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Methods and Data Collection in Researching Transnational Policy Networks in Contemporary EU Politics

European Politics
European Union
Governance
Public Administration
Methods
Sebastian Steingass
College of Europe
Sebastian Steingass
College of Europe
Alexandra-Maria Bocse
The London School of Economics & Political Science

Abstract

This paper discusses methodological challenges of researching informal policy-making and networking practices in contemporary EU politics. Methods of researching transnational networks have received little attention in the study of international bureaucracies. While networking practices are relevant for transnational policy-making, researching them is methodologically challenging: membership in networks spans across organisational boundaries and levels of governance, participants are subject to different institutional identities and incentives, and networks are characterised by different levels of formalisation and consistency. This paper discusses three related challenges of researching transnational policy networks: i) identifying networking practices and membership; ii) studying networking practices and data collection (methods of data collection, gaining access, research ethics etc.); and iii) presenting findings of what structures networking practices. To illustrate these challenges, the paper draws on two case studies: 1) The first study brings to the forefront the voices of contemporary energy security policy actors in order to capture their formal and informal policy-making and networking practices across the EU. 2) The second case study reveals transnational policy-making and networking practices of issue professionals in transforming aid effectiveness principles into EU policy norms. These case studies illustrate challenges of identifying networking practices in volatile, unstructured networks. The paper concludes with a discussion of the contributions and drawbacks of different ways of approaching the identified challenges in the study of transnational networks. This discussion contributes to our ability to identify networks and their practices to guide relevant empirical research, which can inform theoretical conceptions of networks in international public administrations.