The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Dean John A. Hird

My work in helping to connect the world of expertise to policymaking is motivated by trying to improve upon processes exemplified by the following reflection:

I think it’s vital to de-professionalize the public debate on matters that vitally affect the lives of ordinary people. It’s time to snatch our futures back from the ‘experts’. . . . Frankly, however trenchantly, however angrily, however combatively one puts forward one’s case, at the end of the day, I’m only a citizen, one of many, who is demanding public information, asking for a public explanation. I have no axe to grind. I have no professional stakes to protect. I’m prepared to be persuaded. I’m prepared to change my mind. But instead of an argument, or an explanation, or a disputing of facts, one gets insults, invective, legal threats, and the Expert’s Anthem: “You’re too emotional. You don’t understand, and it’s too complicated to explain.” The subtext, of course, is: Don’t worry your little head about it. Go and play with your toys. Leave the real world to us. (Arundhati Roy, Power Politics. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2001, pp. 24-5)

Improving the relationship between expertise and policymaking is important not just for better policymaking but for better democracy.


John A. Hird has served as Dean since April 2015, following a year as Interim Dean from 2014-2015. A faculty member at UMass Amherst since 1989, Hird is professor of political science and public policy. He was the founding director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration (now the School of Public Policy) and the master’s program in public policy and administration from 1998 to 2006. Hird chaired the department of political science from 2006-11 when he was appointed associate dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. In 2012, he was appointed senior associate dean.

His research focuses on the use of expertise in public policymaking. Hird is the author of “Superfund: The Political Economy of Environmental Risk,” “Power, Knowledge, and Politics: Policy Analysis in the States” and “Controversies in American Public Policy.” He and UMass Amherst political science professor Peter M. Haas are the co-authors of “Controversies in Globalization,” published in a second edition in 2013. Hird has published articles in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Policy Studies Journal, Yale Journal on Regulation, Social Science Quarterly, Regulation & Governance, and other professional journals.

Hird’s current projects include a forthcoming book with the University of California Press on the use of policy analysis in public policymaking and an edited international volume on policy analysis. He is also working on a National Science Foundation-funded project with UMass Amherst political scientist Bruce Desmarais on the use of science and other forms of evidence in regulatory policymaking.

Hird received his Ph.D. in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and served as a research fellow at the Brookings Institution in 1987-89 and economist with the President’s Council of Economic Advisers in 1988-89.

Contact Information

John A. Hird
Dean, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Professor of Political Science and Public Policy
230 Draper Hall - 40 Campus Center Way
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA, 01003 USA
Phone: 413.545.7187
Fax: 413.545.3349