Don’t throw out the real practitioners with the imaginary ones.

The public administration research community is obsessed with serving an imaginary image of public administration practitioners, according to Professor Muhammad Azfar Nisar writing in Administrative Theory & Praxis. He suggests that researchers should stop trying to serve the imaginary practitioner, and instead engage directly with the public. I have a different suggestion; that researchers should engage with real practitioners, rather than imaginary ones. See how and why in my paper at https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/db7pt/

Police Performance Rankings Depend on the Functional Form of the Index

Bearfield, Maranto and Wolf (2020) advise policy-makers to measure policing outcomes using a metric that includes rates of homicide, police-related civilian deaths (PRCD) , and poverty. They present such an index, which they call the Police Performance Index (PPI). But alternative functional forms that are equally plausible can lead to different rankings of police departments, and therefore different policy conclusions. My comment presents one such alternative index, under which changes in police-related civilian deaths have a greater potential effect on a city’s ranking: https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/r8yst

Our paper gets cited: Increasing Citizen Engagement and Access to Information

David Reed’s paper, Technology: Increasing Citizen Engagement and Access to Information, has been downloaded from SocArXiv over 600 times, and has been cited in two works listed in Google Scholar. The paper’s recommendations are:

  1. Welcome the Civic Hackers
  2. Eat Your Own Dog Food
  3. Don’t Panic about Guerrilla Government

The paper is at https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/hws4f/

Dear Bureaucrat: The advice column for people who work in the public sector

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Readers ask, and Dear Bureaucrat answers, based on scientific research and real-life experience. Some of the columns are:

Or browse all the Dear Bureaucrat columns in Federal Times.

Private screening: New Movies about Government Workers’ Side Projects

Filmmakers in the U.S. and Canada have released documentaries about the creative side projects of government workers. Center for Public Administrators and the ASPA National Capital Area Chapter, held a private screening of both films, and discussion with the U.S. filmmaker and stars, on May 15.

The American production is Creative Feds, which features two government workers who are musicians on the side. It shows each performing with their bands at festivals, dances, and in one case a National Public Radio show, demonstrating that these side projects are not mere hobbies, but serious commitments that have met with some success. (Screenings of Creative Feds are listed at http://creativefeds.com/screenings/ )
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Jennifer Cutting in Creative Feds

The Canadian production is a web series entitled The Secret Lives of Public Servants. Three episodes have been released so far, featuring government workers who on the side are an artist, a comic book creator and a cosplayer. All the episodes touch on the tension between the workers’ creative side projects and the conformity expected in their government jobs. This is particularly the case for the artist, Marc Adornato, whose art is explicitly political and triggered a police investigation of one of his public performance projects. (The police report concluded that performance art is not a crime.) The episodes are available at http://amenjafri.com/2017/11/19/the-secret-lives-of-public-servants/
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Marc Adornato in The Secret Lives of Public Servants

The filmmakers for both of these projects said part of their motivation was to show the public that government employees are full human beings, rather than the stereotype of faceless bureaucrats. But there is a more important message for public sector workers ourselves. We do not need to wait until we can afford to leave secure government jobs before seriously pursuing our ambitions, whether they are artistic careers like the people portrayed in these documentaries or any other aspirations. A government job puts some constraints on our side projects, in terms of time, conformity and otherwise, but the documentaries show that we can work around those constraints.