M.Phil results

This afternoon, after my final meeting with Dr. Hurrell, I got back one copy of my thesis and my grades for the M.Phil:

To put those in perspective, have a look at the scale of marks. The thesis grade is a bit of a disappointment, especially considering how I expended well over one hundred times more effort on the thesis than on the exams. I only began serious exam revision after getting back from the Lake District on June 3rd. Based on the very crude method of taking the mean of the five grades, I got 70.2 overall.

Since the thesis is now publicly available in the Bodleian, it seems appropriate to make it publicly available online as well: Expertise and Legitimacy: The Role of Science in Global Environmental Policy-Making.This version has about two dozen minor errors corrected. If you find more, please let me know and I will make the appropriate changes in the electronic version.


This afternoon, my mother kindly passed along a list of 28 minor spelling and grammatical errors in my thesis. Curiously, there seems to be an direct correlation between the number of people who read a particular chapter and the number of errors. The same goes for the length of time that passed between writing and submission. 25 of the 28 errors are in the three chapters for which Dr. Hurrell gave me comprehensive feedback.

  • Chapter 1: 8 errors
  • Chapter 2: 9 errors
  • Chapter 3: 8 errors
  • Chapter 4: 1 error
  • Chapter 5: 2 errors

Chapter two was the single most edited of the lot, with 25 major revisions prior to the one submitted. This seems to confirm the Law of Editing: “For each correction or clarification made, an equal and opposite error will be inadvertently introduced.”

Since the thesis is 30,000 words long, the version that will reside in the Bodleian has about one error per thousand words. The PDF that I will put online once the thesis has been graded will be better, and probably more widely consulted. For those with access to the appropriate restricted pages on the wiki, the corrected version has been uploaded.

Wadham climate change discussion

Today’s Wadham Research Forum on climate change was very interesting, despite how all the ideas expressed were fairly familiar. The extent to which the points highlighted are the same as those in my thesis is both encouraging and dispiriting. It suggests that I have not missed the mark completely, but also that I may not have contributed anything terrible novel. Of course, there is a good chance that the key issues to be considered are obvious enough, and that it is the approaches taken that generate the value of a particular assessment.

and in the darkness bind them

My printing graph clearly applies to a great many circumstances. Having finished my thesis last night, I could not print it in Wadham because their printer was broken. I couldn’t print it in St. Antony’s because every scrap of paper had been used by other people scrambling to finish their own theses.

No problem, I thought, Temple Bookbinders says on their website that “photocopying service from disk or proof is also available.” As it turns out, the website is inaccurate in this regard. The nearest place that could print it was “around the corner,” by about a mile and a half. There, my thesis was printed at the rate of one page every 23 seconds (I timed it). For the 222 pages of black and white printing, they charged me £16 ($36 Canadian). The thesis will be bound and ready to be picked up at 11:00am tomorrow.

On the plus side, I did manage to see the Headington shark house.

[Update: 5:00pm] I have returned my thesis books to their various libraries of origin, re-filed the books I own into my normal non-fiction classification system, and put my box of thesis related articles out of sight.

Ironing out final wrinkles

The thesis is made of coffee

Turns out it’s a good thing I printed off a draft thesis to scrutinize: a significant number of little typographical and grammatical errors were there to be found. Many of them, it seems, were actually introduced during the previous round of revision, especially in places where I was converting passive sentences into active ones. Somehow, I seem to have lost dozens of connector words like ‘the’ and ‘for.’ They are being systematically re-introduced.

Tomorrow morning, I am joining a convoy of fellow M.Phil in IR students cycling to Headington where – it is promised – there is a printer who can produce hardbound copies of our theses for less than £30 a copy, ready in time to be submitted on Monday. I wanted to have it done for tomorrow, but I found out today that having a copy prepared for tomorrow would be absurdly expensive: more than £50 a copy. Even £30 seems pretty steep. After all, we are talking about two pieces of cardboard, some plastic, and a few minutes of labour. I suppose the print shops here have a captive audience to exploit.

