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On Think Tanks | Transparency: a bridge towards trust
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On Think Tanks was founded in mid 2010. It has evolved from a blog into a global platform dedicated to study and support policy research and policy research centres, or think tanks. The members of the On Think Tanks Team and its Advisory Board are spread out across 6 continents!


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series

  1. 1

    Transparency: a bridge towards trust

    The Transnational Institute’s mission is to strengthen international social movements with rigorous research, reliable information, sound analysis and constructive proposals that advance progressive, democratic policy change and common solutions to global problems. For more than 40 years,... Read full article
  2. 2

    Transparency is central to everything think tanks do

    Globalisation and new information technologies have changed the operating conditions for think tanks. Among the new challenges is the disconnect between governments and citizens – one of the reasons democracies we believed were firmly consolidated now appear weak. Think tanks today must be... Read full article
  3. 3

    Russian think tanks and soft power

    A new study on think tanks in Russia and how they are used to promote the country's (or, most appropriately, the leader's) interests abroad sheds a light onto an important function of think tanks, what works best when using think tanks as a tool of soft-power, and Russian think tanks more... Read full article
  4. 4

    In a world of ‘fake news’, why think tank transparency matters

      Transparify—an initiative that provides a global rating of the financial transparency of major think tanks and policy-relevant non-profit organizations—has just released its latest assessment. The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has earned the maximum... Read full article
  5. 5

    Accountability and transparency of research centres can strengthen democracy

    Transparify recently rated the Africa Centre for Evidence, in South Africa, with 5 stars. In this article the centre reflects on the importance of transparency and accountability for a research centre and its mission. Read full article
  6. 6

    Think tank or fake tank? Seven common misperceptions about think tanks

    If we care about democracy, we should keep a close eye on think tanks – not as simplistic caricatures, but as the complex – and sometimes contradictory – organizations that they really are. Think tanks are often blasted by commentators on the political left for being front groups... Read full article
  7. 7

    Can think tanks ruled by the wealthy be really impartial?

    Philip Rojc and David Callahan ask this very important question in Inside Philanthropy; but don't quite get to answer it. Their article focused on David Rubenstein and the Brookings Institution. Rubenstein is co-chair of the Board of Brookings, a patron of the think tank and, in case you... Read full article
  8. 8

    The Transparify Think Tank Integrity Check

    In early 2017, Transparify conducted a workshop for thinktankers on how to manage reputational risks. During the workshop, we asked participants how they would react in a range of scenarios that may (or may not) generate reputational risks. Participants later told us that they had found the... Read full article
  9. 9

    “Highly Opaque” or “Highly Transparent”: if you want credibility, you should aim for the latter

    On June 29th, Transparify put out their 2016 think tank transparency report, detailing the levels of financial disclosure of 200 think tanks located in 47 countries worldwide. All in all, there has been significant levels of transparency in the think tanks evaluated, compared to previous years:... Read full article
  10. 10

    UK think tanks are transparent, but they need to show leadership during Brexit

    On Tuesday 28th June, Nigel Farage took his triumphant turn on the floor of the European Parliament. “You all laughed at me”, he said of the beginnings of his campaign to pull the UK out of the European Union: “you’re not laughing now, are you?”. An influential study by Claudia... Read full article
  11. 11

    Being more transparent is closely related to being better at communicating

    CEDOS has always praised the principles of transparency and accountability, even though they have been long overlooked in Ukraine. In fact, these values were one of the driving forces behind CEDOS’s creation. Fed up with inefficient decisions, a lack of evidence and high-quality... Read full article
  12. 12

    The Value of Transparency in 21st Century Think Tanks: the Stimson Center approach

    Amidst the most contentious, high-stakes, and mean-spirited campaign for U.S. president in decades, it is difficult to overstate the level of political partisanship that has enveloped American policymaking. At once entertaining and exhausting, our contentious politics is having a remarkably... Read full article
  13. 13

    Think Tank Transparency in the UK: as urgent as ever

    A lot has been said in recent years about the corruption risks in lobbying and political party funding in the UK – from the revolving door to the appointment of Lords – however, there has been little work on the more subtle influencers in our political system: think tanks. For those who... Read full article
  14. 14

    Assefa Admassie, Principal Research Fellow at the Ethiopian Economic Association

    Open Policy Research's founder Jaime Gonzalez-Capitel interviews Assefa Admassie, the Executive Director of the Ethiopian Economic Association and Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute which has made one of the largest improvements in financial disclosure of any think tank worldwide... Read full article
  15. 15

    The road to transparency is not entirely straightforward: the Chatham House experience

    Think tanks can have an important role to play in providing objective analysis in the current political climate of change general instability, the rise of populist movements and a backlash against mainstream politics. At the same time, they have rightfully been subject to increasing... Read full article
  16. 16

