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Why I still don't prefer parsimonious solutions

posted Sep 6, 2017, 5:46 AM by Eva Thomann

Last week, Dimiter Toshkov published a blog post about rejecting QCA papers that do not use parsimonious solutions, in reaction to a statement by the COMPASSS Network of whose Steering Committee I am a member. He kindly invited me to reply:

"Thank you very much, Dimiter, for issuing this blog debate and inviting me to reply. In your blog post, you outline why, absent counterevidence, you find it justified to reject applied Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) paper submission that do not use the parsimonious solution. I think I agree with some but not all of your points. Let me start by clarifying a few things.

Point of clarification 1: COMPASSS statement is about bad reviewer practice

It´s good to see that we all seem to agree that “no single criterion in isolation should be used to reject manuscripts during anonymous peer review”. The reviewer practice addressed in the COMPASSS statement is a bad practice. Highlighting this bad reviewer practice is the sole purpose of this statement. Conversely, the COMPASSS statement does not take sides when it comes to preferring specific solution types over others. The statement also does not imply anything about the frequency of this reviewer practice – this part of your post is pure speculation.  Personally I have heard people complaining about getting papers rejected for promoting or using conservative (QCA-CS), intermediate (QCA-IS) and parsimonious solutions (QCA-PS) with about the same frequency. But it is of course impossible for COMPASSS to get a representative picture of this phenomenon.

The term “empirically valid” refers to the, to my best knowledge entirely undisputed fact that all solution types are (at least) based on the information contained in the empirical data. The question that´s disputed is how we can or should go “beyond the facts” in causally valid ways when deriving QCA solutions.

Having said this, I will take off my “hat” as a member of the COMPASSS steering committee and contribute a few points to this debate. These points represent my own personal view and not that of COMPASSS or any of its bodies. I write as someone who uses QCA sometimes in her research and teaches it, too. Since I am not a methodologist, I won´t talk about fundamental issues of ontology and causality. I hope others will jump in on that.

Point of clarification 2: There is no point in personalizing this debate

In your comment you frequently refer to “the COMPASSS people”. But I find that pointless: COMPASSS hosts a broad variety of methodologists, users, practitioners, developers and teachers with different viewpoints and of different “colours and shapes”, some persons closer to “case-based” research, other closer to statistical/analytical research. Amongst others, Michael Baumgartner whom you mention is himself a members of the advisory board and he has had methodological debates with his co-authors as well.  Just because we can procedurally agree on a bad reviewer practice, it neither means we substantively agree on everything, nor does it imply that we disagree. History has amply shown how unproductive it can be for scientific progress when debates like these become personalized. Thus, if I could make a wish to you and everyone else engaging in this debate, it would be to talk about arguments rather than specific people. In what follows I will therefore refer to different approaches instead unless when referring to specific scholarly publications.

Point of clarification 3: There is more than one perspective on the validity of different solutions

As to your earlier point which you essentially repeat here, that “but if two solutions produce different causal recipes,  e.g. (1) AB-> E and (2) ABC-> E it cannot be that both (1) and (2) are valid”, my answer is: it depends on what you mean with “valid”.


Read my full reply here

Call for papers for a symposium in Public Administration

posted Aug 30, 2017, 5:17 AM by Eva Thomann

Title of the Symposium:
Integration, functional differentiation and problem-solving in multilevel governance: a comparative perspective 

Guest editors: 

Dr. Philipp Trein,
Dr. Eva Thomann,
Prof. Dr. Martino Maggetti,

This symposium addresses the question of the relationship between integration, functional differentiation and problem-solving in multilevel governance. It does so by highlighting the added value of adopting a comparative perspective between the European Union (EU) and other entities, and, respectively of applying a multilevel governance framework to other contexts than the EU. 

