William & Mary

When scholars inform public policy

  • Scholars informing policy
    Scholars informing policy  Three professors at William and Mary discuss implications of research and public policy.  
Photo - of -

Three William and Mary professors whose scholarship routinely informs public policy were featured as panelists during the McSwain-Walker roundtable discussion on “Scholarship in Practice and Policymaking” hosted by the Reves Center for International Studies in April.

William Fisher, associate professor of anthropology, Harvey Langholtz, professor of psychology, and J. Timmons Roberts, professor of sociology, were joined by Montgomery McFate, senior social science advisor for the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System, in presenting remarks and answering questions from audience members. 

The participants each outlined their academic and policy work and presented insights about the need for scholarship to inform public policy. 


Fisher argues that academic expertise is at a premium, however, there is a problem getting it heard. Fisher suggests that social sciences must play a role in helping the public get more involved in public-policy making. He says that governments are increasingly under the sway of global economic interests, which leads to citizen disengagement.


Langholtz argues that war represents not only the failure of diplomacy but also the failure of psychology, anthropology, sociology and the social sciences in general. He suggests that academics must find a way to make intervention, and he recounted a project he has executed with William and Mary students to address topics related to peacekeeping. 


Roberts talks about his work outside the academy being driven by making sociology relevant. He complains that sociologists have left the environmental field to economists. Although he believes it is imperative that academics weigh in, he cautions that associations with some government-funded programs may have unintended ramifications for scientists.

Edited audio versions of the opening remarks by the William and Mary professors are presented as audio clips above.