Researching administration

The 21st century will bring several revolutions for public administration. Revenue stamps and complicated forms were a natural part of public administration for decades, but today good governance, big data, the common good orientation and knowledge management are now at home in the public sector. Innovation and research fall on fertile ground, and also come from the degree programs Public Management and the new Competence Center for Administrative Sciences, explains the Head of Degree Program Günter Horniak.

Head of Degree Program Günter Horniak

What challenges is the public sector facing? 

The demographic change, the economic and financial crises, from which we are still feeling the effects, the public debt as well as global climate change and migration, to name but a few. In addition there is also digitization, as an opportunity as well as a challenge, especially as data is linked with enormous power. It is often overlooked that these are all challenges that need to be solved in public administration.

Why does administration need research? 

This is related to the challenges I just outlined and the fact that decisions have to be made in public administration that affect society as a whole. The goal is to develop solutions based on sound foundations - “evidence based decision making”. Public management research is so important because the logic of the public sector is completely different than that in the private sector. Existing management and decision-making systems must be adapted and scrutinized. This requires research.

What direction are current research projects taking? 

At the new Competence Center for Administrative Sciences, the research project “Knowledge Management Platform” is currently underway, which we are conducting together with the Federal Chancellery (BKA) and the Federal Academy of Public Administration. In this project we are examining what tools and strategies are needed, for example, to maintain the flow of knowledge for the future in the face of the impending wave of retirements in the public service sector. On behalf of ASFINAG, we are gathering the experience of international transport organizations on multimodal transport systems and investigating the prerequisites for successful change processes. 

What will research focus on over the next few years?

Research will focus on organization, knowledge and technology, inclusion - exclusion, education and further training and skills research. We will also focus heavily on public welfare and public value. The value that the public sector creates for society. What is that exactly and who determines this value? What value does it have, for example if I run a museum or design a public space and how can I measure it? That interests us.

“Innovation” occupies a remarkably broad space in the curricula of the two Public Management degree programs. How is that implemented in the degree programs?

Bachelor students work on case studies from their professional background. They analyze practical application cases for “lessons learned” and improvement potentials and prepare recommendations for action. This is further deepened in the master degree program. In the Innovation Laboratory, students can work on a problem or issue from their professional lives for two semesters and also acquire strong methodology skills. The focus is on not developing complex solutions alone, but in a team. Here we convey a mental model, according to which dealing with ambiguity and contradictions is not an unwanted special case, but the problem-solving and development-oriented core business for experts and executives. Because current trends and social changes also require appropriate, timely responses from the public administration. And they are pushed forward by innovation processes. That again is our contribution.