Support Our Sponsors-- Support Us!
Ad Info

TranceNet Home Page
[home] [research] [getting started] [law] [personal stories] [secrets] [news] [about TranceNet]

last updated: Sunday, October 29, 20009:19:32 PM

Frameworks, Techniques, and Theory

Contributions of Research Consulting in Social Science

by Daniel Druckman, George Mason University

American Behavioral Scientist, Aug2000, Vol. 43 Issue 10, p1635, 32p

Abstract: Renowned social scientist Daniel Druckman, of the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, discusses social science research consulting in the context of a three-year study undertaken for the National Research Council on improving human performance. This study is of importance to TranceNet readers for its findings that: (1) TM is ineffectual in improving human performance, and (2) its finding that the meta-analysis that pro-TM researchers have put forward as finding benefit for the technique are deeply flawed in their methodology.

Three questions are addressed in this article: What is social science research consulting? How is this form of consulting performed? and What contributions have been made to social science theory and practice? The first question is discussed in terms of the match between a client's needs and the consultant's skills, the various roles consultants play, and the professional culture they share. The second question is considered in terms of such basics as preparing a winning proposal, dealing with both an internal (the firm) and external (the marketplace) environment, and overcoming barriers to implementation. The third question is treated by giving examples of applied research projects implemented for clients. These include projects that analyze negotiating processes, develop models of political structures and processes, analyze intentions, evaluate techniques for enhancing performance, and design policy and training simulations. The article concludes with lessons learned from these experiences, contributing to knowledge, practice, and the craft of consulting.

This article provides a window into the profession of social science research consulting. I ask three questions: What is it? How is it done? and What kinds of contributions have been made? These questions are addressed in the context of projects conducted for clients, mostly from U.S. government agencies in the national security and international development domains.(n1) I conclude the article with some lessons learned as contributions to knowledge, practice, and the craft of consulting.

Research Consulting: Art and Science

This section addresses the first question, What is research consulting? An answer to this question turns on the purposes it serves, the various roles consultants play, and the professional culture within which they practice. These themes are discussed in three parts. In the first part, I discuss the relationship between client needs and consultant skills. In the second part, I develop a typology of seven functions served or roles performed by consultants. The section then concludes with a discussion of some features of the culture of research consulting.

Client Needs and Consultant Skills

A consulting project occurs when there is a match between the needs of clients (or sponsors) and the knowledge or skills that a consultant (or consulting team) brings to the project. This match can be understood with examples from several actual projects done for government clients, which can be considered a large portion of the universe of clients that invest in social science research. One example comes from a national security agency that deals with organizing large quantities of information for analysis. The agency's strength lay in the careful collection of information about people and events, as well as documentation of trends or changes in political and economic conditions in various countries. Its weakness was in developing a framework for depicting relationships among the variables through time. For this, they turned to a consulting group with experience at constructing models for analysis. With the framework in hand (product of the consulting group's efforts), the agency's resident staff was able to distinguish between precursors, concurrent conditions, and consequences of the events documented by their field staff (see Druckman, 1983, 1986).

Another function of this agency was to make forecasts of the form, Who will be the leader of country X in 5 years? or When will a political regime collapse? Although they had statisticians on their staff, they were interested in expanding the search for state-of-the-art approaches or tools beyond those familiar to them. For this search, they turned to a consulting firm well connected to the academic community and, thus, in touch with the most recent methodological work in the field. Rather than merely providing a survey of techniques and tutorials on their use, however, the consultants proposed longer research projects that would demonstrate applications within country contexts. By applying the research tools in this way, the consultants were able to elucidate the conditions and processes of elite mobility and political stability. As a result, the client developed a more complex understanding of the problem from one of simple prediction--extrapolating from past trends--to one of "what if" scenario analysis--the conditions under which leaders emerge (see Druckman & Green, 1986; Druckman & Vaurio, 1983).

A third example of a match between needs and knowledge concerns the evaluation of techniques with strong claims for training effectiveness. Training entrepreneurs routinely approach government agencies with techniques that they purport work better than traditional methods. Because of a need for quick and effective training, military agencies are particularly vulnerable to these claims. The challenge for them is to discriminate between the effective and ineffective approaches. Knowledgeable consultants can provide technical support for the evaluation; prestigious consulting organizations can provide a stamp of approval (or disapproval) for the techniques. By deciding to employ the National Research Council (NRC), this agency acquired both knowledge and prestige. The knowledge comes from experts appointed to its committees. The prestige derives from an organization whose charter as science adviser to the U.S. government was signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. The result of the first of several committee projects (done over a 12-year period) produced the needed evaluations based on research findings; but, more important, the consultants also provided methodological guidelines for evaluation and a theoretical rationale for each of the approaches examined (see Druckman & Swets, 1988).

A fourth example from my consulting experience illustrates how consultants can enhance interagency cooperation. Like consultants, many government agencies must identify consumers for their products within the government. This is particularly important for agencies whose function is to provide analytical support to policy-making departments. Outside consultants can play a liaison role between departments. By developing new analytical tools for the agency and then helping them to sell the tools to the department, a consulting firm brought the agency to the table as a player in the preparatory discussions for an intergovernmental negotiation on conventional weapons (see Druckman & Hopmann, 1991). Similarly, a consulting team can enhance the contributions made by particular units (e.g., the unit responsible for making net assessments or arms control projections) within departments (e.g., Defense or State). By developing a sophisticated simulation tool for strategic analysis, our team enhanced the unit's visibility in the department's policy-making process.

These examples illustrate a number of client needs and consultant skills. Included among the needs are frameworks for organizing information, tools for improved diagnosis and analysis, program evaluation, program legitimacy, satisfaction of consumer agency needs, and expanded networks within the consulting and academic communities. Skills brought to the table include modeling, statistical analysis, use of the latest computer technologies and graphics, research synthesis (including knowledge of appropriate scientific literatures), oral presentation, and networking in conjunction with developing or reinforcing a reputation for responsiveness and quality work. When the needs match the skills, a client-consultant relationship is established.


Most consultants perform a variety of roles. Although the roles are usually overlapping and sometimes performed simultaneously within the same project, they have distinct functions. Based in part on my own experience and on discussions with consulting researchers in a variety of firms, I suggest seven roles. When consultants serve as advisors, they typically contribute to a client's strategic concerns. For example, when preparing for a briefing to the agency's executive director, a program administrator seeks advice on what to emphasize when presenting the division's accomplishments for the year. Another example is when consultants are asked to evaluate a federal department's intramural research program. Consultants may be part of an outside panel given guidelines to judge whether various projects have made sufficient progress to be continued. At a higher level, many policy makers retain consultants as sounding boards to float proposals or initiatives before presenting them in official forums. Many of these ideas include tactical moves to be made in an upcoming intra- or intergovernmental negotiation.

Another consulting role is that of technician. The specialized technical skills of many consultants are often sought to augment the less technical backgrounds of agency staff. These skills include applying statistical techniques, designing program evaluations, designing field experiments, and devising frameworks to guide research programs. Although these skills are rarely used in the context of basic research, they contribute to the solution of challenging real-world problems. Examples from my experience are using forecasting techniques for anticipating proposals in a multilateral negotiation, using content analysis to understand the causes (and solutions) of negotiating impasses, applying discriminant analysis to detect deception in political discourse and to ascertain the factors that influence the mobility of political and military leaders, and developing mathematical models to diagnose the stability of political regimes. Many of these projects are discussed further in the sections below. Other examples are given in Ulvila's article in this issue. (For a discussion of technical and advisory functions performed by intellectuals for public bureaucracies, as well as the tensions that exist between policy makers and intellectuals, see Merton, 1957, pp. 207-224.)

A third consulting role is that of applied theoretician. The focus here is on the substance of a research study rather than the tools used to analyze data. The skills used in this role are those of the area or topic specialist rather than those of the methodologist. The expertise sought may consist of regional knowledge on topics such as the politics of the Middle East, the economics of South Asia, or practices in China that influence global environmental change. As an applied theoretician, the specialist would use a framework to place the regional problem in a broader conceptual context. The role may also refer to knowledge of a particular research literature, such as learning, decision making, or organizational cultures. This type of specialist may provide the client with a synthesis of the relevant literature leading to lessons learned for practice.

Another role is that of study director. In this role, consultants function more as integrators than as specialists. They direct study teams or committees whose task is to produce reports based on policy-relevant research. This is a multifaceted role in which the consultant assembles the team, decides on a division of labor among members, develops milestones for accomplishing tasks, prepares and edits draft chapters, and provides the client with progress reports, briefings, and a final report. In the consulting firm, the director usually guides a small team of technical specialists with both methodological and substantive expertise. The report may be circulated throughout the client's organization, but it is rarely disseminated to a wider public. At the NRC, the study director leads large committees of nationally recognized experts in producing a state-of-the-science report on timely policy issues. The report is also made available to the public through the National Academy Press.

Another function sometimes provided by study directors is that of bridge builder. In this role, consultants bring different communities together. Through collaboration, they expose academic specialists to practical issues and the way that the client's organization approaches them. This exposure can lead to the reframing of research questions. In turn, the practitioners are introduced to perspectives developed in the research literature, expanding their own understanding of the problem. Furthermore, the connections made extend the range of professional interactions for both communities. One effect is to reduce the often observed polarization between them, referred to as a "two cultures" problem (George, 1993).

Consultants may also serve as facilitators. By this, I mean they attempt to improve communication processes in groups. This may occur as short-term assignments where the facilitator contributes to the conduct of meetings. Facilitators define problems, identify possible solutions, help the group choose the best solution, and work with members to implement their decisions. (For more on this process, see Zander, 1994.) Consultants may also participate in longer term problem-solving processes for conflict resolution. Focusing on perceptions and needs, facilitators attempt to improve intergroup relationships that have deteriorated. Research and theory play a role in a process designed to encourage participants to be analytical in exploring the sources of their conflict. Referred to as problem-solving workshops, these consulting interventions have become quite popular as alternatives to official diplomacy in international relations (Fisher, 1983; Kelman, 1995, 1997; Mitchell & Banks, 1996). The principles and techniques derive from earlier applications in industrial relations, where similar procedures are used to address organizational conflicts. (See Fisher, 1997, for a historical account.)

When consultants focus primarily on learning or skill development, they serve as trainers or teachers. As trainers, consultants develop specialized programs for clients who desire to acquire or refine job-related skills. An example from my experience is the effort to design a program on negotiation training for mid-career diplomats. The program conveyed concepts and tactics based on findings from 25 years of published research. The concepts were applied in three simulated tasks performed by small "consulting" teams: the roles of case study analyst, strategist, and designer of training exercises. Products produced by the study teams were evaluated for learning benefits (see Druckman & Robinson, 1998). When the training materials are developed for more general educational purposes, consultants play the role of teacher. For example, the diplomatic training materials have been expanded for use in graduate-level classes as well as for foreign exchange students. Unlike the diplomats, students read the original articles from which the findings were derived. Unlike the trainer, the teacher-consultant spends more time on concepts and frameworks than on specific applications.

The roles described above are not regarded as pure types. Consultants often perform several of these functions through their careers and, sometimes, simultaneously. In my own work, I have been a technician, applied theoretician, study director, bridge builder, and trainer-teacher. For particular projects, I have functioned as both a technician and applied theoretician; as a study director, bridge builder, and applied theoretician; and as a trainer and applied theoretician. Nonetheless, it is useful to distinguish among the roles to understand the diversity (and complexity) of the profession as well as the preparation needed to perform as a research consultant. The consideration of roles also highlights the flexibility needed to adapt to changing client needs as discussed in the following sections.

The Consulting Culture

To the extent that consultants share values and goals, it should be possible to describe features of a consulting culture. Such features as individualism, risk tolerance, competitiveness, materialism, and moderate political conservatism (especially on issues of marketplace economics and defense) would seem to characterize the American beltway consulting culture. These values and political ideologies support the entrepreneurial work style of these consultants. They are regarded as modal features around which there is variation among consultants and companies. For example, some consultants are motivated primarily by material rewards, others are stimulated by the challenge of winning contracts, and still others (particularly social scientists) view their work as opportunities to influence public policy. Differences also exist with regard to commitment to political ideology. Softer commitments characterize consultants who use ideological arguments instrumentally, as when free-market policies or a strong defense lead to an increase in consulting opportunities. Harder commitments depict consultants who choose their careers because of their long-held convictions about public policies. These consultants are motivated by opportunities to influence policy and, for many social scientists, this consists of better health, education, and welfare systems or the resolution of international conflict by peaceful means.

Another way of describing the consulting culture is through comparison with other cultures. Because we are interested primarily in social science consulting, it is instructive to compare it with academic social science. The comparison can be made in terms of the categories of goals, processes, organizing structures, and outcomes. With regard to goals, a relevant contrast is between developing practical tools for clients and contributing new concepts or theories for the field. Another difference is between tailoring projects to the needs of clients and doing research that contributes to a professional field. A third consists of taking on projects that contribute to the company's profits versus choosing projects that advance the field or contribute to a professor's case for tenure.

A number of differences exist between the cultures on process. An oral briefing format for presenting results to clients contrasts to the article or book format, which is the primary mode of communicating findings in the academic community. The former tends to consist of to-the-point summary presentations; the latter includes more elaborate arguments. Severe time limits for projects, linked to budget expenditures, characterize most consulting assignments. For academics, time pressures are considerably less intense, even in the face of publisher's deadlines, conference presentations, and tenure decisions. A relatively jargon-free presenting style for consultants contrasts to the specialized language communities developed by academics for communication in disciplinary journals. In fact, although the affiliation to an academic discipline is critical within the university, it is largely irrelevant--and even a hindrance--in the more problem-oriented culture of consulting.

Differences in organizing structures include the way project teams are constructed, the source of compensation, and style. Consulting teams are usually organized around a problem and include members from different fields, such as engineering, computer science, and social science. Academic research teams focus primarily on theoretical issues and may be interdisciplinary but within the narrower band of allied disciplines, such as political science and psychology. Consultants' compensation derives directly from contract budgets; their salaries are built into the budgets and can disappear with the conclusion of projects (referred to as "soft money"). For academics, salaries are derived from departmental budgets linked to faculty lines, which are usually independent of contracts. A somewhat formal conversation style and mode of dress for consultants in beltway firms contrasts with the more casual interaction and dress style seen in academic departments. And, with regard to outcomes, the two cultures present different kinds of products. Consultants deliver final reports in which the company takes authorship credit, with acknowledgments to key staff in a preface. Their rewards are salary increases and mobility within the company. For academics, author credit is critical for reputations, which are made through citations in the literature. Their reward is status within the profession. For both, however, the products signal achievements that bolster their credibility (or claim) as experts.

It is apparent that the gulf between these cultures is deep. It is not, however, unbridgeable. Social scientists have an opportunity to bring these pursuits closer together, and I have viewed my professional role in these terms. With a foot in both cultures, I have shown how consultants can benefit from the theoretical contributions made by academics as well as how the academics can benefit from the applied contributions made by consultants. The conceptual frameworks developed by social scientists provide ways of linking different applied projects for a long-term research program. (See also Hayes's article in this issue.) The wide range of methodological approaches found in the literature contribute to a versatile approach to analysis--a kind of adaptable tool kit of qualitative and quantitative methods. By addressing conceptual issues in applied projects, consultants operate at the juncture between theory and practice, giving them the latitude to communicate findings from the same project to both communities. Examples of how this is done are discussed in the section below on "The Research Consultant as Applied Social Scientist."

Practicing The Craft: Nuts And Bolts

In this section, I discuss the challenges facing the research consultant. It is divided into four parts. First, I discuss the "bread and butter" of the business, writing winning proposals. Then, I discuss the consulting environment inside the company, focusing in particular on the relationship between project directors and managers. The third part focuses on the external consulting environment, with some observations about surviving in a soft-money career. In the final part, I discuss some barriers to implementing completed projects and offer suggestions about how they might be overcome.


For many companies, proposal writing is the primary activity of its staff. And, for good reason: Their survival and growth depend on winning in a competitive proposal-writing game. In my own experience, proposal preparation was regarded as being more important than the implementation of the projects themselves. A company culture develops to support this goal, and the company's activities are directed toward producing a large number of winning proposals. Because the time and effort expended toward developing proposals far exceeds the resources available for these activities, it is important to develop a strong supportive culture. After all, winning proposals are the result of considerable effort. It is an exhaustive and exhausting process, summarized well by Booz-Allen & Hamilton's guidance to their consulting staff to "Leave No Stone Unturned." Their advice emphasizes almost compulsive attention to the details of proposal drafting, focusing primarily on gathering information about the client and competitors, organizing the writing team, managing the process (including internal reviews), crafting a readable document that includes eye-catching graphics, matching staff expertise (actual or constructed) with technical requirements, and fashioning a budget that provides adequate resources for the project while not exceeding the client's available funds. And, the process does not stop when a proposal is won and the project is under contract. The slow processing cycle of most government agencies encourages early proposal submission, usually long before the final report of an ongoing project is submitted. Further complicating the process are clients who insist on reviewing the final report before committing to follow-on projects. To hedge against these uncertainties and anxieties, consultants divide their time among several projects and clients.

Although many of these activities are more art than science, consulting firms often develop a generic, somewhat mechanized proposal preparation process. Less attention is paid in these master plans to substantive issues and client-specific needs than to a consulting lexicon and structure suited to a large variety of possible projects. They consist largely of templates that list, in a chronological sequence, the activities that must be completed before internal review and submission. This approach contributes to increased efficiency and productivity (in terms of the quantity of proposals generated). These are important goals, and it is the science of consulting--learned through training--that contributes to a firm's long-term survival. However, a weakness of this approach is a lack of sensitivity to specific client needs, missions, and cultures. Those needs must be understood, and it is the art of consulting--learned through experience--that makes the difference between winning and losing proposals.

Much of the advice about proposal writing given by companies emphasizes competition. Nowhere, in my experience, is this more evident than in the Booz-Allen document referred to above, "Leave No Stone Unturned." The company's partners conclude the document with the motto, "don't play the game unless you play it to win," followed by such advice as:

  • Our competition is tough--we can't leave any stone unturned if we want to win.
  • Strategy development and positioning efforts prior to requests for proposals are essential to win the big ones.
  • The winning proposal is the one that meets the decision-maker's needs better than any other proposal--write to win.
  • Managing a winning proposal effort is more challenging than managing client assignments--it requires our best people and our best efforts.
  • Don't quit once the proposal has been submitted.
This advice not only sends the message of just how critical proposals are to the company's reputation and, ultimately, survival. It also creates an atmosphere in which staff consultants and program managers perform around-the-clock proposal drafting, before, during, and after the completion of projects. It is little wonder that training in the craft of proposal writing has itself become a lucrative consulting business, as illustrated by Beveridge and Velton's 1982 book, Positioning to Win: Planning and Executing the Superior Proposal, as well as by the busy international consulting schedules of its authors.

Although the Booz-Allen points are not stated quite so explicitly in other company contexts, they espouse strategies shared throughout the consulting industry. They evoke a sports metaphor in the sense of consulting as a zero-sum game. And, they reflect preferences about the value of competition and entrepreneurial approaches in a marketplace culture. As a result of these cultural values and the activities that they inspire, their clients often receive better proposals on time--even those they do not win--than reports of the project's results, often delayed well beyond the proposed date of completion. The question not answered, however, is whether this kind of culture and these activities actually make a difference. Because data are unavailable on this issue--in particular a comparison between companies that use different strategies--we must address it on the basis of our own limited experience. On this matter, I can offer several tentative observations on factors that may distinguish between winning and losing proposals.

One observation, perhaps the most important, is to write a proposal in the context of a relationship or reputation already established with the client's organization. Proposed projects have a better chance of getting funded if they are prepared for familiar clients who have benefited from your company's past work.(n2) Another observation is to float concept papers by prospective clients for comment and encouragement. When the client's comments are incorporated into the proposal, he or she is likely to be more receptive. Third, get to know all the key decision makers in the client's organization. Decisions are rarely made unilaterally; consultants can be instrumental in developing a favorable consensus within the client's organization. A fourth observation is to clearly address needs or, in many cases, define needs unarticulated previously by the client. Only seasoned consultants are not surprised to realize that many clients do not know what they want or "know it when they see it." The challenge is twofold: Be sure that clients have a role in defining the needs and that they realize that they need you (the consultant) to realize them. Fifth, build networks of outside consultants and subcontractors that can be used for specific tasks requiring their expertise. Clients also benefit from expanding the range of their contacts--especially in the academic community. And, finally, prepare a realistic budget that is viewed by the client as negotiable. Willingness to negotiate communicates flexibility and prevents pricing yourself out of the market.

Although these observations support the aphorism of "leave no stone unturned," they place greater emphasis on external relations than on internal management according to general guidelines--as emphasized in the Booz-Allen material. They also describe a process more similar to mutual problem solving or education between consultant and client than to a sports competition. More attention is given to building relationships for long-term projects than competing with other firms for limited consulting dollars. I discuss this further in the sections to follow.

The Internal Consulting Environment

Most research consultants are analysts or project directors in firms whose survival depends on negotiating contracts with clients. To a large extent, the firm's internal environment is shaped by this pressure. Because the primary basis for performance evaluation is the number and size of contracts brought to the firm, the environment is competitive and tense. When staff consultants are not collaborating as members of the same project team, they are competing with each other for a limited number of director or manager positions. They are also dealing with a tension between the independent entrepreneurial motivation that helped them win contracts and the dependent bureaucratic climate created by the company's officers to manage its staff. Because this tension is the dominant feature of the consulting organization, I would like to focus on it in the discussion to follow.

The managerial role in the consulting firm is the link between project directors and the company's officers. Usually responsible for a division of the company, managers monitor projects, evaluate project directors, strive to meet financial targets set by the officers, and staff the division, making both hiring and firing decisions. Thus, the primary managerial function is to judge performance according, for the most part, to criteria related to the division's growth. Managers' primary motivation is survival (and mobility) within the company. Toward this end, managers create and sustain pressure on the division's staff for continuous growth. In many companies, growth consists of increasing the division's projects and size of its staff. The manager's reward is vertical mobility toward the top of a pyramid defined by spread of control. The project director's reward is continued employment and annual pay raises or bonuses. Herein lies a source of tension between these roles.

Managers and project directors compete for control over projects. From the manager's perspective, any project is owned by the company and performed within his or her division. For these reasons, managers take responsibility for ensuring that the tasks are implemented within the proposed time frame and that the product is delivered on time to the client. For the managers, time is money, and extra time needed to complete tasks often means budget overruns covered by company overhead: No-cost extensions are not music to the ears of managers or company executives. From the project director's perspective, the projects are his or her responsibility--for at least four reasons: Project directors usually bring the project to the company, interact with the client on a regular basis, perform the proposed tasks, and prepare a final report. Of interest is the way that these conflicting interests are handled within the company. Both roles maneuver tactically by taking advantage of their own sources of power. Managers control rewards to project directors. They can and do manipulate performance evaluations to reward (through excellent ratings and large salary adjustments) or punish (through less-than-satisfactory ratings and small salary adjustments) their staff consultants. By this mechanism, they encourage their staff to depend on them. Further aggravating the relationship is the two faces often shown by managers: a supportive face to clients and a tough, controlling face to project directors and other staff members.(n3) Managers attempt to strike a balance between satisfying the company's clients and controlling their staff.

Project directors control the way projects are implemented and communicated to clients. They can and do manage the impressions sent to clients, often by tacitly communicating that they, not the company's managers, are calling the shots. An appropriate model for this role is that of a boundary role conflict, as described by Walton and McKersie (1965). Project directors are negotiators who must mediate between the often-conflicting demands made by managers (to enhance the company's portfolio of clients) and by the clients (to deliver a useful product). Further aggravating the relationship are the different loyalties and professional identifications of managers and project directors: the former to the company, the latter to the profession; the former to the consulting business community, the latter to the scholarly or applied discipline. They attempt to strike a balance between the demands made on them within and outside the company.

The External Consulting Environment

In considering the external environment, we shift our focus from relationships among project directors, managers, and company officers to relationships among the consultants (whether project directors or managers), the client organizations, and competing consulting firms. In the marketplace of consulting services, firms compete for contracts that provide the needed resources for projects (salaries, benefits, travel, materials, and overhead for company operations). The consultant's challenge is to survive and prosper in this competitive environment. For the social scientist who wishes to do research, an additional challenge is to secure long-term projects that afford the time and resources needed for making analytical contributions. Aggravating the challenge further is a marketplace often inhospitable to investing in theory or empirical research. In this section, I concentrate on strategies for meeting this challenge.

Research consultants are faced with a dilemma. On one hand, they must compete for contracts. On the other hand, they must reserve sufficient time to complete the research. By cultivating relationships with clients, it is possible to reduce (if not resolve) the dilemma. Long-term projects provide time for research by reducing the need to continuously generate ideas or competitive proposals for new projects. By turning client relationships into sole-source contracts, consultants reduce the need to compete while possibly increasing dependence on that client (see note 2). Of interest is the question of how to attract, manage, and sustain support for research while remaining competitive in the face of unforeseen changes in relationships or clients' needs.

Success in developing a quality research program depends on actions taken by both the company and the consultant. A company strategy should consist of three decisions. One is to invest for long-term profitability. This would entail short-term costs in the form of overhead expenditures earmarked for staff development and for nurturing relationships with appropriate client agencies. A second decision is to avoid pursuing advertised requests for proposals from unfamiliar agencies. Competitive bidding is expensive, time consuming, and irrational from a cost-benefit perspective (i.e., any proposal has a low probability of funding, even those that succeed in surviving a "best-and-finals" cut-off). A third decision is to articulate a company policy that places social science research at the center of its business activities. Without such a policy, it is difficult to build a reputation as a leading social science consulting firm. Without such a reputation, it is difficult to sustain client support over the long term. With this kind of company support, consultants are in a position to attract state-of-the-art research projects. However, whether or not the projects are actually contracted and sustained depends also on actions taken by the consultant.

A consultant's strategy should consist of four decisions. One is to consider problems as research challenges rather than as jobs. Consultants should be encouraged to focus on advancing a field of study or practice (a think-tank mind-set) rather than making sales to customers (a retail business mind-set). Another is to work toward building a reputation for expertise and responsiveness. Professional publications in peer-reviewed journals attest to expertise. An understanding of the problem from the client's perspective indicates responsiveness. A third decision concerns networking. It is important to connect with other consultants and academics working on similar problems in the same or allied fields. Being viewed as part of an invisible college enhances visibility: Often, representatives from client agencies are part of the same networks. Exchanging and being exposed to ideas at specialized conferences or annual professional meetings keeps consultants abreast of developments in the field. And, fourth, putting extra effort into the first client assignment can solidify a relationship. None of the other decisions is as important as the perceived quality of the consultant's first deliverable. That product also contributes to building a reputation and advancing the state of the art. In offering these suggestions, I have in mind the social scientists who are about to embark on a consulting career. For experienced consultants, the suggestions may be useful reminders, especially in the face of changing client needs or conditions in the marketplace. While advancing a long-term strategy for research consultants, I am aware that changes out of the consultant's control can threaten the completion of important projects or even the firm's survival. Experienced consultants owe their longevity to anticipating change. They hedge against change, especially sudden downturns, in several ways. One is the well-known business strategy of diversifying the client portfolio to reduce dependence on one (or a few) client agencies. Another is the psychological strategy of developing a flexible intellectual approach to problems. This is done by avoiding overspecialization, preferring instead to be social science generalists who incorporate lessons learned from diverse consulting experiences. (See Druckman & Bjork, 1994, chapter 3, for a discussion of learning strategies that enhance flexibility.) Flexibility makes it easier to "tool up" in the face of change. But, even these strategies may not protect consultants against the sorts of changes that occur at a macrolevel in political or economic institutions. When these changes occur, or when they are anticipated to occur in the near-term, it pays to be a part-time consultant who also maintains an academic (or other nonconsulting) affiliation. While reducing the consultant's dependence on clients, the affiliation also provides opportunities to keep abreast of the latest developments and innovations in theory and methodology.

Barriers To Implementation

The consultant's work for a client is not completed with the delivered report or product. The value of the product often turns on its use by the client's organization. Although use has different meanings for different kinds of products--for example, software versus research findings--most if not all projects are intended to be implemented by the client. Yet, despite that intention, a number of barriers prevent implementation. Interestingly, many of them reside within the client's own organization. A first step is to be aware of them. A second step is to take actions that can prevent them from occurring. Both are discussed in the paragraphs to follow.

Invidious distinctions. The decision to use consultants is usually made by the client agency's executives, not by the agency's staff. Often, the decision raises suspicions among the staffers, who may wonder whether their competence to do the job is being challenged. When this happens, consultants discover that they are in a competitive situation: Contributions or gains made by the consultants are viewed as setbacks for the staff; failed consultant projects are viewed as gains for the staff. Under these circumstances, it is little wonder that consultants' requests for information are often rejected or unheeded. At the extreme, the client's representatives or liaisons are so responsive to their threatened bureaucratic colleagues that they create an adversarial relationship with the client that can undermine the project and its implementation.

Incentives. Implementation suffers when there are no career incentives for staff to use the project's results or products. Often, client agency executives forget to assign staff members the task of implementing a consultant's completed project. Without an explicit assignment or incentives, staff members are unlikely to consider the project a high priority task. Add to this the routine inertia experienced in many bureaucratic organizations, and the project's influence will be limited.

Perceptions and perspectives. Research projects are difficult to sell and then to implement. Many clients think of research projects in terms of shelf life rather than expecting practical contributions to the agency's tasks. Although projects may provide insights that broaden a client's perspective, those insights are purchased at a high price, adding little to what is "already known" in the academic research literature. This view jeopardizes the chances for implementation.

Timing and timeliness. Many government agencies are obsessed with current events, referred to within the beltway culture as "putting out fires." With the notable exception of public opinion polling, research projects do not produce results in the kind of short time frames within which many clients operate. Furthermore, fads and fashions change through time, and projects often outlive the original need, which was responsive to pressures at a moment in the past.

Personnel. Turnover can be an enemy of consultants. When the champions and supporters of projects move on before the work is completed, the chances for implementation are diminished. This is especially likely when the strong advocate is replaced by a weaker one. It is also likely when the new staff have no institutional memory of the project's earlier accomplishments or limited career incentives attached to its success.

Structural changes and the zeitgeist. In addition to changing fads, agencies (and companies) sometimes undergo fundamental changes in purpose or culture. The careers to which consulting projects were attached no longer need the project or its results to advance. This may occur in government when there is a change in the political administration--at the top of the agency or in the executive branch. It occurs in the private sector after mergers or other forms of reorganization are mandated from the top. It may even result from systemic changes, as when the Cold War ended. When this happens, it is time to reexamine the relationship and overall approach taken with that client.

How, then, can these barriers be overcome or prevented from jeopardizing a project's implementation? Several suggestions can be offered. One is to be sure, to the extent possible for an outsider, that the consulting project complements rather than duplicates ongoing staff projects. Another is to involve the agencies' staff in the day-to-day activities of the project. A third is to help the client's agency develop structures and career incentives for implementing the project's results. Fourth, by articulating the practical benefits at an early stage and reinforcing them at later stages, a path toward implementation is defined. Fifth, it is helpful to take current events into account by addressing them in progress reports. Sixth, avoid becoming dependent on a champion by bringing more of the agency's key players and advocates on board. Regular briefings are helpful. And, finally, frame the project in ways that make it more relevant to larger agency missions than to particular staff members' careers.

The Research Consultant As Applied Social Scientist

For many social scientists with theoretical training, the key attraction to consulting is probably the projects themselves. More than the business of consulting (client interfaces, preparing winning proposals, revenues) or the glitter of being at the center of important policy issues, the intellectual challenges posed by the projects are the primary source of motivation. Rewards are found in acquiring new insights, contributing new frameworks and methodologies, struggling to solve complex theoretical and applied problems, and contributing to the field by publishing the projects' findings in academic journals. Several of these projects are illustrated in this section. They are discussed in four areas: negotiating, political analysis, psychological analysis, and simulation design. Both applied and theoretical contributions are emphasized in the discussion.


The large number of projects on negotiation, done for various clients, are organized into three parts: diagnosis and prognosis, monitoring, and training.

Diagnosis and Prognosis

Professional negotiators and diplomats often ask: What will the other side do in the next round? What are the prospects for an agreement? These questions were addressed in projects done for a task force on conventional force- reduction negotiations and for the U.S. Institute of Peace. The first question was addressed with forecasting methodologies, the second with computer-generated estimates of negotiating flexibility.

Using content analysis techniques, forecasts were made for delegations' moves over the course of 3 years of alliance--NATO and the Warsaw Pact--discussions on reducing conventional forces during the 1970s. Within each round, the statements made by all the representatives were coded according to categories of the bargaining process analysis system (Walcott & Hopmann, 1978). The coded data were then used in a series of regression analyses. Each delegation's moves (as tough or soft postures) were "predicted" from the moves made (and coded) by the other national delegations. These analyses enabled us to construct models of responsiveness: the extent to which a particular delegation followed another's moves in the same or previous round. They also enabled us to offer a possible solution to the impasse in the form of a trade of concessions on issues of differing importance to the alliances. (See Druckman & Hopmann, 1991, for a detailed description of these findings.)

This project's applied contributions came in three parts: (a) an approach for organizing information and projecting future moves, (b) suggestions for influencing another delegation's negotiating behavior, and (c) suggestions for possible agreements. Theoretical and methodological contributions included (a) a time-series analysis of changing patterns in multilateral negotiation, (b) connections between signaling or forecasting and influencing (impacts on future moves), and (c) evaluation of hypotheses from the literature on intergroup conflict about the relationship between inter-alliance conflict (toughness between alliances) and intra-alliance cohesion (softness within alliances).

Using computer-generated algorithms, estimates were made about the relative flexibility of delegations in cases of bilateral negotiation. The estimates were derived from responses to questions asked about each of several aspects of the case: about the delegations, the issues, the process, the situation, and the outcomes. Respondents were members of the actual negotiating teams or were experts about the particular case. By aggregating the responses (each coded for more or less flexibility based on research findings) in several ways, it is possible to develop a variety of types of estimates: by aspect of negotiation, by party, by issue, by negotiation case, and for different response profiles. Flexibility estimates can also be made by each of several stages of an ongoing case, if the questions are asked repeatedly. The result is displayed on a two-dimensional grid (ranging from high to low flexibility for each party) divided into nine cells. The cells are keyed to projected outcomes such as an impasse, a compromise settlement, or an integrative (joint gains) agreement. (See Druckman, 1993, for the theoretical background and applications.)

The applied contribution of this project was the tool for diagnosing progress and identifying impasses. Although it has been used primarily for retrospective case analysis, the program is designed for real-time support and is being used to aid strategy development in training simulations. The retrospective analyses did, however, contribute to theory in two ways. One was a comparative case analysis that demonstrated the validity of the diagnoses: Diagnosed outcomes corresponded to obtained outcomes in 9 of 10 cases. Another study compared diagnoses made for each of the several aspects of a case. We were able to distinguish between competing explanations for outcomes such as the differing importance of factors within the delegations versus the negotiating between the delegations.


Professional negotiators are faced with the challenge of keeping track of developments in the negotiation as they unfold. Typically, they are more responsive to their current situation than to moves made in earlier rounds (Druckman & Harris, 1990). For this reason, they benefit from tools designed to help them monitor trends in proposals or concessions made, in national and international public opinion, national policies, and international events that occur during the course of the talks. One tool is an organizing framework that identifies and connects the various processes and influences on negotiation (e.g., Druckman, 1983). Frameworks can broaden a practitioner's perspective on the process and increase an understanding of the genesis and etiology of the current situation, which may consist of an impasse. Another tool is a coding system that supports the monitoring of movement toward or away from agreement by answering, Where are we? Where are they? (see Winham, 1977). Both types of tools were used by my team in our consulting role with the U.S. delegation to the negotiations with Spain over base rights in 1975-1976 (see Druckman, 1986).

Although these tools helped the negotiating team, the primary contributions were theoretical. From this consulting assignment, I developed the idea of impasses (sometimes negotiating crises) leading to turning points. The case also provided an initial insight about a pattern of negotiating responsiveness referred to as threshold-adjustment, and it was found later to depict the way negotiating representatives interact in a variety of negotiating venues. (For the research on these ideas, see Druckman 1983, 1986; Druckman & Harris, 1990; Druckman, Husbands, & Johnston, 1991.)


With the support of the U.S. Institute of Peace, I had an opportunity to address the problem of the gap that exists between academic research on negotiation and its practice, referred to as a problem of two cultures (Druckman & Hopmann, 1989; George, 1993). The project's objective was to use research findings in diplomatic training programs. The findings were presented in the form of thematic narratives, a total of 12 on such topics as achievement of integrative agreements and the role of emotions, culture, and relationships. These narratives were used by the trainees in three simulated exercises where they played the roles of analyst, strategist, and designer of training simulations. The exercises were embedded in workshops with U.N. diplomats.

Self-reported evaluations by the diplomats indicated that they found the narratives to be helpful and were able to execute their roles effectively. With regard to learning benefits, we found that most trainees acquired broad thematic knowledge about negotiation; some even made sophisticated use of the narratives' concepts in their group reports. More important, however, was the judgment that the experience had impacts on their subsequent professional work at the United Nations. (See Druckman & Robinson, 1998, for details on design and evaluation.)

For the diplomats, the project exposed them to a research literature about which they knew little and encouraged them to think analytically about negotiation. The success of the project turned on the way the information was presented, in the form of easy-to-read narratives. Although long-term learning was difficult to judge, the short-term results support the format as one way to bridge the gap. For the theorist, the project's design had the salutary effect of bringing experimental research in contact with actual international cases. Many of the laboratory findings contributed to understanding the dynamics of the cases. For example, better agreements in the cases resulted from the same sorts of information exchange processes--where the temptation to make early concessions was resisted--found in the experiments to produce integrative agreements. These sorts of convergences also attest to the validity of the experimental research.

Political Analysis

For many U.S. intelligence analysts and policy makers in the Carter administration, the fall of the Shah's Iranian regime in February 1979 came as a shock. It raised serious questions about the quality of analysis performed by the intelligence community and related national security agencies (Sick, 1985). These concerns led to the establishment of an interagency task force whose mission was to reexamine the assumptions, frameworks, and methodologies used to support U.S. foreign policy. Help in accomplishing this task was sought from the academic and think-tank research communities. One substantive focus was on the stability of regimes. Another was on leadership succession.

With a view toward improving political analysis, the task force asked for proposals that would describe analytical approaches to the question: What are the chances that the governing regime in country X will collapse? The chosen proposal came from Booz-Allen & Hamilton, and I led the research team that implemented the 3-year project.

The project consisted of two parts. One was to develop an approach to the problem, drawing on the theoretical literature on political stability. Another was to analyze (and provide estimates for) stability within a country context. Based on conceptual work done by Tilly (1978) and others on group politics, and by Sanders (1981) on political community change, we designed an elaborate framework for analysis. It includes several types of group assets (coercive, economic, opinion, and rectitude), skills, attributes for mobilizing for collective action, and legitimacy. Based on aggregated indexes from the framework, we developed an analytical procedure for estimating the extent to which various political groups (or coalitions) posed a threat to the regime. These tools were then used to organize a data collection and make assessments of the stability of the Marcos regime in the Philippines for the period 1982 to 1984. The estimates, made for each of 12 challenging groups, indicated that the regime was safe in the short-term but, because of falling legitimacy, could be vulnerable to challenges in the years to follow. Our further analysis of alternative futures identified a particular scenario where the regime would collapse if particular groups mounted a combined challenge. Indeed, those groups did challenge the regime in 1986, as part of the people's revolution, leading to its collapse. (See Druckman & Green, 1986, for the analyses, results, and implications.)

The results of this project answered the question posed by the task force. We provided estimates of a regime's stability. More than this, however, we provided a framework for organizing information from diverse sources in a variety of country or regional contexts. Possibilities for comparative analysis were realized in applications to 10 other countries. For the theorist, the project extended and elaborated on our conception of group politics and ways to measure such elusive concepts as rectitude and legitimacy. It also contributed to the definition of political actors as well as to the state of the art in scenario design and analysis.

Another question raised by these government agencies was, Who will be in a country's leadership in several years? Although phrased as a problem of prediction (focus on individuals), sound analysis would treat the question in terms of explanation (focus on process). This is how we approached the problem in a project done at Mathtech in the early 1980s. First, we designed a framework that captured our theoretical knowledge of elite recruitment and mobility processes. It connected variables at the individual (elite composition, selectors), institutional (adaptability, complexity), and systems (structural characteristics, participation) levels. Second, these variables were defined in the context of country analyses. And, third, a detailed analysis of data on promotions and appointments in the Brazilian military and cabinet was conducted. Brazil was chosen because of previous work done on this topic, as well as the availability of sources of information.

The Brazilian study made several contributions. From an applied perspective, the clients were provided with a complex treatment of the problem that emphasized the importance of explanation rather than prediction. On one hand, clients learned about how mobility (appointed and elected leaders) emerges from the changing aspects of politics at each of the three levels of analysis. On the other hand, they were given tools for analysis that could be used in other country contexts. The study's results showed that different types of regimes (civilian, internationalist-military, nationalist-military) had different preferences for credentials and experiences of aspirants for top-level appointments. Contributing also to the theoretical literature, the study illuminated how, when, and on what bases discretionary decisions are made, especially in authoritarian regimes (Druckman & Vaurio, 1983).

Psychological Analysis

For some government clients, the important questions are asked about individual or small-group behavior. Their concern is directed more toward psychological than political analysis. One prevalent challenge has been to get a better handle on intentions, especially the intention to deceive. Another has been to develop and evaluate techniques for improving performance or job-related skills. Consultants have provided analytical support on both these topics as illustrated by two long-term projects.

Nonverbal Clues to Deception

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) mounted programs of research on intentions. One specialized focus of this program was on detecting deception. The agency was particularly interested in determining whether nonverbal behavior had diagnostic value and could be used as an alternative to polygraph assessments of deception. They asked initially: What does the research completed to date suggest? To help address this question, they commissioned a state-of-the-art review of the literature on nonverbal communication. I completed an extensive review of research (a 1-year project) on each of five channels of communication: paralanguage, facial expressions, kinesics (body language), visual behavior, and proxemics (use of space). The review highlighted gaps in our knowledge, leading to suggestions for further research.

Following our recommendations, the agency initiated a 2-year research program conducted by a team of consultants at Mathtech and academics at the University of Houston. In this multifaceted project, we explored nonverbal clues to deception, experts versus computer-aided diagnostics, the diagnostic value of these clues for an observer, and the relation between nonverbal and neurophysiological processes. Results included the following:

  1. Three of 26 measured nonverbal behaviors distinguished between the deceivers, evaders, and honest role players in a simulated Meet the Press interview conducted with college students (Experiment 1) and with foreign affairs officers (Experiment 2): More than three quarters of the subjects were classified accurately based on information about leg movements, object fidgeting, and gaze time at the interviewer. These indicators were also shown to reflect emotional states aroused by intentions.

  2. Despite their expressed confidence, self-described experts at detecting deception were inaccurate in distinguishing between deceivers, evaders, and honest subjects. They performed no better than chance. The computer-coded analyses did substantially better, distinguishing between deceptive and nondeceptive accurately in more than three quarters of the cases.

  3. Even when informed of the cues that distinguish deceivers from nondeceivers, observers had difficulty using them accurately. Their accuracy improved dramatically, however, when they were trained systematically to process multiple cues on the way to a decision.

  4. Nonverbal behaviors were also shown to play a role in information processing. Certain micro-momentary facial expressions (such as width of eye opening, head angle) occurred in reaction to changes in a bargaining opponent's strategy, which also corresponded to a particular neurological event recorded by an electroencephalogram and referred to as a P300 (Druckman, Karis, & Donchin, 1983).

