Publications from political science faculty keep highly ranked department at top

Media Credit: Madeleine Cook | Hatchet Photographer
Bruce Dickson, the chair of the political science department, said the department hires faculty with the expectation that they will publish books and get noticed.

Updated: Jan. 28, 2016 at 9:49 a.m.

Books are what keep the political science professors employed.

The chair of the political science department said his top-ranked department is publishing more books on current affairs and pushing more assistant professors to publish within the first couple years of their time at GW – a priority he said allows the department’s reputation to grow.

Bruce Dickson, the chair of the political science department, said that when new faculty join GW, they join with the expectation of publishing quickly and making “an impact that will get them noticed.” He said junior faculty usually publish a revised version of their dissertation as their first book but are expected to continue to publish.

He added that because faculty are located in D.C., most books from their department respond to contemporary issues in global politics such as the future of China.

“The goal for what all of us have been trying to do is not just write about contemporary events the way the think tanks do, but sort of use those events as a way of testing developing theory within political science,” Dickson said.

Dickson said the reputation of the political science department has grown over the years and is largely based on the productivity of the faculty.

“People whose work sets the debate in that field, challenges areas of conventional wisdom, opens up new areas of research,” Dickson said. “We have been fortunate to have lots of faculty in all stages of their careers who are doing those things.”

Political science is one of GW’s most popular departments and the University’s push for research has given the department national acclaim in recent years. U.S. News & World Report ranked GW as having the No. 36 spot in best political science department for graduate students.

In 2010 the National Research Council released a report that put GW in the top 25 universities for political science. That ranking was based on various factors, including the number of publications from faculty.

Tenured faculty across departments at GW are required to make research contributions in their fields. Earlier this fall, the chair of the history department started colloquia for graduate students and professors to share their research.

David Shambaugh, a professor of political science and international affairs, has published more than 30 books in 30 years. Shambaugh said faculty are evaluated annually based on student evaluations, the classes they teach and what they publish.

“If you are a cook, you have to cook food. If you are an academic scholar you have to publish books,” Shambaugh said. “Publishing is expected of us, we don’t get hired or promoted if we don’t publish.”

Shambaugh said publications are how faculty are able to impact the broad public and that more publishing helps the department be known around the world. He added that it is important for professors to be known as “public intellectuals,” educating inside and outside of the classroom.

“Teaching students in the classroom is not, in and of itself, enough to keep you in the profession,” Shambaugh said. “If you don’t publish, you perish.”

Celeste Arrington, an assistant professor of political science and international affairs, has her first book coming out in March and is already working on her second. She said her book focuses on victim movements and government accountability in Japan and South Korea.

Arrington said that she interviewed more than 250 victims of Leprosy control policies, Hepatits C and North Korean abductions as well as lawyers and government officials for her book, and she often brings up those examples in her courses. She added that while writing and teaching is a balancing act, the experience is “mutually beneficial.”

She said she has felt the pressure of “publish or perish” but that writing has led to a lot of opportunities for feedback from other scholars and students on her research.

“It takes a lot of effort to balance the demands of teaching with the hard work that goes into putting together a book,” Arrington said. “I have learned a lot through teaching that in some ways have improved the book.”

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