Public policy prof to lead national group
Kathy Brock, a professor in the School of Policy Studies and the Department of Political Studies, was recently elected the first female president of the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA), the leading national organization representing the schools of public administration, policy and management across Canada and academics engaged in research and teaching on all facets of government.
In addition to her CAPPA commitments, Dr. Brock has also been working on her own research and commenting in the media about the recent provincial election. She took some time out from her busy schedule to discuss her appointment and the importance of public policy research with Senior Communications Officer Mark Kerr.
MK: Why did you want to serve as president of CAPPA?
KB: A number of public administration departments and schools have come online in the past few years. It’s a changing field. I was interested in the position because CAPPA has become a much more dynamic organization in the last five years and more involved in reaching out to all of the public policy schools across Canada.
CAPPA is looking at developing an accreditation process for schools, and I really believe in that. I think if we have an accreditation process, we will be more consistent with international standards. Accreditation increases both the acceptance of our research and work within government. It also says to the public policy and public administration community that our students are going to be strong whether they get placed at the national, provincial, Aboriginal level or internationally.
And it’s a great opportunity for the Queen’s School of Policy Studies. We are seen to be a leader in the field and this is taking that leadership very responsibly and working with others in a more collective way. Plus, the researchers, teachers and thinkers I am working with are excellent. They are a lot of fun to work with.
MK: What do you want to accomplish as president?
KB: Accreditation, for sure, as well as working with others to develop a number of national courses that all schools could implement. Those courses would ensure Canadian students have core competencies.
More generally, I would like to focus on the promotion of academic research in the public sector. I think we can harness the schools to do that. I am involved in a national survey and one of the things we have been seeing is that governments are not as inclined to turn to university researchers as they were in the past. They are more likely to go to the private sector – consulting firms, NGOs and non-profits.
MK: Why has there been a shift away from the use of academic research in the public sector?
KB: Honestly, I think it’s because we don’t do the translation of research well. When consultants or non-profits go in, they put research in a very practical context. Often they don’t do the theoretical and conceptual research as well as the academic community does, but they know how to present their results much more effectively and target it to the audience.
Governments are talking about evidence-based research all the time, and that’s one of the reasons we have to be a player in the field. Academic communities are where you get balanced, evidence-based research that can meet those needs.
The interview was condensed and edited for clarity.