Princeton University Press Director Peter Dougherty Speaks at the Lunch and Salon Hosted by the Association of American University Presses at the Princeton Club of New York

November 29, 2012: Peter Dougherty and several other press directors discuss the accomplishments of University Presses and the future direction of books at the salon gathering entitled “What’s Next for Publishing? Rethinking the University Press.” Dougherty answwered questions from a group of journalists spectating at the event:

Several comments picked up on ideas from Dougherty’s July 23 article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled “The Global University Press.” As he wrote: “University presses can become an even larger and more influential force in the global theater of ideas by capitalizing on two converging trends: the growth of global scholarship and the expansion of digital communications networks.” Though university presses reach a smaller audience of readers, in difficult economic times and rapid technological change, they remain committed to their authors and, as Jordan said, will pursue the “new digital reader” and “champion the spirit of innovation.”

Click here to read the rest of the article on the official Publishers Weekly website: Panel Debates The Future of University Presses

Peter J. Dougherty was appointed Director of Princeton University Press at the March 2005 meeting of the Press’ board of trustees. “We sought an individual of broad editorial vision and were fortunate that the field of candidates was rich in such talents. Happily, however, we found Walter Lippincott’s successor right here at Princeton,” said W. Drake McFeely, chair of the Press’ board.

“Peter Dougherty has been instrumental in the Press’ success over the past 13 years,” he continued. “More than that, his 33 years of experience in publishing affords him a clear vision of how to build on Walter’s great achievements. I am delighted that he has agreed to lead the Press into its second century.”

McFeely, president and chair of W.W. Norton in New York, co-chaired the search committee with Princeton University Provost Christopher Eisgruber, who added, “Peter Dougherty will be a great leader for the Princeton University Press. He has distinguished himself as a brilliant editor of books about economics, and his list of authors and titles in that field is the envy of every other university press.

Read more about Princeton University Press Director, Peter Dougherty: Official Princeton University Press Website

More on the (Overblown?) Trouble With Campaign Advertising from John McGinnis

From our Elections and Technology blogger John O. McGinnis, author of Accelerating Democracy: Transforming Governance Through Technology, a further response to the many objections that people have to our our current campaign finance system. In last week’s post he discussed the various informational benefits to widespread campaign advertising. But does permissive advertising empower special interests? What about the potential for a lack of disclosure of expenditures? Read his follow-up here:

In my last post, I argued that spending substantial money for campaign advertisements is necessary to inform inattentive voters and that these advertisements can improve as the information about the results of policies improves through  the new technology described in my forthcoming book.

Opponents of freewheeling campaign advertisements by politicians and their supporters have raised three thoughtful concerns about the expenditures needed to support such a flood of communications.  First, many have worried about the lack of disclosure of such contributions and expenditures.  They are right to do so.  All campaign contributions and expenditures should be posted immediately and transparently on the internet so that the public can see who is supporting whom.   With new mechanisms of aggregating information, opponents can highlight the connections between contributions to a candidate by special interests and the special interest programs that he supports. Intriguingly, as I discuss in my book, there is some suggestion that special interest spending on campaigns is less effective than other spending. Better disclosure should make it still less influential.

But one still might be worried that a permissive advertising regime will empower special interests, because they will be the most capable of supporting politicians.  Of course, special interests cannot be defined as any interest with which one disagrees.  Special interests are best understood as groups that can use special mechanisms provided by the government to aggregate money for their narrow goals.  Labor unions and for-profit corporations are examples. The corporate and union form permits these organizations to use people’s funds without their express agreement for political purposes.

Nevertheless, the concern expressed by President Obama and others about for-profit corporation spending is overblown. Corporations are forbidden from giving to candidates directly and despite the recent Supreme Court decision permitting independent expenditures by corporations, for-profit companies do not spend much money for independent expenditures on and behalf of candidates. Presumably, they do not want to alienate possible customers and employees.

The vast majority of corporate spending on campaigns is by non-profits. Non-profit corporations- so-call SuperPACs– generally represent like-minded individuals banding together to expressly pursue some social vision though political speech.  They are not presumptively special interests any more than are politicians themselves.  Like advertisements by politicians, advertisements directed by groups of citizens can provide valuable information about candidates and the policies they support. They have the additional advantage that they sometimes inject information into the campaign that neither candidate would provide.

One way of weakening the influence of special interests is to empower individuals to give more than they are now permitted to do so under our campaign finance laws. If individuals could give more, special interest spending would become a smaller percentage of campaign spending. The current $2, 500 ceiling for contributions to candidates in federal elections could be increased by four or even eightfold without any serious danger of corruption so long as contributions are disclosed.

But one might be concerned that the citizens who contribute to candidates and SuperPACs are richer on average than other citizens, thus skewing politics toward the wealthy. This is the most serious concern about permitting private money to finance politics. But we must compare its consequences with the alternatives.  The wealthy have a wide variety of views. In the last election people with incomes over $250,00  a year favored Obama, not McCain, although the former promised to  raise their taxes. This diversity of views flows from the nature of a market economy. New businesses are always arising and with them people who have different backgrounds, material interests and social visions.  Silicon Valley has a fundamentally different culture from Detroit.

Moreover, if one constrains donations by the wealthy to rent the media to propagate their views, insiders who own or who have otherwise more access to the media will then gain disproportionate influence.  Journalists, entertainers, and academics lean much more strongly to one side of the political spectrum than do the wealthy.  And since their work is less variegated than that in the business sector, we are also likely to get less varied perspectives as a result.  In Britain with limitations on campaign expenditures, politicians spend a lot of time currying favor with press barons, like Rupert Murdoch.

The best way to address concern about inequality is to give a tax credit to people of more modest incomes to encourage their contributions to parties or candidates. That program is likely to expand the amount of information in the campaign season rather than contract it, as would restrictions on independent expenditures or more severe limitations on contributions or expenditures. Such tax credits would be a cost to society, but as we gain more and more probative information about policy through putting politics in the domain of computation, it is rational to spend more money to help that information reach voters.  Because the decisions government makes affects us all,  money to help voters make wiser decisions is money well spent.

John O. McGinnis is the George C. Dix Professor of Constitutional Law at Northwestern University.

Are Campaign Ads Worth the Money?

Candidates spend daunting amounts of money getting out their message, with tens of millions invested in campaign advertisements alone. This year, even the Olympics were peppered with political ads, amid questions of whether all this advertising is ethical or even effective. While it’s standard to hear criticism of the money spent on extravagant promotions, John McGinnis, author of Accelerating Democracy, has some thoughts on the important informational benefits to our current campaign finance system. Read his post here:


Are Campaign Ads Worth the Money?

John McGinnis


It’s the campaign season and with it come the perennial complaints that there is too much money spent on politics, particularly on campaign advertisements. I am skeptical about this claim. Just as democracy is said to be the worst system except all the others, so a structure where candidates and groups can spend large sums to make their positions and that of their opponents known is the worse system of campaigning except for all the others.  In particular, it represents the only system we have for getting information about which candidates support which policies to the many voters who do not focus on politics except at election time and even then are hard to reach.

My book argues that democracy should take advantage of the computational revolution to improve information about policy results. Thus, a system of governance that promotes empirical testing of policies, prediction markets, and dispersed media on the internet, like blogs, can all help us better understand the likely consequences of policy and improve political choices. But to make the most difference, this information must get to voters at the election time.  But many voters are inattentive, particularly in a world that offers far more interesting distractions than politics. It is fact that very little money is spent on political advertising compared to advertising for material goods or for entertainment. Political advertisements must be numerous enough to break through a cacophony of nonpolitical information and that volume requires substantial funds to sustain.

Campaigns  and their advertising outreach are still the best way of reaching voters who mostly disregard politics.  Politicians and their supporters have incentives to inform them about the relevant policies and their consequences. To be sure, they will do so in a biased manner, but their opponents have incentives to correct them and they frequently do, running advertisements that show newspaper articles that debunk false claims. Sadly, the alternative to campaign advertisements is not a policy seminar but a beer commercial.

