Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Punching below Its Weight: Canadian Public Administration Scholarship on the World Stage

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Punching below Its Weight: Canadian Public Administration Scholarship on the World Stage

Article excerpt

Social science research endeavours to "(...) help citizens and policy-makers to understand the world better, with an eye to changing that world" (Gerring 2015: 47). Many social science disciplines aim at guiding policy. As an applied science, public administration fills this role by focusing on both the implementation of public policies and the management of public sector entities. Essentially, there are two routes whereby academic research which focuses on Canadian cases can influence public managers, decision makers, and broadly contribute to the accumulation of knowledge. First, the direct route consists of analyzing specific policies, programs and initiatives deployed by the Canadian federal government, provincial ministries and agencies, as well as municipal organizations. Second, the indirect route consists of participating among the international community of scholars who develop and test theories. Over time, these theories hopefully find their way into public administration textbooks, mandatory readings in MPA programs and other scientific articles, where they might later be applied by alums working in governments. The present research is focused on the second route: public administration scholarship about Canada that could have an eventual and more subtle influence. A study in 2000 found that Canadian public sector innovations were replicated worldwide at a much wider rate than American innovations (Borins 2000: 68-69). More recently, a report which assessed civil service effectiveness ranked Canada first among OECD countries (fourth after being adjusted for GDP) (InCiSE 2017). However, Canada is perceived as playing a less important part in exporting ideas from the Anglosphere than the UK, all the while trailing behind New Zealand and Australia (Pollitt 2015: 4). Considering this perception, the present article provides an assessment on the extent to which Canadian scholarship, as well as a scholarly inquiry about Canada, is contributing to the international conversation on public administration and the effort to improve how governments work.

Theories of public administration are generated and tested in various contexts, sometimes in comparative studies, but more often in single-country studies. Their applicability to the management of policies and programs is contingent upon their boundaries (Ashkanasy 2016). Hypothetically, a policymaker wishing to develop a theory-informed program or evidence-based policy in Canada, would certainly prefer to ensure that the core causal mechanism embedded within his or her prospective theory, would not be hampered by any foreign contextual elements which could jeopardize the planned implementation process. However, as previous studies show--as well as the results from our first analyses will suggest--for most recent public administration theoretical advances, there are few empirical studies from Canada and fewer studies included in articles taking stock of the field. Hence, our hypothetical policymaker would be cornered into assuming that theories developed within British, Australian, Dutch or Danish contexts, hopefully, also apply to Canada.

Something happened in 2000, and it does not look like a bug

The reader can consider the following three phenomena about Canadian scholarship in public administration. First, as revealed by the Web of Science (WoS) database, the five most cited articles to ever come from Canadian Public Administration (CPA) are Kernaghan (1993), Howlett and Rayner (1995), Anderson (1996), Lindquist (1992) and Boase (2000). (1) The same exercise reveals that the most cited articles in the history of the Australian Journal of Public Administration (AJPA) are more recent O'Flynn (2007), Head (2008), Bishop and Davis (2002), Rhodes and Wanna (2007), and Hodge (2004). Not only are they more recent, they are also cited more often: this pattern holds true if we continue past the lists' top five as well. Indeed, if we were to rank the pooled articles from CPA and AJPA in terms of citations, Kernaghan (1993) would be 12th instead of 1st in the CPA-only ranking, Howlett and Rayner (1995), would be at 30th instead of 2nd, Anderson (1996) would be 32nd instead of 3rd, Lindquist (1992) would be 35th instead of 4th, and Boase (2000) would be tied at 36th instead of 5th. …

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