Frank R. Baumgartner is the Richard J. Richardson Distinguished
Professor of Political Science at The University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill. He joined the department in 2009 as the first holder
of the Richardson professorship. A proud Detroiter, he attended
Detroit's Cass Technical High School and then received all his academic
degrees at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, receiving his BA in 1980 (French and Political Science, Phi Beta Kappa, highest honors); his MA in 1983 (Political Science);
and PhD in 1986 (Political Science). He has held academic positions at The University of Iowa
(1986-87); Texas A&M University (1987-98); and Penn State University
(1998-2009) where he served as Department Head (1999-2004), Distinguished
Professor (2005-07), and then was the first holder of the Bruce
R. Miller and Dean D. LaVigne Professorship (2007-09). He has had
visiting professor appointments at Caltech (1998-99) and at the
universities of Michigan, Washington, Bergen (Norway), Aberdeen
(Scotland), the Institute for Public Management (Paris), Sciences
Po (Paris), the European University Institute (EUI, Florence, Italy),
the Camargo Foundation (Cassis, France), and the University of Barcelona
He currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal
of Public Policy, Public Administration, Policy Studies Journal,
Political Research Quarterly, the Journal of European
Public Policy, Gouvernement et Action Publique, and
other journals. His work focuses on public policy, agenda-setting,
and interest groups in American and comparative politics and has
appeared in such journals as the American Political Science
Review, American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics,
Comparative Politics, the Journal of European Public Policy,
and Legislative Studies Quarterly.
With Bryan D. Jones, he created the Policy Agendas Project (www.policyagendas.org),
and they continue to co-direct it, with John Wilkerson. Jones and Baumgartner have written three books together, all published by the University of Chicago Press: The Politics of Information (2015); The Politics
of Attention: How Government Prioritizes Problems (2005); and Agendas and Instability in American Politics (1993; second edition 2009).
In 2001, the APSA Organized Section on Public Policy awarded the
Aaron Wildavsky Award for this book as "a work of lasting impact
on the field of public policy."
With various collaborators, he has co-edited these books or special journal issues from the agendas project: The Dynamics of Policy Change in Comparative
Perspective, special issue of Comparative Political Studies (August 2011, vol. 44, no. 8; co-edited with Sylvain Brouard, Christoffer
Green-Pedersen, Bryan D. Jones, and Stefaan Walgrave); Comparative
Studies of Policy Agendas, a special issue of the Journal
of European Public Policy (13,7, September 2006; coedited with
Bryan D. Jones and Christoffer Green-Pedersen); Policy Dynamics (co-edited, with Bryan D. Jones; University of Chicago Press, 2002);
Other books include Basic Interests (with Beth Leech),
on the importance of interest groups in American politics and political
science (Princeton University Press, 1998) and Conflict and
Rhetoric in French Policymaking (Pittsburgh, 1989), on agenda-setting
in French politics.
In 2008, his book The Decline of the Death Penalty and the
Discovery of Innocence (Cambridge University Press, 2008, with
Suzanna De Boef and Amber E. Boydstun) was awarded the Gladys M.
Kammerer Award by the American Political Science Association for
the best book on US national policy. He remains involved in various
projects relating to the death penalty including its use in the
state of North Carolina.
In 2009, the University of Chicago Press published Lobbying
and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why (Frank R. Baumgartner,
Jeffrey M. Berry, Marie Hojnacki, David C. Kimball, and Beth L.
Leech), reporting the findings from the Lobbying and Policy Advocacy
Project, based on interviews with over 300 Washington lobbyists
and policymakers. This book won the Leon D. Epstein Outstanding
Book Award from the APSA Section on Political Organizations and
Parties in 2010.
In 2015 the University of Chicago Press published The Politics of Information (Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones), reflecting years of work on the policy agendas project. The book focuses on the inherent tension between the overwhelming complexity of the issues confronting government and the need for order, clarity, and clear lines of hierarchical control. Search, information, and monitoring systems that are well adopted for dealing with complexity involve redundancy, overlap, and networks of actors whose actions may be only partially coupled to others within the system; this is well reflected in the shared but conflicting institutions designed into the US government through the separation of powers and federalism. However, institutional designs for clear and efficient delivery of known and well-understood policy solutions should be more efficient. The book demonstrates this dynamic and provides a new understanding of the growth and development of the US government with a focus on the post-1947 period. It takes some of the ideas of complexity and bounded rationality first developed in The Politics of Attention and explores their implications in new ways.
His current research projects include several items, one of which is the continued extension of the Policy
Agendas Project. Comparative policy
agendas projects are underway in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, the European Union, France, Greece, Hungary, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and for the US states of Pennsylvania and Florida. These projects are at various stages of completion from just beginning to fully established. In 2015 we expect to launch a new web site allowing on-line analyses of policy trends in multiple countries. This will be based on the current www.agendasproject.org web site but will incorporate many international projects.
In 2015 Palgrave Macmillan published Agenda Dynamics in Spain (Laura Chaqués Bonafont, Anna M. Palau, and Frank R. Baumgartner), based on the Spanish agendas project. This is the third book to appear as part of the new Palgrave Macmillan series on Comparative Studies of Political Agendas. It represents the result of years of work on the Spanish agendas project, facilitated by a grant from the government of Catalonia and frequent visits to Barcelona during a 2011 sabbatical.
Much of his current agenda has to do with studies of race, with particular focus on the death penalty and on traffic stops. With UNC colleagues Seth Kotch (American Studies) and Isaac Unah (Political Science), he is writing a book tentatively entitled A Deadly Symbol: Race and Capital Punishment in North Carolina, focusing on the decline of the death penalty in the state, its low rate of use, but its potent racial symbolism throughout history. Other work related to the death penalty nationally focuses on rates of reversal, geographic concentration, and issues of innocence. In 2011 he began a research project with graduate student Derek Epp focused on the analysis of all traffic stops in the state, based on official data collected since 2000, but never subjected to systematic analysis. This work has led to considerable news coverage across the state and is engaging policymakers to address the problem of racial profiling.
In 2011 the APSA Section on Political Organizations and Parties
named Baumgartner the recipient of the Samuel J. Eldersveld Award
for Career Achievement.
He has been active in the American Political Science Association, serving, among other things, as Chair (2003-04) and member (2004-05) of the Nominating Committee, member of the APSR editor selection committee (2014-15), and Vice-President of the Association (2015-17). At the Midwest Political Science Association, he has served in various capacities including Co-Chair of the Program Committee for the 1995 annual meetings.
He is active in University service activities, serving as an elected member of the University-wide Faculty Council, as the Diversity officer for Political Science, and in various other service capacities. In 2013-14 he was director of admissions for the PhD program in political science. Since Fall 2014 he has served as the department's director of placement, helping our new PhD graduates to find their first jobs in the profession. While at Penn State he served as Department Head (1999-2004) during a time of a rapid rise in the visibility and research productivity of that department.
He occasionally makes comments in the media, and is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network; click here to go to his SSN profile.
He is married to Jennifer E. Thompson, co-author of the New York Times best-seller Picking Cotton and advocate for judicial reform, increasing awareness about sexual violence, and the elimination of the death penalty. Click on her photo below to go her her professional web site. He serves on the Board of Directors of Healing Justice, an organization Jennifer created in 2015 to help address the extensive human damage caused by wrongful convictions. Healing Justice hopes to promote restorative justice principles in wrongful conviction cases, assist with the provision of services to individuals harmed by wrongful convictions, and create opportunities to unify the diverse voices of those harmed in order to prevent future wrongful convictions.
Links to the left of this page will take you to information concerning
his CV, teaching materials, published books and articles, conference
papers, and links to web sites and research projects in which he
Prof. Baumgartner has a bajillion nephews and a lovely and inspiring wife.