Dr Alice Moseley
Lecturer in Politics
I am a Lecturer in the Department of Politics (since Jan 2016) having previously worked as a research fellow at Exeter and a lecturer and research fellow at the University of Southampton.
My research agenda focuses on two main linked areas: (i) behavioural approaches to public policy and public administration; (ii) citizens' interactions with the state, including co-production and participation in public services, and civic/ political engagement more broadly.
I am currently working on projects that address the operation and mitigation of cognitive bias in the bureaucracy (BA/ Leverhulme), as well as the use of behavioural interventions designed to enghance civic and political engagement in domains such as volunteering and voter registration. Other areas of public policy that I interest me include environmental policy, housing, social welfare, electoral administration/ participation and democratic engagement, including deliberative democracy.
Much of my recent work makes use of experimental methods, especially field experiments, although I am a mixed methods researcher and make use of a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods.
Research group links
I research topics in the fields of public policy and public administration, as well as political and civic participation. Some key interests include the following:
- Behavioural Public Policy - the ethics and effectiveness of behavioural tools of public policy
- Behavioural Public Administration – understanding biases, perceptions and behaviour of actors in public administration, including bureaucrats, policy makers and citizens
- Citizen participation in public policy and politics - eg co-production, deliberative mini publics, electoral participation
- The links between citizens' experiences of public services and their engagement with the civic and political realm
Past and Present Research Projects
ESRC Impact Acceleration Account/ Devon County Council: "Deliberating pathways to net zero emissions with mini-publics: a collaborative evaluation", Jan-Dec 2020
Prof Patrick Devine-Wright (PI) and Dr Alice Moseley (CI), with Doug Eltham (DCC)
Following the declaration by Devon County Council (DCC) of a Climate Emergency in 2019, 25 organisations came together to form a Devon Climate Emergency Response Group and a Net Zero Task Group. Together these groups have decided to conduct a Citizen's Assembly on Climate Change in 2020. A representative sample of Devon Citizens will meet over several days to deliberate evidence and expert testimony on how best to tackle carbon emissions, with the participants tasked with identifying priorities and making recommendations to feed into local policy and planning through the Devon Carb Plan.
Our co-produced research is a mixed method study which seeks to further understanding of the value of this type of process from the perspective of the citizens involved, project stakeholders and expert witnesses. First, we will assess how the process is perceived in terms of legitimacy, transparency and effectiveness. Second, the research will consider the potential for this type of deliberative mini public to be used in other areas of local policy. Finally, the project will generate insights and lessons for other local authorities and public bodies considering the use of deliberative engagement within their efforts to tackle climate change. Project outputs will include a webinar, a workshop and a summary report as well as academic outputs.
Mitigating Cognitive Bias in the Bureaucracy: Survey Experiments with UK Public Officials, Leverhulme/ British Academy Small Grant, May 2019 - Sept 2020.
Dr Alice Moseley (PI). The British Academy funding was derived from a partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Public officials involved in devising and delivering public policy, like all people, are prone to cognitive biases - unconscious influences which affect the interpretation of evidence and subsequent decision-making. Factors like emotions, inertia and a concern with the immediate moment can exert undue influence, leading to decisions that might not always be considered the most 'rational'. In the context of public policy, this can sometimes lead to problems such as inappropriate allocation of public resources, unnecessary regulation or incorrect interpretations of risk. This research seeks to understand how best to tackle cognitive bias in public policy decision-making. The research will use a survey experiment, containing hypothetical, but realistic, decision making scenarios, which tests the impact of different strategies designed to reduce the effects of cognitive bias on public officials' decision-making. The research will include public officials in central and local government.
Youth Voter Registration Pilot Project: Exploring Barriers, Understanding Triggers. University of Exeter ADR Open Innovation fund. June 2018- Jan 2019.
This seedcorn project engaged different stakeholders to generate lessons about how best to encourage and support voter registration amongst young people. It was funded from the University's Internal ADR Open Innovation fund, with a view to developing a larger research proposal which is currently underway. The pilot project included meetings with local authorities, universities, the Cabinet Office, and young people. Focus groups were conducted with young people, both university students at Exeter and college/ school pupils, to explore their understandings and experiences of voter registration and to generate findings on how best to design interventions to be tested in the field as part of a larger research project with direct policy implications.
