Gauging the impact of transparency policies
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To what extent do transparency policies generate positive impacts? This seemingly rhetorical question has become the subject of increasing contention, partly because of two research‐based biases. First, researchers have been blinded by metrics and method. Using tools that are often ill suited to gauging the gradual, diffuse, and indirect effects of most transparency policies, research has found—unsurprisingly—spotty evidence of impact. Transparency studies would benefit from greater use of complementary approaches, such as careful tracing of impact processes and indicators, combined with sensible counterfactual reasoning. Second, researchers have been looking for impact with blinkered vision. In particular, a thematic fixation on accountability and participation has monopolized attention. Key preconditions—such as compliance with and implementation of transparency policies—remain relatively neglected, as do other areas of potential impact, including capacity building, how actors are leveraging previously restricted streams of information, and transparency's role in improving policy coordination and communication.