The behavior of governing bodies largely depends on the bureaucratic reputation units and departments have among different target groups. However, current science has not yet produced a coherent degree of bureaucratic reputation that applies to multiple agencies in different countries and over time. In his latest article, published in the American Journal of Political ScienceBocconi Post-Doc and DONDENA researcher Luca Bellodi have addressed this gap by devising a new strategy to calculate dozens of bureaucratic credibility using advanced natural language processing techniques.
The article uses a technique called word embedding, which calculates the probability that two or more groups of words occur in the same linguistic context. In this case, the authors are interested in calculating the probability that the name of an agency is close to words that symbolize high or low reputation and efficiency. This exercise continued using the names of 465 bureaucratic agencies in the US and UK that were mentioned in the parliamentary speeches of Members of Congress and the British Parliament for more than 40 years.
The results of this strategy subsequently passed additional validation testing, which proved robust against other text corpora and alternative measures. In particular, the author was able to identify rises and falls in credibility that occur in the face of a crisis, such as happened to the UK Home Office in the wake of the Windrush scandal. The paper also notes that the US Environmental Protection Agency has steadily deteriorated over the past 30 years, while the UK Department of Health has improved its status over the same period.
The findings suggest that members of the ruling party tend to praise bureaucratic bodies more than the opposition. At the same time, this difference becomes smaller as the agencies mentioned are more independent.
In fact, one can see that the reputation index varies according to the political affiliation of the speaker. Polarization can be seen in terms of how a MP talks about a particular agency depending on her party membership and it seems to be consistently higher in the US than in the UK. Parties in power tend to speak better of government agencies in general, especially if the agency is under tighter government control. This indicates that political persuasion is an important part of forming opinions about the work of the bureaucracy. Evidence of this is that when agencies are more independent, they correlate with significantly less polarization.
Designing a new measure of reputation that is applicable to different political and institutional environments can help answer different research questions and increase our understanding of bureaucracies in a comparative perspective. Agencies with varying degrees of credibility may exhibit varying patterns of external communication and outreach. Likewise, a positive reputation can enable them to generate more support, recruit more qualified staff and better protect themselves from political attacks. Clearly there is a trade-off between nuance and coverage. Measures that apply to different environments undoubtedly lose the minute details of each context. However, by focusing on the references MPs make to bureaucratic bodies in their speeches, the authors can tap into an informed and diverse audience that should reflect the views of key stakeholders.
Task Force Scientific Integrity publishes report “Protecting the Integrity of Government Science”
Luca Bellodi, A Dynamic Measure of Bureaucratic Reputation: New Data for New Theory, American Journal of Political Science (2022). DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12695
Provided by Bocconi University
Quote: How to Measure the Reputation of Bureaucracies (2022, October 17) retrieved October 17, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-reputation-bureaucracies.html
This document is copyrighted. Other than fair dealing for personal study or research, nothing may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.