    Think tanks and transparency: the new expectation

    Although there is sympathy for think tanks’ concerns and implications on revealing their funding sources (and how the funds are being allocated), the overall feeling is that transparency is an important principle to uphold. People want to know how funds are being spent and where they are... Read full article
  17. 17

    European Political Party Think Tanks: Dark Money Alert from Spain

    A study released last week by the Observatorio de Think Tanks  reports that think tanks tied to political parties in Spain lack financial transparency, and warns that their opacity may violate national laws that mandate disclosure from publicly funded entities. The findings of the Spanish... Read full article
  18. 18

    UK Think Tanks Reveal Who Funds Them as Sector Embraces Transparency

    Think tanks in the UK are warming up to the idea of disclosing who funds them and for what, perhaps mirroring an ongoing trend from the United States and elsewhere. Till Bruckner discusses who is leading this trend and who has still to follow. Read full article
  19. 19

    Australian Think Tanks Least Transparent in the World, New Data Shows

    Researchers from Transparify have just rated Australian think tanks as the least transparent in the world. This post discusses these findings and calls for Australian think tanks to be more transparent and disclose who funds them (and for what). Read full article
  20. 20

    Why Transparency Matters: the Think Tanks’ Perspective

    Although advocating for think tank transparency may seem at first like a strenuous task, Transparify's work has been very much welcomed by many international organisations. In this post, Hans Gutbrod lists a series of responses to Transparify's work by think tankers from across the world. Read full article
  21. 21

    How Think Tanks Can Support the Fight Against Corruption

    What is the role think tanks can have in the fight against corruption in developing countries? Till Bruckner discusses how think tanks can occupy a space left open by the disconnect between academic thinking, empirical research and aid industry's actions on this subject, giving practical suggestions on how this can be achieved. Read full article
  22. 22

    Transparify’s report on Open Data NGOs

    Transparify has conducted an investigation into 34 non-profit organisations that were sending speakers to the Open Data Conference (#IODC15) in Ottawa, Canada. Here's a brief summary of its findings. Read full article
  23. 23

    It works both ways: American Think Tanks and Foundations Manipulate German Politics

    Till Bruckner reviews and presents highlights of a bestselling book in Germany written by journalist Udo Ulfkotte, which discusses the consequences of think tanks being funded by foreign governments. Read full article
  24. 24

    Transparency and Funding of Think Tanks in France

    ¿How transparent are French think tanks in regards to their funding? In this post, Transparify presents a compilation of publications on think tank funding, think tank transparency, and a review of relevant websites in French language, done by by Mr. Alexis Courbon Michel. His findings would suggest that French think tanks may be falling behind in this topic compared to their peers in the European Union. Read full article
  25. 25

    Towards a global agenda on think tank transparency

    Calling think tanks to join a new initiative to promote think tank transparency around the world: After hard deliberation a group of think tank leaders and thinkers have developed a call to action for think tank transparency. If you want to learn more about it and join the effort, read along and add you name! Read full article
  26. 26

    Addressing think tank transparency: one of the elephants in the room

    Think tank transparency is an issue that is here to stay. A group of funders and think tanks got together at the Think Tank Initiative's Global Exchange in Istanbul to discuss its pros and cons and consider how to address the growing demand for transparency. This post outlines the reasons for and against it, what think tank transparency may involve, and what could think tanks and their funders do about. Read full article
  27. 27

    A quick and dirty “Transparify-like” assessment of US think tanks

    Think tank transparency promises to be one of the most important issues of 2015. In this post we present a DIY rating of some of the most popular US think tanks to accompany Transparify's own rating and annual report. Read full article
  28. 28

    Will Donor Commitments Lift the Lid on Think Tank Finances?

    Think tanks' transparency is not think tanks' responsibility alone. Their funders are responsible for it , too. International development funders could go a long way by making all their funding of think tanks -certainly those aboard- public. Andrea Davis writes about IATI and the opportunity it provides. Read full article
  29. 29

    How transparent are Spanish Think Tanks? A DIY rating with Transparify’s framework

    Think tank transparency is emerging as a key issue for 2015. Being influential and popular is no longer enough when it comes to assessing think tanks' value. In this post, 48 Spanish think tanks have been rated using Transparify's method. The authors also offer useful and practical advice to the think tanks. Read full article
  30. 30

    The one billion dollar business: American think tanks

    Transparify has shared some interesting data on 21 US think tanks. We put together a few data visualisations to see if we could make a bit more sense of the data. The picture is a complex and exiting one. It turns out that being big does not necessarily mean you are more visible and this says little about the perception others have of you. When it comes to think tank, painting by numbers if not enough; we need a freestyle painting. Read full article
  31. 31

    Transparency for think tanks: the latest fashion or an urgent reform?

