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Building a Policy Informatics Network

Summary

Scope of Work

Publications & Results

Partners

Funding Sources

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Summary
The emergence of social media, open government, big data, and ICT-based forms of public participation, transparency and accountability hold promise for improving democratic processes and tackling intractable societal problems. Thanks to these trends, more sources, kinds, and amounts of information are infused into public interactions and policy decisions. However, these same technological and data-driven forces are significantly challenging traditional forms of governance, policy analysis, and service design. To address these challenges, we need a new kind of collaboration between research and practice and across academic disciplines. This situation presents both challenges and opportunities: CTG is involved in cultivating a new community of inquiry and practice (CoIP) within the public policy research and management arena, which is coming to be known as policy informatics. The goal of policy informatics is to find effective ways to use information and computation to understand and tackle complex problems of society. This goal demands not only new tools and methods, but a re-alignment of interests and relationships within the academic community and across research, education, and practice.

Scope of Work
CTG is involved in several activities geared toward cultivating a new community of inquiry and practice (CoIP) within the public policy research and management arena, which is coming to be known as policy informatics.

eGovPoliNet/Crossover

eGovPoliNet/Crossover is an opportunity to engage with an expanding international network of research institutions on the globally important challenges of information for governance and policy making. Unsolved problems in this domain exist simultaneously in different parts of the world. The project offers the opportunity to investigate in an international setting the social and technical networks that influence policy making and the data and information dimensions of policy analysis, decision making, and policy evaluation, with the potential both to identify universal factors and to understand how the same challenges play out differently in different cultural and political settings.

For CTG, involvement in eGovPoliNet/Crossover will enhance our work in the US which is focused on the value and use of government data for governance, policy-making, and social and economic benefit. CTG’s current research on the value and use of government data (Cresswell, 2006; Harrison, et al., 2011; Dawes, 2011), public sector knowledge networks (Dawes, et al., 2009), and social media (Hrdinová, et al., 2010). eGovPoliNet will also advance our research interest in the formation and performance of transnational knowledge networks (Dawes, et al., 2012) ) in that it is building a world-wide knowledge community in which we would participate as designers and contributors.

CTG is conducting a literature review on research in the US political environment about the use of ICTs for policy modeling, governance, and related topics such as evidence-based policy making and policy informatics. We will also participate in a comparative international analysis on these topics. A US-based workshop will be conducted to gather input from the digital government research and practice community about the existence of, need for, and concerns about the use of ICTs in this domain. We will also participate as senior faculty in annual doctoral colloquia; contribute and stimulate contributions to the international knowledge base and on-line community to be established under the project; and serve on the project steering committee.

Creating an informatics community among policy analysts

The 2011 APPAM Research Conference fostered the emergence of a new community of inquiry and practice (CoIP) within the APPAM community. Dubbed, "Policy Informatics," over 70 researchers and practitioners brought new energy and interest to the 2011 conference. This section came together as a result of the leadership of outgoing president-elect Sandra Archibald, University at Washington. As conference chair she created the conference theme that emphasized complexity in public policy inquiry and practice and encouraged practitioners from communities not traditionally associated with APPAM to join discussions at APPAM. The result was a vibrant set of conference panels, symposia, and workshops organized around the dual themes of complexity and computation in the public policy process. In these sessions, a number of papers were presented on agent-based simulations, system dynamics simulations, data visualization methods, as well as on topics related to digital government, data sharing, and electronic governance.

Efforts are ongoing to develop this community of inquiry and practice in policy informatics within the APPAM community and to keep in touch with each other and invite our colleagues. Other goals specifically include:

Publications & Results
Reports and Working Papers (1)
Report cover
Workshop Report: Exploring the integration of data-intensive analytical skills in public affairs education
Mon, 04 Aug 2014 >Download PDF
While much is being said and written about big data and data science, much less attention has been given to the skills required of the current and next generation of public managers, policy analysts, and informed citizens who are expected to use new data resources and tools effectively. To begin to address this gap, on May 9, 2014, the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany hosted a one-day National Science Foundation (NSF) workshop (Grant # 054069) to explore the integration of data-intensive analytical skills in public affairs education. The event represented the convergence of two streams of activity in the United States and Europe on the topics of policy informatics and policy modeling developed over the past several years. This report highlights the opportunities, challenges, and next steps that emerged from the day.

Journal Articles and Conference Papers (3)
Journal Article Cover
Understanding the Value and Limits of Government Information in Policy Informatics: A Preliminary Exploration
June 4-7, 2012 >Download PDF
Policy informatics is an emergent area of study that explores how information and communication technology can support policy making and governance. Policy informatics recognizes that more kinds, sources and volumes of information, coupled with evolving analytical and computational tools, present important opportunities to address increasingly complex social, political, and management problems. However, while new types and sources of information hold much promise for policy analysis, the specific characteristics of any particular government information resource strongly influences its fitness and usability for analytical purposes. We therefore contend thatinformation itself should be a critical research topic in policy informatics. This poster presentation shows how different aspects of information conceptualization, management, quality, and use can affect its “fitness” for policy analysis.

Understanding the Value and Limits of Government Information in Policy Informatics: A Preliminary Exploration
June 4-7, 2012 >Download PDF
Policy informatics is an emergent area of study that explores how information and communication technology can support policy making and governance. Policy informatics recognizes that more kinds, sources and volumes of information, coupled with evolving analytical and computational tools, present important opportunities to address increasingly complex social, political, and management problems. However, while new types and sources of information hold much promise for policy analysis, the specific characteristics of any particular government information resource strongly influences its fitness and usability for analytical purposes. We therefore contend thatinformation itself should be a critical research topic in policy informatics. This poster presentation shows how different aspects of information conceptualization, management, quality, and use can affect its “fitness” for policy analysis.

Designing electronic government information access programs: a holistic approach
Mon, 13 Dec 2003 >Download PDF
That electronic government information repositories are growing in number, use, and diversity is one manifestation of the emergence of e-government. These information-centered programs both shape and respond to user demand for electronic government information as computer-mediated user access has displaced traditional staff-mediated access. These programs are no longer concentrated in statistical agencies but increasingly are offered by a wide array of mission-driven operating agencies to complement their other services. This study identified the design dimensions of electronic information access programs by examining mature existing programs. These dimensions address users, uses, organizational capabilities, data characteristics, and technology. The study then explored the application and interdependence of these dimensions in three efforts to design and develop new access programs. The study produced an empirically based, testable model of observable dimensions that shape the cost, complexity, and potential performance of these programs. In addition, the article offers government managers some insight into the practical implications they will face in designing and operating electronic information access programs.


Partners
Academic Partners

Funding Sources
NSF grant IIS-0540069

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Contact Information
Center for Technology in Government
University at Albany, SUNY
187 Wolf Road, Suite 301
Albany, NY 12205
(518) 442-3892 (phone)
(518) 442-3886 (fax)

Natalie Helbig
Senior Program Associate
(518) 442-4813 (Phone)
(518) 442-3886 (Fax)