Policy analysts in the bureaucracy revisited: The nature of professional policy work in contemporary government

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Thirty-five years ago Arnold Meltsner observed that professional policy analysts in the U.S. government undertook several roles in the policy-making process, the most common of which involved “technical” information processing while others were more “political” in nature. Although still prescient, more recent empirical studies of professional policy work have found little evidence of the predominance of technicians in the ranks of analysts employed in public policy bureaucracies. However, only very weak and partial information exists on the situation in most countries, and descriptions of the nature of policy work often remain primarily normative and lacking in empirical referents. This article reexamines the duties and nature of contemporary professional policy analysis in the Canadian bureaucracy. It reveals that contemporary policy work is constituted by more complex and multisided practices than Meltsner and his followers described. These findings are significant for those wishing to understand, and improve, the nature of policy work in contemporary government.

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© 2011 The Policy Studies Organization. Publisher's version of record: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-1346.2011.00306.x

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Politics & Policy