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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 fulfillment of public office and the planning, making and executing of public policy, both in the Netherlands and abroad. The CPVE wants to connect, strengthen, and push forward research in this area.

Toon Kerkhoff

The CPVE was founded by two members of the Leiden Institute of Public Administration, dr. Toon Kerkhoff and dr. Patrick Overeem. With the departure of Patrick Overeem to the VU University Amsterdam in 2016, the CPVE has been led by Kerkhoff. While Overeem is still involved in some of the ongoing research of the CPVE, dr. Andrei Poama of the Institute of Public Administration has taken his role as member of the CPVE. In May 2019, dr. Shivant Jhagroe has become part of the CPVE. Shivant is also assistant professor of public administration at Leiden University.

The specializations of Kerkhoff, Poama and Jhagroe reflect the different orientations and interdisciplinary perspectives pursued at the CPVE. Kerkhoff focuses on questions of good governance and administrative ethics more particularly (especially corruption and integrity). He works from a historical, philosophical and public management disciplinary background. Poama works on criminal justice ethics and the political ethics of public policy (with a focus on questions of justice and fairness, and an interest in the democratic dimensions of morally controversial public policies). Jhagroe has two fields of interest: environmental politics and justice, and governance and ethics related to big data and algorithms.

In addition, various members of the Institute are connected to the CPVE on a more ad-hoc research basis.

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 many investigate normative ethical questions about governance. These include students of Public Administration, political scientists, philosophers, historians, or lawyers.

The Centre for Public Values & Ethics (CPVE) aims to be partner in this endeavour. 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 of governance. The CPVE's primary activity is conducting research on important normative questions that affect the public sector. The CPVE has a broad interest in questions on the quality of governance.

The CPVE has 4 main research projects

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 the centre 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. We also offer advice on specific questions! 

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 from Leiden and elsewhere are encouraged 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 normative questions in the public sector.

Research-led Teaching: Thesis Supervision and Capstone Projects

The CPVE is invested in working closely together with students of the Public Administration master programs offered at Leiden and elsewhere. We further research-led teaching by supervising master theses within our areas of expertise. We also relate our research to courses we teach in the bachelor and master curriculum. Furthermore, we organize so-called Capstone projects for master students of Public Administration. In these projects students write their individual master theses, but also work as a team on ongoing academic research of the CPVE and ongoing research projects. We offer various Capstones, on ad-hoc and project basis.

  • One long-running capstone project is entitled Corruption and Public Integrity in The Netherlands (1945 – present). 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.
  • One long-running capstone project is entitled Staatscommissies en advies aan de regering in Nederland 1814 – nu /State Committees. In this project we study the history of advice to Dutch central government by so-called State committees from 1814 to 2014. State committees have been installed by Dutch central government since 1814 to provide expert advice, research and mediation on numerous topics of public interest, ranging widely from infrastructure issues, to education policy, to civil service reform. State committees have, as such, contributed greatly to the formation of government and public service delivery in the Netherlands over the past 200 years.
  • Criminal Justice Ethics. The aim of this research project is to examine some of the central moral questions raised by criminal justice practices, such as the justification of the penal institution, the mode and extent of criminal sanctions enforcement, the content of criminal sanctions (imprisonment, fines, alternative punishments), the nature of the agent holding penal authority, the normative principles of criminalization, the possibility of imposing criminal sanctions on states and corporations, the norms of justice at play in state punishment and, more urgently, the moral dilemmas confronting the criminal justice practitioners and officials.
  • Public Ethics & Policy The aim of this incipient research project is to explore questions of moral disagreement in controversial policy areas. The focus is set on issues raised by principles of justice and fairness in the allocation of scarce resources, but we are also interested in questions as varied as the justification of citizenship tests, the participation of lay citizens in the public policy decision-making, criminal justice ethics, the ethics of nudging policies, the question of dirty hands in politics and administration etc.

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 activities such as:

  • 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 and furthering cooperation with scholars from other universities working in the same area and with other interested parties from the (semi)public sector.

