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W&M TRIP earns MacArthur grant

The Teaching, Research and International Policy (TRIP) project at William & Mary has received a grant of $240,000 from the MacArthur Foundation to study the relationship between the theory and practice of international relations.

Professors Sue Peterson and Mike Tierney, the principal investigators on the project, will be joined by former William & Mary students Dan Maliniak ’05 and Ryan Powers ’08, both of whom are currently pursuing doctoral degrees in international relations. Their study will expand on existing TRIP research in two areas.

First, TRIP researchers will identify which U.S. universities, colleges, schools, programs and scholars produce or are likely to produce the most policy-relevant research on international relations.

Second, the William & Mary team will survey scholars of international relations in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (the BRICS countries) to explore how different institutional environments shape research and teaching practices and influence the relationship between policymakers and academics.

“Over the past 10 years we have learned a great deal about how ideas developed within the academy can shape public discourse or policy debates within the United States,” said Tierney. “As the foreign policies of China, Russia, India, and other emerging powers become more salient to the international community, we will use social scientific methods to learn more about the links between the academic and policy communities in these countries.”Mike Tierney

TRIP research will provide more granular data on the discipline of international relations—on what kind of research is published in books, peer-reviewed journals, policy journals, and blogs—than is currently available. The project asks what kinds of universities, departments and individual researchers publish work that is policy-relevant, rather than purely scientific. Ultimately, TRIP researchers hope, these data can help funding agencies encourage and support research that speaks to real-world policy problems.

“Recently, the field of international relations has been harshly criticized for a new scholasticism,” said Peterson. “Harvard’s Joseph Nye, MacArthur’s Robert Gallucci, and most recently N.Y. Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff have criticized international relations scholars as ‘irrelevant’ at a time when the United States and the world face a number of difficult real world problems. Our research aims to empirically assess these claims, but also to explain the conditions under which scholars choose to do more policy-relevant research.”

“The rise of Russia and China, in particular, is central to nearly every international relations and foreign policy issue today,” added Tierney.  “Perhaps no other group is better situated than international relations scholars in those countries to give outsiders insight into the foreign policy of the BRICS.”

To gain a better understanding of the links between the academic and policy worlds and the ways in which national differences shape teaching and research, TRIP will administer a survey of all international relations scholars in 32 different countries, including the five BRICS countries, in fall 2014. Since almost all university funding comes from the national governments in BRICS states—and that the most prestigious universities are tasked with training the next generation of diplomats, economists or defense analysts—TRIP researchers will be able to analyze how these relationships shape the types of research questions chosen by scholars in those institutions.

The project will be implemented between now and December 2015.