This post may seem like a pretty inside-baseball item on my discipline, and it sort of is, but also resonates with our overarching question about liberal arts education vs. “practical” matters. This is another field report from the APSA meeting. Be sure (if you read the article at all) to read the comments.
Stoker said it was important for the discipline to grapple with the criticism that it has become irrelevant, but he also said that there were “tricky issues” that made it difficult for scholars to become more relevant without sacrificing key values.
“Truth and evidence and reasoning are not in the forefront of political decision making,” he said, and yet political scientists revere those things. In the political sphere, “we are competing with ideology, pragmatism, interests,” he said. Further, the policy world operates in “a very time-specific” way with “a window of opportunity” in which to influence key people. The traditional time frames for scholarly publishing, he said, simply don’t work when it comes to policy. Many scholars produce great work “two years late,” he said.
And Stoker also said that the discipline doesn’t reward relevance. A young scholar is more likely to be promoted for “the novelty of methodological contribution” than for “research that actually has an impact.”