In particular, we offer internships linked to the specific projects and areas of expertise of the CPVE. These include:

  • Research Internships on the Corruption & Integrity in the Netherlands (1945 - present) project. This includes such work as further development and improvement of the database, for instance by conducting original research on cases of public corruption, improving existing cases, and adding new case material. Data management and dissemination is also a potential topic for interns.
  • Research Internships on the Criminal Justice Ethics or the Public Ethics and Policy project. This includes work on the ethics of criminal justice sentencing and sanction enforcement, the punishment of states and corporations, the place of victims or lay individuals in the criminal justice practices, as well as policy practices and decisions that concern questions of fairness and justice in the allocation of scarce resources or on the problem of ethical reasoning and ethical methods in public policy ethics.

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

Vassos Tsimpidaros

Vassos Tsimpidaros is currently a research assistant with the Public Ethics Talks series. Vassos completed his undergraduate studies in Political Science and History at Panteion University, Greece (2015). He completed his master’s in International Relations at Leiden University, Netherlands (2017). His undergraduate thesis concerned the “Political Activity of the Greek Community in London during the Greek Military Dictatorship (1967-1974)”. His master’s thesis was about the “European Economic Sanctions imposed against Russia after the latter’s annexation of Crimea” examined through the theoretical lenses of the constructivist approach. Vassos has also completed an internship at the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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 current normative questions in the public sector. The CPVE for instance works together with the Centrum Arbeidsverhoudingen Overheidspersoneel (CAOP) on studying and debating integrity in the Dutch public sector. Academic quality and independence are our prime responsibilities. The CPVE also aims to offer advice and expertise in the form of public speaking engagements. Please feel free to contact us!

Possible themes on which we can offer advice are:

  • When is something called an integrity violation? What is corruption?
  • 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 network governance enhance risks of conflict of interest? 
  • What are the moral principles underlying criminal justice systems in liberal democracies?
  • How should we think about justice in relation to state punishment?
  • What are the adequate limits of state/government authority in matters of punishment?
  • Can and should non-individual entities, such as states or corporations, be punished?
  • What is the place of victims in deciding and enforcing criminal sanctions? 
  • How should we deal with moral disagreement in controversial policy areas?
  • What are the appropriate methods and approaches for theorizing public policy ethics?
  • How should we evaluate and treat dirty hands cases in politics, policy and administration?
  • What are the normative justifications for lay participation in policy-making?
  • Are democratic decision-making procedures (voting, deliberation, lotteries) epistemically justified?

The Centre for Public Values & Ethics (CPVE) hosts a Virtual Research Environment (VRE). This online environment allows for collaboration and communication with other academics in our field as well as (research) students and interns. The VRE also serves to disseminate and share our research data and enables us to enlarge our national and international network. Access to (a particular part of) the VRE can be requested via Kerkhoff and/or Poama.

We currently have 4  projects in our VRE: 

1. Corruption & Integrity in the Netherlands (1945 - present) – headed by  Kerkhoff and  dr. Patrick Overeem.

The CPVE organizes a series of Public Ethics Talks to initiate an inclusive conversation on current normative questions in national (Dutch) and international governance. The series is organized by the CPVE in collaboration with the Institute of Security and Global Affairs and Leiden University College within the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs. As part of the so-called Step Talks series within the Faculty, the series is held in public and are open to a wide audience of public professionals, students, and academics. It will bring in cutting-edge work in ethics, moral philosophy, political theory and the normative theory of law to reflect on the practice of public policy, organization and management.

Previous Public Ethics Talks 2018 - 2019

Previous Public Ethics Talks 2017-2018

  • Bernardo Zacka (Cambridge University/MIT), The Moral Life of Street-Level Bureaucrats
    20/02/2018  (16:00-17:30) Spanish Steps at Wijnhaven
  • Janet Radcliffe-Richards (Oxford University), Careless Thought Costs Lives: Ethics and Transplants
    20/03/2018 (12:00-13:30) Spanish Steps at Wijnhaven
  • Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (Hertie School of Governance), Promoting Good Governance Across Borders: The Case of the European Union
    10/04/2018 (16:00-17:30) Spanish Steps at Wijnhaven
  • Peter Singer (Princeton University/ANU), Global Ethics: A Utilitarian Approach
    19/06/2018 (16:00-17:30) Spanish Steps at Wijnhaven

For more information about Public Ethics Talks please contact Andrei Poama.

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