2013 Public Policy Yearbook:
Evolving Scholarship in Public Policy

Hank C. Jenkins-Smith, University of Oklahoma
Sarah Trousset, University of Oklahoma
Christopher Weible, University of Colorado-Denver

This marks the release of the fifth edition of the Public Policy Yearbook, which continues to serve as a useful tool for examining recent changes in public policy scholarship over the past several years. First, the Yearbook allows for a systematic way to identify the broader public policy community. The multidisciplinary nature of public policy research can make it challenging to identify the experts studying various policy problems, and the Yearbook provides a convenient and helpful instrument to do so. The annual Yearbook is an international listing of policy scholars with their contact information, fields of specialization, research publications, and summary statements of research interests. By providing this content, we believe the Yearbook is also an excellent tool for public policy scholars to gain visibility and to network with other researchers, scholars, and graduate students. In addition, the Yearbook allows outsiders to quickly identify individuals studying particular policy problems and to easily contact them with further inquiries or questions. Though the Yearbook was initiated as a hard-copy volume in 2009, beginning in 2011 we migrated to an open-access, web-based format (www.psjyearbook.com), permitting users easy access to Yearbook content via the Internet. Individuals can search for an expert through a range of search criteria including: a scholar’s name, geographic location, institution, or primary research interests. The online website also provides links to scholars’ bios, websites, published articles and their abstracts, and review articles.

A second important function of the Yearbook is to provide an instrument for individuals to quickly access the current state of public policy research. As part of our aim to promote public policy research, we created two-year retrospective review articles (http://psjyearbook.com/content/notes). Each year, the Yearbook produces a set of short review articles that focus on summarizing the most recent scholarship in specific policy subfields listed in the Yearbook. The online version of the Yearbook allows for in-text citations to be activated, taking readers directly to cited scholars’ bios, and in addition, provides listings of other scholars with similar research interests. By providing a snapshot of scholarship in particular domains, the Yearbook provides a quick and accessible reference to the current state of scholarship on all aspects of public policy. This provides a resource for policy scholars to easily survey the most recent research activity within particular policy areas and to identify gaps in the literature for future inquiry. We hope these reviews can aid seasoned scholars in keeping track of important developments, while providing a way for new scholars to familiarize themselves with the current state of literature in subfields of interest.

The Yearbook Participant Community

Yearbook membership is free of charge and open to all policy scholars and practitioners, worldwide. Since the Yearbook’s inception in 2009, we have sought to broaden the participation of public policy scholars across disciplines, organizations and nations. The challenge is that, given the nature of public policy research, the domain of public policy scholars and practitioners is highly varied. Public policy research is multidisciplinary in nature, and policy scholars and practitioners inhabit a wide range of institutional settings (universities; governmental agencies; research labs; nonprofit organizations; think tanks; and many others). Initially our invitations were sent to the listed members of the Public Policy Section of the American Political Science Association, as well as members of the Policy Studies Organization. We worked with editors of public policy journals to reach policy scholars globally. More recently we sent electronic and printed invitations to public policy and public administration departments across the United States, asking each department to forward the invitation to their public policy faculty members, graduate students, and affiliates. Lastly, our online member updating system allows for current and new members to offer contact information for fellow colleagues and graduate students who should be included. We are currently seeking to expand the scope of invitations to include major practitioner and scholarly organizations focused on public policy, such as the Association for Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM). In all cases, we undertake an active recruitment and update effort in the fall of each year to be sure our content is up to date and as broadly inclusive as possible.

One of the contributions of the Yearbook is that it provides an annual snapshot of practitioner and academic scholars, their published research, and their future research agendas. Individuals are asked to complete an online form that collects a broad range of information, including: contact information and institutional and departmental affiliations; most recent publications; a brief paragraph that summarizing current and future research agendas; and public policy specializations (across 5 theoretical and 13 substantive policy subfields). The 2013 Yearbook has 701 members, representing a broad cross-section of public policy scholars in many countries. While the number of non-US members has not yet reached appropriate levels of representation, their inclusion has been improving each year. In short, we are continuing to headway toward broad inclusion of a global cross-section of public policy scholars and practitioners.

