Research Spotlights

Ask the Author with Al Teich

In Search of Evidence Based Science Policy

 

In Search of Evidence-Based Science Policy: From the Endless Frontier to SciSIP is the latest publication from Elliott School Research Professor, and former Director of Science & Policy Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Al Teich. In advance of the book’s launch, Dr. Teich reflected on both the book’s evolution and the evolution of US science policy research:

"When President George W. Bush's science advisor, Jack Marburger, gave the keynote address at the AAAS Forum on Science & Technology Policy in 2005, he criticized the science policy research community for failing to provide information that policymakers could use. I was troubled by his critique of my field but encouraged when the National Science Foundation (NSF) established a new research program to support work that could provide the basis for a more ‘scientific’ (i.e., evidence-based) science policy. When I was asked to give a talk to AAAS a few years later, I chose the evolution of science policy research as my topic and that lit the spark that led me to write this book.

The federal government, including NSF, has been engaged in science policy at least since 1950. It has created a series of research programs, each of which in turn has disappeared. I was surprised by the absence of connections between these programs. When the most recent one—the Science of Science and Innovation Policy (SciSIP)—was established in 2007 virtually no one involved in it seemed to be aware of the fact that a similar program existed from the 1970s to 1994.

With support from the SciSIP program, science and innovation policy research have been making significant strides in recent years. The advent of ‘big data’ and new computational capabilities and techniques for merging datasets are taking their places in science and innovation policy research. Yet to be seen is how useful these advances will be for policymakers, whether improved communication between researchers and policymakers and increased involvement of policymakers in shaping research can yield results that are both scientifically valid and relevant to policymakers."

Al Teich

Research Professor of Science, Technology, and International Affairs

Ask the Author with Ilana Feldman

Life Lived in Relief

 

Reviewers describe Elliott School Professor Ilana Feldman’s new book, Life Lived in Relief: Humanitarian Predicaments and Palestinian Refugee Politics, as a “formidable” and “definitive” account of the Palestinian refugees’ experience of protracted displacement. To mark the publication’s launch, Professor Feldman spoke about her author experience:

“The roots of this project lie in my earlier research in the Gaza Strip. While conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Gaza in the late 1990s, I was struck by the significance of the distinctions between ‘refugees’ and ‘natives’ in social relations and political discourse. The entire population is Palestinian, so these distinctions did not define membership in the national community, but they matter for how people were members of that community. I wanted to better understand how these categories emerged, and I began by researching the aftermath of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948, the beginning of humanitarian assistance to the displaced, and the population categories that were required to manage this assistance. This initial research revealed multidimensional and often contradictory effects of humanitarian decisions and procedures, and it led me to investigate the Palestinian relief experience with humanitarianism over seven decades and across five fields of assistance (Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria).

As I conducted this research, I was struck by just how vibrant and complex humanitarian spaces are. The scholarly literature on humanitarianism, aid providers’ own definitions of their missions, and recipients’ evaluations of this assistance all often emphasize the limits of humanitarianism—the limits of its mandate, the limits of its capacity to engage recipients as full human beings, and the limits of its ability to meet people’s multidimensional needs. Even as these limits are real, they only partially define the humanitarian experience. I was struck by the range of things that people are able to do with humanitarian tools. They press political claims, they work to alter their present and future conditions, they build complex relationships in and through categories that are meant only to manage aid delivery.

In a global political environment in which concern for refugees and migrants seems in short supply, the long Palestinian experience with displacement that I explore in Life Lived in Relief has much to teach us. It shows that humanitarian compassion—responses that address people primarily as suffering subjects and that focus on alleviating that suffering—is not an adequate alternative to a politics of hate and xenophobia. As Palestinians have insisted for seventy years, displaced persons also have political claims on us. Refugees will pursue these claims whether we recognize them or not, but their actions do not relieve us of our obligations.”

Ilana Feldman

Professor of Anthropology, History, and International Affairs

Ask the Author with Marlene Laruelle 

Understanding Russia

 

With their new book, Understanding Russia: The Challenges of Transformation, Elliott School Research Professor Marlene Laruelle and co-author Jean Radvanyi offer readers what reviewers are calling a “timely,” “well-researched,” and “erudite” guide for understanding the geostrategic factors that drive today’s Russia. To celebrate the book’s launch, Professor Laruelle offered insight on Understanding Russia's origin and import:

"In a post-Cold War context, Russia’s image in the US has never been so negative. Western pundits seem happy to rekindle fear of Russia. But at the same time—and this is a key point of this book—Russia is fearful too. More than twenty-five years after the end of the Soviet Union, multiple ghosts haunt both the Russian elites and the greater society—from concerns about demographic and economic decline, to worries about the country’s vulnerability to external intervention. We thought it was important to ‘deconstruct’ Russia as a threat and show the deep, structural reasons that explain Russia’s behavior in and perceptions of the world.

