Biologists, anthropologists, and sociologists define field research as “the collection of information outside of a laboratory or workplace setting.” Like other academic disciplines, foreign policy requires cultural observations, expert interviews, and data collection. Consequently, successful foreign policy fieldwork demands an artistic inquisitiveness to explore the world, a scientific commitment to qualitative and quantitative research, and sufficient practical street smarts to return safely and tell the story.
For over fifty years, the Foreign Policy Research Institute has brought insight into “the realities and mentalities of the localities” (in the memorable words of James Kurth) to bear on U.S. foreign policy challenges. As the nation’s finest minds consider policy options, how do FPRI experts leverage their observations from field research? What insights do they look for when traveling abroad? How do foreign policy experts use their interviews, observations and conversations to further their research? And what personal security techniques work best when traveling in dangerous, violent and unstable locales?
David J. Danelo is a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, in charge of developing a field research training program. A 1998 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Danelo served seven years as a Marine Corps infantry officer, including a 2004 Iraq deployment. After leaving active duty, Danelo wrote two award-winning books and reported from Vietnam, Iraq, the Horn of Africa, Mexico, and the Balkans. As a senior Department of Homeland Security executive, Danelo helped create the U.S. Border Patrol’s 2012-16 strategic plan, and developed U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s first-ever integrated planning guidance. He consults globally for the U.S. State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program, and has reported from and worked in over 40 countries.
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