The larger project is being developed collaboratively with a multi-university academic team - Alistair Clark and Emily Rainsford (Newcastle University), Gabriel Katz (Exeter University) and Stuart Wilks-Heeg (Liverpool University), and with local authorities and universities.
Helping Citizens to Exercise Choice in Public Services, UKRC Catalyst Seed Fund, 2014
Dr Alice Moseley (PI), Professor Oliver James (CI) and Dr Carolyn Petersen (CI), University of Exeter.
This project explored (i) citizens’ use of different forms of information to inform choices (eg performance information, peer testimony, research, own experience); (ii) existing services to support choice (eg brokerage, benchmarking websites, decision aids). Provider and service user views in health and social care settings were incorporated. Seed funding was used to run workshops and ‘sandpits’ to develop a co-produced research agenda with public service commissioners and providers on the development and testing of mechanisms to support user choice.
Giving Time Project, ESRC Funded, June 2012 - Dec 2014
A collaborative project between University College London, the University of Exeter, the University of Manchester and the University of Southampton. Research Team: Professor Peter John (PI), Professor Gerry Stoker (CI), Professor Oliver James (CI), Liz Richardson (CI). Research Fellows: Dr Alice Moseley & Dr Matt Ryan.
Why people give time to contribute to the public good on a voluntary basis is a subject which has held an enduring interest for scholars across the social sciences. The project examined whether sharing information about how others have contributed helped to increase volunteering. The project includes randomised controlled trials, including one exploring the impact of leader (politician, celebrity and peer) endorsement on volunteering levels, and the other examining the effect of social information on volunteering levels. The results of the RCTs have been published are available on my publications page. The project involved volunteers from different contexts: students, those volunteering with national charities and citizens living in social housing.
Chief Executive Succession and the Performance of Central Government Agencies, ESRC Funded, 2010-2013
A collaborative project between the University of Exeter, the University of Kentucky and the University of Cardiff. Research Team: Professor Oliver James (PI), Professor George Boyne (CI) and Dr Nicolai Petrovsky (CI), Dr Alice Moseley (Research Fellow)
This project examined the causes and consequences of chief executive succession in UK Executive Agencies, using an original panel data set of UK Executive Agencies from 1988 to the present day incorporating biographical data on chief executives and measures of executive agency performance. Building on previous research on leadership change in local government, the project sought to provide a new perspective on succession in central government executive agencies focusing on the effect of ‘insiderness’. We examined a series of question including the effects of insider/ outsider background on performance, influences on chief executives’ length of tenure, explanations for the choice of insider/ outsider appointments, and explanations for the survival of central government agencies. The project webpage including working papers can be found here.
Rediscovering the Civic (ESRC Project), funded by ESRC Ventures, Communities and Local Government, North-West Innovation Network, 2007-2010
A collaborative project between University College London, the University of Manchester and the University of Southampton. Research Team: Professor Peter John, Professor Gerry Stoker, Professor Graham Smith, Dr Sarah Cotterill, Dr Alice Moseley, Dr Liz Richardson.
This project investigated the most effective means to encourage active citizenship. Citizen activities matter because engagement assists public policy outcomes, such as safer communities and more efficient public services. The project sought to develop greater knowledge and understanding of the link between interventions designed to stimulate participation, the level and depth of civic engagement and policy outcomes. This grant also aimed to develop greater knowledge of the type of interventions that policy-makers can undertake to sustain the activities of citizens as users and co-producers of services. The project used innovative experimental methods, including randomized control trials and design experiments, as well as more traditional survey re-analysis, to understand the civic-outcome link. The research was particularly timely in its impact on recent policy debates about ‘nudge’ and led to the publication of the book Nudge, Nudge, Think, Think (John, Cotterill, Moseley, Richardson, Smith, Stoker & Wales).
