Announcement of 2021 Policy & Politics student prize winners from the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol (home of Policy & Politics)

Doug Cooley
Doug Cooley, prize winner

Sarah Brown,
Journal Manager, Policy & Politics

Policy & Politics is a top ranked international journal based at the School for Policy Studies. It has been publishing leading edge research on public policy and politics for 49 years and is keen to engage with young researchers early in their careers: starting with you! 

So, in collaboration with our teaching staff, we’re delighted to announce two student prizes in 2021 at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Continue reading

Understanding third sector ecosystems development in stateless nations

McMullin et alCaitlin McMullin, Michael J. Roy & Maeve Curtin

Over the past few decades, numerous large scale studies have considered the differences in third sector development between different countries, based on welfare policy, sources of funding and size of the sector. However, these studies categorise countries at the nation-state level, which obscures significant differences in third sector ecosystems within countries characterised by federal or devolved administrations. Quebec and Scotland have frequently been compared in relation to their sovereignty movements, but in our recent paper in Policy & Politics, we posit that these similarities go further, in shaping the structure and ideology of the third sector that put them at odds with their national/ ‘parent’ state contexts.

In our article we therefore ask: How can we understand the development of parallel models of the third sector in Scotland and Quebec that diverge from the dominant discourses and structures of the UK and Canadian models? We apply a framework of institutional logics (or the rules, norms of behaviour, identities and values that shape organisations’ and individuals’ understanding of their social world) in order to explore this key question. Continue reading

Updating your course reading lists? Check out our essential reading recommendations for Public Policy, Politics and Social Policy from Policy & Politics

All articles featured in this blog post are free to access until 31 October 2021

KoebeleIntroducing Elizabeth Koebele: our new Digital Associate Editor for Policy & Politics, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Nevada, Reno.

I am thrilled to have begun serving as Digital Associate Editor for Policy & Politics in January 2021. I have spent the last few months taking over this position from my colleague, Oscar Berglund, who now serves as one of the journal’s co-editors. As many of us are beginning to plan for our policy and politics-focused courses next semester, I figured what better way to celebrate joining the P&P team than to share with you some of my favorite Policy & Politics articles that make a great fit on a variety of syllabi? I hope this saves you time and effort in mining our recent articles, while also ensuring your course materials reflect the latest research from the frontiers of the discipline.

My initial suggestions are structured around two general topics that I hope many of you find yourself teaching or studying: one focused on knowledge, and one focused on actors/influence. I’m also sharing my top picks for readings on an increasingly popular policy topic: policy diffusion/transfer. In each case, I’ve recommended three articles that represent some of the most significant research we’ve published recently. Please let me know what you think when you’re compiling your reading lists for the start of the academic year. I’d value your feedback and suggestions for future topics to cover! Continue reading

Why evidence-based policy is political 

SimonsArno Simons

The idea that public policy should be informed by scientific knowledge has great appeal. There is a growing understanding among politicians, the media and the public that decision making—especially on complex issues such as climate change and biodiversity—must include a scientific evaluation of the underlying problems and the available solutions. The reasoning is that, without science, public policies are most likely doomed to be irrational or ideological or both. To dissociate themselves from such “bad policy making” and to express their commitment to science in the policy process, policy makers and analysts have come to adopt the slogan “evidence-based policy” (EBP). Continue reading

What Do We Know About How Policies Spread?

MallinsonDaniel J. Mallinson

Since the 1960s, political scientists from across the globe have been studying how and why policies spread. This substantial body of research begs the question, what have we learned? My project aims to answer that question, at least in part. It finds both substantial growth in the literature and gaps that remain to be filled.

I conducted a meta-review of policy diffusion studies that focus on the American states. By casting a wide net using Google Scholar and Web of Science, I identified all (to my knowledge) studies published between 1990 and 2018 that referred to “policy diffusion” and “berry and berry.” Berry and Berry are important because their 1990 study of state lotteries introduced the unified model of policy diffusion. Essentially, this model combined the internal characteristics of states with influences external to the states to explain policy adoption. Over time, scholars also recognized that the attributes of the policy innovations themselves condition how far and how quickly they spread. Continue reading

1st May – 31st July 2021 highlights collection on policy diffusion

Sarah_Brown_credit_Evelyn_Sturdy
Image credit: Evelyn Sturdy at Unsplash

Sarah Brown
Journal Manager, Policy & Politics

This quarter’s highlights collection focusses on the popular theme of policy diffusion, bringing new analyses offering fresh perspectives on this extensive area of scholarship.

