Carnegie Corporation of New York Awards $5 Million to Universities for Innovative Programs Linking Academia and Policy

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Carnegie Corporation of New York announced the five recipients of major grants aimed at improving the transfer of research and expertise between higher education and the policy world in the area of global affairs. Earlier this year, as part of its “Rigor and Relevance Initiative,” the Corporation held a competition challenging the 22 U.S.-based members of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) to address ongoing concerns over the growing gap between the scholarly work of academics and the needs of policymakers dealing with the same complex international issues. Carnegie asked the universities to propose novel and creative solutions to bridge this gap.

The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University is one of five programs to receive funding through the Corporation’s “Rigor and Relevance Initiative.” Photo: Tufts University

The Corporation sought ideas with an emphasis on face-to-face interaction among practitioners, academics, and students. It also gave special consideration to university programs that take into account policymaking experience when hiring, and that are revising tenure and promotion rules to create incentives for faculty to participate in policy work.  After external review, the Corporation selected APSIA members from five universities. Each will receive a grant of one million dollars over the course of two years.

Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs: Launching a global hub for research and consultation on cyber policy.

Syracuse University, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs: Creating a multi-institutional consortium and network of policy-relevant scholars. 

Tufts University, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy: Developing strategies for enhancing legitimacy in fragile states.

University of Denver, Josef Korbel School of International Studies: Researching the peacebuilding role of nonviolent, non-state actors. 

University of Washington, The Jackson School of International Studies: Targeting urgent international security issues through collaboration.

As Carnegie Corporation of New York president Vartan Gregorian explained, “These are urgent times that require up-to-date, in-depth research in order to allow the vast learning reservoir of our universities to be of assistance to practitioners in the public and foreign policy domains.”

"There is a widely-held belief that academic research is becoming increasingly less relevant to policymakers and, more broadly, to public debate on a dizzying array of global developments,” said Carnegie Corporation Program Director for International Peace and Security Stephen Del Rosso. “These grants represent our largest targeted investment to date in support of our longstanding interest in bridging the research-policy gap.”


Having been on both sides of the gap, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO James Stavridis, dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University, commented, “The type of academic research into state legitimacy that the Carnegie grant will help to support, in practical terms, might help us to better understand emerging groups that could pose a threat to stability and security—like the next ISIS.”

The Corporation’s “Rigor and Relevance Initiative” attempts to bridge the gap with various approaches starting with research that will inform policymaking–for example territorial disputes caused by the melting ice cap and the natural resource demands of countries bordering the Arctic; governance of the Internet and methods for combating cyber espionage as a growing national security threat; and the role of local civilians and other nonviolent opposition groups in forming new governments like the one in Ukraine.


“Our collective attention is often biased toward headline-grabbing events of violence and conflict,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill, the dean of the Josef Korbel School at the University of Denver. “Our faculty is seeking to correct this bias by broadening the understanding of alternatives to violence and the effects that non-violent actors can have on worldwide security.”

Another grant requirement was to find ways of connecting policymakers and practitioners with the universities for intensive studies on a specific issue of international importance, either in person or virtually. This has led to new opportunities such as “Rapid Response Funds” to cover travel expenses so that faculty can meet with policymakers on a moment’s notice when urgent issues arise; fellowships for military officers taking classes in preparation for assignments in the Asia Pacific region; policymakers spending up to eight weeks on campus working directly with faculty and students; and the creation of a consortium of faculty from the nation’s top international relations programs to teach and mentor students, scholars, and policymakers.


On the issue of cyber security, the dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs Merit Janow said, “As the hub of global policy studies at Columbia, SIPA is well-positioned to draw upon leading thinkers at Columbia University and around the world and bring scholars and practitioners together across disciplines to generate fresh ideas and policy recommendations.”


“We have worked with the companies and nonprofit organizations of the globally connected Pacific Northwest to address critical international challenges, and brought the results of this work to policy makers,” said Resat Kasaba, director of the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. “This generous award will allow us to further our vision of bridging the gap between our work and the work of policy, development, security, and business practitioners.”

Connections will also be made through the use of new technology including a distance learning collaboration allowing students to interact with practitioners in real time, and a communications lab offering live streaming video.


Former deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, Dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University said, “With this funding, we will develop educational materials and delivery methods that combine intellectual rigor with the ability to adapt that thinking to the constraints of real-world decision making.”

An important goal of the grants is to encourage universities to address rules that widen the gap by not recognizing policy research and articles written for nonacademic publications, or work assignments outside the university, when making promotion and tenure decisions. One program will stop the probationary period known as the tenure clock and provide funding to help scholars spend time on leave to pursue policy work at a research institution, public sector agency, or private firm. Another program plans to award scholars who engage with the policy community.

Corporation support for this initiative is intended to fund ideas and create incentives that will meet the core bridging-the-gap challenge. The proposals were reviewed by experts in the international relations field chosen for their understanding of the policymaking process in Washington, D.C., knowledge of APSIA, and awareness of the administrative challenges of universities. The Corporation’s Board of Trustees approved the grants at its September 2014 meeting.

About Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 “to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation’s work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy.