Yesterday, I spent the day in Washington, DC attending an all-day panel on political violence that brought together an array of academics from various fields including political science, criminology, sociology, public policy, statistics, mathematics and psychology, private sector analysts and researchers, and government practitioners from various departments and agencies. The panel was put together by the Institute for Homeland Security Solutions, a collaborative effort between Research Triangle Institute International, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, and the Human Factors and Behavioral Sciences Division (HFD) of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, which is the primary research and development arm of DHS.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Posted by Alex Parets at 3:29 PM . Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I'm not allowed to divulge any details from the all-day event nor can I talk about who was present or what they said since government officials and agencies were involved and are funding the project (which kind of sucks but makes sense and is understandable), but this kind of academia-government interaction is exactly the type of collaborative effort that is needed to foster cooperation between academics and practitioners, and the kind of interaction that Joe Nye, Dan Drezner and others have called for in recent months.
One of the primary goals of the discussion was to bring social science scholarship and methodology to the table to help government agencies find answers to problems and questions that they face on a daily basis. There is a lot that government practitioners can learn from social science research and the ways we approach complex questions. Furthermore, these types of meetings let academics see the types of questions that government officials are dealing with, the types of problems and puzzles that need more attention, and can potentially help us frame our work in a way that can help these agencies solve everyday problems. I'm not saying that we should only be asking questions that are relevant to policy-makers, but rather that engaging the policy community can help keep us relevant and may make our work better. Yesterday's meetings were definitely a step in the right direction towards making social science research and approaches more relevant to the policy-making community.