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As the political and social challenges facing the world multiply, the discipline of political science requires better tools and creative approaches advanced by a more diverse set of researchers. Yet the discipline has struggled to recruit and admit to graduate programs, and retain as faculty, women and underrepresented minorities. Many individual faculty, departments, and universities have developed innovative programs and sought to create structural changes to address these gaps. This article presents the approach taken by the Department of Government at Georgetown University: launching a week-long Political Science Predoctoral Summer Institute in 2022. We describe the Institute’s contours and structure, provide preliminary data on outcomes, and conclude by offering three ideas for expanding and advancing these types of initiatives across the discipline.
Social scientists with data science skills increasingly are assuming positions as computational social scientists in academic and non-academic organizations. However, because computational social science (CSS) is still relatively new to the social sciences, it can feel like a hidden curriculum for many PhD students. To support social science PhD students, this article is an accessible guide to CSS training based on previous literature and our collective working experiences in academic, public-, and private-sector organizations. We contend that students should supplement their traditional social science training in research design and domain expertise with CSS training by focusing on three core areas: (1) learning data science skills, (2) building a portfolio that uses data science to answer social science questions, and (3) connecting with computational social scientists. We conclude with practical recommendations for departments and professional associations to better support PhD students.
This article introduces a bundle of active learning activities for an introductory undergraduate course in research methods. In particular, the activities aim to help students develop core knowledge and skills that provide a foundation for reading and conducting quantitative and qualitative research. Active learning is a pedagogical practice with well-established benefits such as better student attitudes and improved content comprehension and application. I build on this conventional wisdom by applying a student-centred evaluation method, demonstrating that students perceive active learning as an effective complement to traditional lecturing and assignments for learning core methodological topics in political science.
SYMPOSIUM: What Scholars Know (and Need to Know) about the Politics of Climate Change
A robust literature on climate change and security developed in the 2010s. Much of the literature attempts to chart how climate change could contribute directly or indirectly to conflict and instability through impacts on agriculture, migration, and disasters (Busby 2018; Koubi 2019; Theisen 2017).1 The methodological challenge is that climate change is an emergent problem, wherein the security consequences largely have yet to occur. However, the field’s methods and expertise are primarily explanatory of past patterns. For scholars who want to make claims about future security risks, Gledistch (1998, 394) warned of potentially slipping into prophecy. If scholars want to write about climate change and retain academic rigor, what are they to do? This article reviews the challenges for scholars in this space and identifies potential research strategies that might be pursued going forward.
Although a subset of political scientists has been studying climate change for decades, the mainstream of the discipline lags behind. Journals such as Global Environmental Politics and even Nature and Science have long published political science research on climate, yet major disciplinary journals tend to marginalize climate and environmental politics more broadly (Green and Hale 2017). This trend has been changing slowly (as evidenced by this symposium), but mainstream political science still has much catching up to do.
To confront the climate crisis, we need political change involving a dramatic shift in domestic and transnational norms. Norm models should be recognized as one of the theoretical tools within the panoply of approaches to examine and address climate change. The most promising norm campaigns underway are those that target fossil fuel companies and government policies that support them (e.g., subsidies).
Climate change is fundamentally a political problem; it is not merely a technical or economic challenge but rather an arena for sharp conflicts over the distribution of gains and losses and the associated ethical challenges. However, as Keohane (2015), Javeline (2014), and Green and Hale (2017) noted in PS: Political Science & Politics and Perspectives on Politics, research on climate change has not been traditionally central to mainstream political science. Field journals including Global Environmental Politics and Environmental Politics have made important contributions in this regard, and leading university presses have published important books on climate issues. However, the neglect of climate politics by mainstream journals is surprising—although we note the recent Perspective on Politics symposium on Green Political Science—because political scientists have devoted considerable attention to studying environmental politics at the community (Ostrom 1990), national (Kelemen and Vogel 2010), and international (Young 1994) levels. Indeed, there is robust literature on the management of common pool resources, national styles of environmental regulation, and environmental social movements, as well as global environmental regimes. Yet, the topic of climate change—an important subject in the study of environmental politics—too often has been neglected by mainstream political science.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change requires the adoption of costly policies with often uncertain efficacy and distributional consequences. Because these emissions occur across sectors of the economy—electricity, transportation, and agriculture—and the built environment, and they require action at all levels of government—global, national, regional, and local—there is no single “silver-bullet” solution.