When we apply analytical frameworks that social sciences have developed for other parts of the world to Russia, we do not see Russia as an 'other.' We do not see it as fundamentally and radically different from 'us.' We do not see it as an 'exception.' On the contrary, we see it as part of a continuum with the West. It’s important to recognize that, despite conventional descriptions, today’s Russia is a much more 'normal' country than it is perceived to be. Its social and ideological changes are in fact in tune with those happening in the rest of the world—especially those taking place in Europe."

Marlene Laruelle

Research Professor of International Affairs

 

Ask the Author with Paul Heer

Ask the Author with Paul Heer

 

With his new book, Mr. X and the Pacific: George F. Kennan and American Policy in East Asia, veteran East Asia analyst and Elliott School Adjunct Professor Paul Heer sheds new light on Kennan’s legacy. Before his book launch, Heer took a moment to discuss the book that critics call "meticulously researched," "necessary," and "fascinating”:

"As a Cold War-era student of diplomatic history, I was a longtime disciple of George F. Kennan’s realist perspective on the Soviet Union (and his own work as a historian). My subsequent professional experience as an intelligence analyst on East Asian affairs led me to a greater appreciation for Kennan’s involvement with US policy in the Far East—and a realization that this aspect of his career had largely been overlooked by other scholars. So when I returned to academia for my doctoral studies at GW, I combined my academic and professional interests into a subject that would also fill a gap in the historical record.  

As I researched the dissertation that eventually became the book, I was surprised at how narrowly Kennan applied his famous doctrine of 'containment' within East Asia—and especially by his persistent dismissal of the strategic importance of China. I was also surprised that no other scholar had 'stolen my thunder' by recognizing that the depth and extent of Kennan’s involvement with the Far East merited a book-length examination!

The key takeaway from Kennan’s experience with East Asia is that Washington needs to recognize the limits on American influence, power, and interests in the Far East, and should calibrate and rationalize its engagement and strategic objectives there accordingly."

Paul J. Heer

Adjunct Professor of International Affairs

Elliott School Research Centers and Institutes Win Prestigious Title VI Grants

Elliott School Research

 

September 2018

The Elliott School of International Affairs’ Sigur Center for Asian Studies, GW Institute for Korean Studies (GWIKS), and Institute for Middle East Studies (IMES) have been awarded approximately $3 million in grant funding under the US Department of Education’s prestigious Title VI program over the four-year life of the grant.

The Sigur Center and Institute for Korean Studies together received the highly regarded designation of National Resource Center (NRC) for East Asian Studies. The designation—the first time these two centers have received NRC status—enhances the institutes’ ability to engage the broader public community, including students, K-12 educators, HBCUs, policymakers, military veterans, journalists and the general public on regional and global issues of importance. With this award, GW joins a handful of other world-leading universities, including Stanford, Columbia, and the University of Chicago, which have likewise been recognized with this honor.

“The recognition of our programmatic excellence significantly enhances our reputation and funding resources. It demonstrates the scholarly excellence and will increase public outreach which have long been hallmarks of the center’s collective intellectual life,” Sigur Center Director Ben Hopkins said.

Additionally, the Sigur Center, GWIKS and IMES have been awarded over 90 Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships which support undergraduate and graduate students studying modern foreign languages and related area or international studies. 

"The Elliott School is a place where learning and leadership come together,” said Reuben E. Brigety, II, dean of the Elliott School. “These awards reflect the serious commitment we have made to enhance our regional area studies and foreign language acquisition. The Title VI grants underscore the importance and relevance of research at GW.”

About Title VI
Title VI is a provision of the 1965 Higher Education Act, funding centers for area studies that serve as vital national resources for world regional knowledge and foreign language training. National Resource Centers teach at the undergraduate and graduate levels and conduct research focused on specific world regions, international studies, and the teaching of less commonly taught languages. The FLAS fellowship program complements the NRC program, providing opportunities for outstanding undergraduate and graduate students to engage in area studies and world language training.

