Daniel W. Drezner

Nye Wars, Episode III

A few more academic reactions to Joe Nye’s essay (click here for Part I, and here for Part II).  First, a response from… well, let’s call him/her "Political Scientist X," as this person wishes to remain anonymous.  I can confirm that Political Scientist X has worked in both the academic and policy communities, and is ...

A few more academic reactions to Joe Nye’s essay (click here for Part I, and here for Part II). 

First, a response from… well, let’s call him/her "Political Scientist X," as this person wishes to remain anonymous.  I can confirm that Political Scientist X has worked in both the academic and policy communities, and is well-versed in the kind of academic analysis that appeals to policymakers: 

In my experience, rigor is a big selling point [to policymakers] It’s what differentiates knowledge from conjecture and speculation, and many analysts and policy-makers are sensitive to that distinction. I think the real problem is that those analysts and policy-makers don’t have the time to keep up with and consider the implications of the good work that’s out there, because they are always so busy answering today’s mail.

That said, I do agree with Dr. Nye that academia could and should put more effort into reaching out to and staying connected with the policy world. Scholars interested in shaping policy shouldn’t wait for government to call; they should take time to write and talk about the policy implications of their work, and more journals and publishers should encourage them to do so.

Moreover, these implications have to be made explicit. It’s not enough to write about something that’s current and leave it to the policy people to figure out how to use the findings. Academics who want to shape policy also have to do the heavy lifting of saying what they think their research says about real policy choices. There’s an obvious risk in doing that of being wrong in public or bearing some responsibility for the consequences of the policies that ensue. But the policy people have to take those risks every day, so why can’t the scholars who want to influence policy shoulder a little more of the burden?

Another blog post response from James Walsh that’s worth a look.  His closing paragraph: 

Policy relevance is important. But do we really want the academy stuffed with people who are up to date on the latest developments in country x? No. That’s what think tanks and CIAs are for. We (by which I mean I, of course) want an academy with people that are interested in the bigger causes and consequences, and are trained to think about these things in a systematic way. How come? One of the best ways that academics can be policy relevant is to poke holes in dumb ideas. Every academic I know (bar one, and he was Canadian of all things) thought the invasion of Iraq was a dumb idea. They knew this based on their knowledge of the history of preventive war, positive theories about preventive war, and long thought about the normative implications of the use of force to make the world a better place. This is all stuff that gets downplayed in "policy circles," but if it was taken more seriously might at least prevent us from making the worst mistakes over and over again.

 

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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