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American Political Science Association Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER)

Logo of the American Political Science Association

June 15-20, 2020
Tufts University

The 2020 Institute

The second annual Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) will take place at Tufts University’s Tisch College on June 15-20, 2020. It will be directed by Valeria Sinclair Chapman (Purdue), Peter Levine (Tufts), and Amy Cabrera Rasmussen (Cal State-Long Beach). A call for applications will go out in December 2019. To make sure you see the announcement right away, you can add your name to the Tisch College Civic Studies mailing list here.

Background and Purpose

Scholars in many disciplines are grappling with how to produce rigorous scholarship that addresses significant social challenges in collaboration with communities, organizations, and agencies. They strive to learn from non-academics, to benefit from the research capacity of all kinds of groups and institutions, and to give back to communities rather than extract value from them. Although political scientists offer models of excellence in civically engaged research, relevant methods and strategies are not yet widely taught in the discipline’s graduate programs or sufficiently valued in the profession as a whole. 

Therefore, the American Political Science Association (APSA) Council authorized an annual APSA Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) which began in summer 2019. ICER is intended for advanced graduate students in political science and political scientists at any stage of their careers who wish to shift to using civically engaged research. It is not meant for scholars who are already experienced in that approach.

Content of the Institute

The Institute will address topics such as:

  • Expertise: what do political scientists contribute? What are the limitations of scholarly expertise? What expertise do others have?
  • The needs of scholars as compared to community groups or political actors. Tensions and ways of addressing them.
  • The ethics of collaboration: sharing of credit, funds and overhead, IRB issues, sharing results, dealing with disagreements.
  • Communicating results: to partners, communities, the press, directly to the broad public. Dealing with controversy.
  • How to define and honor values of like neutrality, objectivity, and rigor.
  • Career issues:  publication and credit, tenure and promotion, fundraising.
  • Mapping the different and varied ways that political scientists engage.

We will explore these issues by discussing relevant readings, by analyzing specific examples of civically engaged political science research, and by considering the research plans and ideas of the participants in the Institute.

The Institute will take place on the campus of Tufts University, in the Boston area, from June 15-20, 2020. Participants are expected to attend the Frontiers of Democracy conference with approximately 120 other scholars and practitioners.

The organizer and Principal Investigator on the project is Peter Levine (Tufts’ Tisch College of Civic Life and Department of Political Science). 

The institute's 2019 speakers and visitors included: Valeria Sinclair Chapman (Purdue), Archon Fung (Harvard), Taeku Lee (Berkeley), Robert Lieberman (Johns Hopkins), Jamila Michener (Cornell), Amy Cabrera Rasmussen (Cal State-Long Beach), Pearl Robinson (Tufts), and Rogers Smith (University of Pennsylvania). Also involved with the Institute were Amanda Grigg (APSA) and Hahrie Han (University of California Santa Barbara).

How to Apply

Thanks to support from the APSA, participation in the Institute and the conference is free, and scholarships are available to defray costs of travel, food, and housing in dormitories on the Tufts campus. Applicants are expected to seek financial support from their home institution, but admission to the Institute for Civically Engaged Research will not be affected by financial need.

A call for applications will go out in December 2019. It will ask for 1) your name, your institution, and program of study or current employment; 2) your reasons for interest in the Institute; 3) your background in political science research and in civically engaged research; 4) your areas of special research interest; and 5) your demographics. You are also asked to upload your CV and your unofficial academic transcript if you are a current graduate student or earned a PhD within the last five years.