Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation The Transparency Policy Project


The Transparency Policy Project seeks to understand and improve public disclosure systems that aim to further critical policy priorities. The Project is co-directed by Archon Fung and Mary Graham. David Weil, who served as the US Wage and Hour Administrator in the Department of Labor from May 2014 to January 2017, is a former Co-director. Tim Burke provides managerial and administrative support.

Our Project is affiliated with the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. 

Our most recent book Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency brings together for the first time research on important public disclosure systems and suggests how to make transparency work better.

Which hospitals are safest? What cereals are most nutritious? Which SUVs are most likely to roll over? What public schools offer the best education? How to compare mortgage options? How to evaluate special interest influence on members of Congress?

We offer new insights into the power of transparency.

Carefully constructed transparency systems can reduce health and safety risks, create more effective and more participatory governance and discourage corruption.

Our research and the research of many scholars now shows that disclosing information can encourage banks, hospitals, food companies, restaurants, auto manufacturers and governments to perform better.

However transparency often fails. Information about drinking water safety is confusing and out of date. Companies’ financial disclosures do not reveal all risks. Nutritional labels are hard for most people to understand. Transparency fails when disclosure is poorly designed or badly executed. Such failures are wasteful and can increase risks. Most could be avoided.

What next?

On the horizon is a new generation of transparency. The Web makes it possible for ordinary citizens to share their own experiences with car defects, hospital mistakes, unsafe workplaces, food poisoning and government services that don’t work. That collective knowledge is potentially powerful. It can reduce risks and improve services for everyone. We will be exploring how such participatory transparency works.