About the Sigur Center for Asian Studies
The Sigur Center for Asian Studies is a university research institute and the academic home of the Asian Studies Program of the Elliott School of International Affairs at GW. Its mission is to increase the quality and broaden the scope of scholarly research and publication on Asia, promote US-Asian scholarly interaction, and educate a new generation of students, scholars, analysts, and policymakers.

About the GW Institute for Korean Studies 
Founded in 2016, the GW Institute for Korean Studies is a university wide institute housed in the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. The establishment of the GWIKS in 2016 was made possible by a generous grant from the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS). The mission of GWIKS is to consolidate, strengthen, and grow the existing Korean studies program at GW, and more generally in the greater DC area and beyond. The institute enables and enhances productive research and education relationships within GW, and among many experts throughout the region and the world.

About the Institute for Middle East Studies 
The Institute for Middle East Studies was founded in 2007 as part of a broad, university wide initiative to support academic work on the Middle East. IMES faculty represent a breadth of disciplines from political science and history to anthropology, art history, and media and public affairs.

Ask the Author with Melani McAlister

Melani McAlister

Dr. Melani McAlister 

Professor

Elliott School of International Affairs

George Washington University

Professor Melani McAlister’s latest book, The Kingdom of God Has No Borders, is a groundbreaking, transnational study of American evangelical politics. Critics laud the monograph as “meticulously researched,” “deeply absorbing,” and, quite simply, “an enthralling work of stunning originality and ingenuity.” Prior to her book launch, McAlister took the time to discuss her book’s beginnings and conclusions:

"I am generally interested in how ordinary people become invested in international issues. My first book was on American perceptions of the Middle East, and I knew that US evangelicals were an important component of US support for Israel. I followed that thread and discovered the very broad range of ways that US evangelical Christians, both black and white, were invested in international issues regarding the Middle East and also Africa. That led me to this broad history of American evangelicals in a global context, starting with debates about decolonization in the 1960s and ending with the debate over anti-homosexuality laws in Uganda.

I was surprised at how vigorous the debates have been among evangelicals, about issues including racism, gender politics, global poverty, religious oppression, and the US war in Iraq. This is a conservative movement, but not monolithically so, and not always in ways we expect. I was also surprised at just how global evangelicalism is. Americans tend to be a bit narrow in our understandings of the world, and this is true for evangelicals too, in general. But increasingly American evangelicals have had to start taking seriously the fact that Christianity is a global religion, numerically stronger in the global South, and that has led them to become more aware of the issues facing people outside the US, from HIV-AIDS to debt relief. Being more global isn't always a liberalizing force for evangelicals—sometimes it can strengthen conservative arguments about gender and sexuality or about conflicts between Christians and Muslims—but once we scholars pay attention to transnational realities, it changes how we see the politics among Americans. As I say in the book, the profound political differences that exist among evangelicals are easier to see if your vision encompasses both Kinshasa and Kansas.

Going forward, it’s important to pay attention to the evangelical world beyond white American evangelical conservatives. They are certainly very important, and they were a major force behind the election of President Trump, but both in the US and internationally, there are key political divisions to consider. People of color constitute 25-45% of the US evangelical community, and they are a clear majority globally. They share some views with white Americans and they disagree strongly on others. We need to pay attention to the complexity, diversity, and debates that characterize American evangelicals and their global context."

Melani McAlister

Professor of American Studies and International Affairs

 

Rollie Lal analyzes: "China, India, and the Slippery Business of Oil."

Elliott School Research

Dr. Rollie Lal

Visiting Associate Professor

Elliott School of International Affairs

George Washington University

The latest edition of the Centre on Asia and Globalisation's China-India Brief features Elliott School Visiting Associate Professor Rollie Lal. In a guest column, Lal analyzes China, India, and global oil and energy markets, noting, "China and India’s rapid economic growth in the past few decades has been fueled (pun intended) by rising levels of energy consumption, and the global implications of these heavy-weights as players in the oil market cannot be underestimated." To learn more, read her complete column: "China, India, and the Slippery Business of Oil."

Ask the Author with Associate Professor Paul D. Williams

Elliott School Research

Dr. Paul D. Williams (third from the left) on a research trip to Mogadishu.

In his August 2018 publication, Fighting for Peace in Somalia: A History and Analysis of the African Union Mission (AMISOM), 2007-2017, author and Elliott School Associate Professor Paul D. Williams offers the first comprehensive analysis of the African Union's longest running mission. In advance of his book launch, Professor Williams reflected on research incentives, insights, and implications:

"AMISOM is now the world’s largest and most dangerous peace operation. I wanted to understand how it could stabilize one of the world’s most failed states and whether it could defeat one of the world’s most deadly insurgent groups, Harakat al-Shabaab. As well as being the African Union’s longest, largest, and most costly operation, AMISOM also exemplifies the complex challenges of 'partnership peacekeeping,' the process by which multiple international organizations and states try and work together to stabilize the host country.

