Foreign Policy Blogs

Kazakhstan-US: Academic Shenanigins

Good morning everyone. Hey, has anyone of you been writing academic reports analyzing another nation's society and political system, while at the same time taking money from that country's government to do so? If you said yes, you may be Johns Hopkins University's Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, which is directed by the much respected S. Frederick Starr.

The Hopkins Institute disclosed funding for three recent reports about modern Kazakhstan, revealing that the Kazak government-funded Washington lobbying firm APCO Worldwide provided $52,300. The reports titled ‘Kazakhstan's New Middle Class’, Parliament and Political Parties in Kazakhstan,’ and ‘Kazakhstan in its Neighborhood’ all look rather interesting and pdf's of them can be found from the link above. The reports authors and Starr deny any wrongdoing and insist that the research and conclusions were not influenced in anyway by the Kazak government.

On the other side, Paul Goble, another CA expert at the Institute of World Politics, warns of the dangers of this type of funding:

“The sources of funding should be clearly stated. If they are not or if there is even the hint that someone is hiding something, there will be suspicions, justified or not, about whatever appears.”

He added: “We in this country have an obligation to provide a best practices model for countries like Kazakhstan whose political and intellectual elites emerged from the Soviet system and do not fully understand the importance of transparency and thus may be tempted to use funds in ways that we would and should find problematic.”

This is a bit of a sticky issue, as the Kazak government should be able to fund projects that further attention and research on their nation in the world's most influential state, the US, but as Goble alludes to, the line between academics and politics is a thin one. I tend to believe that as long as Johns Hopkins accurately reports their funding, and there's no reason to doubt they did, combined with continued transparency on how and why they are researching and reporting on what they are, the positives outweigh the negatives.

What do you think? When you’re done thinking, have a good weekend.



Patrick Frost
Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

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