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Examination of Productivity Commission’s policy role wins ANZSOG/APSA Policy Studies Prize

24 October 2021

News and media


Image of a team working on a project together

Public administration researchers, Celia Green, Professor Gemma Carey and Eleanor Malbon have been awarded the 2021 ANZSOG/Australian Political Studies Association Policy Studies Prize for an article exploring the role of the Productivity Commission in developing policy in Australia.

The article, Investigating the production and communication of evidence by the Productivity Commission: Apolitical, political, or somewhere in between?, was published in the September 2020 issue of the Australian Journal of Public Administration, and examines the role of Australia’s Productivity Commission as an actor in the policy process, and aims to understand its processes for producing and communicating evidence.

Ms Green said that she and her co-authors were delighted to win the award, and said that it was important for early career researchers such as herself to gain recognition for their work.

“It’s great to have something like this which acknowledges and draws attention to work that you’ve done,” she said.

Ms Green – who has given up her previous career as a vet to become a public administration researcher – said that recognising early career researchers was important in an environment where their jobs were becoming increasingly insecure.

The article is based on insights gained from interviews with senior officials within the Productivity Commission and government more broadly. Ms Green said this work was difficult and time-consuming to produce.

“Qualitative research in public policy is valuable but it is really challenging, particularly when you are working with high-level people within government.”

She said that the article built on research previously undertaken by Professor Carey, and contacts she had built within the PC and the public sector.

“I had always admired Gemma’s work in this areas, so it was a great honour to be asked to be the lead on this article,” she said.

“The Productivity Commission is an institution that hasn’t been looked at very much by researchers, and it’s important that all institutions are examined.

“The PC is part of the policy process and the idea that it just offers independent and objective advice to government does not reflect the reality of that process. That’s not necessarily a negative – just a recognition that there is a tension between being relevant and important, and being independent and objective.

“I hope that the work we’ve done is useful to the PC.”

The judges said that the winning article was: “Fascinating and well argued. This article has direct relevance for contemporary policy practice in Australia. The study and the analysis of the evidence is well nuanced, and the findings are well linked to related research in the field of public policy and public administration.”

Associate Professor Joshua Newman, the Chair of the APSA Policy Studies Research Group, said the prize aimed to encourage early career researchers in policy studies who are making a contribution to research and impact.

“This prize is a recognition of both the importance of policy studies and the varied, high-quality work that is being done by early-career researchers in the field,” he said.

ANZSOG Dean and CEO Ken Smith said the prize recognised the importance of debate around policy in Australia, and the value of academic research.

“ANZSOG recognises the importance of research in enriching policy debate and leading to better policy in the long-term,” he said.

The ANZSOG/APSA Prize is now in its third year, and is open to postgraduate or early-career researcher. The prize acknowledges that early career researchers can often have significant career interruptions, and those who have had are encouraged to apply.

The $1000 prize is awarded to the best peer reviewed article, with a Policy Studies (public policy, social policy, public management, governance) focus, accepted by a journal in the previous calendar year.

Entrants must also be working or studying at an Australian university (or working outside the higher education sector for those who are between academic appointments).

The 2021 winners were selected by a panel of four judges, consisting of two members of the APSA Policy Studies Research Group and two ANZSOG representatives.

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