How does an international relations scholar get the attention of a New York Times reporter covering U.S. foreign policy? What type of academic research influences the thinking of Americans and impacts the decisions of policymakers?
These are questions that Teaching, Research and International Policy Project (TRIP) researchers at William & Mary’s Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations (ITPIR) seek to answer with more than $500,000 in grant funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York.
The philanthropic grant will support three research areas: whether and to what extent academic ideas make it into the mainstream media; what ideas get into the media; and how those ideas influence policymakers, the White House and public opinion.
Under the grant, William & Mary faculty and students will create and disseminate a public opinion poll and a survey of foreign affairs journalists. They will also build a database of expert knowledge quoted in the media and convene a working group of journalists, international relations scholars and policy makers to review the conditions under which journalists are most likely to use academic data.
The principal investigators on the project will work with a team of William & Mary students to study the role of media in translating expert opinion.
“We could not have provided these kinds of research opportunities to our undergraduates — who often tell us how this type of opportunity is transformational — without the support of Carnegie Corporation of New York,” said Sue Peterson, a principal investigator on the TRIP project, co-director of ITPR, and the Reves Professor of Government and International Relations at William & Mary. “Their support is invaluable.”
One of the original motivations for the TRIP project stems from the role of expert opinion in the run up to the Iraq War in 2003. During that period, hundreds of international relations scholars went public to deter the administration from going to war, but their recommendations did not impact decision-making at the highest levels, Peterson said.
“In fact, they were vocal in the media and were taking out full-page ads in The New York Times and no one in the administration listened,” she added.
The research will provide international relations scholars with better insight into how to get their academic research into the mainstream media based on feedback received from non-partisan polls and surveys.
The funding from the Corporation will be used to expand TRIP research efforts in closing the gap between the theory and practice of international relations. The grant is a continuation of Carnegie Corporation of New York’s support of the project over the last five years. Including the newest award, the foundation’s funding for TRIP has totaled over $1.3 million since 2013.
Ryan Powers ’08 worked as a research assistant on the TRIP Project while he was a student at William & Mary. Today, Powers is one of three principal investigators on the project along with Peterson and Michael Tierney, co-director of ITPR and the Hylton Professor of Government and International Relations at William & Mary.
Powers, who is currently completing post-doctoral work at Yale University, says his experience on the project while a student at William & Mary helped shape his career path. In the fall, Powers will begin teaching international affairs at the University of Georgia.“In the long run we hope that the research will produce actionable insights for both policymakers to better use knowledge that international relations scholars produce and also for these scholars to better communicate their research to policymakers, the press and the general public,” Powers said.