Making Social Sciences Matter for Public Administration and Public Policy

  • Marta Strumińska-Kutra


In this chapter three types of research are described, that can advance public agencies’ capacity for learning and good governance: a model-driven research embedded in modernist-empiricist perspective, extrapolation-based case study guided by interpretive accounts of governance and public management, and action research rooted in pragmatist methodology. Each one is based on different premises about theory-practice relationship, and more broadly about science-society relationship. The first one provides a practitioner with a rule-based knowledge, while the latter two deliver a context-based knowledge. Author argues that only the third, producing knowledge which is both context-based and action-based, provides a direct help in the development of institutional infrastructure for good (reflexive) governance.


Methodology Theory-practice gap Public action research Science-society relationship 


  1. Ansell, C. 2007. Pragmatist Philosophy and Interactive Research. In Public Administration in Transition, 299–318. Copenhagen: DJØF.Google Scholar
  2. Ansell, Christopher. 2011. Pragmatist Democracy. Evolutionary Learning as Public Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ansell, Christopher, and Robert Geyer. 2016. Pragmatic Complexity’ a New Foundation for Moving Beyond ‘Evidence-Based Policy Making’? Policy Studies.
  4. Arieli, Daniella, Victor Friedman, and Kamil Agbaria. 2009. The Paradox of Participation in Action Research. Action Research 7 (3): 263–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartels, Koen, and Julia Wittmayer. 2018. Action Research in Policy Analysis: Critical and Relational Approaches to Sustainability Transitions. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barzley, M. 2007. Learning from Second-Hand Experience: Methodology for Extrapolation-Oriented Case Research. Governance 20: 521–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk Society. Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Burawoy, M. 2004. Presidential Address: For Public Sociology. American Sociological Review 70 (1): 4–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Denzin, Norman. 2011. The Politics of Evidence. In The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 4th ed. London: Sage Publ.Google Scholar
  10. Eikeland, Olav. 2012. Action Research – Applied Research, Intervention Research, Collaborative Research, Practitioner Research, or Praxis Research? International Journal of Action Research 8 (1): 9–44.Google Scholar
  11. Flyvbjerg, Bent. 2001. Making Social Science Matter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. ———. 2006. Making Organization Research Matter: Power, Values and Phronesis. In The Sage Handbook of Organization Studies, ed. Stewart R. Clegg, T.B. Lawrence, and W. Nord, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publ.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 2012. Why Mass Media Matter and How to Work with Them: Phronesis and Megaprojects. In Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis, ed. B. Flyvbjerg, T. Landman, and S. Schram, 95–122. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Forester, John. 2017. Creative Improvisation and Critical Pragmatism: Three Cases of Planning in the Face of Power. Delivered as the Peter Hall Annual Lecture, University College of London, May 26 (Typescript available from author at Cornell University, Department of City and Regional Planning).Google Scholar
  15. ———. 2018. Deliberative Planning Practice—Without Smothering Invention: A Practical Aesthetic View. In The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy, ed. Andre Bächtiger, J. Dryzek, J. Mansbridge, and M. Warren. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Funtowicz, S., and J. Ravetz. 1993. Science for the Post-normal Age. Futures 25 (7): 739–755.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gaventa, John, and Andrea Cornwall. 2013. Power and Knowledge. In The Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry in Practice, ed. Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury-Huang, 172–189. London: Sage Publ.Google Scholar
  18. Grant, J., G. Nelson, and T. Mitchell. 2013. Negotiating the Challenges of Participatory Action Search: Relationships, Power, Participation, Change and Credibility. In The Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry in Practice, ed. P. Reason and H. Bradbury-Huang, 589–602. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  19. Greenwood, Davydd. 2007. Pragmatic Action Research. International Journal of Action Research 3 (1/2): 131–148.Google Scholar
  20. Greenwood, Davydd, and Martin Levin. 2007. Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change. Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gustavsen, B., and Ø. Pålshaugen. 2015. How to Succeed in Action Research Without Really Acting: Tracing the Development of Action Research to Constructivist Practice in Organizational Worklife. In The Sage Handbook of Action Research, ed. Hilary Bradbury, 3rd ed. London/New York: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Hale, Ch. 2008. Engaging Contradictions. Theory, Politics, and Methods of Activist Scholarship. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hess, Charlotte, and Elinor Ostrom, eds. 2007. Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Hummel, R. 1990. Uncovering Validity Criteria for Stories Managers Tell. American Review of Public Administration 20: 303–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. ———. 