The Governance of Collaboration in Local Public Service Delivery Networks: An Empirical Study of the Influence and Dynamics of Vertical and Horizontal Coordination Tools in English Homelessness Services (ESRC/ ODPM/ PwC PhD Funded), 2004-2008
My doctoral thesis assessed the effectiveness of policy tools designed to foster collaboration in local public service delivery networks and provided an in-depth case study of the underlying bureaucratic politics of collaboration. A mixed methods approach was employed, combining evidence from documentary sources, a postal survey of 193 English Local Authorities and interviews with 'street level bureaucrats' and with civil servants in central government.
I am happy to offer research supervision for doctoral students in areas close to my research interests, especially behavioural public policy and administration, accountability and governance in public services and civic/ political engagement of citizens.
Rebecca Baker, Doctoral Researcher (2017-2020). Funded by Vice Chancellor's Award.
Topic: The impact of a politics and government focused curriculum on civic and political engagement in 16-19 year olds in Further Education. A mixed methods study using surveys, focus groups and field experiments.
Co-supervised with Professor Oliver James.
Greg Stride, Doctoral Researcher (2019-2022). Funded by the ESRC (South West Doctoral Training College)
Topic: Public Confidence in the Electoral Processes of the United Kingdom
Co-supervised with Professor Susan Banducci.
I serve on the Politics department's Equality and Diversity Committee and am part of the Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team.
Service to the Profession/ external roles
Professional Associations & Networks
I am co-convenor of the Political Studies Association's (PSA) Specialist group in Public Policy & Administration, and before that was the Group Secretary for several years.
I am a member of the European Group for Public Administration.
I am an affilitate of the Global Systems Institute.
I act as peer reviewer for the following international journals:
Behavioural Public Administration, European Journal for Political Research, Journal of Experimental Political Science, Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory, Public Administration Review, Public Policy & Administration, Public Management Review, Public Money & Management, Public Administration, Policy Sciences, Local Government Studies.
External impact and engagement
Much of my work involves working with non-academic partners to generate research with relevance to public policy. I also engage in projects that involve disseminating and increasing the accessibility of research findings to non-academic audiences. Much of this interest stems from my background prior working with social workers and health professionals, for example running 'evaluation clinics' to help practitioners devise research designs for evaluating the impact of the work they do, and conducting research reviews on the impact of social care interventions for practitioner audiences.
Below are a few examples of engagement work I've done with non-academic partners.
Public Event on Climate Change, May 2019. So You've Declared a Climate Emergency: What Next?
I had the privilege of speaking at a public event on the Climate Emergeny at the University of Exeter, hosted by the Global Systems Instutute. The evening event was aimed at discussing the implications of the declaration of a climate emergency by the UK Govt and by a growing number of local authorities and univerities, including Exeter University, Devon County Council and Exeter City Council. Public engagement was extremely high and there were over 500 attendeed across the Streatham and Penryn Campuses. Provocateurs gave a number of short presentations to generate debate, and a panel of experts took questions from the audience. The event incoporated a multi-disciplinary panel of academics, local activist groups, political parties and environmentally focused social enterprises. I spoke about Citizens Assemblies (CAs) to discuss and debate actions to mitigate Climate Change. CAs are a method being considered by local authorities and promoted by campaign groups such as Extinction Rebellion. They provide a mechanism for linking citizen deliberation with representative democracy, and are an innovative and rigorous way of feeding citizen input into policy making. They allow citizens to consider issues in depth, listening to experts and considering different stakeholder perspectives. There was lots of support for the idea of Citizens Assemblies amongst the public present at the event, evidencing a strong desire for citizens to be engaged in finding solutions to climate change. The conversations started at the event are ongoing and are helping open up dialogue and two-way learning on this vital issue between the University, the community and local stakeholder groups such as public authorities, business and NGOs.
Voter Registration Pilot Project - Summer/ Autumn 2018. Youth Voter Registration: Exploring Barriers, Understanding Triggers
This seedcorn project sought to engage different stakeholders to generate lessons about how best to encourage and support voter registration amongst young people. It was funded from the University's Internal ADR Open Innovation fund, with a view to developing a larger research proposal to the ESRC which is currently underway. The pilot project included meetings with local authorities, Exeter University, the Cabinet Office, and young people. Focus groups were conducted with young people, both university students at Exeter and college/ school pupils from Devon, to explore their understandings and experiences of voter registration and to generate findings on how best to design interventions to be tested in the field as part of a larger research project with direct policy implications.
