Thinking in Public about Public Affairs: Rejoinder

Haifeng Qian, Kang Zhao, and Zhiya Zuo


We appreciate the comments from Professor Samuel Workman on our article “Understanding the Field of Public Affairs through the Lens of Ranked Ph.D. Programs in the United States” published in this Yearbook issue (Zuo, Qian and Zhao, 2019). In the spirit of interdisciplinarity that characterizes public affairs research, we adopted a text mining approach and borrowed methods in data science in our efforts to describe the field of public affairs. The majority (two) of the three authors in our initial article (and the current rejoinder) are data scientists who have little research or teaching experience in public affairs. The other author is an urban planning professor, though trained in a public policy school. With this background, we focused primarily on what the data tell us about the field of public affairs but not much on what the results mean for the field. Workman’s comment essay complements our analysis by addressing the latter. He aims to send “a plea to the academy to think more broadly about what it means to teach and research in the field of public affairs” (Workman, 2019, p. TBD). Moreover, we share Workman’s concern over missed components that could have been considered as part of “public affairs” for data analysis, though we have some different thoughts on what should be included beyond the ranked public affairs Ph.D. programs we have analyzed.