Potentially successful contributions make an explicit point on the comparison in which they engage, and pose research questions such as the following:
  • How does the EU and other systems of multilevel governance (e.g., supranational organizations or federal states) compare in their relation of integration and problem-solving capacity?
  • How do different degrees of integration and/or functional differentiation (not) affect problem-solving capacity for governments at different levels in the multilevel system?
  • How do times of crisis and/or turbulence impact on problem-solving capacity in different configurations of integration and/or functional differentiation?
  • How do integration, functional differentiation and problem-solving evolve in various multilevel contexts?
  • Under which degrees of (institutional, policy, political) integration and/or functional differentiation do political conflicts impede effective problem-solving in multilevel governance systems?
Potentially successful contributions include:
  • Comparative empirical analyses of integration, functional differentiation and problem-solving in multilevel contexts that compare the EU to other cases, or compare different policy sectors within the EU
  • Empirical analyses that make a theoretical contribution to integration, functional differentiation and problem-solving in multilevel governance using other cases than the EU, or different theoretical perspectives that can inform the EU literature
  • Literature reviews that go beyond discussing the state of the art regarding integration and problem-solving in multilevel governance by providing a novel and stretching argument or insight and hence make a valuable and original contribution to multilevel governance Theory
Authors who are interested in contributing a paper should email an abstract of 500 words to the guest editors by September 22, 2017.
Find the
full Calll for Papers here

Why the implementation of European Union law is more than just a question of legal compliance

posted Jul 8, 2017, 10:09 PM by Eva Thomann   [ updated Jul 8, 2017, 10:23 PM ]

The European Union (EU) is an unprecedented instance of a regulatory state above the nation state. Its
underlying idea is to provide joint solutions to shared regulatory problems. For example, the EU issues emission reduction targets for new cars in order to address the problem of man-made environmental pollution. However, and as the above picture illustrates, it is not always an easy task to ensure that the actors responsible for a given problem – for example, car producers – comply with such rules. Member states have a crucial and double role here. On the one hand, they often have to transpose rules from EU Directives into national legislation. Beyond this, however, they also have to put these rules on paper into action, and enforce them to ensure that target groups actually comply. Germany, for instance, has not rigorously enforced EU emission reduction targets vis-à-vis the Volkswagen Company. To put it bluntly, EU law can be perfectly transposed and still fail due to poor implementation performance in practice.

It is important to study the conditions under which EU law is successfully implemented. Research about this topic tends to focus on the process of legal transposition. We know much less about the question of how policies on paper are put into action – not least because data about these phenomena are often hard to obtain. Clearly, however, EU policies change while being put into practice. As a result, policy outcomes vary widely between member states and may not correspond with the original policy objectives. This has become apparent again as the asylum or austerity crises challenge the EU’s problem-solving capacity. In our JEPP special issue “Moving beyond legal compliance: Innovative approaches to EU multilevel implementation”, we take a closer look at the implementation stage in “zooming in” on implementation performance and asking how domestic actors problem-solve when interpreting EU law.


Read the full post on the EU Law Enforcement blog

Don't miss our panel at the 2017 Conference of Europeanists in Glasgow !

posted Jun 23, 2017, 6:13 AM by Eva Thomann   [ updated Jul 10, 2017, 11:00 PM ]

European Union in crisis: (what) can we learn from other cases?
Panel at the 24th International Conference of Europeanists, Council for European Studies, Glasgow, Scotland, July 12-14, 2017
Territorial Politics and Federalism Research Network

Place and time:     Thursday, July 13 4:00 to 5:45 PM - University of Glasgow WMB - Hugh Fraser Seminar Room 2

Panel Chairs:
Dr. Eva Thomann, Institute of Political Science, Heidelberg University, Germany
Dr. Philipp Trein, Faculty of Social and Political Science, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Prof. Dr. Miriam Hartlapp and Dr. Philipp Trein

Panel description
The European Union (EU) is currently facing major challenges that not only put into question the overall process of European integration, but also the EU’s capacity to effectively resolve shared problems. In the quest to generate evidence that helps us to understand and mediate these problems, Europeanists tend to approach the EU as a unique and unprecedented economic, political and administrative system that requires a separate analytical approach. As a result, we often observe insulated strands of research on the EU that undertake little efforts to connect their insights to the broader study of similar phenomena. To the contrary, this panel seeks to illuminate how we can learn about contemporary challenges in the EU from other cases and theories. The panel gathers contributions on a broad range of topics concerning the EU that explicitly use theoretical, analytical or empirical insights from other strands of literature and empirical cases. Comparable cases include, for example, other multi-level governance systems; other inter- and supranational organizations; and referenda in (semi-) democratic systems. Useful theoretical and practical insights may be gained from the literature on democratic participation, policy integration, management reforms, risk regulation, policy learning, and multi-level implementation theory. The panel gathers papers that explicitly argue for comparability and derive lessons for contemporary issues in the EU. Thereby, the panel seeks to unravel the potential and limits of how cumulative knowledge in Political Science and related fields may advance our current understanding of the EU in important ways.


