IC and public sector: A structured literature review

John Dumay*, James Guthrie, Pina Puntillo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present a structured literature review of the public sector intellectual capital (IC) literature. It is, in part, motivated by a recent review of the IC literature by Guthrie et al. (2012, p. 74), who found that the public sector is one of the least addressed areas of IC research. Design/methodology/approach – This paper presents a structured literature review of public sector IC articles that is as up to date as possible. The authors use and update the dataset from Guthrie et al. (2012) to include another five plus years of data, including seven articles appearing in this special issue. Findings – The public sector IC has a primary research focus on central government and central government agencies, education (especially universities), Europe (especially Italy and Spain) and empirical research using case studies mainly investigating management control and strategy. It appears public sector IC researchers are firmly entrenched in performative third-stage research, investigating “how” IC works in organisations rather than offering normative solutions. Research limitations/implications – Three areas offered as a way of forwarding public sector IC research. First, there is a need to expand public sector IC research from beyond the confines of education (university) research. There is also an opportunity for a study to synthesise the findings. Second, there is also a need for more longitudinal research in public sector IC because IC is not an event, but a journey. Third, there is an opportunity for researchers to undertake empirical research with organisations to develop and test IC frameworks and models in specific public sector contexts. Practical implications – The authors call for researchers to consider helping public sector practitioners implement IC frameworks and models through interventionist research. In keeping with the performative third-stage IC research agenda, interventionist research makes it possible for academic researchers to act as a catalyst for implementing IC frameworks and models in practice. Originality/value – This paper is a must read for IC researchers wanting to embark on public sector research. The paper outlines how public sector IC research has developed, offers critique and outlines future opportunities for research that has potential impact, rather than concentrating on already well-researched contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-284
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Intellectual Capital
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2015


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