About APSA
APSA Task Forces

The purpose of APSA task forces is to expand the public presence of the discipline of political science.  They do so mainly by (1) putting the best of political science research and knowledge at the service of critical issues that have major public policy implications and (2) sharing with broader society what political scientists know about important trends and issues in areas of public concern.

Active Task Forces:

  • Electoral Rules and Democratic Governance, which analyzes the role of political science in configuring and refashioning electoral rules in aspiring and established democracies. Electoral Rules and Democratic Governance: Context and Consequences, led by Mala Htun of the University of New Mexico, will assess the usefulness of political science research and strive to increase its relevance for important issues of the day.
    As the momentous events of the "Arab Spring" demonstrate, citizens everywhere demand inclusion, representation, accountability and other benefits associated with democratic systems of government. Whether or not these claims can be met depends in part of the design and nature of the new institutions crafted by elites. Do these institutions reflect scientific knowledge and advice? Or does their design respond to other concerns? How can political scientists better assist in the planning of new democracies? The Task Force will focus six areas of research: normative institutional design; ballot structure; rules, contexts and outcomes; gender and ethnic inclusion; electoral rules and policy consequences; and the role of political scientists in electoral reform.
  • Negotiating Agreement in Politics, which aims to identify the structural conditions for success in political negotiation and to recommend best practices for improving those conditions.  Participants in politics are often unable to achieve the best outcomes due to failures in the negotiating process, yet current work on negotiation (in business, law, and policy schools) focuses almost entirely on individual practitioners and not on the institutions that can facilitate or impede successful political negotiation.  The Task Force, chaired by Cathie Jo Martin of Boston University, will consist of four working groups that will build over the year on each other's findings:  one group on the cognitive micro-foundations for negotiation, another on the institutions for negotiation in the EU, a third on normative considerations, and the fourth on the formal and informal institutions in the U.S. Congress that promote or impede good negotiation.

Completed Task Forces:

  • Civic Education for the Next Century
  • Democracy Audits and Governmental Indicators, which analyzed current global indicators of governmental and civic performance in order to develop improved research and data collecting methods, while establishing a more active APSA role in monitoring indicators in the future.
  • Democracy, Economic Security, and Social Justice in a Volatile World, which will rethink some of the familiar assumptions about democracy, economic security, and social justice in light of these worrisome trends. Its aim is to refresh and reinvigorate debates on the articulation between democracy, economic security, and social justice in developed and developing countries.
  • Difference and Inequality in the Developing World, assembled what political science knows about key global problems in order to find ways and means by which scholarship might influence public opinion, shape discourse in the public sphere, and influence policy makers.
  • Graduate Education, which reported on promising practices, important issues, and gave suggestions for innovations in the state of graduate education. [Task Force Report:Graduate Education in Political Science (.pdf)]
  • Inequality and American Democracy, intended to share what political scientists know about the ways in which recent trends in inequalities impact democratic participation and governance in the United States. The task force also considered how changing patterns of participation and policy may influence inequality along various dimensions.  [Task force report: American Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality (.pdf)]
  • Interdisciplinarity, which looked for solutions to advance interdisciplinarity in the social and behavioral sciences and humanities by identifying, examining, and recommending best practices for its development.
  • Mentoring, which fostered efforts to mentor younger political scientists, both graduate students and younger faculty.
  • Political Science in the 21st Century, which examines the profession of political science to determine whether it is living up to its full potential as a scholarly discipline by enriching the discourse, broadening the understanding, and modeling the behavior reflective of vibrant democracy. 1. How can more of the questions pursued by political scientists speak directly to the challenges of effective, democratic governance facing many nation states today? In what ways can the curriculum and pedagogical approaches used in political science be modified to maximize the intellectual and civic engagement of undergraduate/graduate students? Which innovative strategies of recruitment, retention, and promotion must key gatekeepers in political science pursue if the profession is to attain the more full inclusion of members from historically underrepresented groups?
  • Political Violence and Terrorism, which will assess the contribution of political science to our understanding of how trends in civil violence, including the ways in which states respond to and/or instigate violence, affect domestic and international political order.
  • Religion and Democracy in the United States, which examined how relevant disciplinary knowledge can help Americans understand the role that religion plays in their public life, and consider both the opportunities and dangers to democracy that flow from the presence of significant numbers of citizens who possess strong religious convictions.
  • U.S. Standing in World Affairswhich examined three questions key questions related to the U.S. standing in world affairs: 1. what is standing and how has it varied?; 2. what causes standing to rise and fall?; and 3. what impact does standing have on U.S. foreign policy?  The task force will synthesize what we now know about U.S. standing and identifying what we need to know to understand better a topic of clear national and international importance.

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