I am Assistant Professor of Administration and Government at Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (FGV-EBAPE) in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a fantastic position. I have the opportunity to work with exceptional students, to be challenged by them and to challenge their worldviews. Best of all, I can claim to be part of their ascendance to higher callings.
I am grateful for the opportunity to conduct interesting research whose practical implications are relevant to champions of good governance. I work in a great institution, in my region of expertise (Latin America), and in a country that is just beginning to invest in policies that have shaped my academic career—transparency.
Most of my research focuses on transparency. I am passionate about this field because opening up and sharing good information can improve communication, coordination, cooperation, capacity-building, and accountability. Article 19, a nonprofit, calls transparency “the oxygen of democracy”, but the axiom can be extended to the private sector and other areas of human interaction.
Studying transparency appeals to my interdisciplinary background and to who I am—a straightforward, earnest individual (sometimes blunt to a fault). It also seems to be a career vocation: I ran and owned a window-cleaning business during my university years (Squeaky Clean), so transparency has kept me in the business of cleaning windows, figuratively speaking. What’s more, my parents both owned their own marketing and advertising firms, so I share their obsessions with revelation and publicity, while atoning for their spins.
The questions I ask about transparency are varied: How do strong transparency policies come about? To what extent are agents complying with these policies? And how best can we evaluate the operation of transparency policies? My research and research projects span the horizons of comparative politics, public and business administration, development studies, international relations, political communication, and applied methods.
My interest in transparency also extends to policy-relevant themes such as pay-inequality in the public service (particularly detrimental among street-level bureaucrats in developing countries), government influence on media coverage, lobbying regulation, and citizen-legislator proximity and the degree to which governments are representative.
At the FGV, I lead the Public Transparency Program (PTP) and a research project called (in aspirational fashion) the Transparency Evaluation Network (TEN). I founded the PTP in 2014 as a collaboration between the FGV School of Law and FGV-EBAPE. The PTP gauges how well Brazilian governments are complying with the country’s new freedom of information law. At TEN, we compile, develop, apply and compare public transparency evaluations from around Latin America in order to promote more reliable research on transparency, foster networks of engaged evaluators, and compare levels of compliance. In essence, the idea is to improve data on the subject while motivating greater governmental commitments to transparency through the power of comparison. A new version of TEN, with all evaluations in Latin America until the end of 2018 – authored by nonprofits, governments, scholars, and multilateral entities – is just coming online, in mid 2019. Advert: we are looking for new partners to give continuity to the TEN project.
Co-Chair of the 6th Global Conference on Transparency Research
Right now I am organizing The 6th Global Conference on Transparency Research, which is being co-hosted by the FGV and Columbia University Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro, and will held on location in June 2019. The Conference theme is “Measuring Transparency: Impact, Compliance, and Implementation”.
Identity-Neutrality in Freedom of Information Regimes
Since 2014, the PTP has been researching the role of identity and identity-neutrality in freedom of information (FOI) requesting processes. Under the aegis of Open Government Partnership commitments, we worked on this issue with NGOs, including Artigo 19, Abraji, and Transparency International, and also in concert with Brazil’s Federal Comptroller General (CGU). The PTP undertook several field experiments to show that public servants were not only “Googling” requesters but also discriminating based on identities. We also surveyed laws around the world to show that this phenomenon has not been addressed by most FOI regimes. A law was enacted in 2017 (13.460) that paved the way for identity-neutral requests at the federal level. We detailed this success in a policy report published by the OECD. We also just received notice of an acceptance by the journal Governance of an article on a major field experiment. The Tentative name is “Googling the Requester: Identity-Questing and Discrimination in Public Service Provision”.
Currently, I am involved in several research projects at different stages of data collection, analysis or writing. These include:
- Measuring freedom of information laws from the prism of compliance, implementation, and demand. This project has been ongoing since 2015 and collaborators include Daniel Berliner at the London School of Economics and Politics, Pablo Sanabria at Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, and Alejandra Rios Cazares at CIDE Mexico.
- Evaluating the Transparency of Municipal Education finance in Rio de Janeiro, with Tassia Souza Cruz. Having built a database from Brazil’s 250 largest cities, we are now in the midst of data analysis and some preliminary writing.
- Several projects we refer to as ‘sectoral transparency evaluations‘, which utilize the evaluative methods developed by the PTP. These include evaluations of interstate forums for fiscal transparency, the transparency of federal health institutions (with Tatiana Cerginer from FIOCRUZ), the transparency of nonprofit public service providers (with Rodolfo Pires – EPGE), the transparency of insurance brokers’ commissions (with Luiz Sasaki – SUSEP).
- The impacts and reform movements associated with government advertising in the media (a.k.a. public service advertising) across Latin America.
A subject that is a moving target and the subject of a long-suffering book project: Surrendering Secrecy: Freedom of Information in Latin America.
