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My experience at the 2016 Public Management Research Conference (Aarhus, Denmark) #PMRC2016

I am a political scientist and a human geographer who studies comparative public policy and has an academic home in a department of public administration. This degree of interdisciplinarity makes me feel, to be perfectly honest, a bit like the illegitimate child in my division. I do know the literature in public administration and public management. I took comprehensive exams in public policy, PA and PM. I am quite comfortable teaching public administration. I just don’t precisely WRITE about public administration and public management, and have eschewed (so far) publishing in PA/PM journals.

But that bit of self-loathing and fear of being branded “you’re not a public administration scholar” ended this month, with two participations in what turned out to be one of my favourite academic conferences: the 2016 Public Management Research Conference PRMC2016 (the conference of the Public Management Research Association), superbly hosted by the Department of Political Science at Aarhus Universitaet in Aarhus, Denmark. You can read tweetage from the conference below (the hashtag was #PMRC2016)

For me, PMRC 2016 became many things:

  • An opportunity to meet with some of the world’s top public management and public administration scholars to share ideas and see where the field was going.
  • A chance to present some of my work on field experiments in social norm activation and reduction in bottled water consumption.
  • A space to discuss openly the challenges and opportunities to publish in the PA/PM field, and to share my experiences not only in writing scholarly output but also as an associate editor of a journal.
  • The perfect venue to meet many great scholars whom I’d talk to before on Twitter.
  • A possibility to spend time with fellow academics in a more social environment (like travelling to Sweden with Dr. Staci Zavattaro and Dr. Kelly Leroux), and to see my friend, Dr. Derek Beach (yes, Derek Beach of process tracing and causal case studies’ fame), as he is a faculty member at Aarhus Universitaet.
  • A triggering event for a shift in the way I approach public management and public administration scholarship. My work DOES fit these journals and I am looking forward to reshaping some of my scholarship to fit this audience.
  • The opportunity to commit to be a more active member of the Public Management Research Association (led by Dr. Don Moynihan) and to contribute to the journals we publish in (IPMJ, JPART, PAR, Governance, etc.)
  • A space for reflection for my future research agenda as I move now towards tenure.

I gave two talks. First, I presented on a research design for field experiments targeted at reducing bottled water consumption (at a workshop on Experiments in Public Management, led by Oliver James, Sebastian Jilke and Gregg Van Ryzin). Then, I presented at a panel on getting your scholarship in PA/PM read and cited (you can find my slide deck here). I have to say, the PA/PM community I met at PMRC 2016 was incredibly welcoming and I look forward to continuing my participation in future PMRC conferences.

There were a number of positive things I saw at PMRC 2016: a lot more gender balance in panels, a very solid combination of young scholars and established ones, the work presented was rigorous and innovative, everyone was provided very kind feedback (in fact, I remember hearing something to the extent of “remember that this is preliminary work, so please be kind in your comments and feedback“). I believe that if you set the tone of the conference as privileging comments that are nicer, you will get that (Paul Pierson and path dependence and institutional stability and all, right?).

Some photos of the conference can be found below, and on my Flickr photo set.

Public Management Research Conference 2016 (Aarhus, Denmark)

Public Management Research Conference 2016 (Aarhus, Denmark)

Public Management Research Conference 2016 (Aarhus, Denmark)

Public Management Research Conference 2016 (Aarhus, Denmark)

Public Management Research Conference 2016 (Aarhus, Denmark)

Public Management Research Conference 2016 (Aarhus, Denmark)

Public Management Research Conference 2016 (Aarhus, Denmark)

My colleague Dr. Mauricio Dussauge participated in a round table on whether PA/PM scholarship was neglecting The State (as per Theda Skocpol et al).

Public Management Research Conference 2016 (Aarhus, Denmark)

Overall, an amazing experience. I am still missing a few photos that I downloaded on to my other laptop and need to be uploaded, so stay tuned for an update on the Flickr photo set.

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