This essay examines the remarkable careers of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom, exploring polycentricity and human management of common property resources from the “no-name fields” of public administration in the late 1950s, through the metropolitan public service industries and public choice approach to democratic administration in the 1960s and 1970s and the institutional analysis of common pool resource management of the 1980s and 1990s. It continues with the diagnosis of the self-governing capabilities of socio-ecological systems in the 2000s. Many continuities underlie focal shifts in attention. Their work will be related to developments in the public administration field along with illustrations of their pioneer example for public administration on research as a collaborative enterprise. The 2009 Nobel Laureate in economics, Elinor Ostrom has been working from an academic background and intellectual tradition that, particularly through her long-term collaboration with Vincent Ostrom, is strongly rooted in the classical and prevailing institutional concerns that may be seen as core to public administration as an academic field of education and research.
We simply study institutions, that is what we do.