1991. Stories Managers Tell: Why They Are as Valid as Science. Public Administration Review 51: 31–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jessop, Bob. 2011. Metagovernance. In The Sage Handbook of Governance, 106–123. London: Sage Publ.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kemmis, S. 2013. Critical Theory and Participatory Action Research. In The Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry in Practice, ed. P. Reason and H. Bradbury-Huang, 121–138. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  28. Kitcher, Phillip. 2001. Science, Truth, and Democracy. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Levin, M., and D. Greenwood. 2011. Revitalizing Universities by Reinventing the Social Sciences. In The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, ed. N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln, 27–42. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  30. Lincoln, Yvonna, and Egon Guba. 1985. Naturalistic Inquiry. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Mayntz, Renate. 2001. Zur Selektivitaet Der Steuerungstheoretischen Perspective. Koeln: Max Planck Institut fuer Gesselschaftsforschung.Google Scholar
  32. Meyerson, D.E., and D.M. Kolb. 2000. Moving Out of the ‘Armchair’: Developing a Framework to Bridge the Gap Between Feminist Theory and Practice. Organization 7 (4): 553–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nowotny, Helga, Peter Scott, and Mark Gibbons. 2001. Re-Thinking Science. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  34. Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pedersen, Christina, and Brigitte Olesen. 2008. What Knowledge – Which Relationships? Sharing Dilemmas of an Action Researcher. International Journal of Action Research 4 (3): 254–290.Google Scholar
  36. Pielke, Roger Jr. 2007. The Honest Broker of Policy Alternatives: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Popa, F., M. Guillermin, and T. Dedeurwaerdere. 2015. A Pragmatist Approach to Transdisciplinarity in Sustainability Research: From Complex Systems Theory to Reflexive Science. Futures 65: 45–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Poteete, Amy, Marco Janssen, and Elinor Ostrom. 2010. Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Putnam, Robert, Robert Leonardi, and Rafaella Nonetti. 1993. Making Democracy Work. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Rayner, S. 2003. Democracy in the Age of Assessment. Science and Public Policy 30 (3): 163–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rayner, S., and E.L. Malone. 1998. The Challenge of Climate Change to the Social Sciences. In Human Choice and Climate Change, ed. S. Rayner and E.L. Malone, vol. 4. Columbus: Battelle Press.Google Scholar
  42. Rhodes, R.A.W. 2012. Waves of Governance. In The Oxford Handbook of Governance, 33–49. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Robinson, J.B. 1992. Risks, Predictions and Other Political Illusions: Rethinking the Use of Science in Social Decision-Making. Policy Sciences 25: 237–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Saltelli, A., S. Funtowicz, M. Giampietro, D. Sarewitz, P.B. Stark, and P. van der Slujis. 2016. Costing Climate Is Not a Science. Nature 532: 177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sandberg, Jörgen, and H. Tsoukas. 2011. Grasping the Logic of Practice: Theorizing Through Practical Rationality. Academy of Management Review 36 (2): 338–360.Google Scholar
  46. Schon, Donald A., and Martin Rein. 1994. Frame Reflection. Toward the Resolution of Intractable Policy Controversies. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  47. Stake, Robert, and Deborah Trumbull. 1982. Naturalistic Generalization. Review Journal of Philosophy and Social Science 7: 1–12.Google Scholar
  48. Stokes, Donald. 1995. Sigma Xi. In Vannevar Bush II: Science for the 21st Century, ed. Kate Miller and Scientific Research Society. Research Triangle Park, NC: Sigma Xi.Google Scholar
  49. Strumińska-Kutra, Marta. 2016. Engaged Scholarship: Steering Between the Risks of Paternalism, Opportunism, and Paralysis. Organization 23 (6): 864–883.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Strumińska-Kutra, Marta, and Izabela Koładkiewicz. 2018. Case Study. In Qualitative Methodologies in Organization Studies, vol. II. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  51. Torrance, H. 2011. Qualitative Research, Science, and Government: Evidence, Criteria, Policy, and Politics. In The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, ed. Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln, 4th ed. London: Sage Publ.Google Scholar
  52. Van de Ven, A. 2007. Engaged Scholarship. A Guide for Organizational and Social Research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Weick, K.E. 2003. Theory and Practice in the Real World. In The Oxford Handbook of Organization Theory, ed. H. Tsoukas and C. Knudsen, 453–475. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Yanow, Dvora. 1996. How Does a Policy Mean? Interpreting Policy and Organizational Actions. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  55. ———. 2009. Ways of Knowing: Passionate Humility and Reflective Practice in Research and Management. The American Review of Public Administration 39 (6): 579–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marta Strumińska-Kutra
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Kozminski UniversityWarsawPoland
  2. 2.VID Specialized UniversityOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations