This article argues that the academic conflict research community has far less impact on the policy community than the importance of its work deserves. This is so for a number of reasons. First, the scholarly and policy communities communicate badly - the former rarely seeking to make their work more accessible to the latter. This is particularly true of the work of the econometricians, which few in the policy community understand. Second, the still-dominant realist academic security studies community continues to focus on interstate wars, while tending to ignore the 90% plus of armed conflicts that take place within, not between, states. Realist theories are, moreover, largely irrelevant to the task of explaining civil wars. Third, few policymakers recognize that probabilistic theories cannot be refuted by one or several counter-examples, leading them to reject important findings for the wrong reasons. Fourth, the conflict datasets used by quantitative researchers have no official standing, are often incommensurate, are unavoidably inaccurate and ignore key measures of violent conflict. Fifth, while there is some consensus with respect to findings on the causes of civil war, there are also fundamental disagreements. Little effort appears to have been made to resolve the differences. Policymakers have neither the time nor the expertise to choose between competing explanations themselves. Sixth, while there is growing consensus that the causes of civil strife are to be found in the interrelationships between development, governance and security, divisions of labour between academic disciplines and between departments in both governments and international institutions constrain both interdisciplinary and interdepartmental collaboration. The article concludes with a number of recommendations to improve the policy impact of conflict research.
Mack, Andrew (2002) Civil War: Academic Research and the Policy Community, Journal of Peace Research 39 (5).