother transition and cooperation amongst the people living in Singapore.

To find out more on the article, click here.


5th University Scholars Leadership Symposium 2014

Invitation to the 5th University Scholars Leadership Symposium 2014 in Phnom Penh – Cambodia (1-7 August 2014)

Organised by Humanitarian Affairs UK, in partnership with
the Royal Government of Cambodia

The Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, His Excellency, Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, invites students from all over the world to the Phnom Penh Symposium 2014. The symposium will include training sessions on leadership and communication, project management and implementation. Three CNN Heroes of the Year : Chad Pregracke (CNN Hero of the Year, 2013), Pushpa Basnet (CNN Hero of the Year, 2012), Robin Lim (CNN Hero of the Year, 2011), will share their experiences with the 1,000 delegates. Other professional motivational trainers will inspire the delegates to take concrete action over their lives.

For more information, you can go to: http://www.universityscholars.org.uk/
or visit: https://www.facebook.com/UniScholars.

Most neighbours just say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Sunday Times

In Sunday’s edition of The Sunday Times, it was reported that study findings released by the Centre of Sustainable Asian Cities at NUS, the Department of Sociology at NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Housing Development Board (HDB) showed that displays of trust, such as looking after house keys or lending and borrowing items, are seldom heard of in HDB estates. Residents’ interactions also tend to be incidental and minimal. The year-long study, which surveyed about 2,200 residents in five HDB towns, was to find out how design and amenities have contributed to interaction among residents

To find out more on the article, click here.