Francesca Pia Vantaggiato, Ph.D.

University of California, Davis

Country: United States (California)

About Me:

I am a social scientist. I study governance, public policy, and public administration. In particular, my research focuses on how governance actors (governmental and non-governmental) leverage coordination and collaboration to gain access to policy formulation and set agendas. Thematically, my research thus far has focused on the governance challenges associated with developing policy for big infrastructure projects, whose attainment creates interdependencies across actors and jurisdictions. My research primarily relies on mixed-methods design and quantitative network analysis. I work in R. Since January 2018, I work as post-doctoral researcher in Environmental Policy at the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior (CEPB) at the University of California (Davis). I obtained my PhD in Political Science from the University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK) in December 2017.

Research Interests

Public Policy

Environmental Policy

Public Administration


European Union

Research Methods

My Research:

My research focuses on how actors collaborate in order to further their interests through the policy process, particularly in multi-level, decentralized and fragmented governance systems. I study the interplay between formal and informal governance, and how actors leverage their expertise and information to gain access to policy formulation. In my research, I have shown that, within collaborative networks, different actors hold different interests and preferences, and how those influence their network behavior. The findings from both my doctoral dissertation and the post-doctoral project show that actors do not use networks purely functionally, to 'solve' a certain governance problem, but also politically, to set agendas, expand their mandate, reduce their costs of compliance with policy decisions, exert leadership and gain legitimacy for their preferred policy solutions.
Currently, my work focuses on the governance challenges to adaptation to sea level rise in the San Francisco Bay Area (the RISER project). I work as post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior (CEPB), Dept of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis. I work with Prof Mark Lubell. I am also working on a project focused on the governance of critical transportation infrastructure corridors impacted by sea level rise in different areas of California (the Bay Area, LA County and San Diego), financed by a grant I won in June 2018 from the California Dept of Transportation.
My research agenda also comprises the study of the European Union as a multi-level governance system. In that context, I am interested in how different governance actors (civil servants, regulators, interest groups, civil society) exploit the gaps between levels of governance to further their interests.
Methodologically, my main expertise is in quantitative network analysis and text-as-data. Currently, I am deepening my knowledge of Agent Based Models and GIS. I work in R.


Journal Articles:

(2019) Networks as First Best? Network Entrepreneurship and Venue Shifting in the Establishment of the Network of Euro–Mediterranean Energy Regulators., Journal of Common Market Studies

Regulators often play a leading role in establishing their informal networks yet regulatory networks are usually considered a second-best instrument of policy integration. They have no decision-making powers and unclear policy impact. Why then do regulators initiate networks? The article shows that regulators form networks to shift the venue of policy discussion from a formal setting, dominated by policy-makers, to an informal one, where they share agenda-setting power with their peers only. Regulators forming networks are network entrepreneurs, for whom the establishment of the network is a policy goal in itself. Bolstered by previous positive networking experiences, network entrepreneurs consider networks the best instrument for influencing policy. The article analyses the empirical case of the network of energy regulators of the Euro–Mediterranean (MedReg, established in 2006) using elite interviews with 20 stakeholders. The findings hold implications for our understanding of informal regulatory collaboration in the EU and beyond.

(2019) Regulatory relationships across levels of multilevel governance systems: From collaboration to competition, Governance

The European Union and the United States are paradigmatic examples of multilevel governance systems that are also regulatory states. In both settings, informal networks of regulators preceded and existed alongside supranational (federal) regulatory agencies. The literature understood their rationale as preparatory to the creation of higher level agencies. This approach, however, cannot explain why informal regulatory networks still exist, years after the establishment of higher level agencies. What explains the persistence of informal regulatory networks? The argument of this article is that in multilevel governance systems, the relationship between regulatory networks and the supranational level of governance is coevolutionary and embodies struggles for autonomy and authority: as the multilevel governance system consolidates, the character of this relationship evolves from collaborative to competitive. The argument relies on a comparative historical analysis of two voluntary networks of energy regulators from the European Union and the United States, based on 27 interviews and archival research.

(2018) Networking for resources: how regulators use networks to compensate for lower staff levels., Journal of European Public Policy

The literature has found that regulatory networks foster exchange of information between regulators, but failed to specify the mechanism whereby regulators network for expertise. This paper posits that informal networks constitute a compensatory mechanism for lacking resources. The hypothesis guiding analysis is that lower resources (operationalised as staff resources) are associated with higher network activism (operationalised as a higher proportion of outgoing ties), particularly for regulators with intermediate levels of resources, for whom the benefits of networking are most likely to outweigh the costs. I test this hypothesis in the empirical case of European national energy regulators, using recent and original data on their bilateral collaboration ties. The results of the statistical analysis lend support to the hypothesis. The results suggest that the interdependence engendered by the European Union improves European regulatory governance by improving national regulatory practice, more than would be possible on the basis of national resources alone.

(2018) The drivers of regulatory networking: policy learning between homophily and convergence., Journal of Public Policy

The literature on transnational regulatory networks identified interdependence as their main rationale, downplaying domestic factors. Typically, relevant contributions use the word “network” only metaphorically. Yet, informal ties between regulators constitute networked structures of collaboration, which can be measured and explained. Regulators choose their frequent, regular network partners. What explains those choices? This article develops an Exponential Random Graph Model of the network of European national energy regulators to identify the drivers of informal regulatory networking. The results show that regulators tend to network with peers who regulate similarly organised market structures. Geography and European policy frameworks also play a role. Overall, the British regulator is significantly more active and influential than its peers, and a divide emerges between regulators from EU-15 and others. Therefore, formal frameworks of cooperation (i.e. a European Agency) were probably necessary to foster regulatory coordination across the EU.