Michael Barone Dislikes Political Science, Search Engines

Michael Barone doesn’t like what he’s heard about the most recent American Political Science Association conference, held over this past weekend in Washington, DC. Apparently, political science is avoiding the important topics:

There were more than 1,000 panels on a vast variety of subjects — but nothing on the presidency of Barack Obama or the upcoming 2014 elections.

That’s actually a pretty damning accusation. It’s also totally untrue. And Barone or his staffers or editors at the Washington Examiner could have figured that out very quickly by going to the on-line program for the APSA conference and typing search terms like “Obama” into the keyword field. Not all academic conferences make it this easy to search content, but APSA’s search engine actually isn’t bad. At any rate, by my count, there were around 15 conference papers concerning Obama, and those are just the ones that mentioned Obama’s name in the title. I’m quite confident there were many more addressing his presidency.

There were also a number of panels devoted to the 2014 midterm elections, including one on forecasting and another large plenary session featuring political scientists and journalists and chaired by the Monkey Cage’s John Sides. It was in a rather large venue on Saturday afternoon. Not sure how that got missed. Could there have been more panels on the 2014 elections? I suppose, but I’m not sure just how much attention should be devoted to an event that hasn’t yet occurred.

Now, in fairness, the piece that Barone linked to by Paul Rahe was somewhat more nuanced in its accusations, and Rahe appears to at least know how to use a search engine. And I’m not going to claim that political science has achieved the perfect balance in how it allots attention to political phenomena. But in general, I’d say that if you think the discipline needs to focus more on something, propose a paper on it. Better yet, put together a panel with other scholars on the topic. Try to influence an organized section to devote more attention to the topic, or, if you can’t find the appropriate section, start one. The discipline is more open to new ideas and self-criticism than many think, and it’s definitely covering more topics than Barone thinks it does.

(h/t Mike Wagner)

[Cross-posted at The Mischiefs of Faction]

Seth Masket

Seth Masket is an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.