The Ph.D. dissertation of the AdmEthics group researcher, Laís Silveira Santos, supervised by Dr. Mauricio C. Serafim, the leader of the group, was the winner of the 15th Capes Thesis Award in the area of Public and Business Administration, Accounting Sciences and Tourism, edition 2020. The object of this study is to reward doctors, nationwide, with the Capes Thesis Award, awarded by the Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES) that since 2006, offer annual awards to the best doctoral thesis in 48 areas of knowledge. Laís participates in the group since 2015 and, even after she finished her Ph.D., continues as a researcher in the group, linked to the research line of moral dilemmas and rationality.
The work entitled “The ethics of public management in the light of the rationality approach: the moral dilemmas experienced in emergency management in Santa Catarina”, defended in September 2019, was the first doctoral thesis carried out within the AdmEthics group and has already obtained recognition in the national scenario, being selected as the best doctoral thesis in the Administration area based on criteria such as originality, innovative character of the work and relevance for scientific, technological, cultural and social development.
When Laís and his advisor Mauricio began to study moral dilemmas in public management, they identified in the literature that moral dilemmas are more evident and critical in crisis situations, such as disasters and tragedies. That led researchers to choose as an empirical field of studies the area of public administration that deals with emergency management, seeking to “know and characterize how public managers deliberate when facing moral dilemmas experienced in public emergency management”.
There are still few studies, mainly in Brazil, of real moral dilemmas in Public Administration. Laís and her supervisor Serafim created their own definition of what would be a moral dilemma in administrative ethics and went out into the field, that is, search in the experience of real public managers what their dilemmas were and how they faced such situations and ethical decisions.
After extensive exploratory research with emergency management professionals from Santa Catarina state, in Brazil, and Florida, in the USA, participating in training, courses, technical trips, and interviewing emergency managers, two types of moral dilemmas in public management were identified: 1) horizontal dilemmas, more urgent and complex, in which there is no ethical hierarchy of choices and managers decide based on their life and professional experiences; and 2) vertical moral dilemmas, in which organizational and bureaucratic procedures or even the hierarchy of authorities help in the search for an answer to the dilemma. From the various cases of dilemmas identified and presented in the PhD dissertation, the recognition of the experience of managers and the studied literature, it was also possible to offer some “steps” to support ethical decision-making.
Finally, the research carried out also reaffirmed that the analysis, knowledge and debate on the context in which ethical decisions arise can provide opportune evidences for the development of better management practices for public organizations, assisting in the analysis of moral issues from more than one perspective and path of action, as well as in the development of morally competent and rationally responsible public agents.
The Dr. Santos Ph.D. dissertation is available at the UDESC Library and the defense held on 09/23/2019 can be watched from the Youtube page of the AdmEthics research group.