Borderlands and the Value of Academic Research for Policy
A Case Study
January 1, 2006
The .PDF of this publication includes all works included in the first (January 1, 2006) issue of the Asia Policy Special Roundtable , "Bridging the Gap between the Academic and Policy Worlds". While the document will open to Celeste Wallander's contribution you may see other contributors work by viewing the tabs at the left.
Without a doubt, the worlds of academic research and policymaking in the United States are worlds apart. The skills, demands, and modes of work in each realm are very different. This is as it should be, since the mission of each is different. The mission of universities is to understand and teach fundamental knowledge that is important over time and without regard to fashion or political acceptability. The mission of the policy realm is to conceive and execute the strategies and actions of government in order to achieve national objectives and secure national interests, which means that the work of policymakers and analysts must be specific and pragmatic.
Between these real differences in mission, however, lies a potentially promising borderland of interaction. Policymakers may need to know what to do right now, but in order to know what works and fails, the lessons of history or comparison across cases can guard against misguided policy. Professors may face strong incentives to develop and test elegant deductive theory that cuts across time periods or specific events, but since good scholarship requires rigorous testing of theory, they need to investigate those cases by descending from the ivory tower for regular forays in field research and data gathering.