Searching for answers: Networks of practice among public administrators

Maria Christina Binz-Scharf, David Lazer, Ines Mergel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


How do public administrators find information about the problems they confront at work? In particular, how and when do they reach across organizational boundaries to find answers? There are substantial potential obstacles to such searches for answers, especially in a system of decentralized governance such as the U.S. government. In this article, we examine the alternative mechanisms within the public sector that compensate for this dispersion of expertise, focusing on knowledge sharing across public DNA forensics laboratories. In particular, we propose that the emergence of informal interpersonal networks plays an important role in providing access to necessary expertise within a highly decentralized system. Our findings point both to the need for further research on knowledge sharing networks within the public sector as well as practical implications around the value of investments into facilitating the creation and maintenance of networks of practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-225
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican Review of Public Administration
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • case study
  • cross-jurisdictional knowledge sharing
  • diffusion
  • innovation
  • network of practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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