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Research project

Centre for Public Values & Ethics

The Centre for Public Values & Ethics (CPVE) is an interdisciplinary, academic centre of expertise aiming to conduct and disseminate scientific research on normative issues in the public sector, in particular the fulfilment of public office, both in the Netherlands and abroad. The CPVE wants to connect, strengthen, and push forward research in this area.

Toon Kerkhoff

The CPVE is founded by two members of the Institute of Public Administration of the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs of Leiden University, dr. Patrick Overeem and dr. Toon Kerkhoff. Their specializations reflect the different orientations and interdisciplinary perspectives used at the CPVE. Patrick Overeem concentrates on questions of public values in general, using a political philosophical and ethical viewpoint. Toon Kerkhoff focuses on administrative ethics more particularly (especially corruption and integrity) and works from a historical and public administration disciplinary background.


The moral quality of governance ranks high on the public agenda. Attention for this theme is caused by individual transgressions as well as structural wrongs. In academia too, many (including students of public administration, political scientists, philosophers, historians, lawyers) investigate normative ethical questions about governance.

The Centre for Public Values & Ethics (CPVE) aims to be partner in this endeavor. It wants to achieve interdisciplinarity in its research by connecting insights from various perspectives (most notably public management, political science, history, and ethics) to tackle real world problems. The CPVE's primary activity is conducting research on important normative questions that affect the public sector. The CPVE attempts to formulate answers to questions such as:

  • How should public officials act?
  • What are public officials allowed to do and what not?
  • When do public officials violate integrity norms?
  • How can individual moral decisions be connected to ‘public’ values?
  • Under which circumstances does public morality develop?
  • Can political corruption be ascribed to bad organizational culture?
  • How have norms of public integrity developed in the course of history?
  • Is the value of ‘codes of good governance’ more than symbolic?
  • Do integrity policies in government also have unintended consequences?
  • Is the use of sophisticated forms of ‘integrity testing’ desirable or not?
  • Does managerialism violate professional values? 
  • Does network governance enhance risks of conflict of interest? 
  • When is a political compromise morally (un)acceptable? 

Research of the CPVE is both fundamental and applied, independently and in cooperation with partners. Scientific research in the field of public ethics is the basis for everything else the CPVE has to offer to others (contractors, students, the wider public). The results of research are presented as visibly as possible in international and Dutch publications and presentations. The CPVE also hosts a Virtual Research Environment for this purpose (see tab). 

The Centre for Public Values & Ethics (CPVE) research findings are disseminated through teaching within the Public Administration programs at the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs and whenever possible outside of it, too. Reversely, students are invited to participate in our research projects and/or to follow an internship. In teaching, as in research, we aim at thorough and strategic reflection on pressing normative questions in the public sector.

Academic internships

The CPVE has a limited number of spaces per year for academic internships. Here, students can work as part of the CPVE to assist with ongoing research and (public) activities. Our academic interns perform such activities as:

  • Further development and improvement of databases, for instance by conducting original research on cases of public corruption, improving existing cases, and adding new case material.
  • Contribute to the research and writing of scientific articles. This includes working on a proper research question, research design, studying literature, and writing draft texts.
  • Help with the development of data management policy, digital tools and online learning and research environments.
  • Promoting cooperation with scholars from other universities working in the same area and with other interested parties from the (semi)public sector.

For more information about a potential internship at the CPVE please contact us.

Capstone projects: research led teaching

For several years now, the CPVE organizes so-called capstone projects for master students of Public Administration in a project entitled Corruption and Public Integrity in The Netherlands (1945 – present). In a capstone project students write their individual master thesis, but also work as a team on ongoing academic research of the CPVE. In this project we study corruption and other serious breaches of integrity in the Dutch public sector (by politicians, executives, and civil servants) since 1945. The project contributes to the development of a database of corruption cases in the Dutch public sector. The database is presented in our Virtual Research Environment (see tab) and offers a valuable addition to existing research  with rich, thick description case studies of debates surrounding corruption scandals.

The Centre for Public Values & Ethics (CPVE) aims to combine fundamental and applied research on normative issues in the public sector. Applied research often results in prescriptions for contractors. In such cases, research develops into advice. The CPVE can of course be contacted for advice projects about more or less present-day normative issues in the public sector. Academic quality and independence are our prime responsibilities.

The Centre for Public Values & Ethics (CPVE) hosts a Virtual Research Environment (VRE). Via this online environment we collaborate and communicate with other academics in our field as well as (research) students. The VRE also serves to disseminate and share our research data and enables us to enlarge our national and international network. Access to the VRE can be requested via Toon Kerkhoff and/or Patrick Overeem. We currently have two projects in our VRE: Corruption & Integrity in the Netherlands (1945 - present) and Staatscommissies in Nederland 1814 – 2014 (State committees in the Netherlands).

Connection with other research