Conclusions – Towards an experimental public management

Oliver James, Sebastian Jilke, Gregg G. Van Ryzin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


The growth in the use of experiments in public management over recent years is reflected in the studies that are set out in this volume. We have framed the discussion in the context of the discipline and the current and potential contribution of experimentation. The substantive contributions are increasingly broad and deep, and span a range of research questions about core topic areas in public management. The discussion shows that the experimental turn is not a ‘mere’ application of a generic social science approach towards experimentation, or a passing fashion. The fundamental approach to causal inference and core methods of intervention, random allocation, and comparison of outcomes are shared with much contemporary social science experimentation, but their use in public management is distinctive. There is even the prospect, perhaps surprising in the context of conventional methods, that public management should be considered an experimental discipline. However, we draw the conclusion that experiments should have their place as a methodological approach alongside more established quantitative and qualitative methods. An open dialogue about theory, research questions, methods, and evidence is needed across researchers who use experimental methods, but also between researchers using different methods. For this to happen, non-experimentalists will often need to know more about experimental methods, and experimentalists will need to understand and be open to methods and relevant evidence from other approaches. This concluding chapter sets out how an experimental approach in public management can be taken forward. We return to the themes introduced in Chapter 1 and show how the material discussed in this book suggests ways in which public management can make the best possible use of experimental methods. First, we discuss how best to develop the potential contribution of experimental methods to public management theory and the appropriate relationship with non-experimental methods. Second, we set out how experiments can best help public management to deliver on its ambitions as a design science. Third, we discuss the changes in research institutions and practices needed for an effective experimental approach in public management and offer some guidance on reporting experimental research and their findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExperiments in Public Management Research
Subtitle of host publicationChallenges and Contributions
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781316676912
ISBN (Print)9781107162051
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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