Experimental Public Administration

Experimentele bestuurskunde | ESSB
Mensen op een zebrapad
Jacek Dylag

What are we researching?

Experimental public administration is the study of public administration issues through experiments, whereby the effects of (policy) interventions are determined as accurately as possible. We study interactions between citizens and government, decision-making by civil servants, policy instruments and nudges, what citizens want and expect from public organisations and the effects of bureaucratic rules.

Why are we doing this research?

An experimental approach to governance issues is essential for two reasons:

1. Behaviour

Many government interventions are aimed at influencing the behaviour of citizens. An experiment is the best way to measure behaviour because other methods mainly measure what people themselves think or think they would do.

2. Causation vs. correlation

With research based on questionnaires or interviews, correlation can be established. Experiments can distinguish causes from effects, the causal relationships.

How are we doing this research?

We carry out various types of experimental research:

1) Laboratory research in which participants communicate via computers to study decision-making.

2) Vignette and survey experiments to study attitudes and biases

3) Field experiments to test an intervention or nudge

How does our research make an impact?

Experimental public administration contributes to evidence-based policy because the effectiveness of policy interventions can be tested. For example, immediate insight can be gained into what works and what does not when studying nudges. This knowledge can be used by policymakers when making or improving policy.

In addition, the results of experimental administrative research are often applied directly to improve policy processes and behaviour in the public sector. For instance, we can use field experiments to investigate whether bureaucratic rules hinder effective and customer-oriented service provision, or we can use laboratory or vignette experiments to investigate which psychological and cognitive processes influence the opinions or behaviour of public professionals. These include views on good governance, the competencies of citizens, and one's role conception. 

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