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Stephen Martin

Professor Stephen Martin

Director, Wales Centre for Public Policy

Cardiff Business School


Steve Martin is Director of the Wales Centre for Public Policy and Professor of Public Policy and Management in the Business School.

Steve leads the Wales Centre for Public Policy ( Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Welsh Government, the Centre is a member of the What Works Network. It collaborates with researchers from across the UK and internationally to bridge the gap between academia and policy makers in order to provide ministers, civil servants and public service leaders with the best available evidence on key policy challenges. In 2019 the Centre was a finalist in the prestigious ESRC Impact on Public Policy awards and alongside its work with policy makers it is conducting a programme of leading edge research to advance understanding of evidence use in policy making.

Steve has a long and successful track record of establishing and leading research centres, groups and teams.  He founded and directed the Centre for Local & Regional Government Research, playing a key role in establishing Cardiff University’s international reputation for research on public services and local government policy. Prior to joining Cardiff University, he led the Local Authority Research Consortium at Warwick Business School where he taught public policy and business strategy.

Steve has lead numerous large scale research programmes which have attracted more than £20 million of funding from reseach councils, the European Commission, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Leverhulme Trust, UK central government departments, the Scottish Government, Audit Commission, Accounts Commission, the Improvement and Development Agency, Standards Board and the Local Government Association.

His research has focused on public policy evaluation and public service improvement and he is acknowledged as one of the UK's leading academic experts on local government policy. He has authored more 90 papers in peer reviewed journals, 30 book chapters and 200 commissioned reports.

Steve has served on a range of commissions and advisory bodies.  He was a Director of the Improvement and Development Agency from 2003-2010, a Director of the New Local Government Network from 2007-2016, and the Academic Advisor to the Independent Review of Local Public Services chaired by Sir Jeremy Beecham 2005-2006. He led the UK Government's Expert Panel on Local Governance from 2009-2011 and has given evidence to numerous select committees and inquiries. He has worked as an expert adviser to the European Union, UK Treasury, Cabinet Office, Department for Communities and Local Government, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Scottish and Welsh Governments, Sport Wales, as well as a range of local governments and voluntary organisations. 

Steve was co-editor of Policy & Politics from 2015-2020 taking its impact factor from below 1 to its highest ever level at 3.1, and he is currently a member of several other editorial advisory boards.  

He has developed, led and taught on graduate and post-graduate programmes at Cardiff, WarwicK, Birmingham and Aston Universities and has served as an external examiner of a range of PhDs and Masters programmes in the UK and internationally.
























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My research focuses on the evaluation of public policy and the use of research evidence by policy makers. I have a particular interest in local government policy, performance improvement and external inspection of public services.

I have led numerous large-scale evaluations conducted by multi-disciplinary research teams, and am a passiontate advocate for academically rigorous, policy relevant social science research that can help to inform national and local policy decisions.  

I wrote two top rated impact cases for the last (2016) Research Assessment Exercise and am co-authoring two of Cardiff's impact cases for the next (2021) REF. 

