November 2016 | The Past as Prologue: A Discussion with PMRA Founder H. George Frederickson, By Rosemary O’Leary*admin, · Categories: monthly_posts
As Vice-President and President-Elect of PMRA, I have spent the last year learning more about our thriving organization. I have been very impressed with the leadership of Don Moynihan, from whom I often receive official emails or documents at 1:00 in the morning. Don is a tireless leader who has given his all to PMRA the last few years. I am delighted he will be President for six more months, and then remain on the PMRA board as Past-President for two years. Thank you, Don!
As I thought more about building on the past successes of PMRA, I reached out to its founder, my colleague H. George Frederickson. George and I talked extensively about how PMRA has grown and changed, as well as its future challenges. Here are some highlights of our discussion:
- The most positive change in PMRA in the last decade has been its internationalization. Membership is at least half non-US scholars, and there is a bold commitment to a conference every other year in a non-US country (with US conferences in between).
- Another welcome change has been the enormous numbers of Ph.D. students who participate in our conferences, yielding a situation where “PMRA has its pulse on the latest research in public administration, current graduate study in the area, dissertations, the job market, and the changing nature of the subject,” George said.
- There has been an “increasingly cumulative nature” of areas of the field, as research is replicated and expanded. Examples of this “snowball effect” include research on collaboration and public service motivation. “PMRA is small enough to see this snowballing effect,” George told me, “unlike some of the larger professional or scholarly organizations.”
- The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (JPART) has become a “different kind of beast” when compared to other public administration journals. Despite its quality content and tremendous success, George wondered “whether at times JPART research is so abstract in its nature as to not be as useful as it might be for practice?” Are JPART articles read by those who do public administration? Are they applicable? “We need to continue to be mindful of the need for research to inform practice,” George cautioned.
The Future of PMRA is Closely Connected to Our Journals and Conferences
- Our new journal, Perspectives on Public Management and Governance (PPMG), is likely to succeed in part because of its “comparative boldness.” “There is a niche for it that is understood and appreciated”, George said, and “it will make the field better.”
- Editor transitions are very important. We look forward to a new editor to lead the way with PPMG as well as continued excellence in the editorship of JPART. We will be scanning the globe for such leadership as PMRA grows. [The deadline to apply for the editorship for PPMG has been extended to March 1, 2017. Details may be found at: https://pmranet.org/ppmg/]
- There needs to be room for innovation in PMRA conferences. “Do we have the guts, the willingness to do something bold?” George asked. Examples include: Debates, tableaus, shuffling papers so that scholars present papers that are not their own, and a conference with only discussants (with the papers first being posted on the internet for all to read). “How did we become so formulaic and bureaucratic in designing conferences?” George asked. “There is definitely a need for creativity.”
I will use George’s insights, as well as other PMRA members’ advice, as I plan my upcoming two years as PMRA President. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas and comments. I look forward to working with you and continuing the legacy of the PMRA founders.
* Edwin O. Stene Distinguished Professor, School of Public Affairs, University of Kansas