Researchers exploring the barriers to collaboration among public servants and the tensions around boundary-making in anti-corruption policy have shared the inaugural ANZSOG/ Australian Political Studies Association Policy Studies Prize.
Dr Prudence Brown, from the University of Queensland, and Ph.D candidate Catherine Cochrane, from the University of Adelaide, were awarded the prize at the APSA conference in Adelaide.
Dr Siobhan O’Sullivan, the Chair of the APSA Policy Studies Research Group, said the prize aimed to encourage early career researchers in policy studies who are making a contribution to policy-making and theorisation research.
“There are a range of prizes awarded by APSA, and there has for a long time been a gap around policy studies. We want the next generation of policy studies academics to know that it is a respected field of research,” she said.
The winners were selected by a panel of four judges, consisting of two members of the APSA Policy Studies Research Group, and two ANZSOG representatives.
Dr Brown’s article Understanding Barriers to New Approaches – A Case Study from Australian Remote Indigenous Policy, published in the June 2019 Critical Policy Studies, examines the barriers preventing public servants from adopting more collaborative and bottom-up approaches, especially in Indigenous policy.
“They recognise they need to shift to working this way but struggle to make it happen in practice,” she said.
“Sometimes when you introduce a new way of working the existing one crowds it out. That’s not to say you need to abandon existing ways of working, but you need to recognise how they might be working against you.
“I hope that the work I’m doing gives policymakers a better understanding of what is going on and how some logics are damaging and ways to counter these,” she said.
She said that despite the emphasis on collaboration, there were still some major barriers.
“Accountability is still thought of as going up to the minister, not down to the community. There is a strong emphasis on evidence and evidence-based policy, but this is focused on expert and policy-maker evidence, but not stakeholder evidence. If you don’t value stakeholder knowledge it won’t be taken into account in your work.”
Catherine Cochrane, a Ph.D student at the University of Adelaide, shared the award for an article Boundary making in anti-corruption policy: behaviour, responses and institutions published in the December 2018 Australian Journal of Political Science.
The paper draws on Ms Cochrane’s Ph.D research exploring the tensions and administrative conflicts in three key aspects of the anti-corruption boundary making process: behaviour, responses and institutions. She argues that a balance between accountability and responsiveness on one hand and efficiency and effectiveness on the other, is yet to be achieved.
She said that the issue of anti-corruption commissions was receiving a lot of attention due to the debate around establishing a federal version of ICAC, and that the key issue was to ensure that any new body was comprehensive enough to close existing gaps in oversight. It must be “properly resourced and effective, not just a box-ticking exercise.”
ANZSOG's Dean and CEO Ken Smith said the prize recognises the importance of debate around policy in Australia, and the value of academic research.
“High-quality academic study of public policy enriches public debate and will lead to better policy in the long term,” he said.
“This prize recognises the importance of scholarship and its role in helping our governments create public value for the communities they serve.”
To be eligible for the prize, entrants must be postgraduate or early career researchers, working or studying at an Australian university (or working outside the higher education sector for those who are between academic appointments).