Stephen J. Del Rosso: The Gap Debate, Reignited


As the late Stanford political scientist Alexander George pointed out more than 20 years ago, “bridging the gap” that separates the two cultures of academia and policymaking has been a longstanding challenge in the United States. It’s also been a focus of Carnegie Corporation’s International Peace and Security Program, which provides support for individuals and organizations bringing independent, authoritative analysis to bear on critical policy issues. An article in the Carnegie Reporter  examines this issue.

Given the complexity and intractability of many of the problems facing contemporary America and the world, the need for marshaling the country’s scholarly brainpower would seem more urgent than ever. But trends in the social sciences, particularly political science, from the privileging of method over substance to the undervaluing of policy-relevant scholarship in hiring and tenure decisions, have seemingly widened the gap. Meanwhile, busy policymakers appear to have little time or patience for wading through jargon-filled academic journals or figuring out how theory might be useful in practice. Debate about “the gap,” which has been going on for decades, was recently reignited by a series of op-eds (including one by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times) and responses in publications and the blogosphere. The links below, many of them reflecting work supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York, capture some of the key arguments in this long-running debate: