Guest Post: The Obama in-tray: find articles in IBSS

In the first of what will hopefully be a series of guest posts on the Intute: Social Sciences blog, we welcome Tom Carter, Assistant Manager of the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences.

Tom takes a break from writing over at the IBSS Blog and joins us to look at the challenges facing Barack Obama. He outlines how IBSS can help researchers, academics and students, tackle the subject.

Obama’s in-tray: find articles in IBSS by Tom Carter

Running with the theme of the Obama inauguration in the spotlight on the Intute Social Sciences blog, the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS) can be used to find peer-reviewed academic articles on some of the pressing issues ahead for the new president. IBSS is a specialist social sciences database that indexes 2,900 current social science journals in politics, economics, sociology and anthropology. The database includes almost 2.5 million bibliographic references to articles, book reviews, monographs and selected chapters from multi-authored volumes dating back to 1951.

Obama’s historic election victory, discussed recently on IBSS’s own blog, was to a large extent based on his ‘change’ rhetoric. However, the ‘hope’ of the country that he carries on his shoulders needs to be tempered in face of the enormous task that awaits him.

The most immediate problem is surely the global economic crisis that has recently taken a firm grip on domestic policy in the United States. The way in which Obama deals with this has consequences for the rest of the world and the increasingly deteriorating American economy has become the number one priority.

The US automobile industry is an area that Obama has marked out for urgent attention under his administration. A search on IBSS using the search terms ‘automobile industry and economic crisis‘ offers 32 results covering studies of many of the major international manufacturers’ responses to economic crises past and present. Similarly, a search on ‘mortgages, credit and U.S.A.’ returns 14 records (applying a limiter of articles published after 2007) that focus on the ‘sub-prime’ mortgage crisis that appeared to trigger the current recession.

That the economic crisis is now a global issue is beyond question and recent academic research is sure to expand quickly on advice for how to deal with such a problem. To date, a search for ‘recession and world economy‘ returns 12 records since 2007 in IBSS, but it is surely only a matter of time before this figure leaps.

Following on from the domestic and world economic agenda will be how to move American foreign policy forward. In this respect, it is worth looking at how the Bush years were defined by its foreign policy, with on-going conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.

A simple search of ‘George W. Bush and foreign policy‘ in the subject fields of IBSS currently returns 126 journal articles and 24 monographs. A wider search on the ‘War on terror‘ returns almost 1,700 records – with the Bush Presidency lasting 2,922 days that makes one article for less than every day and a half of his leadership!

Combining ‘War on terror’ with Afghanistan as a geographic search returns 89 results ranging on analyses of the ‘Just war’ theory through to the management of military operations and the impact on Afghan society. Similarly, ‘War on terror’ combined with Iraq returns 312 results.

The underlying justification for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were American national security. A search based around this – ‘national security, defence policy and U.S.A.‘ – and using the date limiter to include all articles since January 2000 returns 13 focused results on the policy of striking pre-emptively at perceived threats to the United States, labelled the Bush Doctrine.

Finally, ex-presidents always have an eye on how they will be viewed by the public once they have passed the mantle on to the next leader. A wide search on ‘presidents, public opinion and U.S.A.‘ gives us 17 records, across the spectrum of recent American heads of state, such as Nixon, Reagan and Clinton. Amending this to ‘George W. Bush and public opinion‘ gives us 26 results; the higher figure may testify to the low standing in which Bush has left office and the high level of criticism that his policies have received.

After his resounding victory in November, Obama starts with strikingly high popular support, but it is clear that the task facing the new US president is not for the faint-hearted. Not only the American people, but the entire world need to be realistic in their expectations of hope and change.

IBSS is available free to UK HE and by subscription to other institutions and if you want to find out more there’s detailed information on how to access IBSS.