What a useful resource could be provided if any student could put his or her essays on international affairs on a website for all to read! Now an enterprising group of graduate students from a number of universities have done just that. In the words of one of its editors:
A group of postgraduate students from UK universities including Oxford, Leicester and the LSE run an independent website (e-International Relations) aimed at international politics students. As well as essays, news feeds, and political blogs it contains short editorial comment pieces. The recently built site has already had submissions from British, American and Islamic academics, students, journalists, politicians and advocacy groups. Amongst others we've received pieces from Ian Lustick, Charlie Beckett, John Redwood and David Steinberg.
Since that was written, I too have responded to an invitation to contribute an 'editorial comment piece' on one of my favourite topics, familiar to all Ephems readers: it's currently the 'featured editorial' on the website.
"e-International Relations", at http://www.e-ir.info/, is well worth a visit, not only as a laudable and interesting initiative, but also for lots of stimulating content (not just my own contribution, either!). Of course the student essays as well as the gurus' and others' 'editorial comments' offer rich pickings for student essay-writers to plunder, but then so does all Web content, and these days alert tutors have ways of tracking down plagiarism. Anyway the line between plagiarism and inspiration fired by others' ideas is a blurred one. (Personally I would find it rather flattering to be plagiarised, although naturally I'm unlikely to know it even if I have been.)
The other possible objection is that the mere appearance of an essay or a comment piece on a quasi-academic website may lend it a spurious air of authenticity and authority when in real life it may be full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations. But "e-International Relations" is frank about the status of its contributions, and anyone who takes a student essay (or even a comment piece by an old fogey) as gospel has no business being a student, formal or informal. Caveat lector! In some cases hyperlinks to original sources are an aid to verification by the suspicious; in other cases the main substance is more opinion than fact, and the reader is at liberty to agree or disagree. Some essays include impressive bibliographies and other footnotes, facilitating verification: and all of them include provision for visitors to append comments, or to comment separately on the associated blogs, both sure-fire ways of keeping writers in the blogosphere honest (as we bloggers all know, sometimes to our cost).
It's an excellent initiative, expertly executed, and it deserves to flourish. More publicity for it is needed: fellow-bloggers, please copy!