Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of the articles presented in this special issue. The Special Issue is inspired by our recent review of the intellectual capital (IC) literature in Guthrie et al. (2012, p. 74), in which the authors found that the public sector is one of the least addressed areas of IC research. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a literature and published document review, experiential reflections and argument. Findings – The paper reveals that interest in public sector and IC is alive and well and the major difference between public sector and mainstream IC research is a complete lack of normative research. The papers in this Journal of Intellectual Capital (JIC) Special Issue continue that tradition. Research limitations/implications – The authors call on public sector IC researchers to continue the third stage and fourth stage IC research tradition encouraging them to explore emerging issues alongside the changes in the social, political and economic realities impacting public sector IC in the future. Doing so will ensure that public sector IC research is timely, relevant, impactful and contributes to future practice, research, policy and above all, benefits the citizens who need and consume public services. Originality/value – The paper presents a précise of current public sector research and encourages public sector researchers to continue developing research into how IC works.