19 June 2008

What Political Scientists Do and What They Should not ...

I am here in Oxford at a conference pondering the state of political science as a discipline. One of the most influential women in the world - Condi Rice - is a political scientist. And her influence has been uniformly negative (e.g., [1] [2] [3]). But what impact does the discipline have beyond that? Over consecutive days The New York Times offered two reports - one pretty inspiring, the other much less so - about doings among the political scientists.

The first relates studies by Norman Uphoff on the possibility of dramatically raising yields by changing patterns of rice cultivation. The jury is still out, but his efforts are an instance what I think social scientists might do to improve the world. The second story relates new efforts by the Pentagon to fund research among political scientists under the auspices of the National Science Foundation. This seems to me to be fraught with all sorts of ethical problems that its academic mouthpieces seem not to recognize at all. For a related boondoggle see this post too.



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