About SynEval

SynEval addresses the questions of how policy evaluation in Switzerland is influenced by the Swiss political system, and how policy evaluation in turn influences the Swiss political system. This topic is of great theoretical significance for political science and public administration theory, because until now, research on the relationship between specific attributes of political systems and the practice and institutionalization of policy evaluation is missing. It is also of great practical relevance, because considerable resources are invested in evaluations each year, and we need to know how to best make use of this investment and how to avoid negative consequences.

The Swiss political system is ideal for studying this question: Firstly, it has a high degree of internal heterogeneity that allows for within-system comparisons. Secondly, two attributes of the Swiss political system are of special relevance for policy evaluation, namely: federalism and direct democracy. Some scholars claim that federalism increases the demand for evaluations, others argue the opposite, and the same is true for direct democracy. A similar lack of consensus exists with respect to the influence of policy evaluation on the Swiss political system. In addition, a systematic analysis of interdependencies between attributes of the Swiss political system and evaluation is lacking, especially at the subnational level. Therefore, SynEval intends to analyze these relationships through comparisons at the cantonal level, and by using longitudinal and cross-sectional, inter-policy comparison.


Leading Questions

There are three leading questions in the SynEval project:

  1. How have the evaluation cultures developed in the Swiss political system during the last two decades?
  2. Why did they develop in the manner observed?
  3. What are the consequences of these developments for the Swiss political system?

The term evaluation culture is used here in a broad sense to refer to all aspects of evaluation, including institutions (as rules and organizations) and practices of evaluation (for a more detailed definition see below). The first question is mainly descriptive, the second and the third are analytical.


Structure of SynEval

Research of SynEval constitutes of four subprojects and is led by the Department of Political Science at the University of Zurich. The subprojects are attached both to universities of German- and French-speaking Switzerland. While the subproject 1 is realized in cooperation of the universities of Lucerne and Geneva, the other three subprojects are led by one university respectively, the universities of Lausanne, Bern, and Zurich.

SynEval has started in January 2013 and will end in December 2015. This research network constitutes currently of 8 researchers and 8 PhD-students at those five universities.