Characterizing Yearbook Public Policy Scholars

The 2013 Yearbook membership grew by approximately 6% over that of 2012, and consists of 701 public policy scholars and practitioners residing in 31 countries spread across 5 continents, including: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, P.R. China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the United States of America (see Figure 1). However, approximately 80% (557) of current members reside within the United States (see Figure 2).

Scholars were asked to characterize their professional positions (see Figure 3). Similar to the distribution observed in past years, most members are professors (40.2%). However, since 2012 we experienced a growth in representation across all categories except research staff.

Figure 1. A global map indicating the residence of Yearbook members

Figure 2. Distribution of U.S.-based Yearbook members.

Figure 3. Official Job Titles of Yearbook Members

Policy Scholarship: New Developments, Snapshots and Trends

The Yearbook was designed to provide insight into recent developments in policy scholarship through the use of several different indicators.1 First, each year the Yearbook publishes two-year retrospective research reviews. Review articles of this type offer readers quick access to recent developments within the field. Moreover, these review articles can provide a basic introduction and a coherent perspective of the field to emerging scholars interested in understanding various policy problems. Secondly, the Yearbook provides several descriptive indicators that are self-reported by individual scholars that summarize and characterize their evolving research agendas: Scholars are asked to provide a paragraph describing their on-going research agenda, and then are asked to categorize their research according to five theoretical categories and thirteen substantive focus areas. By examining these indicators we can gain an interesting snapshot of recent research developments. These trends are discussed below.

Beginning in 2011, the Yearbook began including two-year retrospective research reviews on each of the substantive and theoretical subfields listed within the Yearbook. We solicited for recommendations and sought advanced graduate students working with leading public policy scholars to write these review essays. These articles are published in the Policy Studies Journal as well as online on the Yearbook website. The articles will be refreshed, with new authors, every three years to assure continuity in tracking the evolution of policy scholarship. Previous essays covered topics including: agenda-setting (Pump 2011); policy analysis (Carlson 2011); policy history (deLeon & Gallagher 2011); policy process theories (Nowlin 2011); public opinion (Mullinix 2011); defense and security (Ripberger 2011); education policy (Conner & Rabovsky 2011); governance (Robichau 2011); comparative public policy (Gupta 2012); economic policy (Pump 2012); environmental policy (Lubell & Niles 2012); and health policy (Haeder 2012). While public policy scholars are actively producing a broad array of new and innovative research each year, this special issue contains key developments from three substantive domains, which include the following:

  • International Relations and Public Policy: Steven Redd and Alex Mintz review recent applications of several decision-making models that explain both foreign policy decision-making and national and international security issues. Public policy scholars are making theoretical contributions through the use of several models which include: rational choice, cybernetic model, prospect theory, poliheuristic theory, organizational and bureaucratic politics, groupthink and polythink, analogical reasoning, Applied Decision Analysis (ADA) and biases in decision making.
  • Law and Public Policy: In an effort to identify the boundaries of the law and public policy field and to assess the current state of the field, Anthony Kreis and Robert Christensen focus on a range of substantive policy areas to illustrate the applications of legal concepts and theory. Their focus centers on the most prominent empirical applications that have recently been employed across four substantive policy areas: financial markets, campaign finance, health care and social policies.
  • Social Policy: Tatyana Guzman, Maureen Pirog and Kristin Seefeldt summarize recent scholarship analyzing various social policy issues within the United States, such as food security programs, Social Security, Social Security Disability, Unemployment Insurance, child support, and tax provisions. As part of their analysis, the authors provide a brief discussion of the politics of defining poverty and the difficulties associated with its measurement, comparing applications within and outside of the United States.

