Why do political theories so often fail the test of common sense? And why do individual political studies often seem to stop short of providing general guidance about political matters?
James Granato and Frank Scioli, National Science Foundation (NSF), managers of the political science program, write in the newly published June issue of Perspectives on Politics that the separation of theory and real-world tests often sharply limit the usefulness of each. They identify three methods commonly used in political science studies – formal models, case studies, and applied statistical models - any of which, used alone, they say, may produce faulty results.
Theories need factual tests, Granato and Scioli say. Case studies need to inform theories. And statistical results need to be corrected by case study analyses and based on sound theory. Problems arise when researchers use only one method and do not compensate for its shortcomings, a challenge that plagues not only political science but the other social sciences as well.
Researchers are also examining social issues. One EITM project will link data on employers and employees to understand the workplace and human performance from both perspectives. Two other projects will investigate how residential communities form from the housing and neighborhood choices people make. Still others propose to increase understanding of how people learn in groups, how learners form generalizations from examples and how large social networks evolve.
The EITM initiative was part of NSFs new priority area in Human and Social Dynamics in which formal modeling is an area of emphasis.
Elizabeth Malone | NSF
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