The 2017 Public Policy Yearbook:
Recent Trends in Public Policy Research

Hank Jenkins-Smith
Julie Krutz
Nina Carlson
Christopher Weible

The articles presented in this supplemental issue mark the ninth edition of the Policy Studies Journal’s Public Policy Yearbook. This issue includes three retrospective review articles summarizing recent developments in public policy research across the following focus areas: comparative public policy, governance, and policy analysis and evaluation. The issue also includes a special topic paper that examines both the breadth and depth of applications of the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF). We provide a brief description of these articles in greater detail below.

In addition to the annual publication of retrospective review articles in various policy subfields, a significant portion of our efforts with the PSJ Yearbook is providing avenues for readers to make connections with public policy scholars from around the world. The Public Policy Yearbook is an international listing of experts in various public policy domains, working on public policy problems all over the globe. Each year, we collect information from public policy scholars about their fields of study, research focus areas, published works, and contact information.1 This information is then published as part of a directory of individual profiles on the Yearbook’s website. The multidisciplinary nature of public policy research can make it challenging to identify the experts studying various policy problems, and the Yearbook provides users with an easier way to do so. Our intent is to provide a convenient tool for policy scholars to increase and broaden the visibility of their work, as well as to provide a means to network with other scholars. By using the website, readers can search for a scholar through a range of search criteria options, which include: a scholar’s first or last name, geographic location, institution, or primary research interests. By visiting the Yearbook’s website,, users can utilize a free web-based interface to easily search for various policy scholars’ contact information, as well as up-to-date summaries describing listed scholars’ self-reported descriptions of current and future research ideas and projects.

In this introduction, we provide a brief snapshot of current developments in public policy research. We also briefly introduce the articles included in this supplemental issue. For more detailed information on the Yearbook website and 27 previously published retrospective review articles, we welcome readers to look at previously published editorial articles. Each year, we also present information on the demographics and research interests of Yearbook members and detailed information on the functionality of the Yearbook website. An updated version of those discussions is presented below, but we invite readers to look back at previous articles for more detail on how developments identified within the Yearbook have evolved over time.

Figure 1. The Yearbook’s Geographic Representation Spans 51 Different Countries.

Characteristics of Yearbook Participants and New Developments in Policy Scholarship

As we do each year, in Fall 2016 we reached out to the Yearbook’s current listing of policy scholars, asking each member to update the information published on his or her profile.2 This annual updating process allows us to verify the accuracy of listed scholars’ contact information and to encourage members to list recently published articles and/or their research in progress. As is evident in Figure 1, our most recent update shows that the Yearbook continues to represent a broad cross-section of policy scholars from around the world; the 2017 Yearbook has 892 members, working in 51 different countries. Approximately 72 percent of Yearbook members work within the United States and the remaining 28 percent of members work in 50 countries around the globe.

The Yearbook is inclusive of scholars at a wide variety of institutions globally. Figure 2 shows the distribution of Yearbook members working across six continents. While the largest concentrations of Yearbook scholars are in North America and Europe, growing numbers are located in Asia, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand, and Africa.

For those unfamiliar with the Yearbook, each year we use the self-reported content of Yearbook scholars’ profiles to develop indicators for public policy scholars’ evolving research agendas. The following discussion shows recent developments and patterns in the research foci of 892 scholars included in the 2017 Yearbook. We use several descriptive indicators that summarize and characterize scholars’ evolving research agendas, including scholars’ self-reported descriptions of their “current and future research expectations” and scholars’ self-placement within 18 theoretical and substantive focus subfields of public policy.3

Figure 2. The Yearbook’s Geographic Representation Spans Six Continents.

Figure 3. The Relative Size of Each Term Denotes the Frequency with Which Key Terms Appear in Scholars’ Listing of Their “Current and Future Research Expectations.”

First, Yearbook scholars are asked to provide a paragraph describing their current and ongoing research agendas. When writing this paragraph, scholars may be as brief or as detailed as they choose. By scanning the content in the 2017 current research summary paragraphs, we can illustrate current trends among scholars’ work by creating a word cloud populated by frequently used terms (see Figure 3). The word cloud provides a graphical representation of the aggregate foci of scholars’ substantive and theoretical work, and provides us with a comparative perspective of the evolution of research agendas. Figure 3 presents the one hundred terms that appeared most frequently in the “Current and Future Research Expectations” section of scholars’ profiles and any additional keyword tags that scholars supplied to describe their research agendas. In 2017, the prominent research interests, characterized by the ten most frequently appearing terms, include the following: political, environmental, social, governance, management, health, analysis, science, development, and education. When comparing this word cloud with those from recent years (Jenkins-Smith & Trousset 2010, 2011; Jenkins-Smith, Trousset, & Weible, 2012, 2013; Trousset, Jenkins-Smith, Carlson, & Weible, 2015; Trousset, Jenkins-Smith & Weible 2014), it appears that the proportion of research trends among Yearbook members has remained stable and similar over time.

