Panel T05P01 - Complexity in Public Policy: Problems, Processes, People

Chair: Adrian Kay, Brian Head, Carsten Daugbjerg


Deadline for submission: 30 January 2016

To submit a paper proposal:




It is a truism that we live in an increasingly complex world. Several bodies of policy
scholarship have engaged with the phenomenon of complexity but it is not clear what
this engagement contributes in toto to our understanding of public policy. Complexity
seems to beget complexity: the risk of fragmentation in policy studies approaches to
complexity is genuine, and that our understanding of the phenomenon in public policy
may become, ironically perhaps, complex. The aim of this panel is to increase clarity
about aspects of complexity in the study of public policy and improve our ability to rein
it in analytically. The concept of complexity is well rehearsed in studies of the
definition of policy problems, work on the formulation and design of solutions for
policy-making, investigations of the processes of political agreement, and in the
implementation and evaluation of policy. This panel challenges scholars work on the
complex, contingent nature of different aspects of policy-making to engage with each
other more to improve our ability to build a distinctive and useful policy studies
approach to complexity.
Call for Papers
Although we welcome papers on any aspect of complexity in public policy, we
particularly encourage papers that have at least one of two aims: (i) Join up thinking in
different literatures dedicated to specific complexity dimensions of the policy process;
(i) Stress the role of agency. The fundamentally different nature of adaptive versus
technical problems - the ‘moon and the ghetto’ problem - put an onus on policy
scholarship and practice to conceptualise and approach the complexity knot beyond
simply big data and better computers.