Date of Award

June 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Peter J. Wilcoxen

Second Advisor

David C. Popp


Mixed methods, Multiple Case Study, Public participation, Schedule and Remedy Modelling, Superfund

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences



This research was performed to investigate public participation in highly technical policy

scenarios and the outcomes of this participation. A detailed evaluation of community

involvement at Superfund sites (via the Technical Assistance Grant, or TAG, Program) was

performed by researching a specific type of complex, highly-technical policy problem, using a

mixed methods approach, incorporating a quantitative econometric evaluation and qualitative

multiple case study of selected Superfund sites.

The existing literature on public participation argues that citizen involvement is central to

democratic decision-making and is an important part of the policy process. This study was

rooted in a series of research questions about public participation in technical settings. These

questions addressed the attributes of successful participation, the characteristics of technical

policy issues that could lead to gaps in successful participation, the expected impact of the

Superfund TAG program in addressing these gaps, and questions about the specific impacts of

the TAG program at Superfund sites on outcomes (schedule, remedy selected, and community

perceptions and satisfaction with the outcomes).

The Superfund program has the hallmark characteristics of a highly technical, complex

policy situation – it is characterized by technical complexity, solutions to the problems are

expensive, public involvement is expensive, the process is slow, and the technical parties

typically have better access to information than does the public. The quantitative research herein

identified several drivers for obtaining a TAG and demonstrated the impact of a TAG on

schedule and remedy. The case studies provided support for the expectations about barriers to

public participation in complex, technical settings, and expectations about the ability of the

TAG program to address some of the participation gaps. The research also identified areas for

public participation improvement, through providing independent technical advisors, support for

establishment of community networks, support for citizen advocates, and agency support for

capacity building.


Open Access