William D. Leach

University of Southern California
Sol Price School of Public Policy

Lewis Hall 312
Los Angeles, CA
leachw@price.usc.edu |  Visit Personal Website

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Bill Leach teaches in USC’s online master’s program in Public Administration. His studies of collaborative environmental management have appear in the top journals in public administration, political science, and planning. Dr. Leach has directed over $1 million of research sponsored by the National Science Foundation, U.S. EPA, and private philanthropies, and has provided scientific and policy advice to federal and state agencies such as the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the National Research Council. Prior to joining USC, he served as Research Director for the Center for Collaborative Policy at California State University, Sacramento, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Policy and Administration. Courses taught: Intersectoral Leadership; Economics for Policy, Planning and Development; Policy and Program Evaluation; Professional Practice of Public Administration; Human Behavior in Public Organizations Urban Planning and Social Policy

Schwarz, Norbert, Eryn Newman, and William Leach. 2016. "Making The Truth Stick and The Myths Fade: Lessons from Cognitive Psychology." Behavioral Science & Policy 2(1):85-95.
Abstract: Erroneous beliefs are difficult to correct. Worse, popular correction strategies, such as the myth-versus-fact article format, may backfire because they subtly reinforce the myths through repetition and further increase the spread and acceptance of misinformation. Here we identify five key criteria people employ as they evaluate the truth of a statement: They assess general acceptance by others, gauge the amount of supporting evidence, determine its compatibility with their beliefs, assess the general coherence of the statement, and judge the credibility of the source of the information. In assessing these five criteria, people can actively seek additional information (an effortful analytic strategy) or attend to the subjective experience of easy mental processing—what psychologists call fluent processing—and simply draw conclusions on the basis of what feels right (a less effortful intuitive strategy). Throughout this truth-evaluation effort, fluent processing can facilitate acceptance of the statement: When thoughts flow smoothly, people nod along. Unfortunately, many correction strategies inadvertently make the false information more easily acceptable by, for example, repeating it or illustrating it with anecdotes and pictures. This, ironically, increases the likelihood that the false information the communicator wanted to debunk will be believed later. A more promising correction strategy is to focus on making the true information as easy to process as possible. We review recent research and offer recommendations for more effective presentation and correction strategies.
URL: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/295478583_Making_The_Truth_Stick_and_The_Myths_Fade_Lessons_from_Cognitive_Psychology
Leach, William D. 2011. "Building a Theory of Collaboration." Frank Dukes, Karen Firehock, and Juliana Birkhoff, eds. Community-Based Collaboration: Bridging Socio-Ecological Research and Practice (pp. 146-188) Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.
Abstract: The debate over the value of community-based environmental collaboration is one that dominates current discussions of the management of public lands and other resources. In Community-Based Collaboration: Bridging Socio-Ecological Research and Practice, the volume's contributors offer an in-depth interdisciplinary exploration of what attracts people to this collaborative mode. The authors address the new institutional roles adopted by community-based collaborators and their interaction with existing governance institutions in order to achieve more holistic solutions to complex environmental challenges.
URL: https://pathbrite.com/billleach
Leach, William D., Christopher W. Weible, Scott R. Vince, Saba N. Siddiki, and John C. Calann. 2014. "Fostering Learning through Collaboration: Knowledge Acquisition and Belief Change in Marine Aquaculture Partnerships." Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 24 (3):591-622.
Abstract: One of the challenges of collaborative governance is fostering learning among diverse stakeholders who have very different views on disputed topics of science and policy. Collaborative partnerships are often touted as a type of decision-making forum that generates more learning than typically occurs in more adversarial forums. This study develops and tests hypotheses from the collaborative learning literature, using survey data from 121 participants in 10 partnerships that focus on marine aquaculture in the United States. As one of the fastest growing natural resource-based industries, aquaculture is also one of the most controversial. We find that two types of learning—belief change and knowledge acquisition—are fairly common in the studied partnerships, occurring for 56%–87% of participants. Regression models indicate that new knowledge is correlated with traits of the partnership, including procedural fairness, trustworthiness of other participants, level of scientific certainty, and diverse participation as well as with traits of the individual learner, including norms of consensus and scientific or technical competence. Contrary to expectations, knowledge acquisition is greater when the available science is uncertain and when stakeholders have lower technical competence. Our findings also challenge the idea that new information mainly reinforces existing beliefs. Instead we find that new knowledge acquired through the collaborative process primes participants to change their opinions on scientific or policy issues.
Leach, William D., and Paul A. Sabatier. 2005. "To Trust an Adversary: Integrating Rational and Psychological Models of Collaborative Policymaking." American Political Science Review 99(4): 491-503.
Abstract: This study explores how trust arises among policy elites engaged in prolonged face-to-face negotiations. Mirroring recent evidence that citizens' procedural preferences (as opposed to policy preferences) drive trust in government, we find that interpersonal trust among stakeholders in consensus-seeking partnerships is explained by the perceived legitimacy and fairness of the negotiation process more so than by the partnership's track record of producing mutually agreeable policies. Overall, hypotheses derived from social psychology do as well or better than those based upon rational-choice assumptions. Important predictors of trust include small and stable groups, generalized social trust, clear decision rules, political stalemate, congruence on policy-related beliefs, and absence of devil-shift (the belief that one?s opponents wield more power than one?s allies). Surprisingly, null or negative correlations exist between trust and network density, measured by membership in voluntary associations. The study illustrates the value of behavioral models that integrate institutional, rational, and psychological explanations.
URL: http://goo.gl/Krz8Y
DOI: 10.1017/S000305540505183X
Leach, William D. 2006. "Collaborative Public Management and Democracy: Evidence From Western Watershed Partnerships." Public Administration Review 66(s1): 100-110.
Abstract: This article provides a framework for assessing the democratic merits of collaborative public management in terms of seven normative ideals: inclusiveness, representativeness, impartiality, transparency, deliberativeness, lawfulness, and empowerment. The framework is used to analyze a random sample of 76 watershed partnerships in California and Washington State. The study reveals the exclusionary nature of some partnerships and suggests that critical stakeholders are missing from many partnerships. However, representation was generally balanced. National and statewide advocacy groups were absent from most of these place-based partnerships; public agencies were the primary source of nonlocal perspectives. Deliberativeness was relatively strong, indicated by the prevalence of educational and fact-finding strategies and participants' perceptions of respectful discussion and improved social capital. Half the partnerships had implemented new policies, and two-thirds of stakeholders believed their partnership had improved watershed conditions, indicating empowerment.
URL: http://goo.gl/ihiWG
DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2006.00670.x

Substantive Focus:
Economic Policy
Energy and Natural Resource Policy
Environmental Policy
Governance PRIMARY
Health Policy
Social Policy SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation
Policy Analysis and Evaluation SECONDARY