The rise of climate change on the global political agenda coincided with the growth of partisan polarization in US politics and, in many ways, their trajectories mirror one another. When the climate crisis first began to attract political attention 30 years ago, Republicans and Democrats responded with similar levels of interest and concern. Today, partisan division overwhelms all other aspects of climate-change politics and environmental politics more broadly (Egan, Konisky, and Mullin 2022; Egan and Mullin 2017).
The well-understood gap between “mainstream” environmental organizations and Americans from minority populations is rooted in two phenomena. First, in the mid-1990s, hostility expressed toward immigrants and immigration by the Sierra Club (among other groups) drove a wedge between environmentalism and Latinos, as 87% of all Latinos are within two generations of the immigration experience. Second, whereas larger environmental groups focused on pollution and other forms of environmental degradation as well as conservation of natural and wild spaces, minority Americans showed less engagement in these issues and were affected more directly by air and water pollution and its consequences—phenomena that more directly affect communities of color. “Environmental justice” movements and organizations emerged to fill the gap left by the somewhat diminished focus of large “mainstream” groups on minority populations.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, ad hoc direct relief payments were used extensively as a means of economic stimulation and individual compensation. Current studies are focusing on the economic impact of these policies, but they seldom consider how these payments affect individual beliefs and attitudes. This study used a survey with quasi-experimental elements to examine how these payments affected tertiary students in Hong Kong by focusing primarily on a cohort including both eligible and noneligible students. Whereas satisfaction with the economy and government and support for democracy were not affected, nonrecipients assigned greater importance to meritocratic factors in improving life outcomes. The findings of this study shed light on how governments inadvertently may be affecting the outlook of young adults with transfers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Political scientists involved in the study of religion have expressed concerns that religious themes have yet to be fully integrated into the mainstream of the discipline. According to a study of articles published in leading political science journals during the first decade of the twenty-first century, papers engaging with religion were relatively few in number and highly concentrated in only a few thematic and disciplinary areas. This article presents an updated analysis of the extent to which political science has engaged with the topic of religion by examining journal outputs for the period 2011–2020. The study finds no significant change in the patterns identified by the earlier research. Despite an overall increase in the quantity of political science articles on the subject of religion, the overall proportion has been relatively static, and the thematic and disciplinary focus of outputs remains narrow.
This article discusses the integration of research methods training into a third-year elective undergraduate course. We suggest that the building blocks of research design can be embedded in courses without compromising their content. This introduces research methods to students who have no prior methods training or gives students with methods training more opportunities to engage in research design. We present evidence that this approach increased students’ self-assessed knowledge of and confidence with research-related skills, especially among those without prior methods training. Additionally, the analysis of research proposals—the final assignment of the course—revealed that most students were able to apply core research design skills. These findings demonstrate that progress in research methods skills is possible across the curriculum.
What effects do contentious elections have on partisan appraisals of democracy? We consider the case of the November 2020 US election, a highly polarized partisan contest but also an objectively free and fair election by credible accounting. We conducted a panel study embedded within two nationally representative surveys before and after the election. Results indicate a familiar but underexamined partisan gap, in which satisfaction with democracy decreases among Republicans and increases among Democrats relative to nonpartisans. We find that the gap is fully mediated by partisan shifts in satisfaction with elections and the news media that cover them. Our results underscore how eroding institutional confidence can undermine democratic legitimacy in hitherto consolidated democracies. To overcome partisan divisions following contentious elections, we highlight the need to bolster confidence in democratic institutions to reduce partisan fears and uncertainties—both rational and irrational—that electoral losses may trigger.
Meta-analyses are used to synthesize a body of literature to produce a single summary estimate as well as to explain differences among studies. The field of political science has slowly gained an appreciation for their use in recent years; however, using meta-analyses in dissertations remains rare. This is puzzling, given the tool’s ability to map a topic, to highlight potential gaps for future research to address, and its long-lasting utility for researchers in future projects. We argue that for these and several other reasons, graduate students should consider including a meta-analysis in their dissertation. This article discusses these advantages in detail and offers advice on how to conduct a meta-analysis based on several interviews and applied examples. We also address potential challenges when using this research design in a dissertation.