The international relations literature is replete with strong – and often unsubstantiated – claims about the relationship between academia and policy practitioners. The Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) Project allows analysts to systematically test many of these assertions using data from a series of surveys of IR scholars around the world and a database of over 5,400 articles in the top 12 IR journals published in the last 30 years.The data show that academics persistently perceive a gap between academic work and what practitioners find useful, but it also reveals a decreasing trend in the proportion of published academic work with policy prescriptions.

The structure and content of the Strengthening the Links conference represent a novel take on the relationship between the theory and practice of international relations.  This approach will bring scholars and policy makers together to describe and explain the links (and gaps) between the academic and policy communities of international relations.  We expect that the “gap” between the academic and policy communities is much greater in some issue areas of international relations than others.  To date, discussion and diagnosis of the “gap” has proceeded as if there were no variation by issue area.  

The conference will focus around many of the major subfields of international relations, such as trade, finance and money, human rights, foreign aid and development, environment, nuclear weapons and strategy, inter-state war, and intra-state conflict. One or more scholars will author or co-author a paper that explores the international relations literature in a given subfield with particular attention to the link between scholarly research and policy practice within that issue area.  These papers will explore the history and historiography of the subfield focusing on the impact of the discipline’s theories, methods, and data on the practice of foreign policy and the influence of real world factors on the evolution of the subfield. These papers, in short, will examine trends over time in the relationship between theory and practice in a substantive issue area and explain these patterns.  Authors will also describe what they see as the ideal relationship between theory and practice in their area of expertise.  

We held a one-day conference in August 2014 in Washington, DC to discuss the first draft of the papers.  We then solicited a response to each paper from policy makers who are practicing or have practiced within the substantive field addressed.


We look forward to you joining us in Williamsburg soon.


Mike Tierney, Sue Peterson, Dan Maliniak, and Ryan Powers

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