My research engages with a variety of debates within and between political science, public sector governance and public policy. I am particularly interested in the role played by administrative systems (and the organisations within them) in translating political preferences into public policy outcomes.
Current research projects are concerned with:
o International Public Policy: I am the QUB lead on a £2m Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) collaboration with University College London, Cardiff University, the University of Oxford, the University of Auckland and a number of think-tanks which has created an International Public Policy Observatory to provide policy-makers with access to resources, evidence and analysis of global policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am also Programme Director of the MSc in International Public Policy at QUB.
o Technology, Government and Society. I am Co-Director (with Professor Margaret Topping) of the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Training Programme titled Collaboration in Training and Innovation for Growing, Evolving and Networked Societies (CITI-GENS) for 2020-25. I am also Co-Investigator in the Leverhulme Interdisciplinary Network on Cybersecurity and Society (LINCS) Project at QUB (2015-21). My work aligns with the research strand on Cyberspace, Privacy and Data Protection. I currently supervise a LINCS PhD student (Emma McAllister) working on human-data interaction in the education sector, with a second LINCS PhD student (Connel McKeown) being awarded his degree in 2020 for his work on open data and accountability. From 2021, I will be Co-Investigator with the successor LINAS Doctoral Training Programme. I also supervise a PhD student (Humaid Al Kaabi) working on the use of anti-corruption technology in government.
o Public Accountability and Crisis:I am a Co-Investigator on the ESRC funded project ‘Apologies Abuses and Dealing with the Past’ (2016-20). This comparative project explores apologies linked to harms arising from the conflict in Ireland, institutional child abuse and the fall-out from the 2008 financial crisis. My work in this project concerns issues relating to organisational reputation and accountability, specifically in relation to corporate institutions.
o Evolution and Reform of State Administrations: For the past several years I have been involved in research on the autonomy, accountability, rationalisation and re-organisation of public sector agencies or ‘quangos’. This involves ongoing collaboration with research teams across Europe as part of a European Science Foundation funded network (COST-CRIPO). With colleagues from this network I have recently begun to examine longitudinal aspects of state bureaucracy using time-series datasets on public organisation. This work builds on my post-doctoral research in 2009-10 at the UCD Geary Institute with Prof Niamh Hardiman and Prof Colin Scott, which resulted in the production of the Irish State Administration Database (www.isad.ie). I was nominated to the Steering Committee of the European Group for Public Administration in 2019, the leading academic network for public administration and public policy research in Europe. I currently supervise a PhD student (Nafja Al Kuwari) working on changes to state governance in Qatar.
o How States Retrench in Times of Crisis: This ongoing research is concerned with the ongoing outworking of the 2008 economic crisis for the politics and organisational shape of the state. It links to collaborative work which emerged from the European Commission FP7 COCOPS initiative 'The financial crisis in the public sector' (Prof. Tiina Randma-Liiv, Tallinn, and Prof. Walter Kickert, Rotterdam) and the Building State Capacity Project at the Geary Institute, UCD (Prof Niamh Hardiman). As part of this work, I was awarded a Research Fellowship (2014-16) to examine the creation and reform efforts of the Irish Department (Ministry) of Public Expenditure and Reform. This was published in 2017 as a monograph titled Public Sector Reform in Ireland: Countering Crisis (Palgrave).
o Irish Government and Politics: Since publishing my PhD thesis concerning parliamentary accountability in Ireland in 2005, I have authored and edited a number of textbooks on Irish government and politics and continue to teach on these topics. More recently, in my role as President of the Political Studies Association of Ireland (2016-19) and co-chair (with Conor Little, University of Limerick) of the PSAI Specialist Group on Public Policy (2020-), I have sought to advance the Irish political science community and develop its profile nationally and internationally.
As well as researching, teaching and supervising in these areas, I have published work and retain ongoing interests in the study of political-administrative relationships, public sector reform, organisational theory and parliaments.