Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Twinned Careers: Public Sector Practitioners in Public Administration Teaching and Research

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Twinned Careers: Public Sector Practitioners in Public Administration Teaching and Research

Article excerpt

Introduction

Public administration has long maintained scholarly and institutional linkages with its object of study: governments and public administrations. This proximity is neither a new nor recent occurrence. As V. Seymour Wilson notes in his history of Canada's Institute of Public Administration, the very origins of the Institute are to be found in the need to create an intermediary between "those who study public policy ... and those who practice the science at all levels of governance" (1997: 4). As the discipline of public administration developed within academia, practitioners were among the early contributors to the development of its curriculum and philosophy of learning, as well as to its scientific foundations. Widely regarded as the father of public administration as an academic discipline, Woodrow Wilson would qualify as a practitioner-scholar (McDonald and Mooney 2011). In Canada there is a similar tradition of senior office holders leaving government to join the ranks of academia. Lester B. Pearson is one of several notable examples of practitioners who turned to academia following their public service careers (Carleton University 2017). And today practitioners continue to play a role in developing the academic and educational foundations of public administration.

Despite their increasing presence in the lecture halls and seminar rooms of universities and colleges, very little is known about a category of contributors to teaching and research variously described as part-time, adjunct, or sessional staff (Field et al. 2014). This general lack of knowledge about non-tenured staff is also true within the discipline of public administration. Though several American scholars have written about the role and presence of practitioner-scholars in academic teaching and research (Cepiku 2011; Godwin and Meek 2016; Imperial, Perry, and Katula 2007; Posner 2009), comparable Canadian interest in the topic has been sparse. Kernaghan (2009, 2012) was one of the first to write about this group and their contribution to the discipline and his work remains among the few to examine the contribution made by these individuals to the field and the motivations and impediments they faced in making these contributions. More recently, Gow and Wilson (2014) examined the question of the relationship between scholarship and practice, principally from the perspective of group influence on decision-making.

Through our research, we sought to gain a better understanding of the backgrounds of practitioner-scholars with regard to their educational and professional backgrounds and antecedents and their level of scholarly activity as measured by their involvement and contribution to teaching and research. And, in so doing, we build upon Kernaghan's prior contributions to gain a finer understanding of the sources of practitioner-scholars' motivations to pursue professional activities in both practice and public administration scholarship. Though this research contributes to the broader debate about the human resource issues and teaching quality in Canadian post-secondary institutions (see Field et al. 2014), it is principally motivated by the desire to revisit and build upon Kernaghan's work published in the pages of Canadian Public Administration (2009) and Canadian Government Executive (2012) on the contribution and value added to the discipline of public administration of individuals he termed "scholarly practitioners" (2009: 506) and later as "scholar-practitioners" (2012). In so doing we take up the gauntlet thrown down by Kernaghan "to prompt additional research and publication" (2009: 507) into who are the practitioner-scholars.

In his articles, Kernaghan made a number observations and postulates about the factors that impede and motivate practitioners' scholarly activities. The main impediments include the lack of encouragement from senior public service managers and the need for public servants to maintain neutrality (Kernaghan 2012). …

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