The American Political Science Association (APSA), a COSSA governing member, has published a report entitled Improving Public Perceptions of Political Science’s Value. The report was written by a task force chaired by Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan (a member of COSSA’s Board of Directors), charged with identifying ways APSA and its members can better explain to the public, policymakers, and the media the contributions political science makes to society. This project comes in the wake of several high-profile attacks by policymakers on the discipline, notably Sen. Tom Coburn’s successful attempt to restrict funding of political science projects at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2013.
The task force’s recommendations include a number of concrete steps for APSA, such as hiring an outreach director and creating a video library, as well as a rethinking of strategy. The report suggests seeking out more engaging alternatives to conference presentations and proposes that the discipline “go on offense” to proactively communicate “how political science benefits students, communities, institutions, and nations.”
APSA plans to release articles by members of the task force and a series of in-depth interviews to “highlight the communicative challenges facing [political science] and to describe a set of innovative and feasible means for meeting these challenges.” At a time when many others in the social sciences, working on behalf of both individual disciplines and the community as a whole, are grappling with the same problem of communicating the value of their research, APSA’s report should certainly resonate beyond political science.