In doing the research, I was most surprised by the intensity and brutality of the war against al-Shabaab as well as by the continual sacrifices made and hardships endured by the peacekeepers. I was also struck by the large gap between the capabilities given to AMISOM and the expectations placed upon it to deliver peace in Somalia.

The key takeaway is that politicians should not expect peacekeepers to deliver peace in Somalia in the absence of a viable political strategy to resolve the country’s multiple armed conflicts."

Paul D. Williams

Associate Professor of International Affairs

 

GWToday: Putin Uses ‘Divide and Rule’ Tactics against His Hardline Allies

Elliott School Research

Elliott School Professor Peter Reddaway’s new book explores how the Russian President Vladimir Putin has maintained power for almost two decades. (Colette Kent/Elliott School of International Affairs)

Elliott School Professor Peter Reddaway’s new book explores how the Russian president has maintained power for almost two decades.

September 10, 2018

By Tatyana Hopkins

 

Though Russian President Vladimir Putin may find his exercise of power gratifying in some ways, he probably also finds it “increasingly exhausting” but fears what would happen to him if he steps down, said George Washington University Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs Peter Reddaway.

“I think he has similar feelings about retirement to what a lot of us have—that it's time to do different things,” Mr. Reddaway said. “But I think it is very difficult for him to resign or to retire at the end of a term in office because he doesn't feel safe doing it.”

Read the full article here.

Jonathan Chaves on Poetry Spoken Here

Elliott School Research

Dr. Jonathan Chaves

Professor of Chinese

Elliott School of International Affairs

George Washington University

Congratulations to poet, Elliott School professor, and master translator of classical Chinese poetry Jonathan Chaves for his recent two-part feature on the Poetry Spoken Here podcast. Host and poet Charlie Rossiter interviews Chaves in episodes 72 and 73 of this bi-monthly poetry discussion. To explore more, check out Jonathan Chaves' latest book: Cave of the Immortals: The Poetry and Prose of Bamboo Painter Wen Tong (1019-1079).

 

Dr. Albert Teich: In Search of Evidence-Based Science Policy

Elliott School Research

Dr. Albert H. Teich

Research Professor

Elliott School of International Affairs

George Washington University

With the publication of his latest monograph, In Search of Evidence-Based Science Policy: From the Endless Frontier to SciSIP, Dr. Albert Teich tracks the evolution of US science policy research largely as it has been conducted in universities and supported by the National Science Foundation, from its beginnings in the early 1960s to the present time, from reliance on expert opinion to more systematic, empirical studies. It examines how a community developed, the growth and decline of federal support, the emergence of the SciSIP (Science of Science and Innovation Policy) program and the ways in which that program has fostered new approaches to science policy. It concludes that the tools and data sets being created by program researchers can have significant impacts on policy, not just in science and technology, but in other fields as well.

Dr. Teich is a research professor of science, technology, and international affairs with the Elliott School's Institute for International Science & Technology Policy. He came to the Elliott School in February 2012, following a distinguished 32-year career with the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Ask the Author with Professor Emeritus Peter Reddaway

Elliott School Research

 

In his latest publication, Russia's Domestic Security Wars: Putin's Use of Divide and Rule Against His Hardline Allies, Peter Reddaway draws on extensive research to construct a detailed study of Russian President Putin's methods of staying in power. Reviewers herald the book as, "gripping," "brilliant," and, "a must read." In conjunction with his book launch, Professor Reddaway took the time to discuss research ideas, surprises, and takeaways:

“I was led to this topic by President Putin's chronic instinct for secrecy and deception. He assiduously promotes an image of the ruling Russian elite as being, with rare exceptions, united and harmonious. So I dug into his relations with his support groups and found a very different picture: in fact, he encourages and secretively promotes feuds between them, so that they will use their spare energies on these and not on devising ways to gain influence and limit his power (and ultimately perhaps take his power away from him).

In doing the research, I was most surprised by the intensity of the warfare between the two hardline groups I chose to focus on. They hardly hesitated to murder key supporters of the other side, nor to attack each other viciously in the media.

The key takeaway is that Putin has to resort to such measures because he is much less powerful, and potentially more vulnerable, than he pretends to be.”

Peter Reddaway

Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs