Stephen M. Walt writes on Foreign Policy about the role that academics should play in public discourse about major social issues, including foreign policy.
He argues that academic scholars have a unique role to play as an independent source of information and critical commentary – and an obligation to use their knowledge for the betterment of society. In particular, university-based scholars should resist the “cult of irrelevance” that leads many to limit their work to a narrow, obscure, and self-referential dialogue among academicians.
The author sets out six recommendations for improving academic participation in the public sphere:
- Give greater weight to real world impact when evaluating individual scholars and academic departments
- Encourage professional associations to honor public impact
- Encourage younger scholars to participate in policy-related activities
- Engage policymakers and knowledgeable citizens in the research process
- Convince university administrators to value participation in the public sphere
- Broaden the discussion of academic ethics and responsibilities