The study of public policy faces a multiplicity of methodological challenges: it lacks the methodological focus of the other social sciences, it combines an analytical with a normative perspective. Indeed, in many ways, 'public policy' lies outside of traditional social scientific disciplinarity with its canonical methodologies, clear-cut objects of study, and claims to its specific form of scientific objectivity.
Although methodology has played a defining role for the social sciences since their disciplinary emergence in the nineteenth century, they ended up largely following the path of the natural sciences in becoming ever more differentiated, methodologically formalised and institutionally self-centered. The meta-theoretical reflection on methods has thereby been pushed to the background: inter-disciplinarity is all too often relegated to being an empty buzz-word and the bridging of theory and practice is frequently exhausted by functional issue networks superficially linking together the university with the policy-making process.
Being a synthetic meta-discipline within the social sciences, public policy research is an inherently methodological form of inquiry and the integration of different perspectives on social reality as well as the merging together of theoretical understanding and practical engagement is its primary object. As such it has the potential both to re-energize the social sciences as a whole, and to re-conceive the relationship between knowledge and politics.
Curiously, however, methodology as a distinct field of inquiry has been relatively neglected within the public policy research community, a gap this Research Cluster seeks to address. It explores in new and innovative ways core research questions on, amongst others, the methodological foundations of applied social sciences, new structural phenomena such as network knowledge or e-governance, and the didactics of teaching public policy.