We sat down, virtually, with Dr. Sherry Glied, Dean and Professor of Public Service at NYU Wagner, and 2020 APPAM President-Elect to talk about her role for the #2020APPAM Fall Research Conference and how the current public health crisis has impacted her thinking about the theme of the conference.
You are the President-Elect of APPAM this year, which means that your role is to oversee the theme and direction of the #2020APPAM Fall Research Conference. Can you talk us through the choice for this year’s theme?
I was struck looking through prior conference agendas that the problems that researchers in public policy and management address are perennial. While society has made significant progress in many areas, we are far from solving the gaping challenges of economic inequality, racial injustice, health disparities, environmental protection, or the slippage between policy intention and execution. This reality made me think of how it might be useful to think of our work in a lifecycle context. APPAM members identify a problem (which may be new or continuing) and help develop policies that might address it. Those policies are then implemented and APPAM members study and evaluate their performance, identifying ways that they did or didn’t solve the underlying problem and why. Those evaluations then feed back into the next round of problem identification and policy development.
I think the theme is very relevant to the conversation we’re now having as a nation about racial justice. APPAM members can contribute to the progress that is vital in this context both by identifying current problems and by rigorously evaluating efforts to address similar problems in the past.
Beyond the potential for moving the conference into the virtual space, how has the Covid-19 pandemic changed your thinking about the conference? How does it connect to the theme of the policy lifecycle?
Even though COVID-19 had only just emerged when we identified the theme, I think the theme is very relevant to COVID-19. APPAM researchers are contributing to alleviating the burden of COVID-19 by being part of a continuous cycle of identifying risks and assessing responses to them. We can also start thinking about COVID-related meta-questions. One of those is the risk that after the COVID threat passes, we will once again underfund public health functions that are critical in the event of a future epidemic. Addressing that question requires evaluating what policies and public management strategies have worked best (and worst) in maintaining adequate public health capacity over time. Another issue COVID-19 highlights is the emergence of yet another area of health disparities. APPAM researchers will be looking at the factors driving those newly-emergent disparities and evaluating the role of a range of policies in exacerbating or reducing them.
What would you say are the most important aspects of a conference like an APPAM Fall Research Conference and how can someone who has never been part of such an experience get the most out of it?
Many people come to their first APPAM conference to present new research findings. At APPAM, you’ll get feedback on your research from experts drawn from both academic and non-academic settings. But presenting your own research is just the first step. The APPAM research conference is a great place to get a handle on what is happening in your own area of research – and also to get a taste of what’s happening in adjacent areas of research. Very often, the most illuminating new research is work that draws on the methods or findings of one field to inform another. By attending sessions, in your own area as well as in other areas, you’ll both glean insights and meet others – presenters and attendees – who could be future collaborators or guides. It’s also interesting to attend some of the award and plenary sessions, and learn from senior colleagues who have had influential careers in public policy and management research. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of your current work – the perspective of these researchers can help you situate your own work in a broader context.
What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of your position as President-Elect, in terms of the Fall Conference?
Selecting among the many exciting research proposals and session ideas is the most daunting part of the task – there’s so much fascinating research happening. It’s also challenging to maintain an appropriate balance among the many interests of our membership. It’s like doing a really complicated sudoku puzzle. But the APPAM staff are unbelievably accomplished and make it all seem easy. Working with Tara, Tristanne, and the other staff, as well as the other members of the Executive Committee, who are all so accomplished, is delightful.
The #2020APPAM Fall Research Conference will take place on November 12 - 14, 2020 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. Registration will open mid-July.