2014 Public Policy Yearbook: Recent Developments in Public Policy Research

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

We are pleased to present the sixth edition of the Public Policy Yearbook. Each year, dating back to its launch in 2009, we have used the content of the Yearbook to develop indicators for tracking developments in public policy scholarship. While we recognize that trends we can identify are only representative of the sample of Yearbook scholars, the patterns of scholarly focus have remained quite stable despite a more than doubling our membership over the 2009-2014 period. In this introductory article, following a brief a description of the Yearbook, we take a comparative look at how research trends in the Yearbook have evolved over the last six years.

What is the Yearbook?

Thee Yearbook was initiated as a hard-copy special edition of the Policy Studies in 2009, and then migrated to an open-access, web-based format (www.psjyearbook.com) in 2011. Each year, through our fall campaign we contact scholars and ask them to provide us with their most recent contact information, fields of specialization, research publications, and a brief summary stating their research interests. This information is verified and presented in a format that provides users with easy access to the Yearbook’s content via the Internet.

The mission of the Yearbook falls primarily into two categories. We designed the Yearbook to allow users to have a systematic way to identify the broader public policy research 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 Yearbook is a broadly inclusive international listing of experts in various public policy domains, identifying individuals working on public policy problems in over 49 countries. By assembling this content, the Yearbook also provides an excellent tool for public policy scholars to increase and broaden the visibility of their work, and to provide the means to network with other researchers, scholars, and graduate students. In addition, the Yearbook allows those who seek to use policy research (students, policy makers, interest groups, and interested citizens) to quickly identify scholars whose work is focused on particular policy problems.

Yearbook scholars are asked to complete an online form covering 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 a number of theoretical and substantive policy subfields).1 By using the website, readers can search for an expert through a range of search criteria options, which include: a scholar’s first or last name, geographic location, institution, or primary research interests (see Figure 1).

The Yearbook website also provides links to scholars’ bios, websites, published articles and their abstracts, and review articles (see Figure 2). To the right of a scholar’s profile, the Yearbook generates a list of individuals with similar scholarly interests. The list of similar scholars is generated using an algorithm that matches the scholar’s listed interests with those of other scholars across theoretical and substantive focus areas. For example, individuals listed at the top of the list have the most common overlap of focus areas.

A key 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 solicit and publish two-year retrospective review articles (http://psjyearbook.com/content/notes) that summarize the most recent scholarship within the policy subfields listed in the Yearbook. The online version of the Yearbook includes in-text citations for each review article, taking readers directly to cited scholars’ bios, and provides listings of other scholars with related research interests (see Figure 3). These articles are simultaneously published in a special issue of the Policy Studies Journal. By providing a snapshot of scholarship in specific subfields of public policy, the Yearbook provides a quick and accessible reference to the current state of public policy scholarship. Our intent is that the Yearbook reviews will aid seasoned scholars in keeping track of important developments, and at the same time will provide a way for students and scholars new to the field with a ready means to familiarize themselves with the current state of literature in subfields of interest.

The figures included here introduce only a few of the capabilities of the Yearbook. We invite you to visit the website for further exploration (www.psjyearbook.com).2

The Yearbook Participant Community

The 2014 Yearbook has 771 members, representing a broad cross-section of public policy scholars in many countries, and a growth of approximately 10% over that of 2013. The 2014 Yearbook scholars reside in 47 different countries, increasing our global representation by an additional 16 countries over the past year. While the number of non-US members has not yet reached the levels we would like to see, their inclusion has been improving each year. In short, we are continuing to make headway toward broad inclusion of a global cross-section of public policy scholars and practitioners. Figure 4 shows the global distribution of participating Yearbook scholars in the 2014 edition.

Distribution of 2014 Yearbook Scholars

Policy Scholarship: New Developments,
Snapshots and Trends

The Yearbook is designed to provide insight into recent developments in policy scholarship through the use of several different indicators.3 One of the primary contributions are the two-year retrospective research reviews on each of the substantive and theoretical subfields listed within the Yearbook. These articles are then published in the Policy Studies Journal, as well as online on the Yearbook website. Review articles of this type offer readers quick access to recent developments within the field, because they can provide both a basic introduction and a coherent current perspective on the field to emerging scholars interested in understanding various policy problems. The articles will be refreshed, with new authors, every three years to assure continuity in tracking the evolution of policy scholarship.

Each year we solicit recommendations for advanced graduate students, working under the guidance of (and often as co-authors with) leading public policy scholars to write the review articles. 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); health policy (Haeder 2012); social policy (Guzman, Pirog & Seefeldt 2013); law and public policy (Kreis & Christensen 2013); and international relations and policy (Redd & Mintz 2013). This year’s special issue includes the first of our review articles to be in the second iteration for their theoretical issue areas in the Yearbook. In addition, it includes a review on science and technology policy, anda special topic paper that examines published scholarship in policy journals more generally. These articles contain key developments in the following:

