New journal! Policy Design and Practice!

Are you conducting policy related research and do you want practitioners to pick up your message? Taylor and Francis launched a new journal Policy Design and Practice (PDP) that will publish cutting-edge research on key issues facing policy makers, and that lends itself to translation into action and practical application. To ensure that practitioners can easily access articles, the journal will be free of charge and open-access. The first issue will appear in March 2018. 4 issues per year will be published, and all articles will be subjected to double blind peer review.

The journal is edited by Michael Howlett (Simon Fraser and National University of Singapore) and M. Ramesh (National University of Singapore), and can rely on the advice of a high-level advisory board (with representatives from prestigious international organisations and institutions) and a diversified editorial board, which I am part of.

Interested in contributing? All pertinent information can be found on the journal’s website:

Chapter in Palgrave Book on "Policy Capacity and Governance"

The Palgrave volume, Policy Capacity and Governance: Assessing Governmental Competences and Capabilities in Theory and Practice (Eds. Xun Wu; Howlett, Michael and Ramesh, M.), has now been published!

Together with Ellen Fobé, Marleen Brans (KU Leuven) and David Aubin (UCLouvain), I drafted a chapter on Sectoral Patterns in the Use of Policy Analytical Techniques.  

Chapter Abstract

In an exceedingly complex policy environment, uncertainties are abound, the availability of sound data is often limited and public pressure is high. In such a context, governments require policy workers that have the ability to access and apply different sorts of knowledge and various analytical techniques. The policy analytical capacity of individual policy workers situated inside or outside of the public sectoris generally considered a prerequisite for policies to be designed and implemented in an efficient and cost-effective way. Policy analysis is one of the core functional tasks in the policy process. This chapter investigates patterns in the application of policy analytical techniques by government officials. In particular, it examines the deployment of these techniques across different types of policy sectors in three subnational administrations in Belgium.

Qualitative Comparative Analysis as an evaluation tool: Potential and challenges

In a new (online first) article in the American Journal of Evaluation, we (Astrid Molenveld; Barbara Befani and myself) consider the challenges that can emerge during a QCA evaluation by drawing on our experience of conducting one in the field of development cooperation. For each stage of the evaluation process, we systematically discuss the challenges we encountered and suggest solutions on how these can be addressed. We believe that sharing this kind of lessons learned can help evaluators become more familiar with QCA, shedding light on what it is to be expected when considering the application of QCA for an evaluation, at the same time reducing unfounded fears and promoting awareness of traps and requirements. The article can be insightful and potentially inspirational for both commissioners and evaluators.

Validating Methods for Comparing Public Policy. Special issue now out in Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis

How should comparative policy analysis proceed to increase the validity of cross-national findings? This is the lead question of a new Special Issue of the Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, which presents contributions of the Celebratory Comparative Policy Analysis Conference organized at KU Leuven in November 2013 on the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of the Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis and the 10th Anniversary of the International Comparative Policy Analysis Forum. The articles in the issue address the question of how academics practise methods of comparison while it also seeks to contribute to an understanding of the methods of comparison used by national governments and international institutions. The Special Issue combines the points of view of academics, and of persons who belong to the category of so-called “pracademics”.

The Special Issue contains many suggestions for advancing comparative policy analysis. The validity of comparative policy analysis will be enhanced by having members of the scholarly communities join approaches in addressing problem-based research puzzles, combining their methods in designs that do justice to complexity and context. Other processes of validation can take place in dialogues between scholars and practice. Scholars need sufficient access to problematize and help improve the scientific validity of institutionally produced data. At the same time, scholarly interactions with policy makers can contribute to another kind of validation, call it realworld or practical validation, that often lies beyond the scope of research or research funders. Comparative policy analysis should not fall into the trap of building overly abstract models and testing them with hyper-sophisticated methods, to the extent that actual policy makers no longer recognize what the discipline is on about...

The introduction to the Special Issue, with a concise description of all contributions, is freely accessible via this link.

Beleidsvoering tijdens lange regeringsonderhandelingen? De Belgische ervaring

Op verzoek van het Montesquieu Instituut, schreven Marleen Brans en ikzelf een bijdrage voor De Hofvijver over de ervaringen met beleidsvoering tijdens (lange) regeringsonderhandelingen. Inzichten van de 541 dagen durende formatieperiode in België in 2010-2011 kunnen immers ook belangrijke inzichten opleveren voor de huidige Nederlandse situatie van demissionair kabinet.

De bijdrage is gebaseerd op een meer omvangrijk artikel dat verscheen als Brans M., Pattyn V. & Bouckaert G. (2016). Taking care of crisis: policy continuity and change under Belgium’s longest caretaker government. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 18(5),448-463.


Chapter on Political Party Think Tanks in Routledge Handbook of Comparative Policy Analysis.

Where do political parties' ideas originate from?, Who are the suppliers? and What do political parties’ 'idea factories' look like?.

In a chapter, co-authored with Steven Van Hecke (KU Leuven) and Gilles Pittoors (Ghent University) that has now been published in the Routledge Handbook of Comparative Policy Analysis (editors: Marleen Brans, Iris Geva-May and Michael Howlett) we present a new heuristic typology that classifies different types of political party think tanks worldwide. Considering the key role of political parties in shaping the decision-making process, we hope that this chapter can contribute to a better understanding of internal idea generation of parties.

Pattyn, V., Pittoors, G. and Van Hecke, S. (2017). "Who are the political parties’ ideas factories? On policy analysis by political party think tanks". Chapter 16. pp.245-260. In: Brans, M., Geva May I. and Howlett, M. (Eds.) Routledge Handbook of Comparative Policy Analysis. Routledge.