In our first featured article on policy diffusion, Daniel Mallinson continues his efforts in offering the most comprehensive analysis to date on how policy innovation diffuses across American states. Although hundreds of articles have tackled the fundamental question of why innovative policies spread, none has fully grappled with the scope of their disparate results.

To fill that gap, this article presents a state-of-the-art systematic review and meta-analysis of how policy innovation flows from US state to US state and the average effects of commonly used variables in the study of policy diffusion. In doing so, it highlights important biases in the research and makes recommendations for addressing those biases and increasing international collaboration on policy innovation research and results. Continue reading

Call for Papers for a Themed issue in Policy & Politics on Transformational Change through Public Policy

P&P 2021 EditorsOscar Berglund, Claire Dunlop and Chris Weible

Policy & Politics is a top quartile journal in public administration and political science. Its co-editors, Oscar Berglund, Claire Dunlop and Chris Weible, invite articles for a themed issue on “Transformational Change through Public Policy”. The deadline for abstract submissions is May 14 2021.

How can Public Policy as a discipline contribute to desperately needed transformational change in our societies? Climate scientists call for systemic change; our liberal democracies suffer from crises in legitimacy; economic and social inequality continues to grow; culture wars increasingly polarise societies, and so on. Scholars have excelled at describing and diagnosing these problems exploring and explaining how they have emerged, and occasionally positing few ideas for their improvements. Despite the knowledge gained in our scholarship, a need continues to persist and spread for ideas to achieve deeper and more transformative societal changes. Continue reading

Why nudges fail and other puzzles: insights from research on commitment devices

manu savaniManu Savani 

Having just read the new special issue and accompanying blog series published by Policy & Politics entitled Beyond nudge: advancing the state-of-the-art of behavioural public policy and administration, I was inspired to respond to some of the arguments mooted.

The question of why we find behaviour change resolutions difficult to stick to has long been the subject of debate and research. It is familiar territory at this time of year as we contemplate new year’s resolutions. Knotty inter-temporal choices can be affected by present bias, where we focus on short-term gains rather than the long-term payoffs. Commitment devices – any voluntary strategy we use to influence our future decisions and achieve our goals – have shown promise in addressing present bias. These strategies can rely on financial stakes, as shown by the stickK approach, which reports having $51 million on the line across 527,000 individual commitments. Continue reading

SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 7 – How nudges can improve the effectiveness of welfare policies

Special issue blog series on advancing our understanding of the politics behind nudge and the ‘behavioural insights’ trend in public policy.

bonvinJean-Michel Bonvin, Emilio Paolo Visintin, Frédéric Varone, Fabrizio Butera, Max Lovey and Emilie Rosenstein

In our recent article in Policy & Politics, we analysed how nudges impact on the effectiveness of welfare policy implementation. The actions and decisions of street-level bureaucrats (SLBs), ie civil servants working directly with the general public, are crucial to the implementation of public policies. Consider for example the crucial role of social workers, teachers, nurses or police officers for our daily life. And of particular relevance to the current coronavirus pandemic: the dedicated engagement of SLBs in emergency units of hospitals, care homes for the elderly and delivering social benefits to unemployed people. Continue reading

SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 6 – The maturing of Behavioural Public Policy: A constructive proposal

Special issue blog series on advancing our understanding of the politics behind nudge and the ‘behavioural insights’ trend in public policy.

Ewert and LoerBenjamin Ewert and Kathrin Loer

There is a controversial debate going on about using public policy to influence people’s behaviour. The discussion becomes particularly heated when behavioural public policy is accused of being manipulative or opaque. Scholarly thinking on Behavioural Public Policy (BPP) as a relatively new policy concept that has been established in recent years is not neutral but influenced by heuristics and biases. BPP is often equated with “nudge”, a notion that goes back to Thaler’s and Sunstein’s definition of the concept in 2008. Moreover, BPP has not integrated with a range of behavioural sciences but instead has been associated with rather restricted insights from behavioural economics and psychology, by behavioural scientists such as Kahneman, Tversky and Thaler. Indeed the fact that BPP suffers from inherent biases is somewhat ironic since the concept’s main claim is precisely to disclose the heuristics and biases that influence human behaviour and to counteract them by behaviourally informed policy designs. That’s the theory. However, in practice, BPP is pretty much determined by “nudge theory”, a fact that, on the one hand, has contributed to the rapid popularisation of the policy concept but, on the other hand, has constantly fuelled criticisms predominantly about its lack of understanding of how people’s behaviour is influenced by social contexts (e.g. families, communities and place of employment) and triggered by situational effects (e.g. peer-group pressure). Continue reading