Daniel P. Carpenter, PhD

    • October 31, 2006

Position: Political Scientist
PhD from the University of Chicago, 1996
Cohort 5 (1998–2000): University of Michigan

Position as of January 2006
Professor of Government
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.
(617) 495-8280

Daniel Carpenter's dissertation, "The Evolution of Corporate Attachment and Administrative Capacity in Executive Departments," won the 1998 Harold D. Lasswell Award from the American Political Science Association for the best dissertation in public policy completed in 1996 or 1997.

After receiving his doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago in 1996, Carpenter joined the faculty at Princeton University, where he taught courses in political science and developed a computer program interface allowing undergraduate political science students to access and analyze historical data on congressional voting, budgetary politics, bureaucratic development, union membership and other information.

Carpenter had not focused on health topics before coming to Princeton, but while there he developed an interest in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He learned about the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research program from a former Scholar and a fellow faculty member who suggested that the program would allow him to focus his research on the FDA.

He was especially interested in attending the University of Michigan program because he looked forward to working with political science faculty at that school and hoped to live in the Midwest.

Carpenter entered the program in 1998 with several goals:

  • To learn about the FDA.
  • To improve his quantitative research skills and use quantitative methods to study the FDA.
  • To learn about health care.


In addition to the basic curriculum, Carpenter attended courses in mathematics and public health.

Carpenter's research during his fellowship concentrated on a theoretical, historical and statistical study of the FDA. In particular, he focused on the immense variation in the time it can take a product to reach the market, and how FDA approval time varies across different drugs.

While in the program, Carpenter wrote several published articles and finished a book, The Forging of Bureaucratic Autonomy: Networks, Reputations and Policy Innovation in Executive Agencies, 1862–1928.

In May 2000, Carpenter received a grant from the National Science Foundation for an analysis of delays in FDA drug review.

After completing the program, Carpenter remained at the University of Michigan as an assistant professor of political science and continued his research on the FDA.

"Had I not gone into the program, I would have devoted work to a study of politics. As it turns out, the FDA project is taking on the study of the economics of pharmaceuticals. It is exciting to think about using tools of political science and doing work that should be in political science but is really about the political economy."

Carpenter also has collaborated with two other Scholar alumni (Elizabeth Armstrong, PhD, a sociologist, and Marie Hojnacki, PhD, a political scientist) on a project analyzing how the media covers health policy. "The media project would never have happened had the three of us not been Scholars. This is [my] first collaborative research effort with people outside of political science. There is no work I am doing with people outside political science that did not come out of the RWJF project."

In September 2002, Carpenter moved to Harvard University, where he is Professor of Government and Director of the Center for American Political Studies. He continues to pursue health policy research that he began as a Scholar and has published several papers in Health Affairs.

In 2004, he received a RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research (ID# 050591). His project, Reputation and Regulation: A Study of Pharmaceutical Policy at the FDA, considers the power the FDA exerts and how political, social and other considerations influence its decisions.

Several innovative writings and research findings have issued from Carpenter's project, including:

  • "Protection without Capture: Product Approval by a Politically Responsive, Learning Regulator."
  • American Political Science Review, 98(4) (November 2004), 613–631.
  • "Groups, the Media, Agency Waiting Costs, and FDA Drug Approval," American Journal of Political Science, 46(3) (July 2002) 490–505, which received the Pi Sigma Alpha Award for the best paper of the Midwest Political Science Association's 2000 conference.


He is currently writing a book entitled Reputation and Power: Organizational Image and Pharmaceutical Regulation at the FDA.