IAS / Division of Public Policy Joint Lecture

Policy Analysis/Analysts in Theory & Practice: Survey Evidence from Canada


Over forty years ago, Arnold MELTSNER observed that professional policy analysts in the US government undertook several roles in the policy-making process, the most common of which involved “technical” information processing. Although prescient, empirical studies of professional policy work since then found little evidence of the predominance of technicians in the ranks of analysts employed in public bureaucracies. However, only very weak and partial information exists on the situation in most countries, and descriptions of the nature of policy work often remain primarily normative and lacking in empirical referents. In this lecture, the speaker will examine the duties and nature of contemporary professional policy analytical work in the Canadian bureaucracy based on over a dozen surveys carried out by him and his colleagues over a five-year span. It reveals that contemporary policy work is constituted by more complex and multisided practices than Meltsner and his followers described. These findings are significant for those wishing to understand, and improve, the nature of policy work in contemporary government.


About the speaker

Prof. Michael Howlett graduated from Queen's University at Kingston, Canada with a PhD in Political Science in 1988. Prior to joining the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University in 1989, he taught at Queen's University and the University of Victoria. He is currently the Burnaby Mountain Professor at Simon Fraser University and the Yong Pung How Chair Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Prof. Howlett specializes in public policy analysis, political economy, and resource and environmental policy. He is the author of “Canadian Public Policy: Selected Studies in Process and Style” (2013) and “Designing Public Policies: Principles and Instruments” (2011 and 2019). He also co-authored numerous publications including “The Public Policy Primer: Managing the Policy Process” (2010 and 2017), “Designing for Policy Effectiveness: Defining and Understanding a Concept” (2017), and “Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles and Policy Subsystems” (2009). He currently sits on the Editorial Boards of various journals such as International Review of Public Policy, BC Studies, European Policy Analysis, Policy Sciences and Forest Policy and Economics, to name a few.

Prof. Howlett is the Founder, past Chair (2010-2018) and current Secretary of Research Committee 30 (Comparative Public Policy) of the International Political Science Association. He also sits on the Executive Committee of the International Public Policy Association. In 2017, he was selected the Canada Research Chair in Policy Innovation for Climate Change by the Government of Canada.



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