IIASA/YSSP offers students a series of seminars covering a variety of modeling and social topics. Today is the start of a six part seminar series on Public Policy Analysis by Stephan Ney. The overall objective for the course is "to introduce YSSP students to the approaches, frameworks and methods of contemporary policy analysis".
Today we delved into the realm of sociology to public policy analysis. As a scientist with no/little sociology background the question is firstly what is the definition, something I discovered is not actually that easy to answer.
Firstly what is POLICY? Try name some examples. You immediately get Health Care, Foreign, Education, Population etc. What about smaller scale? Gun control, Gas Emissions, Public Procurement, the list goes on. What do they all have in common? A set of rules, intentions, sequence of actions, normative and mostly government initialised. We finally agreed that Policy is an outcome/stance/process that has an underlying theory usually with with desired goals and an evaluative standard.
Some nice definitions include: "web of decisions and actions that allocate values" - Easton or "Policy is rather like the elephant - you recognise it when you see it, but you cannot easily define it" - Cunningham.
Moving on to PUBLIC, what makes a policy public? Start with what is not public like corporate. Then there are "Corporate Social Responsibility" policies. It can be argued (indeed it was) that while the corporate is pursuing some private interest it is of public interest. The consensus is that Public means it is of public interest (collective interest), usually requires some sort of oversight or government action and is defined by civil society.
Now ANALYSIS: Why analyse policies? It affects us, to improve things, efficiency, knowledge acquisition, transparency, evaluation, decision-support, effects of. You could probably name quite a few more.
 H. Hugh Heclo (1972), “Policy Analysis”, British Journal of Political Science, Vol.2, No.1 (Jan 1972), pp.83-108