The Academy and the Makers of Policy: Foreign Policy’s Assessment of the Relationship

For the first time, in a long time, I had a little time to skim through a few magazines and journals. After finding very little that peaked my interest, I ran across a good article in Foreign Policy, Does The Academy Matter?, which compares perspectives of the academic research in foreign policy and the policymakers in need of this knowledge.

While the primary focus of this article centers on policy studies in International Affairs, I find the discussion to be useful to all doctoral students working toward making a mark in policy studies. For example, the article looks at what areas of expertise policymakers believe are useful products being developed by the academy, include the methods employed to produce good policy advice. If you have a moment, please take a look at the article and share your thoughts about it.


About kenyattalovett

Administrator in Higher Education (TBR). Student in Public Administration Ph.D. program (TSU).
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One Response to The Academy and the Makers of Policy: Foreign Policy’s Assessment of the Relationship

  1. MES says:

    Fascinating article, and there are definite relationships to what PA schools deal with as well. The point about disciplinary vs. policy studies preparations in terms of the faculty in the schools themselves is very interesting. In the program from which I received my PhD, the faculty all had disciplinary PhDs, and I have to admit that did make me a little anxious, in terms of wondering what my own PhD in PA was a preparation for. However, I wouldn’t give up the preparation I got in return for a disciplinary prep; I benefited tremendously from an ecumenical exposure to different fields of knowledge, and remember the exhortation from faculty that as students of public policy and public administration we were able to pick and choose from the ideas of many disciplines in our own work, as they are fruitful and relevant to the particular societal or management issue we were working on. At the same time, my methods were firmly grounded in the discipline of economics and that has stood me very well also. But I think the extent to which academics have made a successful argument to policymakers about what the value of what they do, and the value of HOW they do it, has not been what it should be. This is shown in the graph, where historical case studies and case studies are valued so highly by policymakers (though the article didn’t give all the details on the nature of that survey, I got the impression that respondents were practitioners and not academics). Case studies are very important but as an n of 1, overreliance on them can be a risk – but they have the attractiveness of being understandable outside academia. An formal model may be elegant scientifically and even meaningful, but without anyone taking the time and effort to figure out how to make that relevance clear to policymakers and the public, it may not have the impact of one well-written case study in the right venue – even though that is only a single observation.

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