The trends identified within the “Current and Future Research Expectations” section of scholars’ profiles are consistent with Yearbook members’ self-identifications in the Yearbook’s listed public policy focus areas. When scholars are asked to update the information listed on their profiles, they are presented with a list of 18 categories that represent a broad spectrum of subfields in public policy scholarship. They are first asked to check as many of the categories as they choose to describe their research agendas. In addition, for the last several years, we asked scholars to indicate which category best describes their primary theoretical focus area and which best describes their primary substantive focus area. The five theoretical focus areas include: agenda-setting, adoption, and implementation; policy analysis; policy history; policy process theory; and public opinion. The 13 substantive focus areas include: comparative public policy, defense and security policy, economic policy, education policy, energy and natural resource policy, environmental policy, governance, health policy, international relations and policy, law and policy, science and technology policy, social policy, and urban public policy.

Figures 4 and 5 show the proportion of scholars indicating one of the theoretical and substantive specializations as their primary focus area. As shown in Figure 4, the most prominent theoretical focus area was policy analysis and evaluation. The second and third most common areas were policy process theory and agenda-setting, adoption, and implementation. As shown in Figure 5, across the substantive focus areas the largest proportions of scholars study issues in governance, environmental policy, and social policy. These were also the most prominent categories in 2015 and 2016.

Public Policy Research Retrospective Review Articles

In addition to the Yearbook’s listing of experts in various public policy domains, each year we also publish a set of review papers that summarize recent developments in public policy research. We have included three new retrospective review articles in this special issue. These review articles offer readers quick access to recent developments in various policy subfields, 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. To write these review articles, each year we solicit recommendations for advanced graduate students working under the guidance of leading public policy scholars. This year, as part of this supplemental issue of the Policy Studies Journal, we are including review articles on the topics of comparative public policy, governance, and policy analysis and evaluation. These articles contain key developments in the following areas.

Figure 4. Scholars’ Primary Theoretical Focus Area.

Figure 5. Scholars’ Primary Substantive Focus Area.

Comparative Public Policy

Matt Wilder (2017) discusses the need to be attentive to similarities and differences regarding the institutional contexts in which policymaking takes place. He highlights amendments to established approaches intended to deal with problems of comparison and identifies promising new perspectives from which comparative analysis may be conducted. Wilder also discusses how the latest wave of comparative policy scholarship, having accounted for institutional variation, looks beyond institutions to policy discourses in order to explain how ideas, norms, and political culture affect how policy actors maneuver within, maintain, or change the institutional environment in which they operate.


Nick H. K. Or and Ana C. Aranda-Jan (2017) review the dynamic role of state and non-state actors in governance. They first discuss the main arguments for and against the state being the main actor in governance in recent literature. They then review some of the literature about the changing role of state and nonstate actors in response to the 2007–08 global financial crisis from 2011 to 2015, specifically the increased control over financial markets and second, austerity measures. Or and Aranda-Jan also illustrate different trajectories of governance that go beyond the now well-established New Public Management paradigm of public sector reforms, and conclude that no single actor provides the best mode of governance for all circumstances, discussing instead that governance is hybrid and dynamic.

Policy Analysis and Evaluation

Maithreyi Gopalan and Maureen A. Pirog (2017) discuss the historical use of behavioral research in public policy analysis, which has been particularly emphasized in the last decade. Their review discusses how much of this research has focused on how behavioral insights used by governments at all levels can improve the delivery of governmental services and improve compliance and use of government services by the public. Gopalan and Pirog then review recent trends in policy initiatives that specifically incorporate behavioral insights in the United States and outline a framework for further integrating behavioral insights into the various stages of policy analysis and policy design.

Special Topic Paper

In addition, as with prior issues, we have included an article by Jonathan J. Pierce, Holly L. Peterson, Michael D. Jones, Samantha Garrard, and Theresa Vu (2017) that is of broad interest to public policy scholars that, for various reasons, may not readily find a home in traditional peer-reviewed journals. This year we include a paper that catalogues and analyzes 161 applications of the ACF in order to better understand how the ACF is applied. Building on a previous review of 80 applications of the ACF (1987–2006) conducted by Weible, Sabatier, and McQueen (2009), this review examines both the depth and breadth of the framework. The paper also explores how the three theoretical foci of the framework—advocacy coalitions, policy change, and policy oriented learning—are applied. After conducting the analysis, the findings suggest that the ACF balances common approaches for applying the framework with the specificity of particular contexts.

We hope that scholars continue to utilize these review articles as a quick way to update themselves on the current state of research within specific focus areas. We invite you to read previously published review articles, which can be found on the Yearbook’s website or within previous volumes of the PSJ. We also encourage you to recommend outstanding graduate students to author future iterations of retrospective reviews.

Final Remarks

Our goal is to make the Yearbook a convenient and accessible tool for scholars, practitioners, students, or laypersons to find the right scholars, articles, and networks working on the full range of public policy questions. The Yearbook is intended to be a continuously updated resource for networking and collaboration among scholars, as well as a no-cost platform for scholars to publicize their research accomplishments and active projects. The Yearbook is a valuable resource for students of public policy and public management who need to dig deeper into policy questions and seek ready access to the current state of research in their policy domain of interest.

