Interview with Brian Baird

The first interview in Let’s Be Heard! is with Brian Baird. He has a PhD in social science, served 12 years i2n Congress, and was a university president. He argued that political scientists need to “embrace the legitimacy” of the questioning of the public value of our research, and then use our own discipline’s insights to improve how we communicate that value. He, along with a number of other members of Congress with whom task force members have interacted, has noticed political science’s limitations in this domain. Baird describes this situation as “a little bit like watching your boxing instructor get knocked out in a bar fight.”

Baird was the task force member who most forcefully articulated the value to political science of a video series that plays offense. To improve communication to policymakers and the public, Baird proposed that political scientists:

  • “Recognize that challenging the legitimacy … of elected representatives to question where funding goes is a fool’s errand.”
  • “Apply their own insight into how they approach this problem.”
  • “Do some serious self-reflection on exactly what we’re doing with the people’s money, and where the value proposition is for that.”

Baird contends that a video campaign that illustrates the concrete value of political science will encourage us to more effectively confront the problem of how to translate our research into real-world value and application, which is “very hard for social scientists, partly because of the nature of the discipline and also because they’re not trained to think this way…. But, we’ll never solve that problem if people don’t recognize that it’s a valid question.”

Brian Baird was interviewed by Steve Friess, who has written for Time, Politico, and many other outlets.

Click here to access the free special issue Let’s Be Heard! and read the interview.