Understanding Transnational Public Sector Knowledge Networks


Project started on Jan. 8, 2010 (Completed)

The substantive focus of this applied research project, sponsored by the US National Science Foundation, is international collaboration efforts regarding air quality monitoring and reporting initiatives that involve the United States and Mexico, and the United States and China. An international network of native research partners led by the Center for Technology in Government is exploring the issues in the context of these two bi-lateral collaborations. The goal is to analyze the actual experiences of government and partner organizations as the basis for developing both conceptual models and practical tools for effective transnational knowledge sharing. 

Scope of Work

The work addresses the following questions:

  • How do participants in different countries perceive the dimensions, stakeholders, benefits, and risks of engaging in intergovernmental systems for information and knowledge sharing?
  • What are the similarities and differences in these perceptions? What cultural, political, economic, and social factors account for them?
  • How do the participants attempt to create shared understanding of technologies, context, terms, processes, and contingencies that generate capabilities for effective action?
  • Which strategies, tools, and behaviors are more likely to lead to successful international knowledge networks that benefit individuals, organizations, and communities?
  • What preparation, methods, and tools are best suited for research and action on these questions?

We will build on the work of two teams already formed; a multinational team from North America and a team of researchers from the United States and China, to examine such relationships in the form of extended “public sector knowledge networks” (PSKNs). In particular, the work will focus on cross-national knowledge networks in air quality, an area where the United States plays an active role in the international community and where the issues under consideration are significant in terms of both domestic and international impact.

The cases for preliminary study will include one in North America and one in China. The North American case involves the Joint Advisory Committee for the Improvement of Air Quality in the Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, El Paso, Texas, and Doña Ana County, New Mexico Air Basin (JAC). This initiative already has a functioning PSKN and a case study about this network has been written and published by members of the project team.

PSKNs are just emerging in relationships involving the United States and China. The US EPA is in the formative stages of building a PSKN with government officials and other interested actors in Shanghai, China. This particular PSKN initiative known as the AIRNow-International Shanghai Initiative involves the US EPA and the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau. Because this effort is at an earlier stage than the US and Mexican JAC case, it offers an opportunity to observe and analyze it as it develops.

The US-China case will extend work launched through the collaborative efforts of several members of the project team. In particular, the dissertation research of a former student at the Center for Technology in Government, Dr. Lei Zheng, who is now a faculty member at Fudan University in Shanghai provides the foundation for the connection between NSF-funded research on PSKNs and cross-boundary information sharing and a growing interest on the part of Chinese leaders and scholars for comparable studies in China.

This research effort will focus on these two preliminary case studies as vehicles for exploring the factors that shape transnational PSKNs and for building, testing, and refining a methodology for conducting such work in more depth in the future. This project will run for approximately 21 months.

Key Activities

The project’s research questions will be examined in the context of international relationships that are particularly important vis-à-vis the United States as a member of the international community and a leader in the global economy.

Below is a list of the project’s key research activities:

  • Project team will develop a research plan and standard methodology for conducting research involving the countries of focus: United States, Mexico, and China.
  • Team will then apply the methodology to both case studies that address the country-specific research questions listed above.
  • For the United States and Mexico case study, preliminary data already has been collected. Additional interviews will be conducted as needed.
  • For the United States and China case study, data will be collected through in-person interviews with key participants in both the United States and China.
  • Data from both case studies will be analyzed with a focus on the transnational phenomena occurring and from the point of view of each country and culture.
  • Team members involved in developing both of the case studies will then conduct cross-case analysis and build preliminary models of information flow and use across national boundaries, taking into account the cultural contexts involved.
  • The individual cases, cross-case analysis, models, and other research results will be reviewed with the government agencies involved in the cases, and published in jointly-authored conference and journal papers.


Publications & Results

Issue Brief


Journal Articles & Conference Papers

Related Websites


Funding Sources

This project is funded by a $200,000 grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation.