Dana A. Dolan
Social Scientist & Independent Researcher
University Affiliations: GMU and GWU
Ph.D. in Public Policy, May 2017

Hello and welcome to my academic website. Here you can learn about my research and teaching interests, service efforts, and a bit more.

My research takes a problem-focused approach to understanding the politics of policy making for long-term issues. My projects include an abductive case study funded by the National Science Foundation that reinterprets the Multiple Streams Framework to trace factors influencing the adoption of climate change adaptation policy, including extreme weather events and ongoing environmental degradation. In this and related projects, I seek to explore broad theoretical issues such as the role of crisis in decision making, the influence of international institutions on domestic policy making, and the spectrum of practices that spans (normal) politics, influencing, manipulation, and propaganda.

I am currently an independent researcher and a research affiliate with George Mason University’s Schar School for Policy and Government and a core member of Mason’s Center for Resilient and Sustainable Communities. In recent years I’ve taught highly motivated undergraduate and graduate students at Mason (public policy process) as well as The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs (qualitative methods). Pre-COVID this was all in-person, and while I miss the energy of the classroom experience, I’m enthusiastic about the unique opportunities of online synchronous teaching, drawing on the technical knowledge I gained in my prior career.

I earned by Ph.D. in Public Policy from the Schar School of Policy and Government in May, 2017. Before returning to academia, I held senior level positions in software research and development, including the role of Director of Research for the Telework Consortium, a subsidiary of the Software and Systems Consortium. Prior to this, I held positions at Lockheed Martin, Computer Associates, and some smaller government consultants that have been gobbled up by many bigger fish over the years. My perspective on research and policy is adapted from the ideas that underpin the best practices in complex multilevel software development: systems-based approaches to analysis, pragmatic design thinking for creative solutions, and continual process improvements.

If you read my CV, you might wonder what drove me to leave the world of software research and development, and dive in to the mix of social sciences that inform the interdisciplinary field of public policy. At some point, I’m not exactly sure when, I started questioning whether our efforts to do things right (in technology development, meaning how to build robust software applications, or how to share data in distributed computing environments, for example), we forgot to ask deeper philosophical questions like: Were we were doing the right things in the first place, and how would we know?

By “doing the right things,” I mean pursuing goals that are in the public interest, and building capacity for future success. Of course, the future is uncertain, and what’s in the public interest is a matter of ongoing debate. How collective groups in advanced democracies decide on which goals to pursue — agenda setting — is a fascinating piece of the puzzle. I’m increasingly passionate about understanding how some systems (societies, governments, interest coalitions, etc.) are able to change goals and directions, and reform existing policies once they (who, exactly?) decide the system isn’t headed in the right direction.

Are you passionate about these things, too? Let’s talk! You can contact me at ddolan1[at]gmu{dot}edu or dana.a.dolan[at]gmail{dot}com.