This project is being developed collaboratively with a multi-university academic team - Alistair Clark and Emily Rainsford (Newcastle University), Gabriel Katz (Exeter University) and Stuart Wilks-Heeg (Liverpool University), and with local authorities and universities.
Giving Time: A Learning Event on Fostering Civic Engagement (ESRC Project) - Nov 2015
In Nov 2015 along with the National Association for Neighbourhood Management I co-organised a one day learning event with 70 Local Government and Third Sector Practitioners and fellow academics Prof Peter John (PI, UCL), Prof Oliver James (Exeter), Prof Gerry Stoker (Southampton), Liz Richardson (Mancester) and Dr Matt Ryan (Southampton) as part of the ESRC 'Giving Time' Project.
The day was a lively exchange of ideas and best practices about how best to encourage volunteering, sparked off with key research findings from field experiments we conducted as part of the ESRC Giving Time project. Our experiments attempted to work out how to boost volunteering amongst Older People, Students, Housing Association Residents, and how to encourage greater diversity amongst candidates standing for parish council elections.
The experiments used 'social information', ie information about what other people contribute, and other 'nudges' informed by psychological theory and behavioural economics. We focused on distilling key msessages from the research to inform practice amongst organisations trying to enhance volunteering.
This was a two way street as practitioners were able to give ideas about future experiments and help us interpret our findings as well as explaining what the findings meant to them. We had lively debates about using randomised controlled trials to inform practice and the use of Extreme Citizen Science as a form of citizen contribution to the public good. Guest academics and practitioners including Prof Muki Haklay (UCL), and Justin Davis-Smith (NCVO, now CASS Business Scbool) contributed keynote speeches.
See the live tweets from practitioners engaged in the Learning Event here:
Personalisation and Choice in Health and Social care - Feb 2015
In Feb 2015 with Devon County Council I organised a Research Sandpit and Learning Event attended by a group of over twenty health and social care service users, practitioners from Devon County Council and locally based Voluntary Sector and Infrastructure Organisations, as well as fellow academics from Exeter.
The aim of the day was to think through strategies for researching ways of supporting service users to access information and make choices regarding health and social care in the context of Personal Budgets and the 2014 Care Act. Key findings from research were discussed and practitioners and service users gave their views on how they could best be supported. The event was a great opportunity for practitioners to engage with one another and to discover what different organisations were doing to facilitate service user choice, and a chance to hear about cutting edge research on advice, information and choice.
The event was funded by The University of Exeter's Catalyst Fund with support and assistance from Devon County Council.
- POL2097 - Behavioural Public Policy and the Nudge Agenda
- POL3040 - Dissertation
- POL3223 - Political and Civic Engagement in an Age of Political Disaffection
- POLM014M - MPA Applied Studies
- POLM015M - Behavioural Public Policy and Administration
I was appointed Lecturer in Politics at Exeter in Jan 2016, having previously taught at the University of Southampton.
I was lucky enough following completion of my PhD in 2009 to hold post-doctoral research fellow positions on three major multi-university ESRC projects. Two of these projects investigated methods, informed by economic and psychological perspectives, aimed at influencing levels of civic engagement - the Rediscovering the Civic Project (2009-10) with the Universities of Southampton, Manchester and Exeter, and the Giving Time Project (2013-15) with UCL and the Universities of Exeter, Southampton, Manchester. The third project examined succession effects of leaders of UK civil service agencies (Executive Agencies Project) (2010-13) with the Universities of Exeter, Cardiff and Kentucky.
Prior to that I completed my PhD thesis on collaborative public sector management focusing on services for homeless people (see more details here). The project was funded by the ESRC in collaboration with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister with Price Waterhouse Coopers.
I am a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and convene modules on behavioural public policy and administration, and political and civic engagement. I coordinate the MPA with Applied Studies Programme and supervise undergradute and postgraduate dissertation students as well as supervising doctoral students.
In my spare time, I try to help out where I can on our organic farm surrounded by geese, cows and sheep, usually with my two young daughters in tow. I also enjoy a spot of violin playing and am learning the mandolin as well as being a school parent governor.