[Update: 1:00am] The thing is now in its final digital format. In eight hours, I am cycling over to Headington to have it printed and bound. I would print it myself, but I have no access to a printer that is (a) not broken and (b) stocked with paper.

This thesis is carbon neutral

Thanks to a gift from my mother, I have been able to add the following to the opening section of my thesis:

This thesis, which generated about six tonnes of carbon dioxide from flights, paper production, printing, heating, and electricity usage has been carbon-neutralized through NativeEnergy. This was done by capturing methane from an American farm.

Six tonnes should cover my personal energy usage, as well as flights to and from Vancouver and emissions associated with printing the thesis. I have also included an estimate for my share of the power used by the server hosting this site. Methane is twenty-one times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2 and livestock agriculture produces about 18% of global emissions (discussed earlier).

The majority of NativeEnergy is owned by the The Intertribal Council On Utility Policy: a not-for-profit council of federally recognized Indian tribes in North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, with affiliates throughout the northern Great Plains. The gift is much appreciated.

While I realize that carbon offsets are not a viable mechanism to deal with the whole problem of climate change, they are a good way to make a statement about the issue, as well as avoid charges of hypocrisy when expending energy on climate research or advocacy. They have been discussed here before.


Thesis books

Somehow, no language can express the concept of ‘thesis struggle’ quite so well as German can: a fact that is evident even to those who don’t speak a word of it. If I could use twenty character compound words at will, the word limit would be less of a concern. As it stands, I am trying to figure out ways to reduce the number of words used up in footnotes. The incentives created by including them in the count are quite perverse: I am removing useful little bits of additional information, as well as reformatting citations into forms that will be more difficult for the examiners to deal with.

I look forward to being interesting again. That is to say, having the time and brainpower to write about anything other than the thesis.

PS. Looking for something new to read about? Try the island of Gukanjima, near Japan. Once a coal mining centre and the most densely populated urban space on earth in 1959, it is now totally abandoned. Have a look at this short documentary or this history, more detailed than the one in the Wikipedia entry.

Nearly at the end of the line

Thesis draft

While distant forests shrieked at me from afar this afternoon, I printed off a copy of the most recent versions of my three substantive chapters and reviewed them in the Wadham Library. As much as I am used to spending ten hours of more watching words glow on an LCD display, editing only seems to reach its full potential when there are things to be crossed out, big arrows to be drawn, and incisive notes to be written with the margins.

Generally, I am quite happy with what is written. Things are not arranged or argued in quite the waythey would be if I started over now, but the major themes that arose from my research are reasonably well articulated. As has been the case for the past week, the biggest task remaining is the relocation of some bits of what has already been written and the filling in of some gaps.

I may even be able to attend the thesis-completion barbecue that some members of my program are holding on Friday evening.

Printing in 4-6 days

Bridge beside the Port Meadow, Oxford

On Friday the 20th, I may head into London to get my thesis bound. The print shops there seem to be significantly faster and cheaper than those in Oxford. They are also likely to be somewhat less busy, given how significant a share of the Oxford graduate population seems to have materials to submit by noon on the 23rd. Whereas the print shop next to Wadham College needs two days and wants to charge almost £90 for two hard-bound copies, I have found a shop in London that will do so for £44 in two days, £64 in one day, and £84 in just five hours.

I am also not sure whether I should print the thesis myself or have the shop do it. Wadham charges 5p a page for printing. The print quality is pretty good, though the paper they provide is quite yellow and of poor quality. I could bring my own, but that would probably make the cost comparable to just having the print centre do it. One advantage of doing it myself would be the ability to better ensure that everything was printed properly and in the correct order.

In any case, by Thursday I should be completing my final tasks: getting the page numbers of each chapter to start at the right position, compiling the aggregated bibliography, filling in page numbers in the table of contents, and making sure all the citations are in place. I will probably print each chapter to PDF using Mac OS (thus embedding my chosen font) and then find a full copy of Acrobat somewhere, for use in stitching them together into one file. By tonight, I will be happy if I have filled in the gaps that remain in chapters three and four.