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​Bridging the Academic/Practitioner Gap: Public Finance Journal

by Craig S Maher, Director School of Public Administration, University of Nebraska, Omaha and co-editor of the Public Finance Journal

There’s a great deal of valuable academic work being churned out every day in order to help practitioners deal with real world questions. How can we help governments be more efficient and effective? What are the implications of policy changes? How can we better insulate government programs from economic shocks? What is a sound fiscal policy? What are the impacts of certain taxes and the combination of tax systems? What does a fiscally healthy state and local government look like? The list goes on and on

The primary organization that supports budgeting and finance professionals is the Government Finance Officers Association. GFOA’s mission is, “... advancing excellence in government finances.” A quick glance at GFOA’s website reveals that budgeting and finance professionals are interested in many of the same topics researched by scholars. Much of the GFOA training focuses on best practices, financial reporting, intergovernmental relations, etc. I serve on a regional GFOA board – the Great Plains GFOA – and can attest that these same issues are at the core of our annual conferences.

I attend most of the academic conferences geared toward public budgeting and finance (including Association for Budgeting and Financial Management, and the budgeting and finance section of the World Social Science Association). I also frequently attend professional development conferences such as GFOA and ICMA. It is clear that despite these shared interests – academics are always looking for research ideas and professionals are always interested in best practices – there remains a divide between academic research and professional needs.

One of the barriers to connecting professional research needs and academic research interests is the approach many academics traditionally take to publishing their research. Dr. Phil Joyce, the well-known professor of public finance at the University of Maryland, wrote a great piece explaining this phenomenon a few years back in Governing magazine. In essence, he explained, for academics to succeed they need to publish in top-tiered academic journals. Publishing quite often requires building large historical datasets and conducting complicated statistical data analysis. Furthermore, the publication process – writing, submitting to journal, waiting for reviews, responding to reviewers’ comments (if it gets that far), revising the manuscript, and publishing – can take well over a year. Then once published, only those who pay a subscription fee have access to most professional journals.

Meanwhile, state and local government officials typically have immediate needs and limited turn-around time and aren’t well served when potentially helpful ideas are stewing in the broth of a protracted process.

Enter the Public Finance Journal (PF). This new journal is the brainchild of the GFOA and several prominent public budgeting and finance scholars (see the journal’s editorial team). Unique features of the journal include free access, shorter article length, focus on current public budgeting and finance issues in the U.S. and Canada and the inclusion of reviewers, and board members, who serve in state and local government.

PF journal is a biannual journal publishing peer-reviewed research that examines and analyzes contemporary issues in budgeting and finance and explores the applicability of solution sets. The journal is published by the Government Finance Officers Association and serves as a forum for discussion on significant issues related to the advancement of our scientific understanding. Articles go through a rigorous peer-review process and are chosen for publication based on their originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, and accessibility. As a journal focused on connecting science with the practice in public budgeting and finance, all manuscripts must connect the study with the needs and interests of both the scientific and practitioner communities for the field.

The mission of Public Finance Journal is to serve those engaged in public budgeting and finance through the publication of significant advances in the science of the discipline that conveys both theoretical importance and timely application.

Aims & Objectives

The journal has four guiding principles. These are:

  • Public Finance Journal is an open-access journal that is committed to the community of practice;

  • All articles published adhere to the standards of peer review and the ethical standards of the Committee on Publication Ethics;

  • We encourage posting open data and methods for all published articles to our Dataverse; and,

  • Both replications and manuscripts with null results are important to the scientific process.

If you are interested in writing for PF, or want to serve as a reviewer, please reach out to me at .

The contents of this guest column reflect those of the author and not necessarily those of Barrett and Greene, Inc


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