Open Access

Multiple Streams Framework as Scientific Research Program and Tool for the Analysis of Public Policy Issues


The Multiple Streams Framework (MSF) is currently one of the most widely used frameworks in policy process research. It explains how policy agenda develops in the policy process with emphasis on policy adoption. This article examines MSF from the perspective of the history of science and Lakatos’ methodology of scientific research programs. In this respect, we consider MSF a “semi-strong theory” that uses a form of subsumption under theory for scientific explanation. This differs from a “strong” explanatory theory (e.g., physics), which uses explanations in the form of subsumption under scientific law. From the point of view of Lakatos’ methodology, MSF represents a scientific research program.

The basic element is a hard core given mainly by the MSF hypothesis for the framework as a whole and MSF assumptions and key structural elements. Around the hard core there is a protective belt of auxiliary hypotheses. They correspond to hypotheses related to the framework’s key elements and to the hypothesis for the framework as a whole. MSF has negative heuristics (prohibition of the use of the modus tollens rule) and positive heuristics, which are represented by a set of theoretically and empirically progressive theories that further develop the MSF research program. An analysis of studies on MSF reveals that single hypotheses are only exceptionally tested using “hard” data and quantitative methods. Qualitative analysis (case studies) predominates, which contributes to the development of MSF theory. Therefore, we can consider a progressive shift in theory.

In this respect, MSF can be considered a successful research program. However, in terms of the methodology of scientific research programs, MSF has a number of other opportunities to develop hypothesis testing further and use various modelling methods with data sets. Thus, MSF represents an interesting scientific research program, which needs to be further developed and specified in the spirit of the methodology of scientific research programs, It is a challenge for interdisciplinary research in the field of social sciences.

Publication timeframe:
2 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Social Sciences, Political Science, Local Government and Administration