Panel Recommends Expanded Research, Risk-Taking for Data-Driven Public Diplomacy

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(James Allenspach/Flickr)

20 September 2014. A panel of university faculty in public diplomacy recommends expanding research efforts State Department and BBG, both in the quantity of analytics conducted and its status in the organizations, to infuse more solid evidence into the public diplomacy decision-making process. The committee’s report, prepared for the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, also calls for creating a culture where limited or negative outcomes from evaluations are used to build a better program, not punish public diplomacy professionals.

The panel of nine contributors reviewed over 100 State Department and BBG research documents and conducted “more than a dozen interviews,” according to the report, between February and August 2014. Their report, released on 16 September 2014, recommends five areas of action:

 (1) increased recognition on the part of State Department officials of the importance of research in public diplomacy; (2) movement away from State Department and BBG’s risk-averse cultures, which can negatively impact how research data and evaluations are conceived, conducted, reported and used; (3) more consistent strategic approaches in developing and evaluating public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities; (4) increased training in strategic planning, including research and evaluation; and (5) more funding and personnel to conduct more meaningful evaluations at both agencies that can correct the course of programs and activities. Research and evaluation at both agencies is woefully underfunded, falling well below the 5 percent industry standard.

Authors of the report were:

  • Sean Aday, Associate Professor of Media and Public Affairs and International Affairs, The George Washington University
  • Amelia Arsenault, Assistant Professor of Communication, Georgia State University
  • Matthew Baum, Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications, Harvard University
  • Nicholas Cull, Professor of Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California, who provided a historical preface
  • Kathy Fitzpatrick, Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, Florida International University
  • Craig Hayden, Assistant Professor, American University
  • Erik Nisbet, Associate Professor, School of Communication, Department of Political Science, The Ohio State University
  • Shawn Powers, Assistant Professor of Communication, Georgia State University
  • Jay Wang, Associate Professor, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California.


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