RESEARCH & PUBLICATIONS
Transparency is a simple idea that is exceedingly complicated in practice. At best, transparency can improve markets and governments. At worst, policies that claim to provide the public with information about the toxic chemicals they breathe, what's in the food they eat, or which cars or hospitals are safest can end up deceiving consumers or citizens into making bad choices. They can make the failings of markets and governments worse.
In our books, articles and ongoing research, we try to understand how transparency works—or fails to work—in different circumstances and how it can become a more effective tool of governance. You will find the most complete statement of our findings in Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency. In articles and working papers, we explore how transparency can inform choices and improve companies' practices and products —from workplace hazards, to greenhouse gases, to healthy foods.
In our research, we aim to refine the understanding of the effectiveness of transparency policies. Effectiveness requires that the new information provided becomes an intrinsic part of the decision-making routines of users and disclosers, altering their behaviors in the intended direction. Cognitive limitations, opportunistic behavior by firms that try to game the system, and lack of real choice for information users are important factors that can limit effectiveness. In our book and articles we analyze the conditions for effectiveness and provide suggestions for crafting effective transparency.
Another central idea is that only transparency policies that are dynamic and evolve to address new risks and changes in the behaviors of users and disclosers are sustainable. Key elements for sustainability are increasing the scope of information disclosure, the accuracy and quality of information, and its use by consumers, investors and employees. Static transparency policies can become obsolete and fail to protect consumers in the long run.
In our ongoing research, we examine some of the frontiers in transparency as a tool of social policy. Can consumers share information among themselves about safety problems in early warning systems that save lives? Can more government transparency improve health outcomes in developing countries? And how should policy makers choose between transparency and other regulatory options to reduce risks?
Full Disclosure: The Perils of and Promise of Transparency
In this book, co-authored by the three co-directors of the Transparency Policy Project, we make our most complete argument to date that the careful disclosure of factual information can create incentives that improve public health and safety and further democratic processes.
BOOKS AND BOOK CHAPTERS
"Can Transparency and Technology Make Us Healthier?"by Elena Fagotto and Archon Fung. To The Point, The Commonwealth Fund, August 23, 2017.
"Want to Know if a Job Is Safe? The Government Should Let You Find Out" by David Michaels and David Weil. The Hill, May 30, 2017.
"Our Desperate Need to Save US Democracy from Ourselves" by Archon Fung. The Hill,December 7, 2016.
"How to Improve Workplace Safety" by Elena Fagotto. Politico, July 12, 2016.
"Do Nutritional Labels Work?" by Elena Fagotto. The Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2016.
"A Government Both More Secretive and More Open" by Mary Graham. The American Prospect, Fall 2015.
"Too Much Information, Making Transparency Good for You" by Elena Fagotto and Archon Fung. Boston Review, July/August 2015.
"Does Transparency Improve Governance" by Stephen Kosack and Archon Fung. Annual Review of Political Science, v. 17, February 2014, pp. 65-87.
"Infotopia: Unleashing the Power of Democratic Transparency" by Archon Fung. Politics and Society, v. 41, 2013, pp. 183-212.
"Targeting Transparency" by David Weil, Mary Graham, and Archon Fung. Science, v.340. June 21, 2013, pp. 1410-1411.
“Protecting Workers in Fissured Workplaces” by David Weil. Perspectives on Work.Summer 2011 / Winter 2012, pp. 38-42.
“Enforcing Labor Standards in Fissured Workplaces: The US Experience” by David Weil. The Economic and Labor Relations Review, v. 22, no.2, July 2011, pp. 33-54.
“Targeted Transparency” by David Weil. Advancing Excellence and Public Trust in Government. Cal Clark and Don-Terry Veal, eds. (Lexington Books, 2011), pp.77-81.
"Transparency and the right to know" by Mary Graham, Op-Ed piece in the Boston Globe. April 25, 2009.
"Targeted Transparency" by David Weil, The Public Manager. v.38, no.1, Spring 2009, pp.22-24.
“Transparency and the Fiscal Crisis,” by David Weil, Commonwealth magazine. October 19, 2008.
"Full Disclosure: Using Transparency to Fight Climate Change" by Elena Fagotto and Mary Graham. Issues in Science and Technology, Summer 2007.
"Fixing the Misinformation Age" by David Weil and Archon Fung, Op-Ed piece in the Boston Globe. April 10, 2007.
"The Effectiveness of Regulatory Disclosure Policies" by D.Weil, A. Fung, M. Graham, E. Fagotto, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, v. 25, no. 1. Winter 2006.
"Improving Workplace Hazard Communication" by Elena Fagotto and Archon Fung. Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 2002-03.
"Clarifying Transparency" by Archon Fung, Mary Graham and David Weil. Financial Times, Tuesday, April 23, 2002: 15.
"Disclosure of Toxic Releases in the United States" by Mary Graham and Catherine Miller, Environment, October 2001.
"Improving Communication About New Food Technologies" by David Greenberg and Mary Graham. Issues in Science and Technology, Summer 2000.
"Reinventing Environmental Regulation From The Grassroots Up: Explaining and Expanding The Success of The Toxics Release Inventory" by Archon Fung and Dara O'Rourke. Environmental Management, Vol. 25, No. 2 (February 2000): 115-127.
"Regulation by Shaming," by Mary Graham. The Atlantic Monthly, April 2000.
REPORTS AND WORKING PAPERS
"Transit Transparency: Effective Disclosure Through Open Data," By Francisca R. Rojas. Research Director, Transparency Policy Project, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School, Report, Spring 2012.
"Recovery Act Transparency: Learning from States’ Experience,” By Francisca R. Rojas. Research Director, Transparency Policy Project, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School, Spring 2012.
“Thoughts on Transparency in the Workplace,” by David Weil, Transparency Policy Project, Working paper, Fall 2009.
"Suggestions for Improving Transparency Policies," and a Transparency Policy Analytic Checklist, both prepared for the Obama administration. Spring 2009.
"Transparency Policies: Two Possible Futures," by Archon Fung, Mary Graham, David Weil and Elena Fagotto. A. Alfred Taubman Center for State and Local Government, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Taubman Policy Brief PB-2007-1.
"From Food to Finance: What Makes Disclosure Policies Effective?" by Archon Fung, Mary Graham, David Weil and Elena Fagotto. A. Alfred Taubman Center for State and Local Government, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Taubman Policy Brief PB-2005-3.
"The Political Economy of Transparency: What Makes Disclosure Policies Effective?"by Archon Fung, Mary Graham, David Weil and Elena Fagotto. Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, OPS-03-04, 2004.
"The Political Economy of Transparency: What Makes Disclosure Policies Sustainable?" by Archon Fung, Mary Graham and David Weil. Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, OPS-02-03, 2003.
"The Benefits and Cost of Transparency: A Model of Disclosure Based Regulation,"by David Weil. Transparency Policy Project, A. Alfred Taubman Center for State and Local Government, Kennedy School of Government, Working Paper, 2002.
"Information as Risk Regulation," by Mary Graham. Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, OPS-10-01, 2001.