USC Price School of Public Policy

Resh, coauthors win best academic paper award from Public Administration Review

February 22, 2016

By Matthew Kredell

William Resh

USC Price Assistant Professor William Resh

While using data from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey for a chapter in his book Rethinking the Administrative Presidency, USC Price School of Public Policy Assistant Professor William Resh began thinking about how much he and his academic peers had referenced this imperfect survey, and how this experience made them uniquely qualified to address ways the instrument could be strengthened to benefit both practitioners and academics.

The resulting article for Public Administration Review (PAR), “Assessing the Past and Promise of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey for Public Management Research: A Research Synthesis,” has won the William E. and Frederick C. Mosher Award from the publication as best paper by an academic in 2015.

“This is the flagship journal for public administration, so to get the best article award is an honor and a tribute to the work my colleagues and I put into this article,” Resh said. “It really was a collaborative effort among the four of us.”

Resh joined with Sergio Fernandez from Indiana University, Tima Moldogaziev from the University of Georgia and Zachary Oberfield from Haverford College to write the article, which was published in PAR’s March 2015 issue. Resh will be attending the American Society for Public Administration annual conference in Seattle to officially receive the award on March 20.

Innovative analysis

resh-PAR-award

Since 2002, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has used The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to monitor efforts by federal executive agencies to manage human capital. Responses to items concerning job satisfaction, contentment with pay and generic barometers of organizational climate serve as indicators of trends within the federal bureaucracy to both external and internal stakeholders.

This paper was the first systematic accounting of who is using the data and how, and to what length the data can benefit federal practitioners.

Recommendations made in the paper for refining the survey included: expanding the list of topics and concepts measured, organizing a working group of researchers who can assist with design and implementation of the survey, tracking the responses from a participant over time, getting more specific about demographic identifications and managerial status, and maximizing transparency on why new questions were selected.

Shaping discourse

The article has started a dialogue that the authors hope will lead to significant changes in the survey. Resh noted that both OPM and the Government Accountability Office have responded largely favorably to the suggestions.

After the article was published, Resh participated in a friendly debate on the merits of the survey with OPM Senior Advisor on Research and Evaluation Kimya Lee in Washington, D.C. He will be returning to the nation’s capital in March to discuss some of the issues covered in the paper at the OPM Research Summit: Connecting Research and Policy.

“The good news is they have been receptive to having this conversation,” Resh said. “We haven’t seen any definitive changes, but these things move slowly. With the help of academics steeped in this literature, they can build a much more robust tool.”