Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation The Transparency Policy Project


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Access Our Webinar on Transparency

October 2015

On September 30th, 2015 we held a webinar titled "Information as a Tool for Regulation, How Can Transparency Work for You" for the Open Government Partnership. We would like to thank all the participants for their questions and the World Bank Group Open Learning Campus for organizing the webinar. We also thank Dr. Ben Worthy of Birbeck College, University of London, for acting as a thoughtful discussant. In case you missed it, you can see and hear our presentation here

Too Much Information, Making Transparency Good for You

September 2015

In our recent Boston Review essay we assess the latest developments in transparency systems in the US. From menu labeling to credit card transparency, we discuss how certain features, like providing information in meaningful formats, and giving consumers choice among options can increase the impact of transparency. Building on the current debate on transparency, we conclude that transparency is less simple that it appears, and that behind an aura of openness, powerful interests continue to lobby intensely against disclosure. Read the essay here

Big Data for Early Detection of Car Defects

March 2015

Can data mining and social media provide valuable information to detect car defects? How can this information be used by regulators and manufacturers to save lives? In the aftermath of deadly car accidents caused by ignition defects and exploding airbags these questions are crucial. Dina Kraft researched this topic while she was working at the Transparency Policy Project and her article recently appeared in the New York Times's Sunday Review. Read the article here

Only a Handful of States Report Medical Adverse Events by Hospital

February 2015

 A report by the National Academy for State Health Policy looked at state adverse event reporting systems in 2014. Only 27 states have reporting systems where hospitals and other medical facilities are required to report information on adverse events to state health authorities. The number of states is unchanged from 2007, when the NASHP conducted its previous evaluation. As of 2014, only six states disclose to the public facility-specific information, 16 states only publish aggregate data and five states do not publicly report adverse information. For most states, adverse event reporting has contributed to raising awareness and to adopting corrective actions. Some states, for example Minnesota, also showed a decline in deaths from adverse events and a decline in events resulting in serious disabilities. Access the report here.   

Transparency for Patient Safety

February 2015

 A new report by the National Patient Safety Foundation's Lucian Leape Institute discusses how transparency could help reduce medical errors and promote a culture of safety. The report examines transparency between doctors and patients but also among physicians, among organizations and in the form of external reporting. The report formulates concrete recommendations and offers examples of best practices in transparency from several case studies. Read the full report here.  

GAO Report on Health Care Transparency

February 2015

A GAO report discusses how transparency can improve the cost and quality of health care for patients. The report finds gaps in several Medicare transparency initiatives that disclose information on nursing homes, physicians and hospitals. The report suggests that "transparency tools are most effective if they provide information relevant to consumers and convey information in a way that consumers can readily understand." Read the report here


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

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.


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.