These are some of the results that were obtained in the DARPA-sponsored project. (For a complete report of the project's findings, see Druckman, Rozelle, & Baxter, 1982.) They provided the client with a better handle on intentions and contributed to the theoretical literature. First, nonverbal behavior does provide a window on intentions; certain behaviors were shown to have diagnostic value in assessing deception. Second, the diagnostic value of nonverbal behavior is strengthened when several behaviors are considered together in combination or as a profile of indicators. Third, the window into intentions operates through emotional states. For example, evaders felt tense when looking at the interviewer; their tension was relieved when they directed their gaze elsewhere. These findings were the basis for a model of the functions served by nonverbal behaviors. Fourth, nonverbal behaviors can be used to orchestrate impressions that lead observers to infer whether the actor is being deceptive or honest. Fifth, they indicate certain stages of processing information received from another's actions or moves. And, sixth, observers can be trained to infer intentions from nonverbal clues with a high degree of accuracy. Referred to as inference training, this is a technique that can be used to enhance performance. Other techniques were the basis of a series of projects to which I now turn.

Techniques for Enhancing Human Performance

In 1984, the U.S. Army Research Institute asked the NRC to examine the potential value of certain techniques that had been proposed to enhance human performance. As a class, these techniques were viewed as extraordinary, in that they were developed outside the mainstream of the human sciences and were presented with strong claims for high effectiveness. The techniques received attention by the Army (and other public and private institutions) because of their cost-effective approach to training. For this reason especially, it was thought to be important to address the issues surrounding the claims made for effectiveness.

The 3-year project was conducted by an NRC committee that I directed. Our task was threefold: (a) to develop criteria for evaluating a wide range of techniques, (b) to perform the evaluations of selected techniques, and (c) to suggest recommendations for policy and practice. For the details, the reader is encouraged to consult Druckman and Swets (1988). For the purpose of this article, I would like only to highlight a few of the insights gained from, and recommendations made by, the study.

  1. Learning may occur during the lighter stages of sleep. Although this is a controversial conclusion, it did stimulate research conducted at the University of Arizona that cast doubt on its validity.

  2. Although accelerated learning techniques have limited effects on long-term learning, the idea of integrating several elements of learning in a package (exemplified by these approaches) can prove to be quite effective.

  3. Mental practice can enhance motor performance better than visual concentration techniques and biofeedback.

  4. There is no evidence to support the claims that link differential use of the brain hemispheres to performance and, thus, no reason to adopt techniques based on this assumption.

  5. The popularity of such techniques as neurolinguistic programming (NLP) is not based on evidence. Contrary to the claims, the evidence does not support the claimed effectiveness of this approach to influencing another's attitudes or beliefs. However, the idea of modeling experts, used to develop NLP, was found to be intriguing and, thus, became a topic for the committee's next phase.

  6. Enhancing a group's cohesion may not improve its performance. Negative effects of cohesion include the ineffective handling of deviance, groupthink (creative or unusual ideas are discouraged), increased impact of any existing negative norms, and increased intergroup conflict.

  7. The committee's finding of no scientific justification for parapsychological phenomena received the most attention in the media. Although this conclusion was reached on the basis of reviews of research conducted for more than a century, it was vigorously disputed by sympathetic politicians and researchers as well as advocates in the parapsychology community. During the course of these debates, more was learned about the clash of contrasting cultures than about new evidence.

  8. Generally, we appreciated the difference between testimonials and demonstration experiments, on one hand, and scientific methodologies on the other. A revelation for social science was how interests in promoting products lead to hardened beliefs about the value of those products, which in turn reinforce the interests. (See also Druckman & Zechmeister, 1973, for a general theory about the interplay between interests and values.)

This project was a rare opportunity to confront major issues of psychological analysis with important practical implications. It also opened new issues that formed the basis for a decade's work on issues of enhancing performance. Equally compelling findings were generated from the next series of 3-year projects. The 1991 book edited by Druckman and Bjork evaluated such techniques as meditation (no enhancing effects on performance), the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (no justification for its use in career counseling), subliminal self-help tapes (no evidence for effectiveness), and various pre-performance rituals (effective for motor performance). In addition, we examined issues of long-term retention of skills, modeling expertise, pain management, conceptions of deception (following from the earlier work discussed above on nonverbal communication), and team performance (following from the work in the earlier phase on cohesion).

A 1994 book, also edited by Druckman and Bjork, further extended the range of topics treated by the committee. These included an evaluation of situated learning approaches to training (weak transfer to other situations), cooperative learning, team building and training techniques, hypnosis (weak links to performance), restricted environmental stimulation (mechanisms for enhancing performance not clear), transcendental meditation (not performance enhancing),(n4) and a second look at sleep learning (weaker effects obtained in more recent experiments). In addition, we examined the use of interactive games and simulations in training (generally weak effects on long-term retention), the role of self confidence, socially induced affect, and thought suppression (negative effects on performance). In an epilogue, we discussed some institutional impediments to effective training, which formed a basis for our focus on organizations in the next phase.
A 1997 book, edited by Druckman, Singer, and Van Cott, changed our focus from individuals and small groups to large organizations. We did, however, retain the theme of performance enhancement. Topics included approaches to designing and redesigning organizations; techniques for increasing effectiveness, such as total quality management, downsizing, and reengineering; the development and impact of organizational cultures (including the consulting and agency cultures discussed in several of this issue's articles); techniques for developing leader skills; factors that influence the effectiveness of mergers and other forms of interorganizational cooperation; and strategies for managing conflicts, especially in peacekeeping operations. Unlike many of the topics treated in earlier phases, the study of organizations has not benefited from a strong research base. Compounding this problem further is the observation that research in this field lags innovations introduced in practice. Gaps in knowledge were identified. But, more important, we were struck by a need to develop research strategies or methodologies to conduct the kinds of studies that would fill the gaps.

These projects illustrate the dual consulting functions of study director and bridge builder. In my substantive work, I functioned more as an integrator than as a technical specialist. In my administrative work, I built bridges between academic specialists, the client organizations, and various public constituencies with stakes in the project's outcomes. Both roles were essential to the successful completion of each phase of the committee's work. The four books are contributions to the applied and theoretical communities. But, the projects also contributed to our own professional development by showing us how to make research relevant to practice, by broadening our perspective of relevant academic fields, and by identifying gaps in knowledge to be addressed by a new generation of theoretical and empirical work. Furthermore, I now realize that relevant research is more likely to emanate from collaborations among consultants, academics, and practitioners.

Simulation Design

Simulation has been a useful consulting tool for research, training, and policy development. By simulation, I refer to a constructed environment (or scenario) in which participants usually enact roles to provide data (as research subjects), learn new concepts (as trainees), or develop policy options (as decision makers). These kinds of simulations have been widely used in educational institutions, the military, civilian government agencies, and think tanks such as the Rand Corporation. (See Crookall & Arai, 1995, for a broad survey of applications.) They have been sold in terms of the benefits derived from experiential learning, especially with regard to motivation and enjoyment of the experience. And, clients, like students, appreciate being given an opportunity to develop their own solutions. The following examples are simulation exercises developed for four U.S. government agencies.

For DARPA, a role-playing scenario was designed for research on nonverbal indicators of emotional states and intentions. Foreign service officers played the role of the Soviet ambassador appearing on Meet the Press, an interview program aired on Sundays in the United States. The videotaped enactments in three experimental conditions--deception, evasion, and honest communications-were coded for a variety of facial expression and body language clues to intentions. As discussed above in the section on Psychological Analysis, certain nonverbal behaviors distinguished among the intentions. For the U.S. Information Agency, we designed an exercise to elicit attitudes of foreign students to four aspects of U.S. foreign policy: human rights, foreign investment, the North-South dialogue, and arms control. By tailoring the scenarios to the students' backgrounds and experiences, it was possible to elicit attitudes that were difficult to elicit in an interview. Moreover, the attitudes were linked to well-defined roles in a manner not possible in free-discussion formats.

Two simulations designed for training and policy development were conducted with U.S. agency professionals. For the Federal Emergency Management Agency, my team designed a disaster game that challenged trainees to overcome self-oriented behavior (anxiety about survival) to cooperate with other members of the community to restore stability. The simulation provided an opportunity to learn how each of several professional groups (e.g., utilities, food, health care professionals) responded to the challenge. For the Office of Net Assessment in the Department of Defense, I helped implement the Strategic Analysis Simulation, a computer-assisted game used by military officers to experience the consequences of their tactical decisions. The decisions were made in the context of scenarios that depicted regional conflicts. Documentation of the moves and countermoves made by members of the competing teams revealed junctures where prior decisions led to unexpected escalations of the conflict. The documentation was useful, both to provide feedback during the course of the game and for after-action analyses. It also enabled us to accumulate and compare different plays for lessons learned that proved to have value for military policy. (For other applications outside the consulting context, see Druckman, 1994.)

Lessons Learned

The consulting projects discussed in this article have contributed to knowledge, practice, and the consulting craft. Some of the lessons learned in each of these areas are collected in this final section.

Contributions To Knowledge

The results obtained from several projects were published in scholarly journals or book chapters. Each contributed to our knowledge of a social process and produced further research.

