Here’s One Way to Make Political Science Research More Accessible

by Joshua Tucker on April 11, 2013 · 7 comments

in Political science,Protest

Just finished up a very interesting discussion over lunch at the Midwest Political Science Association annual conference about ways we can continue to make political science research more accessible to wider numbers of people (which is of course absolutely in line with the mission statement of The Monkey Cage).

With that in mind, I thought I’d share this animated video that Princeton University put together to promote an article entitled People Power or a One-Shot Deal? A Dynamic Model of Protest co-authored by me and Adam Meirowitz that was just published in the American Journal of Political Science. The voice in the background belongs to Meirowitz…

Maybe not the future of the discipline, but still pretty creative!

{ 7 comments }

Todd Phillips April 12, 2013 at 9:10 am

I’m not a political scientist but I’m very interest in the subject. I’ve read well over well 100 books written by political scientists over the last 3 years. One thing that has struck me is that 90+% of the books written by political scientists seem to be written for political scientists rather than for the general public. They often use very academic, difficult language and fill the book so full of technical research details that it is almost impossible for the casual reader to get through it. I generally listen to them first using Kindle’s text to speech feature, note the sections that I should review, and actually read those sections after listening to the book. Some books are too difficult to even listen to. I have concluded that the incentives for political scientists must be to publish research rather than to inform the public. This is unfortunate since they hold the knowledge that the public needs to make good decisions about how to change the government. Perhaps writing classes, or journalism classes should be part of the curriculum. Someone could write a book about how to write books presenting research in a way that is appealing to the general public.

Nathan April 12, 2013 at 10:26 am

I want to second Todd’s point and offer another family of solutions. I’m a graduate student in astrophysics, which, like political science, is a field where the public is often very interested in our results, but our research papers are written impenetrably. I think the problem is actually much worse than one of public outreach/disclosure, because it poses an enormous barrier to young students who wish to enter the field as researchers.

We’ve tackled this problem by starting a website (Astrobites, http://astrobites.org/) where we summarize research papers in language accessible to undergraduate students. Our collaboration includes 30 graduate students in astrophysics from around the world who, together, write and peer-edit one article summary per day – more than 500 to date. We’re hoping to motivate similar efforts in other fields.

I think the video Joshua posted is taking this idea to the next level. I think it’s fantastic, but it does require a much larger commitment of time per article and few practicing researchers will have the prerequisite video production skills. The Astrobites model may be more scalable.

Pepe April 12, 2013 at 11:26 am

I think the approach is in the right direction. What may be an obstacle though is that the extremely coloquial language may signal lack of seriousness. This is very common in formal modelers and sometime Americanists, whose well-intentioned attempt to simplify lead them to impoverish language a bit. This may limit our ability to convince the public that we are doing serious research (which is false of course but the public would not know based on the video itself).

longwalkdownlyndale April 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm

This is pretty cool. It also seems like just the kind of thing popular sites that write about a lot of topics, including politics, would be interested in highlighting. And it’s also a point that a lot of people have been ignoring about the Arab Spring.

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D. April 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm

How’s this for political science in popular culture?

“Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss”

Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHhrZgojY1Q

Rick K. Wilson April 15, 2013 at 5:56 pm

This is a wonderful example of one of many things we need to do to get the research out. The model by Adam and Josh is anything but simple. But this video presents the flavor of the model quite nicely.

Cassy Dorff April 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Given the idea here is to get a convo going about how to more often present our research in this great format… can any of the authors post some info on how the animation was made?

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