Civically Engaged Research in Political Science

Today begins the 2023 Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) at Tisch College, a project of the American Political Science Association that I am co-directing with Valeria Sinclair-Chapman. Seventeen committed political scientists have gathered here to develop their skills for “collaborating in a mutually beneficial way with people and groups beyond the academy to co-produce, share, and apply knowledge related to power or  politics, contributing to self-governance.” (Cabrera Rasmussen, Lieberman, Levine, Sinclair-Chapman, & Smith 2022).

Civically Engaged Research in political science is not sharply distinct from Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), Transdisciplinary Research, or Participatory Action Research (PAR), all of which we will discuss during the institute. Why then work to develop a specific approach for political science?

I see two reasons. One is that the discipline of political science is a community composed of thousands of people who have some influence. If engaged approaches to research have value, then it’s worth developing them in this community–as in other fields. CBPR and Transdisciplinary Research are more deeply rooted in public health than elsewhere. Sociologists have developed Public Sociology. We seek to bring similar change to political science–not to supplant other methods but to expand the toolkit.

The other reason is that political scientists may have distinctive ways to practice engaged research, because we focus more than other disciplines do on governance, political acts, and power.

See also: civically engaged research in political science; how to keep political science in touch with politics; methods for engaged research; engaged theory and the construction of community; bootstrapping value commitments

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.