EU Referenda: What to Learn from the Swiss Case.
Eva Thomann, Heidelberg University; Eva  Heidbreder, University of Dusseldorf; Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen, University of Bern; Fritz  Sager, University of Bern

Cross-Sectoral Policy Integration in Energy  Governance: The EU and International  Governmental Organizations Compared.
Jale Tosun, Heidelberg University; B. Guy Peters,  University of Pittsburgh

Moving Beyond the Sui Generis Verdict: Comparing Management Reforms in the European Commission with Other International  Organizations.
Jörn Ege, German University of  Administrative Sciences Speyer; Michael Bauer, German University of Administrative Sciences  Speyer

Regulating Complexity in the European Union – the Role of the European Centre for Decease Prevention and Control in the H1N1 Case.
Esther Versluis, Maastricht University; Jinhee Kim, Maastricht University - Google Sites Tweet Button

Join us at ICPP 2017, Singapore: Disproportionate and Instable Forms of Policy Outputs

posted Jun 23, 2017, 5:58 AM by Eva Thomann   [ updated Jun 23, 2017, 5:59 AM ]

Panel:                     T03P02 - Disproportionate and Instable Forms of Policy Outputs
Panel Chairs :         Eva Thomann and Achim Kemmerling
Discussants:           Eva Thomann and Achim Kemmerling
Date and place:      Friday, June 30th 13:45 to 15:45 (CJK 1 - 2)

Paper presentations:

Disproportionate responses to European Union policy? Customized problem-solving in the food  safety sector
Eva Thomann - Heidelberg University - Germany

Excessive Policy Volatility: A Framework with Some Applications from the field of Pension Reforms
Achim Kemmerling - Central European University - Hungary
Kristin Makszin - Hungarian Academy of Sciences

A study on the policy stance of president and political salience of the central administrative agencies
Changho HWANG -DONG-A UNIVERSITY - Korea, (South) Republic of
M. Jae Moon -Yonsei University - Korea, (South) Republic of

State management issues in Latin America. Assessing “patterns of mismanagement” through empirical evidence from Argentina (2007-2015)
Luciano Andrenacci - Universidad Nacional de San Martín (Argentina) - Argentina
Julian Bertranou - National University of San Martín, Argentina - Argentina

Proportionate adaptation for climate risk management under uncertainty
Sreeja Nair - Singapore

Find the full panel details here

News from Exeter University's Centre for European Governance

posted Jun 8, 2017, 6:30 AM by Eva Thomann

"We are delighted to welcome Dr Eva Thomann who will take up her new job as senior lecturer in Politics at No automatic alt text available.the University of Exeter in September. We asked Eva to introduce herself to the CEG colleagues. Eva said: (...)"
Read the full announcement here

Beyond legal compliance in EU multilevel implementation

posted May 30, 2017, 4:47 AM by Eva Thomann   [ updated May 30, 2017, 4:59 AM ]

EU implementation research very much emphasizes member states’ legal compliance with EU law. However, as has been stated elsewhere be
fore, implementation is more than the mere transposition of EU directives into national law. Rather, policies change while being put into practice. As policymaking continues, policy outcomes vary widely between member states and may not correspond with the original policy objectives. This has become apparent again as the asylum or austerity crises challenge the EU’s problem-solving capacity. In our JEPP special issue
“Moving beyond legal compliance: Innovative approaches to EU multilevel implementation”, we take a closer look at the implementation stage in the EU. Rather than focusing on conformance with EU policies, we “zoom in” on implementation performance and ask how domestic actors problem-solve when interpreting EU law.