For the past four years, we’ve also analyzed and illustrated current trends among policy scholars’ work by creating a word cloud populated by the key terms found through scanning the "current research and future directions" summaries in the Yearbook entries (See Figure 4). Each year, Yearbook scholars are asked to provide a short paragraph that details their current research agendas and future research projects. Scholars may be as brief or as specific as they choose.

By using these summaries of public policy scholarship as data, we can track over-time variations in the aggregate foci of scholars’ substantive and theoretical work. Figure 4 below captures the primary words employed in the summaries of current research for the 2013 Yearbook entries.2 The word cloud illustrates the relative prominence of research interests in the areas of environment, development, governance, health, management and science, as well as in analysis and process-oriented research. This closely matches the trends we observed last year.

Figure 4. The relative size of each term denotes frequency with which key terms appear in the listing of "current and future research expectations" section of this volume.

The word cloud depiction is consistent with Yearbook members’ self-identifications across 18 subfields of public policy.3 The five theoretical categories include: policy process theory; policy analysis and evaluation; agenda-setting, adoption and implementation; public opinion; and policy history. In addition, scholars are also asked to categorize their research interests across thirteen substantive areas, including: comparative public policy; defense and security; economic policy; education policy; environmental policy; governance; health policy; international relations; law and policy; science and technology policy; and social policy. In addition, the 2013 Yearbook introduced new categories in Urban Public Policy and Energy and Natural Resource Policy.

Figure 5 and Figure 6 show the proportion of Yearbook members listing each of the theoretical and substantive specializations. For the 2nd year running, the largest fraction of Yearbook members identified the policy analysis and evaluation specialization. Furthermore, among the substantive domains, governance, environmental policy, social policy and comparative public policy topped the list.

Figure 5. Theoretical Focus Areas

Figure 6. Substantive Focus Areas

Finally, our last indicator for characterizing patterns in public policy scholarship is an analysis of the combinations of substantive and theoretical foci pursued by policy scholars. This year, we asked scholars to indicate which theoretical and substantive areas they considered to be their primary field of study. Approximately 66% (462) of scholars responded to this set of questions. The results are represented in a bubble plot (see Figure 7) that shows the proportion of scholars that indicated various couplings of substantive and theoretical areas as their primary areas of study. For example, 4.5% of Yearbook members indicated that their primary focus was on the substantive area of environmental policy coupled with a theoretical focus on agenda setting, implementation and adoption. This compares with 5% whose focus was on the combination of environmental policy and policy process theories. The highlighted light blue bubbles show the combination of theoretical foci and substantive areas with the highest frequency of responses across that substantive area. Furthermore, for clarity, the graph only specifies percentages greater than 2.5%.

Looking across all the research areas, the largest proportion of scholars study governance issues in addition to agenda setting, implementation and adoption (6.3%); policy process theory (6.3%); and policy analysis (5.6%). By contrast, across all substantive policy areas, relatively few scholars indicated a theoretical focus in policy history or public opinion. Perhaps of particular interest are the gaps evident in Figure 7; the smaller "bubbles" indicate relatively unpopulated areas of research in public policy.

Figure 7. The combinations of primary focus areas identified in each substantive and theoretical policy area.

Expanding the Scope of the Yearbook and Scholar Updates.

We are committed to further expanding participation in the Yearbook to ensure that it remains the most broadly representative source for information on current policy scholars and practitioners across the globe. As editors of the 2013 Public Policy Yearbook, we are grateful to all of the respondents who took the time to respond to several emails to update their entries for the 2013 Yearbook. To ease the process of updating profiles, we have made several improvements to our member updating system. Scholars are now be able to access their profiles at any time and make direct changes to their listings on the Yearbook website (http://www.psjyearbook.com/person/update). New entries to members’ data will be incorporated into the full web content as soon as changes are submitted. However, we will continue running a full fall recruitment/updating campaign by sending invitations to current and new policy scholars to update their entries in the Yearbook. We do this to ensure that Yearbook content stays as up-to-date as possible. We will continue our efforts to include faculty from public policy and public management schools and departments across the globe, as well as reaching out to graduate students, post-docs and practitioners in public policy that make up the next generation of leaders in public policy research and analysis. We ask that current members assist in this effort by forwarding our invitations to affiliate policy scholars, practitioners and graduate students.

