Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Political Scientists and the Media

As it turns out, the biggest impression made on me during the British Political Studies Association conference is the commitment to accessibility and media/public engagement (which I also wrote about Monday). I attended the launch of a new project called "Total Exposure" (not sure about a possible double entendre there, but let's leave that aside!) whereby the BBC and other networks will listen to pitches by a small group of political scientists for a show on a particular topic. In other words, you can get on TV discussing an issue you're passionate about. The PSA funds your travel to London to talk to the TV executives once they've decided it's a good topic. They envision a bunch of these happening over time.

The chair of PSA echoed what I heard from journal editors the other day, which is that the biggest obstacle in general is the inability of political scientsts to talk in an accessible manner without jargon. That actually seems to be the biggest hurdle.

He noted that there is often resistance to the idea (same as in the U.S.) and I found that the term "media whore" is also sadly universal. But I love the fact that as an organization the PSA is putting its money where its mouth is. He said, "The PSA is not short on money; it is short on great ideas." And what they want to do is show millions of viewers how political science research is important, interesting and useful. We do hear that on the individual level in the U.S., but that's not something the American Political Science Association is prioritizing as an institution. The equivalent here would be APSA striking a deal with a national network, then flying people to New York.

At any rate, I feel that this discussion of political science engagement is far more advanced in Britain than in the U.S.


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