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Relevant social science

LIRNEasia has been pretty successful at doing policy-relevant research and communicating the results to the policy process. Interestingly we have gone deeper into the use of statistics over this period, without giving up on institutional analysis. In this context, it is quite interesting to see how the debate is playing out in the context of a US Senator’s move to prohibit federal funding of social science.

What remains, though, is a nagging concern that the field is not producing work that matters. “The danger is that political science is moving in the direction of saying more and more about less and less,” said Joseph Nye, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, whose work has been particularly influential among American policy makers. “There are parts of the academy which, in the effort to be scientific, feel we should stay away from policy,” Mr. Nye said, that “it interferes with the science.”

In his view statistical techniques too often determine what kind of research political scientists do, pushing them further into narrow specializations cut off from real-world concerns. The motivation to be precise, Mr. Nye warned, has overtaken the impulse to be relevant.

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