In my book I discuss the evidence that political advertisements make people better informed about candidates’ positions on policy.  Better information about policy consequences will not have much effect on voters if it cannot be connected to candidates’ positions on policies.  Political advertisements also directly address policy consequences, such as the state of the economy and its relation to policy. To be sure, they do so in a very rudimentary way, but these messages can be improved as the knowledge about likely the consequences of policies improve.    If empiricism and prediction markets can better evaluate policy results, political advertisements will focus on them more.  A President will be eager to tout that a market’s prediction that his election will lead to more economic growth than his opponent. A mayor will want to make it known that his school program has improved educational outcomes, according to the best empirical studies.   But campaign spending will still be necessary to convey this information by cutting through the clutter of nonpolitical information.

In my next post, I will address three possible downsides of permitting ample private money to pay for political advertisements—lack of disclosure, spending by special interests, and the excessive influence of the wealthy.


John O. McGinnis is the George C. Dix Professor of Constitutional Law at Northwestern University.


McDaniel College is reading Delete

Well, at least, the class of 2016 is. We were incredibly pleased to learn that the suggested freshmen reading for the incoming class at McDaniel College is Viktor Mayer-Schönberger’s rumination on the role of memory and forgetting in technology, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age.

As the Class of 2016 blog post announcing this reading program notes:

“Digital memory is never truly forgotten. Unlike faulty human memories that tend to lose the mundane in preference for the rare spectacular event, social networks keep a perpetual record of the everyday. A digital photo of your most unfortunate hairstyle, once posted to Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Tumblr can essentially live forever, replicating itself perfectly in their server farms long after you have forgotten.”

The plan is to read the book and take up these themes throughout the year in various activities. To kick things off, the students have assembled two video trailers:

Nice work!

Reinventing Discovery reviews abound

A video book review of Michael Nielsen’s Reinventing Discovery:

And if you’re more into print, here’s a review in Australia’s Inside Story magazine.

If those pique your interest, try reading this free chapter from Reinventing Discovery.

Einstein Online

Jerusalem’s Hebrew University announced yesterday that it will be launching a new public website in conjunction with the efforts of the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology to make the entirety of Einstein’s writings available online.  The CNN blog Light Years provides additional details.  Princeton University Press and the Einstein Papers Project have so far published twelve volumes of Einstein’s writing and this new public website will unite the efforts.

Very exciting stuff for relativity fans.  Check out the Einstein Archives Online and the 2,000 documents currently offered to the public.  There should be close to 30,000 available this time next year!

Can’t get enough Einstein?  Check out more highlights in Einstein Before Israel and The Ultimate Quotable Einstein available now.




Bill Cook launches companion app to book In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman

Twenty-four years ago a 2,392-city example of the TSP was solved in a 23-hour run on a super computer to set a new world record. This same problem now solves in 7 minutes on an iPhone 4 thanks to a free app: Concorde TSP Solver!

Press release for Concorde TSP Solver:

Bill Cook, author of In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman, has just launched a FREE app in the iTunes store called CONCORDE TSP SOLVER. The app allows users to plot TSP routes for an uploaded list of cities or any number of random cities.

The CONCORDE TSP SOLVER app is a powerful display of the potential to solve on mobile devices large examples of even the most difficult computational problems. This makes it an ideal tool for understanding and teaching the mathematics behind the most successful line-of-attack on the salesman problem. The colorful graphics show step-by-step how a tool called linear programming zeros in on the optimal route to visit a displayed collection of cities.

CONCORDE TSP SOLVER is a great companion to Cook’s book In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman for general readers and mathematics students alike.

Some early reviews from Twitter:

@CompSciFact (2/5/12)
“We have an embarrassment of computational riches when we can solve traveling salesmen problems on a phone.”

@misterbrash (2/5/12)
“This unravels by University degree and hurts my brain! Solve traveling salesman problem(s) on your iPhone. In seconds.”

@ehtayer (2/5/12)
“Computational life is lush: traveling salesman app.”

@miketrick (2/4/11)
“Touring lots of cities? There’s an app for that! Amazing work by @wjcook and gang.”

SPARC honors Michael Nielsen as an Innovator of 2012

In a press release posted online this week (, SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), lauded Michael Nielsen’s work “for bringing Open Science into the mainstream,” and added him to a prestigious list of SPARC Innovators.

The timing for this announcement couldn’t be better as the ScienceOnline conference is set to get underway tomorrow and Michael was featured in a New York Times article by Thomas Lin yesterday.