Read the full blog post by Eva Thomann and Fritz Sager on
The Official Blog of the Journal of European Public Policy

Special issue "Moving beyond legal compliance: Innovative approaches to EU multilevel implementation"

posted May 13, 2017, 6:36 AM by Eva Thomann

Check out the brand new contributions of our special issue in the Journal of European Public Policy, now available early online!

Research on implementation in the European Union (EU) is characterized by a strong focus on legal conformance with EU policy. However, this focus has been criticized for insufficiently accounting for the implications of the EU’s multilevel governance structure, thus providing an incomplete picture of EU implementation, its diversity and practice. The contributions of this collection represent a shift toward a more performance-oriented perspective on EU implementation as problem-solving. They approach implementation fundamentally as a process of interpretation of superordinate law by actors who are embedded within multiple contexts arising from the coexistence of dynamics of Europeanization, on the one hand, and what has been termed ‘domestication’, on the other. Moving beyond legal compliance, the contributions provide new evidence on the diversity of domestic responses to EU policy, the roles and motivations of actors implementing EU policy, and the ‘black box’ of EU law in action and its enforcement.

Eva Thomann, Institute of Political Science, Heidelberg University
Fritz Sager, KPM Center of Competence for Public Management, University of Bern
Eva Thomann, Institute of Political Science, Heidelberg University
Asya Zhelyazkova, Institute of Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen

Ellen Mastenbroek, Institute of Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen

Judith A.M. Gollata, Research group on Governance, Participation and Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg
Jens Newig, Research group on Governance, Participation and Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg

Nora Dörrenbächer, Institute of Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen

Miroslava Scholten, Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (RENFORCE), Utrecht University

Eva G. Heidbreder, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Heinrich Heine University Duesseldorf

Eva Thomann, Institute of Political Science, Heidelberg University
Fritz Sager, Center of Competence for Public Management, University of Bern

Schuman Centre's Seminar Series: The Best of Both Worlds? Logics of action and the customization of EU food safety directives

posted Feb 22, 2017, 12:22 AM by Eva Thomann

The concept of “customization” captures how countries adapt European Union (EU) policy to local circumstances, resulting in tailor-made domestic solutions to shared problems. Efforts to understand the underlying dynamics of Europeanization distinguish two logics of states as implementing actors. However, the exact interplay of the logics of consequences and appropriateness remains a black box. This presentation asks: under which conditions do transposing countries customize EU directives in rational and opportunistic manners, or according to institutionally embedded habits and norms, or both? The study hypothesizes four major interpretations of the relationship between the two logics, whose relative validity is tested by combining explanatory typologies with binomial probability tests and systematic within-case analyses. Results on the customization of EU food safety policies in four member states reveal that countries tend to customize macro-issues according to rationalist considerations, and micro-issues following a logic of appropriateness. This finding has useful implications for EU governance.

Eva Thomann from Heidelberg University, Germany is Visiting Fellow at the SPS Department.

Date:                  Wed 22 Feb 2017 16.30 - 18.00
Location:            Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia, European University Institute, Florence
Event details

Wieso Asylsuchende nicht überall gleichermassen in den Arbeitsmarkt integriert werden

posted Dec 15, 2016, 11:52 PM by Eva Thomann   [ updated Jan 12, 2017, 7:55 AM ]

Die Zeit, während der Asylsuchende auf ihren Asylbescheid warten, verursacht hohe Kosten für die Sozialwerke. Diese Kosten könnten mit einer schnellen Integration der Asylsuchenden in den Arbeitsmarkt gesenkt werden. Allerdings steht die negative Wahrnehmung von Asylsuchenden dem im Weg, vor allem in den Kantonen, in denen eine starke Linke fehlt. Im Lichte der gegenwärtigen Asyldiskussion stellt sich also die über den Schweizer Kontext hinaus zu beantwortende Frage: Soll sich der Entscheid über die Arbeitsmarktintegration von Asylsuchenden primär nach politisch motivierten Vorurteilen richten, oder sollen die eigentlich angestrebte Kostensenkung und -verteilung im Zentrum stehen? Die Unterschiede in den Konsequenzen sowohl für die betroffenen Asylsuchenden als auch für die öffentlichen Kassen sind erheblich. (...)

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