Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation The Transparency Policy Project


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Why Critics of Transparency Are Wrong

November 2014

In a new Brookings Institution paper Gary Bass, Danielle Brian and Norman Eisen challenge the view that too much transparency would be detrimental for policy-making and governing. They bust several myths about the harm of transparency and show that government is still secretive and operating behind closed doors. More transparency is needed to combat government dysfunction, fight abuse and regain citizens' trust. Read the paper here. 

Disclosure: Psychology Changes Everything

October 2014

In their Annual Review of Economics article "Disclosure: Psychology Changes Everything" Loewenstein, Sunstein and Golman provide an insightful analysis of the mainstream economics assumptions on information disclosure and how psychology can substantially differ from those. The article offers advice on how to incorporate psychology lessons to design more effective transparency systems, from simplifying information to providing vivid, standardized disclosures and social comparison information. Access the article here

Transparency in the global food system

September 2014

A conference titled “Transparency in the Global Food System: What Information and to What Ends” will be held October 24-25, 2014 at the UCLA Faculty Center. The conference will explore the meaning of transparency in food law and policy, how consumers use information, and the limits of disclosure. Dr. David A. Kessler, former FDA Commissioner and Professor at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School will deliver the keynote address. The conference is a joint initiative of the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law and The Food Law Lab at Harvard Law School. Learn more here

Global Conference on Transparency Research

September 2014

The fourth edition of the Global Conference on Transparency Research will be held at Universita' della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, Switzerland on 4-6 June, 2015. Previous editions were held in Newark (2011), Utrecht (2012) and Paris (2013). At the conference, an interdisciplinary community including legal scholars, political scientists, sociologists, economists, and journalists discuss current issues on transparency and access to information. For more information visit the conference website.  

New book on the failure of disclosure

August 2014

A new book titled More Than You Wanted to Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosure by Ben-Shahar and Schneider (Princeton University Press, 2014) claims that information disclosure is a ubiquitous yet ineffective regulatory tool. According to the authors, the quantity and complexity of information as well as consumers' cognitive limitations are among the reasons for the failure of disclosure. 

Fung is new Academic Dean at HKS

June 2014

Archon Fung, Co-director of the Transparency Policy Project, is also the new Academic Dean at Harvard Kennedy School. The Academic Dean reports directly to Dean David Ellwood and is responsible for overseeing the school’s academic priorities, including faculty appointments and reviews, curriculum issues, the faculty steering committee, faculty conflict of interest and research integrity policies, and numerous other academic issues. "I am eager to embrace this new challenge of helping to guide the Kennedy School's academic priorities. The mission of our school is to train public leaders and produce ideas that help solve the daunting public problems facing our societies. I look forward to working closely with our incredibly talented and diverse faculty, Dean Ellwood, and the rest of the senior leadership team to advance that mission," said Fung. Read more.

The opaque supply chain

June 2014

 In a Science Magazine special issue on global supply chains, Dara O'Rourke (University of California, Berkeley) examines sustainability and transparency in today's complex supply chains. He finds that although data collection has been growing, inconsistencies remain and that often even large corporations lack access to critical information on the commodities and products used by their suppliers. Read more.  

TPP Co-Director Steps Down for Position in the Labor Department

May 2014

David Weil, a former co-director of the Transparency Policy Project, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 28, 2014 as the new US Wage and Hour Administrator in the Department of Labor. The focus of his research is a firm foundation for the job as it includes regulatory and labor market policy, industrial and labor relations, and occupational safety and health. 

New project on transparency and accountability

August 2013

Archon Fung is a co-principal investigator of a five-year research project on accountability and transparency funded through an $8.1 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Department for International Development in the United Kingdom. The project is a collaboration between the Ash Center and the Results for Development Institute and will evaluate how accountability and transparency improves governance and health care delivery in 200 communities in Indonesia and Tanzania. Other co-principal investigators are Stephen Kosack (University of Washington), Dan Levy (Harvard Kennedy School), Jean Arkedis and Courtney Tolmie (both from the Results for Development Institute). Jessica Creighton is the project manager based at the Ash Center.  “This project is designed to shed light on the creative ways in which transparency and health information can empower local communities to improve the public services they receive and, ultimately, public health outcomes,” said Archon Fung. “We hope that our approach of combining rigorous qualitative field research with randomized controlled trials will create a greater insight into the impact of transparency policies and the mechanisms that produce that impact,” said Vanessa Herringshaw of the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, which coordinated the project from conception to launch. 


Labor Department's Take on the Digital Government Strategy

August 2013

A White House initiative aimed at fostering the delivery of information to the public resulted in scores of federal agencies releasing a number of datasets through individual application programming interfaces, or APIs. An API is a method used for delivering dynamically updated information from one location to another—like the Twitter feed on the homepage of this website.

However, because a subscriber must learn a different system for accessing each API, it can be rather daunting to implement a number of them. The Labor Department opted to run asll their datasets through a single API. Read about it here on the Nextgov site.


Targeting Transparency

June 2013

by David Weil, Mary Graham, and Archon Fung was published in the June issue of Science. The article reports on research on targeted transparency. It summarizes findings by the Transparency Policy Project showing that information disclosure can help reduce health and safety risks and improve public services when disclosure is applied to appropriate problems and carefully designed. Take a look

Budget Transparency and Accountability

April 2013

Sanjeev Khagram, Archon Fung and Paolo de Renzio are the editors of “Open Budgets: The Political Economy of Transparency, Participation, and Accountability” (Brookings Institution Press, 2013). The volume examines budget transparency in countries ranging from South Africa to Guatemala and illuminates how innovations in fiscal transparency come about and how they may strengthen government accountability. Read more.

Transparency without Democracy: The Unexpected Effects of China’s Environmental Disclosure Policy

February 2013

Yeling Tan, Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy degree program at the Kennedy School of Government, published her article titled “Transparency without Democracy: The Unexpected Effects of China’s Environmental Disclosure Policy”, in Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions. This article examines the impact of transparency regulations enacted under authoritarian conditions, through a study of China’s environmental transparency measures. Given China’s decentralized administrative structure, environmental disclosure ends up being weakest in the most polluted cities. However, the measures have allowed nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to affect environmental governance through unusual pathways. Multinational companies (MNCs) have used NGO pollution databases to monitor Chinese suppliers, whereas local governments have responded to a transparency index with greater NGO engagement.