SPARC cites Michael’s popularization of Open Science–in particular his hefty tour schedule of 2011 and his book Reinventing Discovery–in their announcement. They also have a wonderful profile with comments from SPARC Executive Director Heather Joseph, Melissa Hagemann from the Open Society Foundations, biochemist Cameron Neylon, and John Dupuis, the head of the Steacie Science and Engineering Library at York University (the blogger behind Confessions of a Science Librarian).

Princeton University Press is happy to join in with congratulations to Michael on this tremendous honor!

Enjoy this video from John MacCormick, author of Nine Algorithms that Changed the Future

The video embed code from YouTube doesn’t seem to be working right so here is the link to the site:

In his new book, MacCormick identifies the most amazing “tricks” our computers perform — things like encryption, compression, searches — thanks to algorithms. Of course, as with any “list”, there simply isn’t enough room to include every possible algorithm, so sound off below on which algorithms are the most pivotal, creative, or useful in our PCs and hand-held devices.

David Alan Grier: new president of the IEEE Computer Society

David Alan Grier, author of When Computers Were Human, a book which tells the story of a no-so-distant time in which “computers” were actually people, has been elected by the IEEE Computer Society membership as the 2013 President.

With nearly 85,000 members, the IEEE Computer Society is the world’s leading organization of computing professionals.  The largest of the 39 societies of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Computer Society is dedicated to advancing the theory and application of computer and information-processing technology, and is known globally for its computing standards activities.

Grier’s book was recently praised in the Atlantic Monthly:

When Computers Were Human is a detailed and fascinating look at a world I had not even known existed. After reading these accounts of ingenuity, determination, and true creative breakthrough, readers will look at today’s computer-based society in an entirely different way.

–James Fallows

“The Silicon Jungle” reviewed by Significance Magazine, mentioned by the Financial Times

Shumeet Baluja’s novel The Silicon Jungle has received some exciting press this month. Claire Packham’s review at Significance Magazine offers a brief overview of the book, praising Baluja’s accessible approach to the importance of data protection on the internet:

The fundamental point [of the novel] remains clear – that the internet contains a wealth of information on almost every aspect of every part of the lives of a vast proportion of the world’s population. This is a level of personal information that has never before been available, and the potential, either for good or for bad, is endless.

In the Financial Times, contributing editor John Lloyd explores the mysterious world of cyber-hacking and “cybercrime” and questions why these issues are largely untroubling to the collective, “public” imagination of Americans. He mentions The Silicon Jungle as one of the only modern cybercrime novels, praising how Baluja dramatizes the issue:

Baluja illustrates well the obsessive nature of advanced internet work, where the huge banks of information to which Ubatoo/Google has access can be manipulated to produce intimate profiles on almost everything and everyone.

Lloyd, like Packham, is concerned about what books like The Silicon Jungle suggest: that the masses of information available on the internet will soon be used against us. As he quotes from the novel’s preface:

It is important to remind ourselves that the technology, policies and sheer enormity of the amount of personal detail amassed about all of us is new. It’s breathtaking. It’s unexpected. All of us, those who are being watched and those who are watching us are, quite literally, in uncharted territory.

Click here to read the full article in the Financial Times

And the full review in Significance Magazine

Reinventing Discovery reviewed in Nature Physics

Reinventing Discovery by Michael Nielsen is just shipping to stores this week, so the timing couldn’t be better for this terrific review in Nature Physics from Timo Hannay. The first paragraph does a great job of laying out the big picture of the book:

Like so many fields of human activity, science is in the midst of a digital revolution. Yet the changes we have seen so far are no more than a prelude, with much bigger ones still to come. Researchers have generally been slow to embrace new technologies and practices, and this new era of networked science will only reach its potential when it becomes more open, necessitating new incentive structures and a culture of openness throughout research. Those, in short, are Michael Nielsen’s messages. His stated aim is to encourage this transition by “lighting an almighty fire under the scientific community” to inspire “a second open science revolution”. For although this book is ostensibly about science in the Internet age, it is equally a manifesto for openness in research. Is he right, and will he succeed? In my opinion, yes and maybe.

Click through to read the complete article – it is free online until November 1.