Published in PAR: Case Reports and Open Source Work Products in Public Administration

In a communication published in Public Administration Review, David Reed advocates two types of public administration professional literature that are not research.

The first is case reports, as are published in medical journals. A case report is a description by a practitioner of a situation she encountered, what she did about it, and the results. These differ from the case studies used in public administration teaching and scholarship. Case studies focus on how the case illuminates a technique being taught or a theory being considered, but one value of case reports is presenting specifics that do not fit any existing framework. For example, AIDS research started with a case report of an inexplicable case of Kaposi’s sarcoma. Another difference is that case studies are typically by a researcher who was not involved in the events, while a case report is by a practitioner who handled the case.

The second type of non-research literature is open source work products. The original definition of open source was disclosing the human-readable “source code” of a computer program. But open source has evolved to mean any type of work product that is shared publicly so that anybody can contribute improvements to it. The work products that public administrators could make available for open source collaboration include procedures, position descriptions for personnel, statements of work for contracting, and other artifacts we produce and use in our practice.

Reed’s communication is in Public Administration Review (paywalled) and  SocArXiv (open access).

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