Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Yackee wins award for best public management article

Yackee wins award for best public management article

La Follette School Professor Susan Webb Yackee and Christine Palus of Villanova University have won the Beryl Radin Award from the Public Management Research Association for Best Article in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (JPART) published during 2016.

“The Radin award is special precisely because it is based on a peer assessment of the most impactful work in the best journal in public affairs. It is based entirely on merit, and one of the highest honors in our field,” said PMRA President and La Follette School Director Don Moynihan noted. “It’s another example of the amazing scholarship we are doing at the La Follette School and a confirmation of our most recent ranking as sixth in the world in the field of public administration.”

The winning paper, “Clerks or Kings? Partisan Alignment and Delegation to the US Bureaucracy,” examines the role of partisanship in narrowing the perceived policy authority available to politically like-minded agency officials. Using three decades of 6,000-plus survey observations in all 50 states, the researchers found that shared political affiliations between the governor or legislature and agency heads restrict perceptions of administrative autonomy.

“Although our findings offer provocative insights into the nature of the relationship between administrative agency leadership and their elected political principals, continued attention to this important public management topic is critical,” Yackee and Palus conclude.

Palus and Yackee said: “Wow; this is thrilling! We are so pleased to have this incredible acknowledgement of our work.” The award will be presented at the business meeting of the Public Management Research Conference on June 9 at American University, Washington, DC.

The article was selected from all of the published papers in JPART by a committee featuring Jessica Sowa (chair), University of Baltimore; Poul Nielsen, Southern Denmark University; Tina Nabatchi, Syracuse University; and Deneen Hatmaker, University of Connecticut.

The committee note that: “Paulus and Yackee developed novel measures and data to test what is probably the strongest and best-supported claim made by the delegation literature, and they produced a finding that is completely at odds with all existing work. The new measure fits with public administration scholarship in nature by asking what happens in practice (the use of perceived discretion) rather than counting formal rules. In this fashion, the paper revisits the importance of the bureaucratic machinery and not just formal statute.”

Yackee is a professor of public affairs and political science, and director of the La Follette School Board of Visitors. She joined UW–Madison in 2007 and received her master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Palus is dean of graduate studies in Villanova’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, leading 22 graduate programs with more than 1,500 students.

La Follette School Professor Dave Weimer won the award in 2012, and Carolyn Heinrich, a former La Follette school director and current Board of Visitors member, received it in 2010.