International conference explores IR discipline

The Teaching, Research and International Policy project (TRIP) of the Institute for the Theory & Practice of International Relations welcomed a group of renowned international relations scholars from around the globe to William & Mary for two days in May 2013 to explore the state of the international relations discipline.

Entitled Consensus, Progress and Change in the Study of International Relations, the conference sought to bring empirical evidence to bear on many of the longstanding assumptions and myths that dominate the field of international relations.  As TRIP Principal Investigator Sue Peterson noted, “There have been numerous stock-taking exercises in our discipline. What sets this project apart is that we have systematic evidence to test many of the propositions that others have simply asserted.” 

Conference participants were given access to the TRIP databases — the most extensive data-collection effort on the academic field of international relations.  These scholars used the TRIP data to write papers addressing key issues and debates about the way international politics is studied.   

TRIP Principal Investigator Mike Tierney emphasized, “The data collected to date is the largest compilation of information on the topic of how teaching and research affect policy and vice versa. Now we need to take the next step and share this data with more experts in the field with the purpose of improving international relations scholarship.”         

Twenty-five scholars, representing nine U.S. and six international universities, presented papers on every corner of the field, from paradigms to levels of analysis, and from ethnic conflict to the cross-cultural or cross-generational boundaries in scholarship.  All the papers sparked lively debate and constructive criticism. “The best workshops,” Professor Quan Li of Texas A&M University noted at the conclusion of debate on his paper, “are the ones where you emerge with five new papers.”  He rifled through what he said were five pages of comments on his paper, suggesting that he had “at least that many ideas for new paper topics.”

Conference participants will meet again over the next year to discuss their revised papers and shape the collective papers into an edited book.  To see the conference agenda and draft papers see: