Academic Study

It is an exciting time to study public diplomacy -- a government-led effort to influence public opinion abroad. Leaders in government, the private sector and civil society are seeking ways to engage and rebuild connections, expanding their networks and influence in international affairs. Public diplomacy practitioners are uniquely able to navigate today's dynamic landscape of competing interests, global media and human geography.

Through purposeful interactions with foreign publics, public diplomacy officers and their private sector partners convey American values and help our leaders understand the range and roots of global opinion. They provide tools and platforms to strengthen transnational alliances and people-to-people relationships through effective programs and dialogues that build trust.

Scholars support this mission by framing public diplomacy programs in their historical context, explaining what has a positive impact and why, and developing program evaluation tools and methods. Scholars also generate new knowledge and spark innovations in public diplomacy tradecraft, testing theories against on-the-ground experience.

Public Diplomacy, a growing discipline

Public diplomacy was recognized as an academic discipline in 1965, when Ambassador Edmund Gullion, then Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, established the Edward R. Murrow Center for Public Diplomacy, now called the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World. The center was created "as a memorial to the man whose distinguished reporting and analysis of world news and imaginative leadership of the USIA set a standard of excellence in the field".

Since then, schools of international affairs, communication, and other academic institutions have established degree programs and concentrations and offered courses in public diplomacy and related fields.

Public diplomacy is a multidisciplinary field with strong links to international relations, security studies, political science and the social, behavioral and economic sciences. Peer-reviewed journals publish findings from researchers, practitioners, scholar-practitioners, and teams combining these perspectives, including an expansion of regional and comparative studies.

The end of the Cold War and Joseph Nye Jr.'s introduction of soft power in 1990 injected fresh energy into public diplomacy theory-building and practice. Digitalization opened opportunities to study "diplomacy 2.0", integrating new information and communication technologies and social networks with international broadcasting and educational and cultural exchange. The 9/11 attacks marked another turning point in public diplomacy practice and study. Topics such as countering violent extremism, stability operations, democracy promotion and human rights generated an influx of students with an interest in cyber security, defense, cultural diplomacy, and international development.

Nowadays, scholars are challenged to re-assess public diplomacy in terms of grand strategy and geopolitics undertaken in a contested information environment. Scholars are also pursuing research with greater sensitivity to gender, identity and social justice.

PDCA members are active scholars

Many PDCA members teach courses, conduct research and produce publications. To promote academic excellence and honor achievement in our discipline, the PDCA:

  1. Provides resources for professors teaching courses in public diplomacy and related fields as well as students of public diplomacy
  2. Facilitates connections between rising professionals and public diplomacy scholars and practitioners; and
  3. Showcases the work of PDCA members by maintaining a bibliography of books, articles, reports, and other resources authored by PDCA members.

The following resources are available on this website: