Just HOW relevant is Political Science?

As a political science major, it would be nice to believe that the field of study is so necessary articles like this would not be an issue; however, it bears looking into.

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican from OK, proposed that the National Science Foundation (NSF) stop “wasting… federal research fund[s] on political science projects,” and while political scientists rallied against this in opposition, many acknowledge that the field’s direction is under debate.

This main debate is based upon quantitative and qualitative methodology. Jeffrey C. Isaac, a professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, is the editor of Perspectives on Politics, a journal created to “bridge the divide” after a “revolt” was led against the “growing influence of statistical methods and mathematics-based models.” The concern about the method the field utilizes is frankly where the problem lies; with political science, it is not simply the facts and figures that are relevant, but the influences behind them–an abstract measure that is simply an interpretation.

One of the concerns is that “the field is  not producing work that matters. ‘The danger is that political science is moving in the direction of saying more and more about less and less’,” says John Nye, a professor at the School of Government at Harvard. This comes to the forefront when there is such a divide on what kind of research should be used.

Despite Coburn’s proposal, it is relevant to mention that social science is a leading field being utilized by the Defense Department, which has been “recruiting scholars… to work on security issues like terrorism, Iraq, and China’s military.”

So what does this mean for someone, say, this author, who is currently studying this field? One may be holding up hope that even if this bill passes, the faith in the field stays strong. Political Science, “a social science concerned with the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behavior” is–one would argue–ultimately important in today’s world. Analysis of how the dynamics of political systems function, and the demographics and circumstances states and nations are influenced by may shed light on why future events happen, or at least why past events occurred.

Mr. Isaac relates: “…political scientists can and should do a better job of making the public relevance of our work clearer” and I agree. Not everyone immediately understands the breadth of political science and its relevance in the career world or its functionality in society today; however, it is the lens political analysts use in structuring and answering the question “who gets what, when, and how.”

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