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Thought Matters

Pacific Standard Debut Cover

Inside this first issue of Pacific Standard are stories about important developments in China, rural Ohio, Wall Street, and the comic book world — and that’s just for starters. We plan to bring this kind of depth and breadth to our coverage of provocative new ideas and innovative research in every issue, and online.

We’re also taking that mission a step further, with a unique new page at the back of the magazine called “Who Funded That?” The idea is as simple as it is important: let our readers know who paid for the research, data, and studies that underpin our articles. But like a lot of things that sound easy in principle, it turned out to be a lot more complicated in practice. Almost every fact required a judgment call. Should the list include the local bank that donated money to a group working to clean up marine litter, mentioned in our graphic on ocean gyres? (No, we decided.) When we cite a study produced by a nonprofit group, should we mention the sources of the group’s funding? (Yes.) What about ongoing research? If we mention that a pharmaceutical company is supporting a professor’s clinical trials, readers might suspect that funding will bias the results — but then again, it might not. So we settled on listing funding for completed, published studies — research that has led to a conclusion. We leave it to you then to decide if those conclusions might have been influenced by the funding that made them possible.

Meanwhile, we’re introducing a number of new departments, including “Culture Lab,” where we see what research can tell us about pop culture; in this issue, staff writer Tom Jacobs looks at Thomas Kinkade’s über-popular artwork through an academic lens.

In “Obituary: Death of an Idea,” we inspect the research around a practice or notion that may have run its course — like marriage.

For our features, we turned to seasoned journalists and top academics. We sent former Los Angeles Times staff writer Susan Salter Reynolds to Ohio to report on how diabetes specialist Dr. Jay Shubrook is turning diabetes treatment on its head, and getting some impressive results. (Full disclosure: I knew Shubrook when we were both undergraduates at University of California, Santa Cruz — he was an innovative thinker back then, too!)

When we wanted deep background on why the Obama administration is talking about a “Pacific Century,” we went to Bruce Cumings, chair of the history department at the University of Chicago and an expert on the Pacific nations. And we asked Penn Law professor David Skeel to explain the maddening intricacies of the Martin Act — a 1920s law intended to protect investors from fraudulent practices by investment firms, subsequently twisted into a shield for those very firms. Skeel explains how cases before the courts could return the Martin Act to its intended use, with a seismic impact on the financial industry.

And we couldn’t resist sending Wired writer and irascible blogger Spencer Ackerman (his Twitter handle: @attackerman) to New York’s Comic Con to shadow Robin Rosenberg, a psychologist to the superheroes — and the people who dress like them.

Finally, we want to know what you want to know. What conventional wisdom are you questioning? How can we help? Write us, Like us, Tweet us — if we’re making you think about something new, we’re doing our job.