Negotiating base rights. The time-series analyses elucidated a relationship between impasses (or crises) and turning points. Progress in the negotiation often depended on identifying and resolving differences between the delegations in purposes, tactics, concessions, and rhetorical style (Druckman, 1986). This finding, then, became the basis for a comparative analysis that revealed how international negotiators responded to each other's moves, referred to as comparative reciprocity (Druckman & Harris, 1990). It also became the basis for a line of research on international interactions during the Cold War (Patchen, 1998).

Negotiation between alliances. The analyses of discussions in the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) talks shed light on the form of bargaining described by Ikle (1964) as negotiating for side effects. The discussions conducted regularly over a period of 13 years on a formula for mutual and balanced reductions (never achieved) were intended to divert attention away from making unilateral reductions in each of the countries. Nonetheless, the content analysis of the negotiating process revealed insights into the relationship between external (alliance) threat and internal (alliance) cohesion, the impact of superpower condominiums, and the rhetorical tactics intended to encourage the opponent to accept tabled proposals.

Political mobility. Analyses of political decisions made by leaders of five military regimes in Brazil contributed to our understanding of the way regime ideologies influence appointments and promotions. In a response referred to as selector bias, the decisions were shown to be motivated by regime preferences for international or nationalist policies. Depending on a regime's policy orientation and philosophy, such criteria as technical background or foreign (especially U.S.) training could either lead to or prevent an appointment to the cabinet. More generally, the project provided insights into the way the military and civil service can be politicized (Druckman & Vaurio, 1983).

Political stability. The stability of a regime depends not only on its control of coercive and economic assets but also on the less tangible variables of group organizing skills, legitimacy, and rectitude. Marcos was vulnerable in the early 1980s primarily because of a decreasing legitimacy rather than an erosion of control over resources. His regime's ability to form strategic coalitions with other political groups became increasingly difficult due largely to a widening gap in values. These diagnoses were based on an elaborate model of stability (Druckman & Green, 1986). The model was also used for diagnosing stability in 10 other country contexts.

Nonverbal communication. In addition to the practical utility of diagnosing deception from nonverbal behavior, our analyses provided windows into the emotional states associated with various intentions. For example, frequent shrugging of the shoulders by deceivers was correlated with increased stress; frequent head shaking by deceivers conveyed more confidence in their enactments. With regard to detecting deception, we discovered that people tend to be more confident than accurate. To increase accuracy, we evaluated several alternative techniques. Significantly better results were obtained with a systematic inference strategy (learning to use several cues in sequence) than when analysts learned only to distinguish between signals (diagnostic behaviors) and noise (nondiagnostic behaviors).

Enhancing human performance. Many contributions were made to knowledge over the course of this 12-year project. With regard to individuals, we discovered the training conditions needed for long-term retention of skills, the possibilities for learning during light stages of sleep, and the value of mental practice for enhancing motor skills. With regard to teams, we learned about some negative effects of cohesion on performance, the conflict-inducing impacts of team-building exercises, and the conditions under which cooperative learning works. And, for organizations, we concluded that organizational survival depends in large part on the match between their missions and the external environment; successful mergers and alliances result from a carefully managed negotiation process that proceeds through well-defined stages; although strong organizational cultures can be produced, they can also become resistant to change, leading to a lack of adaptive flexibility.

Contributions To Practice

Most of the consulting projects discussed above were intended to make contributions to the clients' missions or tasks. The contributions often consisted of analytical techniques for monitoring, forecasting, or diagnosing intentions. They also included evaluations of techniques or programs. Each of the following examples contributed to the solution of a practical problem.

Forecasting moves. By keeping track of statements through the course of a long negotiation, we were able to anticipate such key events as the tabling of a proposal, reactions to tough or soft postures, and the impact of proposed compromises on particular issues. The monitoring system that we developed provided online support to the U.S. MBFR delegation. Examples of questions asked by the delegation were: When and how did the Soviets address the Western concern with the phasing of reductions in Rounds 4, 5, and 6? When and how did the Eastern bloc representatives change their style of argumentation on certain topics?

Developing negotiating packages. The monitoring system developed for use by the MBFR delegates served also to identify areas of compromise. By answering questions about commitment to positions and reactions to proposed compromises, we were able to suggest a particular trade that could have resolved an impasse: namely, reductions in one bloc's ground manpower (on which they had an advantage) for reductions in the other's tactical nuclear weapons (on which they had the advantage). (For details on this proposal, see Druckman & Hopmann, 1991.)

Detecting deception. The nonverbal communication project discussed above produced specific indicators of deception. Three indicators in particular were diagnostic in the context of a simulated foreign policy address: namely, leg movements, object fidgeting, and gaze time at the interviewer. Based on the statistical findings, a case was made that body language indicators may provide better information about intentions than the physiological indicators detected by the polygraph.

Claims for techniques. The most dramatic practical impacts of my consulting assignments were on decisions made either to continue or to eliminate federally sponsored programs. The NRC reports made specific recommendations that led to the demise (in the case of negative or weak evidence) or bolstering (when the evidence supported the claims) of research and development programs. One technique reviewed by the NRC project became a focus of a Federal Trade Commission investigation about deceptive advertising practices. The result was a substantial cash settlement of refunds to consumers of the product.

A national research program. Based on an appraisal of contributions made by the social sciences to the human dimensions of global environmental change, our group developed the contours of a national program to be administered by the National Science Foundation. The recommendations included research priorities, data needs, organizational resources, and specific funding targets for a 3- to 5-year period. The magnitude of the recommended funding levels was justified by the importance of the problem, conceptual breakthroughs in human dimensions research, and glaring underfunding of investigator-generated initiatives in this area (see Stem, Young, & Druckman, 1992, chapter 8).

Contributions To The Craft

The projects discussed in this article illustrate the value of theory and analytical methodologies in addressing real-world problems. They also suggest how insights from practice can contribute to social science. From these experiences, we have enhanced our value as consultants in the following ways.

Building skills. The skills developed through graduate education usually do not include some of the most important competencies for consultants. One of these is selling projects to potential clients. Another is performing applied research projects. And, a third is communicating the results (through briefings and written reports) to clients and sponsors. Each of these skills is acquired through practice bounded by a consulting culture. Each is strengthened by feedback, often direct and immediate, from those who will use the projects or products.

Broadening perspectives. Graduate education is geared toward developing specialists. Although certain kinds of technical expertise may be in demand, it is more often the case that consultants cannot rely only on their specialties. Consultants must respond to diverse and changing needs in the marketplace. Hence, they benefit from being flexible in approach, substance, and methodological techniques. The perennial learning and relearning needed for survival and growth has the advantage of broadening consultants' perspectives on social science. The wide variety of projects discussed in this article illustrate a progression from my graduate school training as an experimental social psychologist to work as a multifaceted social scientist.

Framing research issues. The challenges of consulting provided opportunities to transcend the research frame of deductive hypothesis testing popular in psychology and related scientific disciplines. Few client-generated projects are intended to evaluate hypotheses derived from theories. Most of the applied research projects focus either on developing methodologies for organizing information or on prescriptive outcomes. The approaches taken include constructing frameworks for organizing data collections, conducting normative analyses that address questions about how to proceed, and evaluating programs or techniques. Broadly framed research issues require the use of multiple methods that can be adapted to the practical needs of client organizations.

Educating practitioners. In addition to presenting the project's results, the consulting team conveys an approach to analysis that is often unfamiliar to clients. Implementation depends at least in part on the client's understanding of these approaches. That understanding develops over time through the various phases of the project. Although it is often implicit, the learning occurs during the many discussions held and briefings presented by the consulting team. A public function served is the dissemination of social science to practitioner communities. A private benefit is facilitation of a long-term relationship with a knowledgeable client.

Educating theorists. Not only do practitioners learn about social science from consultants, but social science consultants also learn from practitioners. Building skills, broadening perspectives, and framing issues are examples of learning from practitioners. But, there are also lessons to be learned for theory. Examples from my experience include the following: Challenges to the assumptions of bargaining theory from learning how international negotiation occurs; challenges to conceptualizations of political stability that overlook processes of competitive group politics (including mobilizing and social distance between groups); challenges to elite mobility models that overlook the role of regime orientations in the selection process; and identification of the conditions under which group cohesion and team building reduce performance and hinder relations between groups. By appearing also in professional journals and books, each of these (and other) findings from consulting projects contributed to the development of theory in social science.

Concluding Note

This article sends two messages to would-be research consultants. One is that consulting is a worthy career choice. The other is that becoming a consultant is a risky decision. It offers opportunities unlikely to be made available to academic social scientists. The opportunity to bring theory to bear on important practical problems sensitizes the analyst to the aphorism that "it is a lot easier in theory than in practice." While conveying some of the difficulties encountered in implementing many of the projects discussed above, I also conveyed the benefits obtained from the attempts made to bridge the cultures of theory and practice. The creative tensions generated by these challenges have often resulted in discoveries that contributed to the way we think about applied social science and that are illustrated by the articles in this issue. These gains are, however, obtained at the costs of job insecurity, marginal professional status in traditional academic institutions and networks, and disappointments endured in securing, performing, and implementing client-sponsored projects. An informed social science career decision is one that takes into account both these faces of research consulting.


