Pathologies of accountability: ICANN and the challenge of "multiple accountabilities disorder"

Jonathan G.S. Koppell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

415 Scopus citations


Accountability is a core concept of public administration, yet disagreement about its meaning is masked by consensus on its importance and desirability. This article proposes a five-part typology of accountability conceptions. Transparency, liability, controllability, responsibility, and responsiveness are defined as distinct dimensions of accountability, providing an improvement on the current state of conceptual fuzziness. The typology provides a vocabulary for the core argument: that conflicting expectations borne of disparate conceptions of accountability undermine organizational effectiveness. This phenomenon - labeled multiple accountabilities disorder - is illustrated with a case study. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is a nascent organization charged with administering the Domain Name System, the Internet's address directory. In its four-year history, ICANN has been the object of much criticism. Conflicting accountability expectations have been a source of difficulty for ICANN's leaders as they have steered the organization through its early years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-108
Number of pages15
JournalPublic administration review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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