Bridging Theory and Practice: A Life in the Field

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Robert Bates’s When Things Fell Apart: State Failure in Late-Century Africa released as a classic

During the turmoil in Uganda after the fall of repressive leader Idi Amin Dada, political scientist Robert Bates was in the field. At the time, he was widely known for his astute public policy analysis of agricultural decline in Africa. His war zone experience led to the great concern of the latter part of his career—the study of political violence.... Read more about Bridging Theory and Practice: A Life in the Field

Research Spotlight: Beth A. Simmons

Researchers Say International Criminal Court is Flawed, But Essential

The International Criminal Court is saving civilian lives in multiple countries, according to research that provides the first quantitative evidence.

The study by professors at Harvard University and Texas A&M, which will be featured in the summer issue of the journal International Organization, has drawn widespread attention from people on either side of a polarized debate about the ICC’s role in international justice.

Vocal critics have long claimed the ICC is an ineffective obstacle to peace processes while enthusiasts believe it useful in advancing global peace and security. The underlying question: is the ICC irreparably flawed or an institution worth investing in?

Now researchers Beth A. Simmons and Hyeran Jo have contributed a systematic study that can impartially inform this pressing debate in international affairs.... Read more about Research Spotlight: Beth A. Simmons

Scholars and the Public Eye

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Harvard professor Jennifer Hochschild remembers the first time a scholarly article about blogging came across her desk. She laughs now describing how she and fellow editors at Perspectives on Politics did not know what to make of it in 2003.

“We spent a lot of time among the editors saying, ‘Is this really political science? Is this really appropriate? Is this a flash in the pan? Is this a game?’” said Hochschild, a professor of government and African and African American studies at Harvard and president of the American Political Science Association. “I don’t think we were hostile. We just didn’t understand it.”... Read more about Scholars and the Public Eye

Q & A on Scholars and the Public Eye

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Condensed from interviews with Noah Feldman, Jennifer Hochschild, and Dani Rodrik.

 —with Noah Feldman

Q. How was writing for a popular audience viewed within the academic world earlier in your career and has that attitude changed?

A. When I started teaching in 2001, some of my senior colleagues thought that the fact that you wrote something that a non-academic would want to read was active evidence that what you’re writing couldn’t be of value to scholars. Happily, things have really changed enormously now. Now many scholars understand the real question isn’t “what is the genre a person is writing in?” It is “what’s the content of the argument a person is making?” And a subtle, sophisticated, and scholarly argument doesn’t always have to be wrapped up in inaccessible jargon.... Read more about Q & A on Scholars and the Public Eye

Noah Feldman on How to Write for a Popular Audience

These tips are condensed from an interview.

Here’s the unspoken secret of the contemporary media world: in the age of the Internet and social media, every single media outlet is hungry for good content. That ranges from the more popular aspects of scholarly journals straight through to the big media news generators—whether that’s Huffington Post or even Buzzfeed or Vice.

The point is that it doesn’t have to only be the New York Times or the Boston Globe or the Washington Post. They’re all eager for interesting content that nobody else is providing, and that’s what scholars have to offer. We’re never telling the same story that everybody else is telling because we’re aiming to say something original from a scholarly perspective. Whether we’re right or wrong, we always have something new to say.

Six things to keep in mind:

  1. When the media call you, take their calls because that’s how you begin the process of getting your ideas out there. I think many academics think, “Oh, I’m not going to take all those media calls because it’s a distraction.” Or, “It’s not narrowly within my expertise.”... Read more about Noah Feldman on How to Write for a Popular Audience