    This post was written by Orazio Bellettini, Executive Director of Grupo FARO in Ecuador. It presents ideas and reflections generated on the panel “From Research to Impact, from Transparency to Independence” included in the Latin American Think Tanks Summit organized by the Getulio Vargas Foundation. Orazio considers some of the arguments for and against greater transparency. Read full article
  32. 32

    A quick and dirty Transparify-like analysis of Latin American think tanks

    This post presents another Quick and Dirty Transparify rating of a group of Latin American think tanks. It is intended as a kick starter for a greater conversation on Transparency and, hopefully, a DIY trend. Read full article
  33. 33

    The Brookings Institution: What Do Its Numbers Tell Us?

    Think tanks often rely on numbers to argue for sound policy, to shed light on a complex situation or track changes over time. Curiously, though, we rarely apply numbers to the analysis of think tanks themselves. This is regrettable, since a closer look at think tank budgets helps us understand... Read full article
  34. 34

    Economic downturn affects think tank funding

    The global financial crisis has caused another kind of recession -a recession in foreign funding for think tanks. According to an article in the Research website, some think tanks in Sub - Saharan Africa are having trouble securing funds, some so much that one of them, the Institute of Public... Read full article
  35. 35

    Foreign funding and social science research in Peru

    Kelly Bay, Cecilia Perla and Richard Snyder undertook, back in 2008, a study of the way foreign funding affects social science research in Peru. Its findings are quite interesting and can also be highly illustrative of how international cooperation influences the research agenda as well as the... Read full article
  36. 36

    Chinese think tanks are more intellectually independent than you think

    Most people I talk to about think tanks in China seem rather doubtful of the possibly of there being any 'real' think tanks there. How could they if they are all controlled by the Party, they say. My usual answer to that type of accusation is that all think tanks are controlled by someone. The... Read full article
  37. 37

    Should think tanks register as lobbyists?

    This is an old post but still relevant to many think tanks: Lobby transparency spotlight falls on think-tanks. According to the anti fraud commissioner at the European Commission in 2009: When the scheme was conceived, "we clearly said that lobbying means 'all activities carried out with the... Read full article
  38. 38

    DFID’s new approach to long-term funding for think tanks

    I have been asking about the details of these projects for some time and was half expecting they would be published more publicly but in the end I found them in DFID's project database. (I wonder if there should be a rule that all publicly funded projects must be announced when signed -by... Read full article
  39. 39

    How important are the source and the motivation to pursue an idea?

    George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian, argues that think tanks (many, not all) have become PR fronts for corporations and millionaires with pre-set positions and views. The article can be found here: Millionaires and corporations are using tax breaks to help sway public opinion: Rightwing... Read full article
  40. 40

    Think tanks transparency and Twitter accounts

    A few weeks ago Goran Buldioski published a post on transparency and I commented on an article by George Monbiot on think tanks' transparency. Monbiot's article sparked some debate on twitter and led Brian Dean from News Frames to put together a list of British think tanks' twitter... Read full article
  41. 41

    Transparency should replace (strive to) impartiality in policy research

    We have all heard so many times that policy research is not value free. Some critics go one step further by claiming that impartial analysis is rather a far-fetched ideal than an attainable goal in the everyday work of a researcher.  In the other camp, more ‘scientific’ oriented researchers... Read full article
  42. 42

    A good example of think tank transparency

    Grupo FARO from Ecuador has published details about its funding for 2010 on its website. You can also click through to the full auditors report. The table they have published online, though, is intended to show that Grupo FARO is not dependent on a single funding source and has therefore... Read full article
  43. 43

    Independence, dependency, autonomy… is it all about the money?

    'XYZ is an independent think tank....' We have all read this before. Some of us have written and talk about it when describing the think tanks we work (or worked) for. And in the last three months think tanks all over the world have said this to me -as a matter of fact. But what do we really... Read full article
  44. 44

    Corruption free think tanks

    The work of think tanks is never straight forward. Researchers do not exist in an institutional vacuum with no links to the real world. They must access information that is often kept behind closed doors, engage with policy makers whose agendas are controlled by often unscrupulous people,... Read full article
  45. 45

    On some of Goran’s musings

    I'd like to return the favour and comment on some of Goran's musings. Let me start by contributing to his post on the accountability of policy research organisations or think tanks. Goran refers to a project led by Brendan Whitty at the One World Trust that has developed an excellent database... Read full article
  46. 46

    Independent thinking, but at What Price? – Brookings Institution

    Peter Singer hits the nail on the head with an article on the ethics of think tanks and the threats that certain funding sources may create for think tanks' independence. On Saturday I blogged about the risks of foreign funding to think tanks in India. Singer argues that: Thinktankdom... Read full article
  47. 47

    on independence

    Let me start by doing something think tanks are supposed to do quite well; copy-paste. Here is an article by John Blundell, former chief of the IEA, published in The Times last year. An exerpt: The secret of success in the think tank world is independence. Being your own man is crucial,... Read full article