In terms of number of students and faculty working on it, as well as funding, PLAID is the largest of the research projects operating from William and Mary’s new Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations.
“There’s no good acronym for it,” said Mike Tierney, “and I may be the only one who can remember its name. But I do think it captures the spirit of what we’re doing. We’re all about social-science research that could inform real-world policy issues.”
In summer of 2008, the institute and its staff moved into new quarters in the Corner House along Jamestown Road from a collection of offices in Morton Hall. The institute arose from a 2002 conversation between Tierney and Sue Peterson, dean of undergraduate studies and the Wendy and Emery Reves Professor of International Studies. Tierney and Peterson discussed the need to tap into internationally oriented teaching and research to produce “public goods,” which Tierney describes as “more speakers coming to campus, more workshops, more conferences with international scholars, maybe people who come here from other universities either as visiting scholars or as post-docs who would do research with W&M faculty.”
At the same time, there were a number of William and Mary faculty who were working on research that, while not related topically, shared common qualities of an international focus and a relevance to some sort of policy debate.
After much discussion and search for support, the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations came into being, with Tierney and Peterson as c0-directors. The institute was founded under the sponsorship of Carl Strikwerda, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Laurie Koloski, director of the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies. It has received additional support, including a $75,000 gift from Tierney’s old William and Mary roommate.
The institute’s purpose, Tierney says, is to be “an umbrella entity that can provide some administrative support, can help to write grants and can administer some of these research projects that can really be a bear if you have to do it all by yourself.”
He said a research project taken on by the institute must meet three criteria: it must have an international focus; it must use social-science methods in order to make knowledge claims; and it must be policy-relevant.
In addition to PLAID, the institute houses a handful of other projects addressing topics such as environmental governance and policymaking, AIDS and national security, nuclear nonproliferation, civil strife and the links between teaching, research and policy in international relations.