Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation The Transparency Policy Project


We have compiled the following list of resources as part of our aim to support knowledge building in the field of transparency policy. Some of these resources explore digital transparency, where new technologies enable and amplify disclosure. Others examine transparency as a social policy tool. They are grouped by interest area. Links will direct you to publications and external websites.

Transparency as a Policy Tool

Environmental Transparency
: Yeling Tan, a doctoral student in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, presented her paper “Clearing the Air? The Role of NGOs in China’s Environmental Transparency Measures” at a Transparency Policy Project event in November 2011. She uses Fung, Graham and Weil’s targeted transparency framework to evaluate the efficacy of China’s Open Environmental Information policy, finding that NGOs and multi-national corporations play a critical role in holding polluters accountable. See Mary Graham’s interview with Yeling below.

Natural Resources Governance: Nicolas Dassen and Juan Cruz Vieyra of the Inter-American Development Bank’s working group on Transparency and Anticorruption presented a paper titled "Promoting Targeted Transparency Policies in Latin America. IDB's Support for Transparency in Ecuador's Extractive Industries" at the 1st Global Conference on Transparency Research at Rutgers that discusses how Fung, Graham and Weil’s notion of “targeted transparency” can be implemented to improve the governance of petroleum industry contracts in Ecuador.

Transparency Networks

Mobilizing ethical consumption
: GoodGuide co-founder Dara O'Rourke talks with Archon Fung about how new technologies and expert ratings help to deliver greater transparency about the social, environmental and health impacts of commercial products. Below they discuss how GoodGuide aims to enable more ethical decision-making by consumers as a way of improving the labor and environmental practices of corporations. O'Rourke also anchors a rich debate with Juliet Schor, Richard Locke, and others about the promise of the Citizen Consumer at the Boston Review.

rowdsourcing Quality: Michael Luca, Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, presented his paper “Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of” at a Transparency Policy Project event in November 2011. He investigates how consumer reviews influence restaurant demand, finding, among other effects, that consumers respond more strongly when ratings contain more information and come from ‘elite’ reviewers. See David Weil’s interview with Michael below.

Environmental Monitoring: After the devastating tsunami and nuclear accident in Japan, citizens have been taking radiation monitoring into their own hands by using low-cost radiometers to fill the gap left by the lack of government action. The SafeCast group at MIT is helping to crowdsource citizen-led radiation monitoring. Watch a report on the PBS NewsHour.

Jeffrey Warren, director of research for the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS), discusses with Francisca Rojas how their open source community designs and builds do-it-yourself toolkits that enable citizen-based data gathering for environmental monitoring.

Feedback Loops: Thomas Goetz writes in Wired magazine about how new technologies are enabling feedback loops by providing people with information in real time, then allowing them to respond by changing their actions, and thereby nudging them towards better behaviors. See the article "Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops" (June 19, 2011).


Transparency and Governance

Open Government: The Labor Department is a leader in responding to President Obama’s open government directive through efforts like its searchable enforcement databases, which contain data from MSHA, OSHA, WHD and other enforcement agencies. This is one of the best examples of government enforcement data transparency in a federal agency. Of particular note is DOL’s “Data Lab”, which allows users to analyze and examine enforcement information from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the agency the regulates worker health and safety in the nation's underground and surface mines.

Food Safety: In the course of its regulatory activities, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) collects large volumes of food safety data from firms that process meat, poultry, and egg products, some of which FSIS aggregates and publishes on its website. The National Research Council has released a report that responds to an FSIS request to study the implications of publishing disaggregated establishment-specific data, titled "The Potential Consequences of Public Release of Food Safety and Inspection Service Establishment-Specific Data." The Transparency Policy Project's David Weil served on the study committee.