Research papers

The Chair in Regulatory Practice research paper series informs practitioners on developments in the regulatory literature.

Papers in the series review the international academic literature and distill key-insights for an audience of regulatory professionals in government and other sectors. Papers also present key findings from the research carried out by the Chair.

Document list

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 11—Regulatory failure: A review of the international academic literature

Regulatory failure is much talked about, but little understood. Discussions about regulatory failure are often discussions about different understandings of what can be expected of regulatory governance and public regulation. The rhetoric of regulatory failure (typically a blame game) easily (and often) overshadows its analytical explanation. To improve our understanding of this topic, this research paper presents findings from a broad scoping of the international academic literature on regulatory failure. The literature review is structured according to four broad perspectives on regulation: public interest theory, public choice theory, private interest theory, and institutional theories.

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 10—Regulation and the war on red tape: A review of the international academic literature.

Since the 1970s, Australian governments have sought to reduce regulatory burdens, particularly on business, subject regulation to rigorous cost-benefit analysis, and constrain both the stock and flow of new regulation. Yet however measured, regulation continues to grow, frequently in response to community demand. In this article we interrogate both the more extreme claims of the anti-regulation advocates and the alleged successes of anti-red tape initiatives, identifying a critical clash of values over the role of the state and the appropriate relationship between government, business and the community. We conclude by arguing that to deliver desirable societal, economic and democratic outcomes, we need to acknowledge regulation as an asset, professionalise its workforce and more actively assert its public value.

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 09—New Zealand’s Regulatory Stewardship as a guiding philosophy for regulatory reforms.

In this research paper, the idea of Regulatory Stewardship is approached as a guiding philosophy for regulatory reform and its development and current state is contrasted with other such guiding philosophies. Considering the complexities of regulation, regulators should look at the performance of their regulatory systems in full rather than at the performance of parts of it when pursuing regulatory reforms. Regulatory reforms have long been approached, unintentionally, as zero-sum games in which improvements of some parts of regulatory systems would ask for sacrifices of other parts—typically, increased cost-effectiveness has been traded off against reduced accountability, transparency, equity, or certainty. When looking at the performance of regulatory systems in full, regulators are forced to think about such trade-offs early on. Arguably, the Regulatory Stewardship experience in New Zealand illustrates that changing this mindset is possible despite many challenges.

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 08—The politics of regulation: A review of the international academic literature

How much politics goes into the development, implementation, evaluation, and reform of regulation? This question has been at the forefront of regulatory scholarship for over four decades. The current chapter maps how scholars of public administration in general and regulatory scholars in particular have theorized the politics of regulation. It first reflects on three of the major theories about the need for regulation: economic perspectives, public interest perspectives, and institutional perspectives. In the slipstream of these theories, regulatory models have for long built on the understanding that either deterrence, intrinsic motivations, or information provision are the best way to achieve compliance with regulation. The second part of the chapter engages with more recent regulatory reforms. These have begun to mix incentives (resulting in models such as Responsive Regulation and Smart Regulation) and have started to embrace insights from behavioural economics (resulting in models such as Nudging). This all to develop regulatory interventions that are more tailored to the characteristics of the individuals and organizations they target. Recent regulatory reforms have also begun to embrace non-governmental individuals and organizations as essential parts of regulatory regimes (resulting in theorizing on co-regulation and regulatory intermediaries), as well as question the need for a (politics of) regulation of regulation (resulting in theorizing on agencification, meta-regulation, and regulatory stewardship).

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 07—Towards a profession of public regulation: Lessons from the New Zealand G-REG initiative

For many years, governments around the globe have been called on to increase the professionalism of their public services. In response, governments around the globe have begun to professionalise the public service, including the development of professions of public service delivery. The New Zealand Government Regulatory Practice Initiative (G-REG) is an illustrative example of a network of government agencies responding to this call by providing a programme of standardised training for public servants. This research paper maps, explores, and interrogates this example to obtain a better understanding of whether a standardised programme can help to nurture and increase the professionalism of a community of public servants. It finds that the main challenge of such an undertaking is finding a balance between narrow professionalism (technical expertise and knowledge) and broad professionalism (acting proficiently and ethically). Lessons are presented on the opportunities and constraints of developing a profession of public service delivery (here the delivery of public regulation).

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 06—Responsive regulation in practice: A review of the international academic literature

This research paper presents findings from a broad scoping of the international academic literature on responsive regulation. It builds on a systematic evidence review of peer-reviewed articles published since 1992. The aim of the research paper is to assist executives, managers and frontline workers in regulatory organisations and units who are interested in responsive regulation. It addresses five themes:  the evolution of responsive regulation, practical examples of responsive regulation in practice,  evidence of the performance of responsive regulation, and the epistemic challenges and ethical challenges that come with this approach to regulatory governance and practice.

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 05—Professionalising regulatory practice: Lessons from the New Zealand G-REG initiative

The pervasive impact of regulation on society, coupled with regulatory failures often attributed to the performance of regulators, calls for the professionalisation of regulation as a practice, vocation, and discipline. To this end, governments and non-governmental organisations around the world have begun to explore pathways to build out the regulatory profession. New Zealand’s Government Regulatory Practice (G-REG) initiative is one of these. It is unique in that it seeks to build a professional community of regulatory practitioners across all levels of government and all regulatory systems. This research situates the G-REG initiative in an international context of regulatory professionalisation initiatives, and discusses the motivations for, and experiences with, developing a professional community of regulators within the public sector in New Zealand.

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 04—Systems thinking and regulatory governance

This research paper presents findings from a broad scoping of the international academic literature on the use of systems thinking and systems science in regulatory governance and practice. It aims to introduce those working in a regulatory environment to the key concepts of systems thinking and systems science, and to discuss the state of the art of regulatory knowledge on these topics. It addresses five themes: the evolution of systems thinking, examples of systems thinking from the academic literature, evidence of how systems thinking helps improving regulatory governance, and the epistemic challenges and ethical challenges that come with applying systems thinking to regulatory governance and practice.

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 03—Regulatory philosophy, theory and practice: Ka mua, ka muri

Regulation as a practice, profession and discipline has progressed considerably over the last 4,000 years. Modern regulation has shed its image of being a dull, rigid, and highly legalistic way to achieve policy outcomes. Today, all around the world, regulators actively experiment with innovative regulatory interventions, often supported by communities and the private sector. This research paper reflects on the long and often remarkable history of regulatory reform to lay out the main regulatory challenges of today, and explores how they can be best addressed in the future.

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 02—Risk governance and risk-based regulation: A review of the international academic literature

This research paper presents findings from a broad scoping of the international academic literature on the use of risk governance and risk-based regulation. It addresses five themes: the evolution of thinking about risk, risk governance, and risk-based regulation, examples of risk governance and risk-based regulation, evidence of the performance of risk governance and risk-based regulation, and the epistemic challenges and ethical challenges that come with this approach to regulatory governance and practice.

State of the Art in Regulatory Governance 01—Behavioural insights

This research report presents findings from a broad range of international academic literature on the use of insights from the behavioural sciences in regulatory practice—an approach to regulation colloquially known as ‘nudging’. The report is targeted at managers and frontline workers in regulatory organisations and units who are interested in this approach to regulation. The report addresses six themes:  the evolution of thinking about rational behaviour, examples of the use of behavioural insights in regulation, evidence of the workings of this approach, experiments and randomised control trials to understand those workings, ethical challenges, and epistemic challenges.