If you are interested in updating an existing profile or if you are not currently listed but are interested in becoming a member of the Yearbook, we have made sever- al improvements to our system to ease the process of creating a profile. Scholars can access to their profiles at any time and make direct changes to their listings. Users can select from two different updating options by visiting the Yearbook website at:

The first option is for scholars who already have a listed profile. On the webpage listed above, under the tab “Current Members,” scholars can submit the email address they currently have on file with the Yearbook. Our system will then immediately send a personalized link via email that the scholar can use to access their current profile information. By visiting that personalized link, scholars can submit changes to their profile listings and these changes will be updated on the Yearbook website immediately.

The second option is for policy scholars who do not yet have a listed profile, but who would like to become a member of the Yearbook. Scholars can list their profile at no charge. By visiting the webpage listed above, scholars can click the tab labeled “Submit Your Information,” or can go directly to our easy-to-use form at: http:// Once scholars submit their profile information, our system will await approval by an editor to list that profile on the website.4 Once that initial profile has been approved, scholars can go back in and edit their profiles immediately, as described in the previous paragraph. If you have any questions about this process, we welcome you to contact us at:

Although scholars are able to access their profiles at any time and make direct changes to their listings, we will continue running an annual fall recruitment and updating campaign. In the annual fall campaign, we send invitations to both current and potential new policy scholars to update their entries in the Yearbook. We do this to ensure that the 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 around 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.

Finally, the production and operation of the Yearbook could not have been accomplished without the help of many hands. We would like to recognize Matthew Henderson for the design and implementation of the online website, web-tools, and data graphics. We also thank Courtney Thornton for her help in editing Yearbook entries and review articles. Additionally, we are thankful for the support and help we receive from the Policy Studies Organization and Wiley-Blackwell. Finally, we would like to thank Dr. Paul Rich, President of the Policy Studies Organization, for his financial support and encouragement for the Yearbook.

We hope that you will find the Yearbook to be a valuable resource in your work on public policy.

Hank Jenkins-Smith
Julie Krutz
Nina Carlson
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 depart- ments 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 colleagues and graduate students who should be included. We will continue to 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 Although we undertake a systematic recruitment effort once a year, it is important to note that scholars can update their profiles or join the Yearbook at any time. The website allows scholars to easily access their profiles by submitting their email address on the website profile management portal. The Yearbook’s website also allows for new members to join, at no cost, through the use of a short online form.

3 When updating their profiles, scholars are asked to check off as many categories as are applicable to describe their research agendas.

4 This initial approval is necessary to avoid publishing “spam.”


  • Gopalan, Maithreyi, and Maureen A. Pirog. 2017. “Applying Behavioral Insights in Policy Analysis: Recent Trends in the United States.” Policy Studies Journal 45 (S1): S82–S114.
  • Jenkins-Smith, Hank C., and Sarah Trousset. 2010. “2010 Public Policy Yearbook.” Policy Studies Journal 38 (S1): xi–xiii.
  • ———. 2011. “2011 Public Policy Yearbook.” Policy Studies Journal 39 (S1): vii–xiii.
  • Jenkins-Smith, Hank C., Sarah Trousset, and Chris Weible. 2012. “2012 Public Policy Yearbook: Evolving Scholarship in Public Policy.” Policy Studies Journal 40 (S1): 1–9.
  • ———. 2013. “2013 Public Policy Yearbook: Evolving Scholarship in Public Policy.” Policy Studies Journal 41 (S1): 1–10.
  • Or, Nick H. K., and Ana C. Aranda-Jan. 2017. “The Dynamic Role of State and Nonstate Actors: Governance after Global Financial Crisis.” Policy Studies Journal 45 (S1): S67–S81.
  • Pierce, Jonathan J., Holly L. Peterson, Michael D. Jones, Samantha P. Garrard, and Theresa Vu. 2017. “There and Back Again: A Tale of the Advocacy Coalition Framework.” Policy Studies Journal 45 (S1): S13–S46.
  • Trousset, Sarah, Hank C. Jenkins-Smith, Nina Carlson, and Chris Weible. 2015. “2015 Public Policy Year- book: Tracking Research in Public Policy.” Policy Studies Journal 43 (S1): 1–11.
  • Trousset, Sarah, Hank C. Jenkins-Smith, and Chris Weible. 2014. “2014 Public Policy Yearbook: Recent Developments in Public Policy Research.” Policy Studies Journal 42 (S1): 1–11.
  • Weible, Christopher M., Paul A. Sabatier, and Kelly McQueen. 2009. “Themes and Variations: Taking Stock of the Advocacy Coalition Framework.” Policy Studies Journal 37 (1): 121–40.
  • Wilder, Matt. 2017. “Comparative Public Policy: Origins, Themes, New Directions.” Policy Studies Journal 45 (S1): S47–S66.