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The gap between academic research and policymaking in international relations (IR) is much lamented but poorly understood. Much of what we know about the gap is based on personal anecdotes, untested assumptions, and simplistic conceptions of what counts as policy influence. Using the literature on fragile states as a window into the research-policy interface, this article finds little evidence of scholarship directly influencing policies through specific recommendations and findings. However, academic ideas in this field appear to have important indirect effects on international policy actors – namely, by helping to define and refine understandings of state fragility as a policy problem and by informing the development of operational frameworks for responding to this problem – even though the actors themselves may not be entirely aware of such conceptual influences.