At the 2011 APSA conference, a proposal to establish an International Relations Standing Committee (IRSC) (put by Tim Dunne and Jason Sharman) was given a strong endorsement by the APSA Executive Committee, and received unanimous approval of the membership at the Annual General Meeting.
The standing committee will be open to all APSA members on a voluntary basis. Once the IRSC is up and running, it will build an email membership list and communicate relevant matters to members on an opt-in basis.
The rationale for an IRSC is the following:
- Growth of IR in Australia. Over the last decade in particular, IR has become increasing prominent within the overall discipline of Politics in Australia. The figures from Pat Weller show that 44% of Australian scholars in the field identify with IR or IPE (conventionally located with IR). Yet currently IR in Australia lacks any formally representative structure that speaks for the sub-discipline, either within or beyond APSA. This puts IR in Australia at odds with the practice in other academic communities, notably the United States (ISA/APSA) and the UK (BISA/PSA). There are, however, many good reasons why IR in Australia should not be set up as a self-standing discipline with its own professional association: it is arguably too small; more substantively, separating IR from Political Studies would be retrogressive in terms of the many convergences across the two fields.
- Speaking for IR. There are various times when APSA, as the peak body, is asked to provide input into national discussion about research and education matters. An example here is the recent ‘consultation’ that was held in relation to the possible use of journal rankings for ERA 2012. While the APSA Executive at the time ensured there were ‘soundings’ with IR academics, the absence of a dedicated IR member on the Exec meant that there was no formal channel of communication.
- Better coordination. There are two other fora in which IR colleagues in Australia meet for national/international conferences: the bi-annual Oceanic Conference on International Studies (OCIS) now in its 5th conference; and the new ISA Asia and Pacific regional section (in which the presidency is currently held at UQ but is likely to move outside of Australia in the second term of the regional section’s life). Ensuring that activities planned by these two groupings are timed in such a way that they do not diminish interest in, or attendance of, the APSA conference will be an important dimension of the IRSC’s role.
It is envisaged that the membership of the IRSC will include the following:
- Chair. A chair would serve for 2 years. According to the APSA processes, it is up to the IRSC to decide who will be the Chair. The inaugural post-holder will be Professor Jacqui True from Monash University (from January 2012).
- Editor of Australian Journal of International Affairs. While AJIA is the journal of the Australian Institute for International Affairs, it is also regarded as the main Australian IR journal; given the prominence of journal publications to professional standing, it is felt that advice/input from the Editor of the AJIA would be very useful for the standing group. The current editor is Professor Andrew O’Neil from Griffith University.
- President of the ISA regional section. In light of the rationale above, a position on the IRSC should be allocated to this post-holder for the time when the regional section is run out of an Australian University. The current post-holder is Professor Tim Dunne from the University of Queensland.
- OCIS conference organizing chair. For the July 2012 conference, it is Dr Susan Park from the University of Sydney. The sequencing of the OCIS representative will need to be determined according to the transition from one OCIS venue to another; should the next planned conference be outside of Australia, this place on the committee will be held over.
- Professor Jason Shaman, as one of the original proposers of the IRSC, will be a member of the inaugural committee. He is currently Treasurer of APSA and therefore provides a second source of participation on the APSA Exec.
- Additionally, the composition of the standing group requires a postgraduate student representative as well 2-3 other members who will enhance the geographic and seniority/gender/ethnic balance of the Standing Group.
- The composition of the standing group taking into account the above diversity criteria is a matter for the Chair who is of course accountable to the Exec and the wider APSA membership.
We look forward to developing the IRSC and hope this initiative will further promote the development of IR research and education in Australia.