Selected Research projects

  • The value of trades unions, Wales TUC, 2019, £25,000.
  • Increasing the impact of the What Works Network across the UK, Economic & Social Research Council, 2017-2018, £75,000.
  • Wales Centre for Public Policy, Economic & Social Research Council and the Welsh Government, 2017-2022, £6.1 million.
  • Wales Programme for Government, Economic and Social Research Council, 2017, £16,574.
  • Constitutional change and devolution, Economic and Social Research Council, 2015-2017, £160,000.
  • What Works in Tackling Poverty, Economic and Social Research Council, 2014-2017, £200,000.
  • Public Policy Institute for Wales, Welsh Government, 2013-2017, £1,800,000.
  • Wales Public Services 2025, NHS Confederation, WLGA, Solace, CHC and WCVA, 2015-2018, £150,000.
  • Managerial innovation in local government, Cardiff University, 2014-2018, £100,000.
  • Local Government Knowledge Navigator, Economic and Social Research Council, 2012-2014, £150,000.
  • Seeds of Change: the Future of Welsh Public Services, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Big Lottery and Carnegie UK, 2012-2013, £55,100.
  • Evaluation of the local services board ESF development and priority delivery project, Welsh Government, 2012-2016, £150,000.
  • Independent Evaluation of Fire Peer Challenge, Chief Fire Officers Association and Local Government Association, 2013-2014, £20,000.
  • Independent Evaluation of Corporate Peer Challenge, Local Government Association, 2012-2014, £51,000.
  • Developing meta-evaluation methods, Economic and Social Research Council, 2010-2012, £25,000.
  • Expert Panel on Local Governance, Department of Communities and Local Government, 2009-2010, £188,000.
  • Independent assessment of Comprehensive Area Assessment, Audit Commission, 2009-2010, £85,000.
  • Learning to Improve: Independent evaluation of local government policy, Welsh Assembly Government, 2008-2012, £540, 800.
  • The impact and effectiveness of the ethical framework in local government, Standards Board for England (2008-2011)
  • Comparing for improvement: the development and impact of public services audit and inspection, Economic and Social Research Council (2006-2008)
  • Competition and contestability in public services, Audit Commission (2006-2008)
  • Review of the Best Value Audit Process, Accounts Commission (2006-2007)
  • International approaches to local governance, Department for Communities and Local Government (2004-2007)
  • Meta-evaluation of the Local Government Modernisation Agenda, Department for Communities and Local Government (2003-2007)
  • Independent review of the role and effectiveness of councillors, Welsh Assembly Government (2006-2007)
  • Evaluation of the long term impact of the Best Value regime, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (2001-2006)
  • Mid tern review of structural fund Objective 1 and 3 programmes, Wales European Funding Office (2002-2003)
  • Evaluation of the Neighbourhood Support Fund, National Youth Agency (2001-2004)
  • Beyond performance management, Economic and Social Research Council (2001-2004)
  • The impact of inspection on local government, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2001-2004)
  • Partnership working between the public, private and voluntary sector, Welsh Assembly Government (2001-2003)
  • Evaluation of the Best Value Pilot Programme, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1997-2000)


Additional teaching

I established and led Cardiff University's successful Masters of Public Administration programme for six years and have taught MBA and undergraduate programmes at Aston, Birmingham and Warwick Universities.

I have served as external examiner for Masters Queen Mary University, Birmingham University and Trinity College Dublin and have examined PhD theses at a range of universities. 

I taught on Local Government Improvement & Development Agency's Leadership Academy and its Graduate Diploma Programme for many years, and have provided in-house training for the National Audit Office and a range of local authorities. I led the 'Understanding Whitehall' for senior local authority officers and elected members, and I was a module leader on the European Union's MEANS programme, providing training in evaluation methods to senior Commission officials. 



  • DipITP, University of Marseilles
  • PhD, Aston University
  • BA (Hons) First Class, Oxford University

Honours and awards

  • Economic & Social Research Council Prize for Outstanding Impact on Public Policy, finalist (2019)
  • Cardiff University Impact and Innovation Award, winner (2018)
  • Cardiff University Excellence in Research Leadership, finalist (2017)

Academic positions

  • 2013-2017: Director, Public Policy Institute for Wales 
  • 2000-2014: Director, Centre for Local & Regional Government Research, Cardiff University
  • 1999-2000: Reader, University of Warwick 
  • 1994-1999: Principal University Research Fellow, Warwick Business School
  • 1988-1994: Lecturer, Aston Business School                                    
  •  1986-1988: ESRC Research Fellow

Committees and reviewing

  • Editor - Policy & Politics
  • Editorial Board - Public Money & Management, Local Government Studies
  • Grant Reviewer - Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, Nuffield Foundation
  • Journal Reviewer - Public Administration, Public Management Review, Regional Studies, Local Government Studies, Public Money & Management.