From June 16th to July 11th, Duke University hosted the summer institute on EITM: Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models. The four week program gave twenty-eight advanced graduate students and post-doctoral scholars an opportunity to gain and develop skills by working with senior scholars who are experts in theoretical and empirical research.
“The intent when [EITM] was created was to bring two groups of people together and help them benefit from each other’s approaches,” explained Alexandra Cooper, Administrative Coordinator for EITM and SSRI’s Associate Director for Education. There are scholars, she said, who are working largely on the theoretical side of political science, while others work with empirical research and analyze actual collected data. The problem with this divide, however, is that theories are not always tested through real world application, while empirical results are grounded in real world data but not always guided by theory. A primary objective of the four week summer program was to encourage collaboration between empirical research and theoretical models.
Founded in 2001 by John Aldrich (Duke University), James Alt (Harvard University), Henry Brady (University of California at Berkeley), and Robert Franzese (University of Michigan), with the help of Jim Granato and Frank Scioli at National Science Foundation, the first EITM Institute was held at Harvard during the summer of 2002. Duke has hosted the program twice before, in 2004 and 2008. This is the first time, however, that the university has been able to use the new SSRI facilities at Gross Hall.
“Now that we’ve got Gross Hall, we were really excited to be on [West] campus,” Cooper said. The EITM group had access to classrooms, and open lounge spaces where they had impromptu group discussions – and watch World-Cup soccer in their leisure hours! The participants’ days were filled with a combination of lab instruction meetings, research seminars, and lectures on EITM methods by expert faculty. “It was an intensive program—a lot of summer programs are a week long and this one was clearly trying to cover more information than many do,” explained Cooper. “It was a pretty big commitment and it was also a pretty competitive application process.”
Although the EITM group was kept to a strict schedule during the week, it was a rewarding process. Not only were the participants each assigned a faculty advisor to look at their respective research projects, they were asked to present their work to the rest of the program. “While the nine a.m. to four p.m. lectures had been great and informative, what was really beneficial [to us] was what happened after those [presentations]—the conversations that continued outside of the classroom,” said Jacqueline Sievert, an EITM participant and Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University. “We were approaching questions in the same way, even though the substance of those questions were really different. I think [talking with participants and faculty] gave us a different type of feedback than we would normally get, only interacting with people in our sub-field.”
The EITM Summer Institutes boasts more than three-hundred former students, many of whom return to serve as mentoring faculty and residents for the program. “There’s a real community that’s developed because, you know, 30 [EITM participants] a year…that starts to add up,” Cooper said. Indeed, with the program just having wrapped up, many of the participants are already planning to re-connect at the American Political Science Association’s annual conference to be held in Washington, D.C. in late August.