Written by Clare Angeroth Franks, REEI MA student.
Michael Kimmage, Professor of History at Catholic University of America, spoke with a group of students on April 2, 2018 to talk about how funding proposals can employ policy relevance. Dr. Kimmage also touched on the state of US-Russian diplomatic relations. The group was comprised of PhD and master’s students from multiple disciplines including political science, Jewish studies, and geography.
Dr. Kimmage began the event with several pieces of advice to grant-writing researchers hoping to write policy-relevant proposals. He stated that while in academia, it is important to look for gaps in the literature, state the methodology of your research, and remain objective throughout your work. In the policy community, however, these rules do not apply. Original and novel ideas tend to be turned down because policy-makers want to see precedence in your research. They value connections to previous models that help explain current events. A new idea, a break from what has been done before, can be seen as too risky. They also are uninterested in methodology and the comprehensive knowledge that the researcher possesses. Yes, this information is important, but they trust that as an academic, you know how to conduct research and you understand how your research fits within the wider picture. Finally, Dr. Kimmage stressed that policy makers need to make decisions and they want to know your informed opinion. This is why remaining objective does not benefit the policy-maker. The policy-maker would rather see that you are arguing for something, thus helping them determine the best course of action.
Dr. Kimmage also mentioned how policies are very time specific. Trends are constantly changing and are impossible to fully research as an academic. Dr. Kimmage argued that in order to do policy-relevant research, researchers must have a substantive, long-view approach to their work. Their research should touch on what could be relevant in the foreseeable future.
Then, Dr. Kimmage moved on to US-Russian relations. He offered the following questions to the audience: what is the real problem between the US and Russia; is Ukraine the problem of a function of the problem; and who are the outside actors that influence US-Russian relations. Each of these questions was designed to give the students a unique framework for thinking about US-Russian relations.
Following Dr. Kimmage’s talk, several students asked questions about language knowledge for research, the need for a definite conclusion in a grant proposal, how far in history a grant proposal can reach, and how to craft grant proposals for policy relevance, among other questions. Dr. Kimmage answered each of these questions and offered advice for each students’ specific interests. At the end of the event, students were invited to attend Dr. Kimmage’s evening event, a panel on the 2018 Russian election, “Russian Presidential Election: Results Preordained, Future Uncertain.”