Going Beyond Kristoff’s “Is Being Academic Being Irrelevant?” – The Example of Academics Stand Against Poverty

19 Feb

Nicholas Kristoff has stirred quite a controversy by critiquing in his NYT blog the (self)- isolation of US Academia from the policy community. My initial reaction is to agree with at least some of the conclusions he draws – especially about the rarified nature of political science. From a personal perspective, having attended the International Studies Association conference pretty much every year for the past decade, it is getting less and less interesting/relevant to a policy person. The field appears to be crushed by a lack of imagination, excess quantitative analysis, a lack of insight into or experience of the policy-making world by young academics, and excess incentives around influencing the esoteric academic debate rather than real world challenges.

On the other hand, there are many examples of academics reaching out to influence the policy-making community and wider conversations among citizens. Academics Stand Against Poverty is one of these groups. This organisation (I am on the board supporting the national chapters) is an international professional association focused on helping poverty researchers and teachers enhance their positive impact on severe poverty. It does so by promoting collaboration among poverty-focused academics, effective outreach to policy makers and broader public audiences, and by helping academics turn their expertise into impact through specific intervention projects. One of their projects is Impact Global Poverty, an online series of articles and interviews detailing how academics have approached the promotion of direct positive impact on poverty alleviation policy and practice.

British Military Capability and its Strategic Relevance Today

20 Jan

It is reassuring to know that DefenceSynergia (DS) is not alone in recognising there are ever widening cracks in the foundations of UK’s defence strategy, as emphasised by Robert Gates, a former US Defense Secretary, on the BBC Today programme on the 16 January 2014. The latter adding further strength to the concerns articulated by Professor Sir Hew Strachan in his new book ‘Direction of War’ – Contemporary Strategy in Historic Perspective.

However, I wonder if the government is actually listening, despite being given much amplified commentary from knowledgeable and authoritative sources. Therefore, I offer here a view on current strategic thinking and some of its impact on the British armed forces and government policy today by briefly referencing our past military history. To that end I have often heard it said that the United Kingdom (UK) armed forces have the ability to act successfully alone (without allies). Indeed, have done so strategically many times. Whilst this thesis might be true of the Royal Navy (RN) over the past 300 years it may be less accurate when considering the British Army and Royal Air Force (RAF) beyond small scale operations and colonial actions. In saying this I draw on my own understanding and interpretation of our military history between 1799 to the present day.

Evian Group Taskforce Meeting: Glum and Glummer

7 Mar


24 Feb

New year foreign policy resolutions: a selection from around the world

6 Jan

The 99

13 Sep

Since his 2010 TED talkon his Muslim superheroes comics, Naif Al-Mutawa and ‘the 99′ have become famous.  As described on TED, his ‘new generation of comic book heroes fight more than crime — they smash stereotypes and battle extremism. Named after the 99 attributes of Allah, his characters reinforce positive messages of Islam and cross cultures […]

Downturn in Facebook usage in US/UK

5 May

In my research getting under the skin of social media usage in North Africa, I came across this fabulous website: www.socialbakers.com – ‘the heart of facebook statistics’.  Crammed full of social media advice to users, both private and corporate, this website is also full of captivating statistics (for example, do you know that 55% of […]

Top Five things to do in Lisbon

28 Jan

  Having been asked a few times recently by friends which are my favourite things to do in Lisbon, I thought I’d share them wider: 1.       Go to Sintra if you can to drive around the fabulous buildings (ex-english aristocracy from late 18c) in its own microclimate outside of Lisbon – make sure you visit […]