Growing, Evolving, Engaging: The Latest from ICA’s Political Communication Division


Frank Esser, Chair of ICA’s Political Communication Division

I am happy to report that the Political Communication Division is on solid ground with professional practices and stable finances, but we face challenges in diversifying and expanding our international presence. Our focus is on nurturing talent, expanding global reach, improving services, fostering member interaction and strong representation within the ICA community. To address new challenges and ensure inclusive growth, at the last Business Meeting in Toronto I introduced a Strategic Planning Task Force to explore new goals, adapt to the evolution of the field, manage the complex peer review process, enhance engagement for online conference participants, consider new leadership roles, and possibly update our mission and bylaws.


How Do We Operate Behind the Scenes?

The Political Communication Division’s leadership team consist of Division Chair (me), Vice Chair and Program Planner (Kate Kenski), International Liaison Officer (Taberez A. Neyazi), Student and Early-Career Officer (Ernesto de Leon), Secretary and Treasurer (Ashley Muddiman) and Social Media Officer (Curd Knüpfer). We hold monthly 90-minute Zoom meetings to plan and coordinate a growing number of initiatives. At conferences, you will meet us at the various networking and mentoring events we host, at our legendary off-site receptions, and at the all-important Business Meeting.

The Chair’s responsibilities are extensive, including organizing monthly leadership team meetings, coordinating divisional tasks, overseeing a number of committees, managing finances with the Secretary, and liaising with the journal Political Communication, the PolComm section of APSA, and ICA headquarters. In addition, the Chair produces a monthly newsletter. While the activities of other officers are too numerous to list here, their activities and dedication are at least as important, if not more so, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their time and energy.

I cannot overstate the importance of our monthly officer meetings to the success of our division. These meetings guide our work, enable strategic initiatives, and allow for informed decision making. We are all actively involved in several other broader ICA committees. We maintain close friendships with some of the ICA divisions (especially those where we also have a larger membership overlap), and a goal for the future is to increase interdivisional cooperation in general for more robust exchanges.

Filling officer positions has never been a problem in our division, thanks to a long-standing Nominating Committee (currently chaired by Patricia Moy) that prepares election slates with a variety of expectations in mind. Although people tend not to self-nominate out of respect for the structured processes we have in place, our members are always willing to serve when approached.

One of our biggest challenges is the role of the Program Planner (= Vice Chair). The current scale of operations, with nearly 500 submissions (for Paris and Toronto) and multiple submission formats, has pushed the limits of what one person can manage. Tight deadlines, restricted access to ScholarOne post-deadline, and balancing scientific diversity with high peer review standards add to the complexity. At least for the “Big 5” divisions (CAT, Health, Journalism, PolComm, MassComm) we believe a structured dialogue with ICA is needed to redefine the role of the planner, moving beyond ad hoc internal solutions to a more systematic approach.


Membership Growth and Diversity Efforts

The Political Communication Division has rebounded impressively post-pandemic, becoming the second-largest ICA Division with 966 members, up from 724 in 2022, and one of the most active in terms of submissions. This indicates strong loyalty and a sense of community among participants. Our field of Political Communication is highly relevant both academically and socially, and the Division is known for methodological rigor and high-quality scholarship. The balance of long-term members and new conferences attendees reflects the vitality of our Division.

To ensure an equitable and engaging conference experience, our Division has implemented several strategies to seamlessly integrate international and early career scholars into the program: (1) We avoid creating segregated panels that might inadvertently marginalize international scholars. Our panels are organized according to the thematic relevance. (2) We’ve increased our support mechanisms in terms of travel grants, striving for an inclusive experience for newcomers. (3) We plan new initiatives based on our discussions with colleagues and on the results of surveys we conduct with our members every year.

For instance, in the past three years, we have been running very successful webinars on “Political Communication for Newcomers,” in which we introduce young and less experienced researchers from around the world to the idea of submitting papers to ICA. We explain the requirements and the peer review process well in advance of the November 1 deadline. In these webinars, the Internationalization Liaison, the Student & Early Career Representative and the Secretary/Travel Grant Manager provide valuable advice.

Our membership demographics show a gradual shift from a predominantly Euro-American base to increasing representation from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, and Oceania. This positive trend reflects the Division’s commitment to internationalization and diversity. The percentage of our division members from Europe and North America has declined slightly to 82%, while this year it is 9% for Asia, 4% for the Middle East and Africa, 2% for Oceania and 2% for South America. Our International Liaison, Taberez Neyazi, interprets this as part of a positive evolution compared to the times when 95% of the members came from “Euroamerica”. In the PolComm program of the Toronto conference, the first authors reported the following home institutions: 50.5% from Europe, 34% from North America, 9% from Asia, 2% from Israel and Africa, 3% from Oceania, and 1.5% from South America. However, despite a notable increase in global participation, submissions from Africa and Oceania remain low.

