Economic Analysis of Academic Bureaucracies:

I'm looking for literature analyzing academic bureaucracies, especially from a public choice-type perspective. The parallels with government bureaucracies seem obvious in terms of empire-building and budget-maximizing proclivities, but I haven't been able to turn up any good resources that gives me a good model and analysis of the problem. Please feel free to post in the Comments or email me directly. Thanks.

jrdroll (mail):
You might try starting with the public school system. Data from there should be more plentiful. The "Ivory Towers" haven't had that kind of scrutiny.
7.8.2006 8:56pm
stefan (www):
Organizational Behavior has probably paid the most attention to university behavior, much more so than economics. In particular, universities seem to serve as the prime example of the Garbage Can model.

University OB is also shows up in Arthur Stinchcombe's organizational sociology book Information and Organizations (1990), in particular chapter 9.
7.8.2006 10:51pm
Gary Leff (mail) (www):
There's actually a good start in your colleague Gordon Tullock's Organization of Inquiry.
7.8.2006 10:59pm
Mike M (mail):
I'll respond from the point of view of an academic researcher. Every time I turn around, there's another form I have to fill out, and another level of bureaucracy created to deal with it. When IRBs first came in, I remember having to justify why I shouldn't have to go through a full human subjects review, even though the data I was using (FBI-collected crime data) could be downloaded by any junior high school student in Ulan Bator. My wife collects linguistic data and was looking for a grant to help her archive the data -- and they wanted her to destroy the data after she finished with it! [Her response: of course I will, right after I finish mining it (never).]

So I would suggest that you look at federal (and in some cases, state) requirements that translate into pouring molasses all over the research enterprise.
7.9.2006 1:35am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
So I would suggest that you look at federal (and in some cases, state) requirements that translate into pouring molasses all over the research enterprise.

Or you might just find out if the regulators have complied with the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Regulatory Reform Act, the Exec. Order on preventing takings of property, the one on protecting small businesses (or was that the Reg Reform Act, I now forget)...

Yes, even the regulators are regulated now. I omit, as probably irrelevant, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the exec. order on introducing exotic species, etc., etc.
7.9.2006 2:08am
ivyelm (mail):
I'd suggest looking at an interesting concept from Zemsky and Massy called the administrative lattice and the academic ratchet.

Here is some summary info about their concept:

The Ratchet and the Lattice: Understanding the Complexity of the Modern University
Peter Nichols
from the above:
The Lattice
The administrative lattice describes the proliferation and entrenchment of administrative staff at American colleges and universities over the past two decades. The term connotes not just the fact of this increase in staff - estimated at 60 percent nationwide between 1975 and 1985 - but its effects on an institution's operations and costs. These include the transfer of tasks formerly accorded to faculty; the growth of "consensus management," which effectively diffuses risk and responsibility for decisions; and the increase of costs and decline of efficiency as administrative bureaucracy extends and solidifies its ties within an institution. The impulse at almost every turn has been to develop the lattice further, rewarding administrative personnel who show initiative with larger staffs and increased responsibility.

The Ratchet
The academic ratchet refers to the steady, irreversible shift of faculty allegiance away from the goals of a given institution, toward those of an academic specialty. The ratchet denotes the advance of an independent, entrepreneurial spirit among faculty nationwide. Institutions seeking to enhance their own prestige may contribute to the ratchet effect by reducing faculty teaching and advising responsibilities across the board, thus enabling faculty to pursue their individual research and publication with fewer distractions. The academic ratchet raises an institution's costs, and it results in undergraduates paying more to attend institutions in which they receive less faculty attention than in previous decades.

Another summary:

The Academic Ratchet and Administrative Lattice
Researchers Robert Zemsky and William Massey used this metaphor to characterize the increasing professionalization and growth (latticing) of non-academic functions, while faculty ratcheted their interests down to the specific teaching and, more notably, highly specialized research endeavors that were key to academic advancement.  As the demand for analysis and information support increased in relation to the growing administrative infrastructure, professional institutional researchers were hired to take on the work previously done by faculty with relevant expertise as part of their institutional service loads.  (summary from link )
7.9.2006 8:42pm
Zywicki (mail):
You actually guessed it--my paper is on IRBs, which seem like a model of dysfunctional academic bureaucracies.
7.9.2006 9:15pm