Public Policy Processes - Specialized Field

A Public Policy Morphology:

Public policy education and research has at least four fairly distinct variants:

Public Policy Analysis

A logic of analysis and mix of techniques in support of public policy decision-making. The logic of "rational" analysis contains a central focus on problem specification, generation of alternative policies, and assessment of policies in support of public policy decision-making. The techniques include quantitative methods, economic analysis, welfare economics, and qualitative assessments. Most of this type of training takes place within public policy programs offering professional two year masters degrees. Very few political science departments, Rochester being a notable exception, have distinctive programs in public policy analysis.

Public Policy Research

Applied social science research aimed at documenting policy problems and evaluating interventions. The distinctive element of policy research is that it is problem driven. As such, the appropriate approaches and range of disciplinary relevance are in principle quite broad. Typically, policy research training includes development of expertise in the substance of one or more policy areas (e.g., health, energy, environment). This type of training takes place across a range of programs as reflected in the diversity of substantive public policy offerings among such UW programs as IES, IMS, forestry, urban planning, communications, and to a limited extent the social sciences.

Comparative Public Policy

Comparative public policy is a fairly undeveloped set of perspectives that typically shows up as a course or two within broader offerings in political science departments. In principle, comparative public policy applies the logic of comparative analysis to the substance of different policy problems. Current writing and analysis tend to emphasize cross national comparisons. There is a defunct literature of comparative state policy studies concerning policy "outputs," and a newly emerging literature of comparative policy work among the American states. In practice, much of the work in cross national comparative public policy consists of descriptions of policies—with little theoretical or analytic underpinnings—as followed in different countries.

Public Policy Processes

Public Policy Processes consists of research on the formulation and implementation of public policy, usually limited to the American context emphasizing national domestic policy. Using perspectives of American politics, individuals studying public policy processes address such topics as issue emergence and policy agendas, the cultural definition of policy problems, policy formulation, political feasibility, and policy implementation. Much of this literature has emerged within the past twenty years with "implementation studies" being a burgeoning topic until recent years. Scholarly attention is now shifting to agenda-setting, the formulation of policies, and policy design.
The policy process literature can be distinguished from other flavors of public policy as follows. Unlike policy analysis, it does not emphasize the craft aspects of constructing and analyzing policies. Unlike policy research, it does not emphasize problem solving. And unlike comparative public policy, it tends to be limited to American settings, although in principle good comparative work would make sense.

Requirements for the PhD

Completion of at least four courses distributed as follows:

A. Pol S 575 Public Policy Processes.

B. One course from the Public Policy Processes course list OR one course concerning policy research, comparative public policy, or foreign policy decision-making, not including 600-level reading courses, to be approved by the field supervisor on the student’s committee.

C. Completion of A & B are required before the defense of the Masters Essay of Distinction.

D. At least one of the following two courses:
Pol S 470 Public Bureaucracies in American Political Order (5 credits)
Pol S 593 Theories of Decision-Making (5 credits)

E. At least one additional course from the Public Policy course list OR – at most – one course concerning policy research, comparative public policy, or foreign policy decision-making, not including 600-level reading courses, to be approved by the field supervisor on the student’s committee.

Public Policy Course List:

Pol S 470 Public Bureaucracies in the American Political Order (5 credits)
Pol S 553 Public Opinion (5 credits)
Pol S 573 Topics in Public Policy (5 credits)
Pol S 574 Environmental Regulatory Policy (5 credits)
Pol S 578 Health Politics and Policy (5 credits)
Pol S 593 Theories of Decision Making (5 credits)