We also hope to diversify further. At the Toronto Business Meeting, we introduced the Facilitating the Advancement of Integration and Representation (FAIR) Fund, an initiative to promote inclusivity and diversity within the PolComm Division. This visionary program recognizes the importance of providing spaces specifically designed to empower underrepresented groups within our community. As a testament to our commitment, we are pleased to announce a pilot allocation of $3,000 USD for the upcoming 2024 conference in Australia. This funding will allow for IDEA-driven initiatives such as networking events, short workshops, and pre- or post-conference activities. More information and application details are available here.

To bolster internationalization, we are currently planning a workshop in Delhi in August 2024 to support Southeast and South Asian scholars with ICA submissions.

We’re also expanding virtual mentoring for Global South scholars and networking with key academic institutions in Asia and Latin America to broaden our division’s influence.


Mentorship Initiatives

Every two years, our division organizes a pre-conference for graduate student in political communication. This year in Toronto, it was held on the Thursday before the main conference, and was again a great success. It gave 70 doctoral students from around the world the opportunity to receive feedback on their political communication dissertation projects. The program with all participants is available here. The preconference has three main goals. 1) Get feedback from senior colleagues and peers on your PhD research.  2) Provide insights on important aspects of academia such as publishing, research ethics, and building a CV. 3) Cultivate a network among early-career political communication scholars. The feedback was again phenomenally positive – including from the 15 senior-level mentors who served as discussants and respondents. As part of the preconference, our Internationalization Liaison and Student & Early Career Representative offered a session on “Navigating and Socializing at International Conferences”.

Another important mentoring initiative of our Division was a Research Escalator session, which provided an opportunity for early-career researchers to network with more senior researchers and to develop early drafts into full-fledged manuscripts. The Division actively encourages participation from underrepresented regions, particularly Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and focuses on single-author submissions to maximize mentorship impact.

Finally, we invited all newcomers to the Toronto conference to meet with Division leadership and other senior colleagues for an orientation on how to navigate the ICA conference. This additional event was also well attended and exceptionally well received by all involved. Our Student and Early Career Representative, Ernesto de Leon, presented other mentoring activities we have initiated, such as a peer exchange group on Slack with tips and tricks around the conference, a Twitter Hype Train to promote each other’s work, and a presentation guide for first-time attendees.

For some time now, we have been gauging the mentoring needs of our members through specially designed surveys that our Internationalization Liaison and Student & Early Career Representative conduct annually at ICA conferences.

Our mentoring initiatives are rounded out by our well-established International Summer School in Political Communication, which has been held in Milan every other year since 2008. It offers 30 doctoral students an intensive six-day program of lectures, master classes, paper presentations, and mentoring sessions, allowing them to forge lasting personal and academic relationships in a prestigious, friendly, and productive environment. In the last edition, participants came from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Latvia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


Submission Trends and Review Challenges:

The Division has seen a consistent rise in paper submissions over the years, indicative of a robust and active membership:


The peer review and program development processes are under significant strain due to the increasing volume of submissions and the size of the Division. There is a pressing need for a more efficient system to match submitters with appropriate reviewers, favoring experienced team members over junior colleagues responsible for submission uploads. The Division seeks ICA’s assistance to resolve these challenges and improve the quality and fairness of the peer review system.


Membership Outreach and Communication


Our online community continues to thrive, with significant growth across multiple platforms:

  • Facebook Group Members: 5068
  • Twitter Followers: 6638
  • Mastodon Followers: 923
  • Website Engagement: The joint ICA/APSA Political Communication Section website,, had approximately 7000 page views registered in April 2023.

These platforms, alongside our new presence on Bluesky, facilitate an active Political Communication community, and keep members up-to-date with job opportunities, conferences, resources, and key research developments.

Our Social Media Officer Curd Knüpfer is currently a member of a Task Force that is reviewing ICA’s social media strategy. The idea is to get a better idea of the current use of social media within ICA; and of the views, concerns, and expectations our members have in this area.


Navigating Future Pathways

To proactively address the Division’s future challenges, I announced at the Toronto conference the creation of a Strategic Planning Task Force. Once in place, this team will explore and provide solutions to several critical questions, all aimed at improving the division’s operations and impact:

  • Setting New Benchmarks: Identifying the next set of goals that will guide the Division’s development.
  • Evolving Field Dynamics: Assessing how recent growth and transformations within the realm of political communication should reshape our scholarly perspective (and definition of political communication).
  • Peer Review Complexities: Addressing the increasing volume and diversity of submissions and the resulting strain on the peer review system.
  • Enhancing Virtual Participation: Innovating approaches to enrich online engagement for division members who are remote or prefer not to travel.
  • Leadership Expansion: Considering the creation of a new leadership role, potentially an ‘Associate Planner for Hybrid Conferences’, to better manage the demands of evolving conference formats (and assisting the Program Planner).
  • Refreshing Bylaws and Mission: Evaluating whether the Division’s foundational documents reflect current ambitions and need revision to align with our progressive agenda.

Through this initiative, the division aims to refine its direction, embrace inclusivity, and advance the scholarly study and practice of political communication.

If you have any feedback, ideas, or suggestions about anything I’ve mentioned in this report, I’d love to hear from you. Our division is here for its members, and we are always happy to include new people and voices in our processes.


Growing, Evolving, Engaging: The Latest from ICA’s Political Communication Division