The production and operations of the Yearbook could not have been accomplished without the help of many hands. We would like to thank Matthew Henderson for the design and implementation of the online survey that is essential for data collection, as well as the online website, web-tools, and data graphics. In addition, we thank Cassandra Rigsby for her assistance with checking and editing entries, and Tom Rabovsky for his assistance on the production of graphics. Furthermore, we extend particular thanks to David Merchant and Daniel Gutierrez Sandoval from the Policy Studies Organization and appreciation for the people at Wiley-Blackwell, especially Joshua Gannon and Kris Bishop. Finally, we are especially grateful for the continuing financial support and encouragement by Dr. Paul Rich, President of the Policy Studies Organization.

We hope that you will find the 2013 Yearbook to be a useful resource in your work on public policy, and that you will continue to update your entries for publication in future issues. We apologize for any errors that may have escaped our quality control processes.

Hank Jenkins-Smith
Sarah Trousset
Christopher Weible

Yearbook Editors

1 These data show trends in the research of those public policy scholars who participate in the Yearbook. The geographic and demographic changes in Yearbook members were described above.

2 This word cloud was constructed using the R-package "wordcloud." (Accessed at: http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/wordcloud/index.html). We included the complete text from each of the "current research and future directions" paragraphs from all 2013 Yearbook profiles. The relative size of each term represents the frequency with which that term appeared. For the final analysis, we excluded non-substantively relevant words; for example, "Dr."; "professor"; "significantly"; "currently"; etc..

3 When updating their profiles, scholars are asked to check off as many categories as they choose to describe their research agenda.

Works Cited

  • Carlson, Deven. 2011. "Trends and Innovations in Public Policy Analysis." Policy Studies Journal 39 (S1): 13-26.
  • Conner, Thaddieus W., and Thomas M. Rabovsky. 2011. "Accountability, Affordability, Access: A Review of the Recent Trends in Higher Education Policy Research." Policy Studies Journal 39 (S1): 93-112.
  • deLeon, Peter, and B. Kathleen Gallagher. 2011. "A Contemporary Reading of Advice and Consent." Policy Studies Journal 39 (S1): 27-39.
  • Gupta, Kuhika. 2012. "Comparative Public Policy: Using the Comparative Method to Advance Our Understanding of the Policy Process." Policy Studies Journal 40 (S1).
  • Haeder, Simon F. 2012. "Beyond Path Dependence: Explaining Healthcare Reform and Its Consequences." Policy Studies Journal 40 (S1).
  • Mullinix, Kevin J. 2011. "Lingering Debates and Innovative Advances: The State of Public Opinion Research." Policy Studies Journal 39 (S1): 61-76.
  • Niles, Meredith T., and Mark Lubell. 2012. "Integrative Frontiers in Environmental Policy Theory and Research." Policy Studies Journal 40 (S1).
  • Nowlin, Matthew C. 2011. "Theories of the Policy Process: State of the Research and Emerging Trends." Policy Studies Journal 40 (S1): 41-60.
  • Pump, Barry. 2011. "Beyond Metaphors: New Research on Agendas in the Policy Process." Policy Studies Journal 39 (S1): 1-12.
  • Pump, Barry. 2012. "A New Normal? American Economic Policymaking After The Great Recession." Policy Studies Journal 40 (S1).
  • Ripberger, Joseph T. "Whither Civil Defense and Homeland Security in the Study of Public Policy? A Look at Research on the Policy, the Public, and the Process." Policy Studies Journal 39 (S1): 77-92.
  • Robichau, Robbie Waters. 2011. "The Mosaic of Governance: Creating a Picture with Definitions, Theories and Debates." Policy Studies Journal 39 (S1): 113-131.