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Contributions to the History of Concepts is the international peer-reviewed journal of the History of Concepts Group (formerly HPSCG). It is hosted and sponsored by the University of Helsinki Centre for Intellectual History .

The journal serves as a platform for theoretical and methodological articles as well as empirical studies on the history of concepts and their social, political, and cultural contexts. It aims to promote the dialogue between the history of concepts and other disciplines, such as intellectual history, history of knowledge and science, linguistics, translation studies, history of political thought and discourse analysis.

Contributions to the History of Concepts is now available on JSTOR!

Subjects: history of ideas, history of ideology, intellectual history, linguistics, political science, political theory

Time Bandits, Historians, and Concepts of Bad Times Jan Ifversen

Time Bandits, Historians, and Concepts of Bad Times

Crisis? How Is That a Crisis?! Reflections on an Overburdened Word Michael Freeden

Crisis? How Is That a Crisis?! Reflections on an Overburdened Word

The Making of a Fundamental Value: A History of the Concept of Separation of Church and State in the Netherlands Mart Rutjes

The Making of a Fundamental Value: A History of the Concept of Separation of Church and State in the Netherlands

On Counterrevolution: Semantic Investigations of a Counterconcept during the French Revolution Friedemann Pestel

On Counterrevolution: Semantic Investigations of a Counterconcept during the French Revolution

Appropriations and Contestations of the Islamic Nomenclature in Muslim North India: Elitism, Lexicography, and the Meaning of the Political Jan-Peter Hartung

Appropriations and Contestations of the Islamic Nomenclature in Muslim North India: Elitism, Lexicography, and the Meaning of the Political

Citizens, Nationals, Subjects? A review of Lauren Banko, The Invention of Palestinian Citizenship, 1918–1947 Anna Björk

Citizens, Nationals, Subjects?

Negotiating Modernity: The Entanglement of Political Thought in the Nineteenth Century A review of Balázs Trencsényi, Maciej Janowski, Mónika Baár, Maria Falina, and Michal Kope?ek, A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe, Volume I: Negotiating Modernity in the “Long Nineteenth Century” Gregor Feindt

Negotiating Modernity: The Entanglement of Political Thought in the Nineteenth Century

Among the Pyramids A review of Ernst Müller and Falko Schmieder, Begriffsgeschichte und historische Semantik: Ein kritisches Kompendium Theo Jung

Time.com

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science

Taking "field notes," whether your field is a sales floor or unchartered wilderness, makes everyday observation more scientific

By Annie Murphy Paul @anniemurphypaul May 02, 2012

A "Tree of Life" sketch is seen in Darwin's "B" notebook at the "Darwin" exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in 2005.

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Many of science’s most important breakthroughs, from the discovery of microorganisms to the theory of evolution, have come about through observation. The scientist’s gaze is clearly a powerful tool for making sense of how the world works. But it is not the same as “everyday observation,” as Catherine Eberbach and Kevin Crowley call the kind of casual looking done by those of us who don’t wear lab coats. “Seeing is not observing,” the University of Pittsburgh researchers point out. As practiced by scientists, observation is a rigorous activity that integrates what the scientists are seeing with what they already know and what they think might be true. In an article published in the journal Review of Educational Research , Eberbach and Crowley lay out the differences between expert observation and “just looking” — with the aim of helping the rest of us observe the way scientists do.

(MORE : Brilliant: Why Floundering is Good )

First, scientists train their attention, learning to focus on relevant features and disregard those that are less salient. One of the best ways to do this is through the old-fashioned practice of taking field notes: writing descriptions and drawing pictures of what you see. “When you’re sketching something, you have to choose which marks to make on the page,” says Michael Canfield, a Harvard University entomologist and editor of the recent book Field Notes on Science and Nature . “It forces you to make decisions about what’s important and what’s not.” Keeping a field notebook — whether the “field” under observation is a sales floor, a conference room, or the garden in your own backyard — makes everyday observation more scientific in another way: Scientists keep careful records of their observations, quantifying them whenever possible. Try attaching a number to each episode you observe: how many times a customer picks up an item before deciding to buy it, how many minutes employees spend talking about office politics before getting down to business.

( MORE: Brilliant: Learning Can Be Passive )

While casual observers simply sit back and watch what unfolds, scientific observers come up with hypotheses that they can test. What happens if a salesperson invites a potential customer to try out a product for herself? How does the tone of the weekly meeting change when it’s held in a different room? Scientists actively engage with their perceptions in another way: they organize and analyze what they’ve seen after the observation session is over. (Even Charles Darwin didn’t realize that the famous finches of the Galapagos Islands were varied but related members of the same species until he returned to England and began working out his theory of natural selection.) The skills sharpened by such extended reflection are especially important for young people to develop. While we want today’s students to be able to look for information on the web, we also want them to be able to synthesize and interpret the material they find. “These are the essential capacities that all successful people will need to navigate life in the twenty-first century,” Canfield says.

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Remaining Objective Is Hard, But the Best Leaders Figure Out How to Do It
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Executive Summary

There is no single leadership trait that guarantees success in any profession, but there is one that many of the best leaders share: a fierce commitment to objectivity. And yet it’s often not easy for leaders to remain objective. Perhaps nowhere is this struggle more clear, or the stakes higher, than in the intelligence community, where leaders are charged with providing balanced, fact-based advice to the President. It’s never easy to deliver bad news or appear critical of a policy, but the best intelligence leaders know that it’s their job to tell the White House the unvarnished truth— not to make policy, but to give the Executive Branch the data it needs to make those policy decisions.Regardless of the work you do, prize your objectivity, and work every day to preserve it.

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There is no single leadership trait that guarantees success in any profession, but there is, based on my experience, one that many of the best leaders share: a fierce commitment to objectivity. And yet I realize it’s often not easy for leaders to remain objective.

In my nearly three-decade career in the intelligence community, I have worked for and with11 Directors of CIA and all five Directors of National Intelligence. Each has brought their own personality and skill set to the job, and each in their time has faced their own set of challenges, from deeply contentious relationships with the White House and Congress to unforeseen terrorist attacks on the homeland and U.S. diplomatic facilities overseas. I think each would agree that leading in the intelligence community is a daily exercise in crisis management, whether at the helm of CIA with its global analytic and operational responsibilities, or at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence with its oversight responsibilities for the entire intelligence community.

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