(n1.) Some of these clients have included the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the Army Research Institute, the U.S. Institute of Peace, Net Assessment (a Defense Department task force supporting negotiations on conventional weapons reductions), and the Agency for International Development.

(n2.) The suggestion to develop a long-term relationship with clients has several advantages and some disadvantages. The advantages include reduced dependence on the competitive Requests for Proposals process for projects and revenue, continuity of substantive work, opportunities for publication in professional journals, better communication of progress and results, and job security or a reliable income stream. Disadvantages include a possible false sense of security, which may reduce the motivation to develop a diversified portfolio of clients; overspecialization, which makes consultants dependent on projects within the narrower confines of that specialty; and a lack of the kind of stimulation that often comes with new challenges and clients leading, perhaps, to work of reduced quality.

(n3.) In my own experience, this tension has at times been quite severe. In my role as project director, I have observed tirades that would, in the current normative climate, be regarded as abusive behavior in the workplace. Several examples serve to illustrate this excessive and unethical professional conduct shown by managers. One is the reaction of an executive director to a suggestion that his (her) proposal be recast as a scientific rather than ideological project: His (her) vigorous shouting was followed by a refusal to take calls for several days or to address the issue ever again. Another reaction on a different matter came from this individual's associate executive director (upon being called into his (her) office following a committee meeting, he (she) closed the door and began a vituperate campaign about spending "too much" time as a professional, in other words, in scholarly pursuits rather than in marketing proposals. A third reaction came from a division director appointed as part of a reorganization of divisions. Because one of my projects did not follow me into a new division-remaining in his (her) division--he (she) removed me from its staff despite 5 years of service and considerable expertise on the subject. As a result, I was not fully covered by projects, and this project lost my contributions. I presented this situation to the new division's director, who did not confront the issue to avoid a conflict with his (her) managerial colleague.

Other examples include refusing to consider a request to hire an assistant of my choosing, refusing to approve professional expenditures from projects that I contracted and directed, insisting on a no-excuses compulsory attendance policy at weekly division staff meetings, and preparing performance evaluations that emphasized shortcomings rather than strengths. Further aggravating the situation is the attempt by many non-Ph.D. (unpublished) managers to ignore the degree titles earned by their project directors. My resignation followed several attempts in vain to call attention to these behaviors, first, to the executive director and, then, to the human resources department at the organization. All of these examples illuminate the tensions caused by the conflict between a manager's desire to control projects, staffs, and resources and the project director's aim to produce a useful report for the client and a contribution for the profession.

(n4.) Our conclusions about meditation were challenged vigorously by researchers from Maharishi University (Fairfield, Iowa). The argument centered on the results of a meta-analysis of numerous experiments showing meditation effects (e.g., Alexander, Rainforth, & Gelderloos, 1991). Issues were raised about the studies included in the meta-analysis: for example, possible confounding effects of uncontrolled variables, short-term assessments, mechanisms responsible for observed effects, and few performance assessments.


Alexander, C. N., Rainforth, M. V., & Gelderloos, P. (1991). Transcendental meditation, self-actualization, and psychological health: A conceptual overview and statistical meta-analysis. Social Behavior and Personality, 6, 189-247.

Beveridge, J. M., & Velton, E. J. (1982). Positioning to win: Planning & executing the superior proposal. Radnor, PA: Chilton.

Crookall, D., & Arai, K. (Eds.). (1995). Simulation and gaming across disciplines and cultures: ISAGA at a watershed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Druckman, D. (1983). Social psychology and international negotiations: Processes and influences. In R. F. Kidd & M. J. Saks (Eds.), Advances in applied social-psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 51-81). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Druckman, D. (1986). Stages, turning points, and crises: Negotiating military base rights, Spain and the United States. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 30, 327-360.

Druckman, D. (1993). Statistical analysis for negotiation support. Theory and Decision, 34, 215-233.

Druckman, D. (1994). Tools for discovery: Experimenting with simulations. Simulation & Gaming, 25, 446-455.

Druckman, D., & Bjork, R. A. (Eds.). (1991). In the mind's eye: Enhancing human performance. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Druckman, D., & Bjork, R. J. (Eds.). (1994). Learning, remembering, believing: Enhancing human performance. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Druckman, D., & Green, J. (1986). Political stability in the Philippines: Framework and analysis (Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 22, Book 3). Denver, CO: University of Denver.

Druckman, D., & Harris, R. (1990). Alternative models of responsiveness in international negotiation. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 34, 234-251.

Druckman, D., & Hopmann, P. T. (1989). Behavioral aspects of negotiations on mutual security. In P. E. Tetlock, J. L. Husbands, R. Jervis, P. C. Stem, & C. Tilly (Eds.), Behavior, society, and nuclear war (Vol. 1, pp. 85-173). New York: Oxford University Press.

Druckman, D., & Hopmann, P. T. (1991). Content analysis. In V. A. Kremenyuk (Ed.), International negotiation: Analysis, approaches, issues (pp. 244-263). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Druckman, D., Husbands, J., & Johnston, K. (1991). Turning points in the INF negotiations. Negotiation Journal, 7, 55-67.

Druckman, D., Karis, D., & Donchin, E. (1983). Information-processing in bargaining: Reactions to an opponent's shift in concession strategy. In R. Tietz (Ed.), Aspiration levels in bargaining and economic decision making (pp. 153-169). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Druckman, D., & Robinson, V. (1998). From research to application: Utilizing research findings in negotiation training programs. International Negotiation, 3, 7-38.

Druckman, D., Rozelle, R., & Baxter, J. (1982). Nonverbal communication: Survey, theory, and research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Druckman, D., Singer, J., & Van Cott, H. (Eds.). (1997). Enhancing organizational performance. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Druckman, D., & Swets, J. A. (Eds.). (1988). Enhancing human performance: Issues, theories, and techniques. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Druckman, D., & Vaurio, E. (1983). Regimes and selection of political and military leaders: Brazilian cabinet ministers and generals. Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 11,301-324.

Druckman, D., & Zechmeister, K. (1973). Conflict of interest and value dissensus: Propositions in the sociology of conflict. Human Relations, 26, 449-466.

Fisher, R. J. (1983). Third party consultation as a method of intergroup conflict resolution: A review of studies. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 27, 301-334.

Fisher, R. J. (1997). Interactive conflict resolution. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

George, A. (1993). Bridging the gap: Theory and practice in foreign policy. Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press.

Ikle, F. C. (1964). How nations negotiate. New York: Harper & Row.

Kelman, H. C. (1995). Contributions of an unofficial conflict resolution effort to the Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough. Negotiation Journal, 11, 19-27.

Kelman, H. C. (1997). Group processes in the resolution of international conflict. American Psychologist, 52, 212-220.

Merton, R. K. (1957). Social theory and social structure. New York: Free Press.

Mitchell, C., & Banks, M. (1996). Handbook of conflict resolution. London: Pinter.

Patchen, M. (1998). When does reciprocity in the actions of nations occur? International Negotiation, 3, 171-196.

Sanders, D. (1981). Patterns of political instability. New York: St. Martin's.

Sick, G. (1985). All fall down: America's tragic encounter with Iran. New York: Penguin.

Stern, P., Young, O., & Druckman, D. (Eds.). (1992). Global environmental change: Understanding the human dimensions. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Tilly, C. (1978). From mobilization to revolution. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Walcott, C., & Hopmann, P. T. (1978). Interaction analysis and bargaining behavior. In R. T. Golembiewski (Ed.), The small group in political science: The last two decades of development (pp. 251-261). Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Walton, R. E., & McKersie, R. B. (1965). A behavioral theory of labor negotiations. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Winham, G. (1977). Complexity in international negotiation. In D. Druckman (Ed.), Negotiations: Social-psychological perspectives (pp. 347-366). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Zander, A. F. (1994). Making groups effective (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[home] [research] [getting started] [law] [personal stories] [secrets] [news] [about TranceNet]

Internet Link Exchange
Member of the Internet Link Exchange

Please send questions, comments, problems, and letters to the editor to jmknapp53@gmail.com. All editorial correspondence becomes the property of trancenet.net -- unless requested otherwise -- and may be edited for purposes of clarity and space. Except where noted, entire contents Copyright ©1995-2001 trancenet.net Society. trancenet.netTMis a trademark of trancenet.net Society, an unincorporated nonprofit organization. The opinions and viewpoints of contributors do not necessarily reflect those of trancenet.net,its editorial staff, nor trancenet.net Society, its board, officers, employees, volunteers. Neither trancenet.net Society nor its editorial staff conclude that any group discussed on this site is necessarily cultic in nature. We provide suppressed and alternative information and champion your right make informed decisions for yourself. Copyrighted works are reprinted with permission as noted or are made available under the "fair use" exception of U.S. copyright law, for research and educational purposes only.
To comment on this or any other trancenet.net page, go to trancechat.