Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Policy Relevance? Hell Yeah!

One of the basic questions that haunts political science is this: does our work matter?  Are we just talking to ourselves?  I recently received the statements from my publisher of my first two books.  From those, you might wonder if our work resonates at all (my books sold more than 5 copies each but less than a thousand each thus far).

I am feeling better today than last night because I had a chance to talk to folks working in the Canadian foreign policy bureaucracy today.  DFATD (Dept of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development)* held a roundtable where I could present what I learned from the Dave and Steve book.  It was not the first such exchange in Canada or elsewhere, but it was a useful reminder that the stuff that we have been doing for the past five or six years has produced some findings that are relevant for policy-makers.  The group was engaged, asked good questions, and offered some interesting insights as well.  Of course, I was far less discreet than they were about .... the Harper government and other fun stuff.
* One DFATD person informed me that the way to pronounce this new acronym (after the unification with the Canadian International Development Agency) is Defeated.  Hmmm.

It was very much a worthwhile hour or so of my time and, I hope, theirs.  Not all stuff is so obviously relevant for policy-makers as NATO's performance in Afghanistan.  I wish I had the chance to do such roundtables for my second book.  Oh well, spilt milk.  I am making a greater effort this time to reach out beyond academic audiences.   Not just to maximize sales but just to inform folks about the fight of the past decade.

This project made it very easy in my most recent round of grant applications to argue that the findings of my next project will disseminated far and wide including into the policy bureaucracy because this project has been so successful doing exactly that.

When I was doing the research in Ottawa for this book, during the drive home back to Montreal after an hour or two of interviews with officers and officials, I would be thinking "I love my job."  Today's experience, where I am outputting rather than intaking produces the same thought--I do love my job.

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