Peter J. May is the Donald R. Matthews Distinguished Professor Emeritus of American Politics at the University of Washington. He completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematics and the Social Sciences at Dartmouth College in 1972 graduating magna cum laude with high distinction. He completed a Masters in Public Policy in 1976 and PhD in Public Policy in 1979 at the University of California, Berkeley. He came to the University of Washington in 1979 as assistant professor of political science. He has been at the University of Washington his entire academic career advancing to associate professor in 1985 and full professor in 1992. He retired in December 2014. May has been a visiting scholar at the U.S. Department of Interior (1997-78), a senior Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Fellow at the Australia National University (1991), a visiting professor at Aarhus University, Denmark (1998), a visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong (2009), and a research affiliate of the Danish National Centre for Social Research in Copenhagen.
May’s research addresses policy processes, environmental regulation, and policymaking for natural hazards and disasters. His research about policy processes places him among the leading scholars in the field for which he has pioneered research addressing policy design and implementation, the coherence of policies, policy learning, and policy regimes. His current research considers problems that span multiple areas of policy and the challenges of creating and sustaining policy regimes to address them. His research on environmental regulation has addressed different approaches to environmental management, accountability issues posed by different regulatory regimes, and a variety of studies of regulatory enforcement and compliance. He has investigated these issues for various environmental issues in the United States, Australia, Denmark, and New Zealand. May is also noted for his research on policymaking for natural disasters and hazards. His book on the politics of and policymaking for disaster relief is one of the classics in the field. Other research contributions include studies of earthquake risk reduction policy and politics, and studies of environmental planning for hazard reduction.
May has authored or co-authored four books: Recovering from Catastrophes: Federal Disaster Relief Policy and Politics (Greenwood 1985), Disaster Policy Implementation (Plenum 1986), Environmental Management and Governance: Intergovernmental Approaches to Hazards and Disasters (Routledge 1996), and Making Governments Plan: State Experiments in Managing Land Use (Johns Hopkins University Press 1997). He has numerous publications that have appeared in leading journals in public policy and public administration. His most cited articles include “Policy Learning and Failure” (Journal of Public Policy 1991), “Reconsidering Policy Design: Policies and Publics” (Journal of Public Policy 1991), “Mandate Design and Compliance” (Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 1993), “Compliance Motivations: Affirmative and Negative Motivations” (Law and Society Review 2004), and “Regulatory Regimes and Accountability” (Regulation and Governance 2004). He received the American Political Science Association Public Policy Section Theodore J. Lowi Policy Studies Journal Award for the best article in 2012 for "Constructing Homeland Security: Anemic Policy Regime" (with Ashley Jochim) and the American Society for Public Administration’s William E. Mosher and Fredrick C. Mosher award for the best article by an academic in the 2005 volume of the Public Administration Review for his article “Regulation and Motivations: Examining Different Approaches."
May’s research has been funded over the years with grants from the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the United States Geological Survey. He regularly serves as an advisor to governmental agencies that include service on panels for the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation. He has served on the editorial boards of leading journals among his respective areas of research.
May was a recipient in 2014 of the APSA Public Policy Section’s Excellence in Mentoring Award and in 2012 of the University of Washington’s Marsha L. Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award, also receiving honorable mention for this award in 2007, 2010 and 2011.