  • Policy Process Theories: Evangelina Petridou examines recent developments in theoretical research on policy processes. In particular,Petridou highlights research on the Advocacy Coalition Framework, Institutional Analysis and Development, Social Construction and Design, Punctuated Equilibrium Theory, Policy Diffusion and Multiple Streams. In addition,she discusses several new developments that have emerged in recent years such as the Narrative Policy Framework and the Collective Learning Framework.
  • Policy Analysis: In their review on policy analysis, Grant Blume, Tyler Scott and Maureen Pirog summarize and discuss the latest empirical innovations to emerge in the field. In particular,the authors examine the various types of data that are available and being utilized for empirical policy analysis. These data streams include: state and system-wide administrative data, geographic information systems and spatial data,and “Big Data.” Two examples of Big Data discussed in this article include Google search data and data from federal agencies. These trends in shifting data sources provide a unique perspective on the evolution of the capabilities of policy analysis scholarship.
  • Public Opinion: Jennifer Bachner and Kathy Hill provide readers with a review of recently published research on public opinion and policy attitudes. They focus their review on several important factors that shape mass public opinion including the influence of elites, mass partisanship, political trust and risk perceptions. They also discuss scholarship examining the role of information processing and biological traits of individuals that influence mass opinion. Along the same lines of policy analysis research,Bachner and Hill point out that public opinion research has seen a major introduction of new data sources, including Big Data.
  • Agenda Setting, Adoption and Implementation: Rebecca Eissler, Annelise Russell and Bryan Jones discuss recent developments in agenda setting research in three specific areas of study. First, they examine scholarship on agenda setting at the state and local levels. Second, they discuss scholarship analyzing the role and influence of the media in agenda setting processes. Finally, they examine and compare agenda-setting studies in cross-national contexts.
  • Science and Technology Policy: Sarah Trousset summarizes and discusses recent trends in the subfield of science and technology policy. By analyzing keywords in published science and technology scholarship, the author finds that most recent research focuses on university issues, patenting and innovation policy models more broadly.In particular, scholars are interested in understanding the influence of collaboration among government, university and industry partners on technological outcomes.
  • Special Topic: Comparing Published Scholarship in Policy Journals: William Adams, Donna Infeld, Michael Ruddell and Laura Minicelli analyze publication trends in two of the leading public policy journals: the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management and the Policy Studies Journal. Their in-depth comparison of published works from the 1980s through 2010 yields some interesting insight into the evolution of these journals and public policy scholarship over time. Both journals have seen an increase in more rigorous methodology. However, the PSJ reflects a political science perspective on public policy, while JPAM has tended to focus more on econometric and program analyses.

The Yearbook also provides insight into the developments in public policy scholarship through several descriptive indicators that are self-reported by individual scholars. These indicators summarize and characterize scholars’ evolving research agendas. First, Yearbook scholars are asked to provide a paragraph describing their on-going research agenda. Second, scholars are asked to categorize their research as falling primarily within five theoretical and thirteen substantive focus areas. By examining these indicators we can provide an interesting snapshot of recent research developments.

First, for the past several years, we’ve 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 5). 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 have been able to track over-time variations in the aggregate foci of scholars’ substantive and theoretical work. Figure 5 below captures the primary words employed in the summaries of current research for Yearbook entries in 2014.4 This provides us with a comparative perspective of the evolution of research agendas. The word clouds illustrate that the relative prominence of research interests continues to be in the areas of politics, environment, development, governance, education, health, management and science, social issues as well as in analysis and process-oriented research. Despite the substantial growth in our membership in the last six years, the word clouds seem to indicate that the proportion of scholarly research has mostly stayed the same.

The word cloud depiction is also consistent with Yearbook members’ self-identifications across 18 subfields of public policy.5 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; energy and natural resource policy; environmental policy; governance; health policy; international relations; law and policy; science and technology policy; social policy; urban public policy.

Figures 6 and 7 show the proportion of Yearbook scholars who list 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.

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 public policy scholars and practitioners. We are looking forward to increasing collaboration between the Yearbook and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM). As we work with APPAM leadership toadjust the scope of the Yearbook’s theoretical and substantive focus areas, we expect the appeal of the Yearbook to policy analysts and practitioners will grow.

To ease the process of updating Yearbook profiles, we have made several improvements to our member updating system. Scholars areable to access their profiles at any time and make direct changes to their listings on the Yearbook website (http://www.psjyearbook.com/person/update). However, we will continue running a full fall recruitment and 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 Haley Scott for her assistance with checking and editing entries. 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 2014 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 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 and Europe, 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.

2 Though the online version of the Yearbook was initiated quite recently (2011), utilization of the page has grown substantially. Over the past year (March 2013-Feb 2014), the Yearbook had 7,137 visitors (which includes 5,734 unique visitors) with access originating in 136 countries. The greatest number of visitors (3,717) came from the United States. In addition to the U.S., the top ten countries identified with visitors to the Yearbook include: United Kingdom (349), Canada (249), Germany (150), India (149), Australia (129), Sweden (99), China (93), Kenya (86), and Netherlands (85). Finally, the greatest proportion of page views came from users searching for scholars by focus areas or reading research reviews on our content page (http://www.psjyearbook.com/content/notes).

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

4 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..

5 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).
  • Guzman, Tatyana, Maureen Pirog, and Kristin Seefeldt. 2013. “Social Policy: What Have We Learned?” Policy Studies Journal 41 (S1): 52-70.
  • Haeder, Simon F. 2012. “Beyond Path Dependence: Explaining Healthcare Reform and Its Consequences.” Policy Studies Journal 40 (S1).
  • Kreis, Anthony M., and Robert K. Christensen. 2013. “Law and Public Policy.” Policy Studies Journal 41 (S1): 38-52.
  • 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).
  • Redd, Steven B., and Alex Mintz. 2013. “Policy Perspectives on National Security and Foreign Policy Decision Making.” Policy Studies Journal 41 (S1): 11-37.
  • 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.