Melvin J. Dubnick
This chapter examines the emergence of accountability as a culturally significant concept that both reflects and shapes changes taking place in our understanding of contemporary governance. Dubnick explores how its emergence as a “cultural keyword” has transformed both the form and function of accountability, and the challenges this development poses for the study of accountable governance.
Christopher Koch and Jens Wüstemann
This article shows how experimental research can address issues in public accountability. It outlines the suitability of the experimental method for certain types of accountability questions and the results of important studies. Based on the social contingency model, it then discusses in detail the issues that need to be considered when designing an experiment on accountability questions. This discussion covers the role of the research question, the selection of participants and the construction of the experimental setting and task. Throughout the article, discussion points are further illustrated through important landmark studies. The conclusion identifies opportunities for future research.
Joshua A. Tucker and Dominik Duell
Understanding the effects of electoral systems is of great importance to both scholars and practitioners, and experimental research can be a valuable tool in pursuit of this goal. However, scholars need to think carefully about how to utilize experimental research, especially because the variation in electoral systems in which we are most interested—at the national level—is often impossible or unethical to manipulate. To inform how experiments and related methods of causal inference are then still able to facilitate investigations into the roots and consequences of electoral systems, we situate experimental research within a broader account of research design in the study of electoral systems, summarize existing experimental work, and discuss future avenues. We call for carefully crafting experimental tests in the laboratory and for using “naturally” occurring variation in existing institutions at lower levels of the electoral system.
Empirical studies of public accountability so far have mainly used qualitative research designs. Qualitative research is suited for certain types of questions, such as those that are in need of understanding or explanation, occur over time, or are difficult or sensitive to define. Researchers have used case-studies, interviews, discourse analysis, grounded theory and, sometimes, mixed research methods. Future accountability studies would benefit from using mixed methods, including quantitative methods. First-rate qualitative empirical research benefits from the use of existing theories. Most studies try to answer “what” questions instead of “why” and “how” questions. Future research would benefit from a push for causal explanations in real-life settings.
Gijs Jan Brandsma
Quantitative empirical studies into accountability are scarce. Much of the available literature provides definitions, typologies, theoretical models, or case studies, but research that compares findings on the basis of a fixed set of indicators is to a great degree still lacking. This chapter provides building blocks for cumulative quantitative research into accountability. It does so by navigating through the variety of indicators used in existing quantitative accountability research, and demonstrates which indicators are relevant for which particular classes of research questions. Although singular, unbiased and unambiguous indicators for accountability regrettably do not exist, existing research does offer helpful clues as to specifying what particular aspects of accountability can be in focus, and how these can be gauged.