What is the Diplomacy Lab?

The Diplomacy Lab underscores the State Department’s commitment to engaging the American people in its work, and helps the Department broaden its research base and more effectively respond to a myriad of global challenges.

Students participating in the Diplomacy Lab explore real-world challenges identified by the Department and work under the guidance of faculty members with expertise in a field related to the project. Students also discuss these issues with State Department officials several times throughout the semester. The Diplomacy Lab allows students to contribute directly to the policymaking process, while helping the State Department tap into an underutilized reservoir of intellectual capital.

The Diplomacy Lab operated in a pilot phase from Fall 2013 through the Spring 2015 semester. The State Department held an open application period in March 2015, selecting additional universities to participate in the Diplomacy Lab starting in Fall 2015.

How does the Diplomacy Lab work?

In a nutshell, a list of proposed projects is shared with universities that are participating in Diplomacy Lab. Then partner universities identify faculty members to lead teams of students in Diplomacy Lab projects. Over the course of a semester, professors guide students in developing a final work product that accomplishes the goals outlined by the Department. Students have opportunities throughout the semester to discuss their research with State Department officials.

Diplomacy Lab member institutiions may bid on project proposals developed by the Department 6 months prior to each semester during the bidding window.  Each university is encouraged to submit bids for its top four priority projects. It is also highly recommended that each university choose four alternate projects with an individual proposal in the event a particular project is over-subscribed

What sorts of topics are covered?

The State Department is responsible for responding to a wide array of international issues and challenges, including climate change, weapons nonproliferation, democracy and human rights, counter-terrorism, global health, energy security, gender equality, economic policy, trafficking in persons, food security, and conflict and stabilization. Diplomacy Lab projects come from offices across the Department. The Department makes an effort to provide projects matching the strengths and interests of universities participating in Diplomacy Lab.

What does a Diplomacy Lab team of students look like?

A standard Diplomacy Lab team is generally a group of at least four students led by a faculty member. Students may be undergraduate or graduate students in any discipline or academic field. Interdisciplinary teams are also welcome and encouraged!

What faculty involvement is required?

Each Diplomacy Lab team is supervised by a faculty member with expertise in a field related to the project. The faculty member also serves as the Project Point of Contact for State Department officials who have proposed the project.

How much contact do students have with State Department officials?

Students engage directly with officials throughout the semester in a series of video- or teleconferences. Although each project’s trajectory is different, typically the first conference takes place at the beginning of the semester, so that students can meet Department officials, who provide students with additional context and direction not included in the initial project request. The second conference takes place later in the semester, to give students the chance to ask questions and officials a chance to give mid-course guidance on the students’ work. There may be a possibility of a final conference after students submit their final projects. During this last conference, students present their results to their Department colleagues and other relevant officials. State Department officials will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the students’ work.

What is the final work product?

While the format of the final product depends heavily on the nature of the project, most Diplomacy Lab products are short policy memos with data and supporting research attached in appendices as necessary. In some cases, final projects may take the form of longer research papers, statistical analyses, or even data sets. The expected form of the final project is made clear in the project announcement and in communication with Department officials.

How many projects/topics can each university take on?

Each university is encouraged to bid on up to four projects, in addition to four alternate project proposals in the event that a certain topic is over-subscribed. 

To bid on a proposal please complete the Project Submission Form.

How do universities incorporate Diplomacy Lab projects into their curricula?

Universities are encouraged to incorporate Diplomacy Lab within their curricula as best suits their teaching needs and academic goals. Potential models include but are not limited to:

  • Course-Per-Topic Model: A university might build a course around a chosen Diplomacy Lab topic. Students could be asked to work collectively or in teams. The course instructor would then coordinate and consolidate student work product, the final form of which should be discussed with the relevant State Department officials before the semester begins. Possible models for student work product involve: a compilation of the best portions of various projects; a class-wide revision of a chosen project; or splitting the topic into distinct pieces (i.e. country or thematic focuses) and consolidating the results into one final submission. This model has the benefit of closely approximating the operation of an office at the State Department, where most activities and documents are deeply collective efforts.
  • Multi-Topic Course Model: A university could offer one or more courses (whether Diplomacy-Lab-specific or pre-existing) in which student teams address different Diplomacy Lab topics. If multiple teams intend to address the same topic, similar methods as described above should be used to consolidate the teams’ efforts prior to submission to Department officials.
  • Independent Study Model: A university could offer credited, supervised independent study opportunities to small groups of students for one or more of its chosen projects.
  • Capstone Model: Diplomacy Lab projects can be incorporated into existing capstone or practicum programs.

If my university has questions that are not answered here, who can I contact?

If your university is already participating in the Diplomacy Lab, contact your University’s designated Diplomacy Lab Coordinator.

You may submit general questions to DiplomacyLab@state.gov.