The Future of the Study of Public Administration: Embedding Research Object and Methodology in Epistemology and Ontology


Jos C. N. Raadschelders is a professor in the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at the Ohio State University and has served as PAR's managing editor since the summer of 2005. His research interests include comparative government, civil service systems, and the nature of the study. With regard to the last, his book on public administration's epistemology was published this fall by Oxford University Press.


What should be done to advance the study of public administration? A strong argument is advanced by outgoing PAR managing editor Jos C. N. Raadschelders that the field benefits significantly from greater attention to ontology and epistemology. To be sure, empirical, evidence-based research has its place, but its basis and the meaning of findings seldom are questioned. Why? Many public administration scholars seek “scientificness” through a disciplinary type of methodology. However, working within an inherently interdisciplinary field, public administration scholars cannot reduce the complex, wicked problems of society and government to mere empirical measurement. The author lays out five critical challenges confronting today’s public administration—both its study and research—requiring the field’s urgent attention in order to meet the comprehensive and rapidly expanding needs of specialists and generalists, practitioners and academicians, as well as the general public.