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Experimental public administration from 1992 to 2014: A systematic literature review and ways forward

Robin Bouwman (Public Administration Department, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands)
Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen (Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 7 March 2016




Based on previous inventories, the purpose of this paper is to extend the knowledge on public administration experiments by focusing on their experimental type, design, sample type and realism levels and external validity. The aim is to provide an overview of experimental public administration and formulate potential ways forward.


The authors examine the current state of experimental public administration, by looking at a systematic selection of ISI ranked experimental publications in major public administration journals (1992-2014) and recommend ways forward based on this review.


The review indicates a rise in experimentation in public administration in recent years, this can be attributed mostly to some subfields of public administration. Furthermore, most experiments in public administration tend to have relatively simple designs, high experimental realism and a focus on external validity. Experimental public administration can be strengthened by increasing diversification in terms of samples, experimental designs, experimental types and substantive scope. Finally, the authors recommend to better utilize experiments to generate usable knowledge for practitioners and to replicate experiments to improve scientific rigour.


This paper contributes to experimental public administration by drawing on a systematic selection of papers and assessing them in depth. By means of a transparent and systematic selection of publications, various venues or ways forward are presented.



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the IRSPM conference 2014 in Ottawa, Canada. The authors want to thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor-in-chief, Sandra van Thiel, for their constructive feedback on this paper. Also the feedback by Joram Feitsma was helpful in revising the manuscript.

Funding: this work is financed by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), Research Talent Grant No. 406-13-021.


Bouwman, R. and Grimmelikhuijsen, S. (2016), "Experimental public administration from 1992 to 2014: A systematic literature review and ways forward", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 110-131.



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