The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Roberts to Co-chair New ASPA Initiative

Professor Alasdair Roberts in his office

Alasdair Roberts, director and professor at the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy, has been named co-chair of an American Society for Public Administration committee focused on how scholars in public administration should engage with non-democratic governments.

"International engagement is essential to scholarship in public administration," Roberts said.  "Increasingly, though, scholars find themselves working in places where human rights and academic freedom are under attack. The committee will consider how academics can think more deliberately about the aims and forms of engagement in a world where a shared commitment to core values can't be taken for granted."

The group, comprising distinguished scholars from the US and abroad, will conduct research and organize dialogues on the topic, leading to a report, to be released in January of 2023. Roberts will co-chair the committee with Mary-Lee Rhodes, professor of public management at Trinity College, Dublin.

“International scholarly engagement is unquestionably an important part of American academic life,” said Allan Rosenbaum, ASPA’s president and Distinguished University Professor at Florida International University’s Green School of International & Public Affairs. “However, such engagement seems to be becoming increasingly complicated in that it appears, especially in those countries which recently have experienced serious democratic backsliding, that participation in academic and other professional conferences is, with increasing frequency, being used to promote particular political narratives."

“Consequently, this seems like a very good time to ask a number of very smart people, who have had a lot of international experience, to think about whether there might be some informal guidelines that scholarly professional associations should be thinking about suggesting as regards maintaining the objectivity of such engagement,” Rosenbaum continued.

The committee on international scholarly engagement is one of three initiatives that ASPA will launch at its annual conference — with the theme “Democracy under Threat: The Future of Equality in a Post-COVID World” — later this month in Jacksonville, Florida. ASPA is also establishing a Center for Social Equity and a Center for Democracy.

About the School of Public Policy: Established in 2016, the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy prepares students for leadership in public service. The program’s focuses include social change and public policy related to science and technology.

Contact: Maureen Turner, associate director for marketing and communications, School of Public Policy

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