Becoming Policy-Relevant

The White House Situation Room
The White House Situation Room, hopefully a goal of all policy professionals.

All of you interested in working in international relations or public administration policy are looking to make sure that your research and insight is at the forefront of the field.  Thus, it makes sense to take some time to read “So You Want to Be Policy-Relevant” by Professor Joshua Busby, Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

While Professor Busby’s advice is geared towards doctoral degree holders, he does offer the following pieces of advice which is applicable to master’s degree holders.  The following are excerpts from Professor Busby’s longer piece, “So You Want to Be Policy-Relevant.

  • Learn who the players are. Who writes about the issue you care about? Follow them on Twitter. True policy insiders know all the ins and outs of current initiatives and who is up and who is down. Trying to compete at that game can be a full-time job, and this is not our comparative advantage. You want to know things and not just know people. Still, you should have some familiarity with what is going on right now and who the important people are.
  • Learn a language or a skill. When country X falls apart, area studies experts still are important. I don’t think it’s easy to be purely an area studies person these days, as you still need to have some conceptual and methodological tools to make sense of a place, but it’s a start. Knowing the language and going there will give you some street cred. Other skills, of course, like econometrics, GIS, or experimental methods will make you more portable and useful to the academy and policy alike.
  • Getting Noticed.  Even if you are not in DC or other policy metropole, people from the policy world may come to you if you are one of the leading experts on a topic that’s trending. You may become a known quantity on a particular issue, and long-form writing is still our stock in trade. But, we have more diverse media—blogging, Twitter, Facebook even—that we can control to get the word out.