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International Journal of Public Administration

For a Special Issue on

Future Directions of Public Administration Research Addressing Fundamental Issues and Questions

Manuscript deadline
15 January 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Tom Christensen, University of Oslo
[email protected]

Per Lægreid, University of Bergen
[email protected]

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Future Directions of Public Administration Research Addressing Fundamental Issues and Questions

Public Administration as an academic field is an ambiguous and complex concept with different meanings and there are different possible approaches to redefining the future research direction of Public Administration (Bouckaert and Jann 2020). This special issue asks for papers addressing what is not much represented or missing in the field of Public Administration and the way forward with a special focus on fundamental issues.

One such issue is research on how administrative systems develop over time. Another is recognition of the relevance of large external forces to understand the path of administrative development. Both Alasdair Roberts (2014) and Christopher Pollitt (2016) argue for a move from an internal and introvert approach to public administration, focusing on management issues and administrative techniques in the era of New Public Management, to a stronger focus on external large forces and mega-trends such as fiscal austerity, digitalization and technological changes, migration and demographic changes, climate change, societal security, international relations and globalization. A main challenge is to recognize how such big issues and ‘wicked problems’ affect the overall development of the administrative apparatuses of government and how institutional and other factors influence the process of administrative adaptions to such external forces.

Furthermore, the special issue will ask for studies which analyze public administration as part of a larger political-democratic order and system of governance, implying that history and context matter for how political-administrative systems are organized and how they change. It asks for papers that go beyond the generic approach to public administration and instead focus its political and contextual dimensions, meaning dealing with ‘living’ organizations and institutions and how they work in practice.

A survey of the field of Public Administration by Guy and Rubin (2015) points to the following future trends: From inter-governmental to inter-sectoral, from trust to doubt, from local to global, from silos to networks, from output to outcome, from paper to cloud, from sameness to differentness, from equality to social equity, and from ethical expectation to professional standards. One could add increasing focus on corruption.

We encourage research to cover some of the following specific topics:

  • The importance of time: history and timing, as well as governing for the future
  • The importance of context and culture
  • Public administration as political organizations influencing agenda setting, alternatives, solutions and implementation of public policy
  • The mixed order of complex and hybrid reform trajectories as competing and collaboration in the tension between fragmentation and integration
  • The relations between macro level, meso level and individual/micro level in the study of public administration
  • Accountability challenges in a hybrid, complex, and multi-level public administration system
  • The relations between public administration and other institutional spheres such as parliament, government, courts, media, market, and civil society
  • Studies of multi-level administrative systems and the challenges of collaborative governance
  • Public administration beyond routine situation: in unsettled and turbulent situations, crises and transitional periods characterized by complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity
  • The importance of governance capacity as well as governance legitimacy
  • Public administration research and practice, such as a design approach to public administration: towards an evidence-based administrative design
  • Effects of public sector reforms: political, organizational, economical, and societal effects
  • Public administration in authoritarian regimes. Democratic backsliding and populist government’s impact on public administration

This is not an exhaustive list. This special issue seeks papers that examine some of the above issues and can be theoretical or empirical, descriptive, or explanatory, but they should have a clear conceptual and theoretical basis and meet appropriate methodological standards. Papers that that have a comparative approach across time, countries, government levels or policy sectors are particularly welcomed.

Submission Instructions

Proposals shall be submitted to the guest editors directly at  [email protected] and [email protected] by April 15, with email subject title, “IJPA special issue: PA issues”. The submitted proposals should be no more than 500 words (excluding references).

The guest editors will inform authors of decisions on proposals by May 1, 2023. All proposals will be reviewed and evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • The relevance of the paper to some of the major themes above
  • The research question(s) and the theoretical/conceptual foundations for the research, a brief description of methods and data
  • The results to be reported
  • The significance of the research – why it is distinctive and its contribution to the public administration field

Please note that acceptance of an abstract does not guarantee final publication, nor does feedback from the guest editors. All manuscripts will be subject to peer-review by relevant subject-matter experts. Because IJPA is a global journal, authors are encouraged to engage with the prior academic scholarship on fundamental public administration issues and questions, and contribute to knowledge from a comparative perspective.

The key dates are listed below:

1) Proposal due: April 15, 2023.

2) Decisions on the proposal: May 1, 2023

3) Full paper submitted to guest editors for initial feedback:  November 1, 2023

4) Virtual workshop of symposium participants/the guest editors’ initial feedback on each paper: December 1, 2023

5) Revised paper submitted to the journal for peer review: January 15, 2024

Guest Editors 

Tom Christensen, Professor

University of Oslo

Email: [email protected]

Per Lægreid, Professor

University of Bergen

Email: [email protected]


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