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International Conflict Management: Linking Scientific Research and Policymaking

Strategic Security Analysis - 2016 n°12

Release Date:

October 2016

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Key Points

  • The gap between scientifically based research and government policy presents a recurring challenge to successful international conflict management.
  • In Austria, Germany and Switzerland, scientifically generated insights and evidence in the field of international conflict management play a comparatively small role compared to other, more prevalent factors influencing policymaking in this field, including the logics of government and international politics.
  • The “different-world” argument, implying divergent goals, working modes, career logics and “languages” or ways of conceptualising among researchers, on the one hand, and policymakers, on the other; “political” decision-making and the logic of governments; time restraints; and the complexity of the international conflict management dossier emerged as major reasons for the gap.
  • Interpersonal trust-based relations and permanent networks; the operational relevance of the insights and evidence supplied; and academic and think-tank understanding of policymaking, on the one hand, and a culture of appreciation for learning and respect for complexity on the part of government, on the other hand, emerged as strong enablers of meaningful exchange and impact. 
  • Practical collaborative approaches; long-term, regular exchanges; and in-depth dialogue were clearly deemed to be more effective than written formats and one-off events.
  • Some factors that impede the transfer of scientifically generated insights and evidence to policymaking may be difficult to change, e.g. divergent career logics or the “political” nature of policy decisions.
  • Yet much can nonetheless be done at the interface between the two worlds by both academia and governments, by making better use of teachable and learning moments, fostering meaningful networks, and allocating time and money to this effort, even if the exact form of useful channels and formats depends on local conditions.