Monday, March 30, 2015

British Political Science

I am at the British Political Studies Association conference in Sheffield, England. Today while attending panels, particularly a roundtable of PSA journal editors (the organization has 4 peer-reviewed journals) I was struck by the contrast to the U.S. Note that these thoughts are anecdotal and subject to change, and I am actually curious to see whether I continue to hold them.

First, there is a strong emphasis on methodological pluralism. In fact, the editors themselves made a point of that. You see much less of that in the main U.S.-based political science journals. In one panel, a speaker on far-right parties in Europe lamented the fact that there was too little connection between the European literature and the U.S. literature on parties because the former hadn't brought in that literature and the latter found datasets rather than going into the field.

Second, there is more emphasis on general relevance. The editor of Political Studies said he required authors to make very clear how their topic was relevant to academics globally (through theory, comparative analysis, etc.). You see much less of that in U.S. political science (esp. American politics). It made me think that when I present my own paper (on Wed.) I need to emphasize the theoretical angle since the topic is U.S.-Latin American relations (the importance of which in my own mind may be reflecting my own biases as a U.S. academic).

Third, the editor of the British Journal of Politics & International Relations noted that they are trying hard to make their journal accessible to policy makers. He said the biggest obstacle was the inability (unwillingess?) for authors to write in an accessible way. In U.S. political science we do talk about that (The Monkey Cage blog is a direct example) but journals are not oriented in that direction.

This all made me think too of how in the U.S. we are journal-obsessed to a degree that often leans toward some type of academic nationalism. We value U.S.-based journals far more than foreign ones, I think often with the assumption that they are less rigorous because they are foreign.


Anonymous,  11:15 AM  

Very interesting to read this. Did your sense of all the differences between US and UK academia change after the conference?

Greg Weeks 9:16 AM  

If anything, they were reinforced. I have to emphasize the limited sample size, but U.S. political science felt very static in comparison.

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