Teaching and Mentoring
Teaching is another area of great interest and engagement for me. For FGV-EBAPE’s academic master’s and doctoral program I teach one of two Qualitative Methods courses as well as a course on Transparency and Good Governance. I have included the latests syllabi as links. To undergraduates I have taught ‘Democratic Political Institutions’. For Master’s students in the Public Administration Program (MPA), my courses include ‘Introduction to Public Policy’ and ‘Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance”. Finally, on the business side I teach ‘The Politics of Good Governance in Brazil’ to students in the International Master’s of Business Administration Program (IMBA), one on “Transparency and Good Governance” for Master’s in Management (MIM) students, and one to our Msc program master’s and doctoral students.
I have mentored and assisted dozens of students in achieving their academic goals, including completing degrees and gaining entry into high-level academic programs abroad. Contact me for more information.
I am engaged in writing several scholarly articles with students. Below is a list of research projects completed by advisees of mine, some of which have gone on to international publication or are currently in the process:
- “Transparent Healthcare: Evaluating Compliance with Access to Public Information Laws in Brazil’s Federal Government” (Saúde Transparente: uma análise do cumprimento da Lei de Acesso à Informação nas instituições públicas federais de saúde), by Tatiana Cerginer (MPA).
- “The Perpetual Electoral Campaign: How Brazilian Mayors Secure Reelection through Government Advertising”, by Filipe Kopp (Msc). The study is currently awaiting a rewrite for submission to an international journal.
- “Who Wants to Know?” A Field experiment to Assess Discrimination in Freedom of Information Regimes, by Rafael Velasco (Msc). This study was originally an article by Michener and Furtado presented at APSA 2015. Velasco, in his MA, has conducted a new and improved field experiment.
- “Transparency of City Councils in Brazil’s State Capitals” (Transparência das Câmaras municipais das capitais do Brasil), by Andressa Falconiery (MPA).
- “The Transparency of Brokerage Commissions in the Car Insurance Industry: A Comparative Study with Lessons from Brazil.” (Transparência da comissão de corretagem na intermediação do seguro automóvel: um estudo comparado e lições para o Brasil), by Luiz Fernando Hideichi Sasaki (MPA).
- “Transparency of Forest Governance in the Amazon: An Analysis of State-Level Compliance with Brazil’s Access to Information Law” (Transparência da governança florestal na Amazônia: uma análise de cumprimento da Lei de Acesso à Informação nos estados) by Eduardo Bizzo (MPA). Now published as a refereed article in the journal Environmental Policy and Governance.
- “Transparency in the State of Rio de janeiro: An Analysis and Recommendations.” (Transparência no governo do estado do rio de janeiro: análise e recomendações), by Fabio Siquiera (MPA).
- “Public Relations Releases and Media Coverage: A Study on Media Independence in the Cities of Piracicaba and Baurú” (Assessorias e cobertura jornalística na administração pública um estudo sobre a independência da mídia nas cidades de piracicaba e bauru), by Bruno Machado (MPA).
- “My Transparent School: A Comparative Analysis of Open-Data usage in the Basic Education Systems of Brazil and the United Kingdom” (Minha escola transparente: uma análise comparativa do uso de dados governamentais abertos na educação básica no brasil e Inglaterra), by Otavio Ritter (MPA). Now published as a refereed article in the journal Public Administration.
- “Federal University Compliance with Active Transparency Provisions in Brazil’s Access to Information Law” (Aferição do grau de cumprimento às obrigações de transparência ativa constantes da Lei de Acesso à Informação por Universidades Federais do Brasil), by Alessandra Montero (MPA). Alessandra won the “Best Master’s Thesis by UFRJ Employees” award from the UFRJ University system.
- “Implications of Brazil’s Access to Information Law in the Regulatory Sector: An Examination of The National Agency for Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels” (Implicações da Lei de Acesso à Informação: os casos da Agência Nacional do Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis e das Agências Reguladoras Federais), by Rodrigo Mendes (MPA).
I earned a B.A. at McGill University in Montreal, during which time I spent a semester in Mexico at ITESM, Queretaro, as a full time student. After extensive travel in South America, I accepted an offer from the University of Texas at Austin for graduate studies because of its unparalleled resources and faculty on all subjects Latin American, as well as its location. There I completed an M.A. at the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) and a Ph.D. (2010) in comparative politics and international relations in the Department of Government.
A Canadian citizen from Toronto, I am also a Brazilian permanent resident married to the lovely architect, Carolina Porto Fonseca, who leads the ‘Construction in Steel’ sector of the Steel Institute of Brazil (Instituto Aço Brasil). We feel privileged to live in park-rich Praia do Flamengo, Rio de Janeiro, and to have two healthy and happy children, Arthur and Lis. I am a sometimes blogger at observingbrazil.com, an outdoorsman, and a letter-writing enthusiast. I return back to my beloved Canada with my wife, son and daughter at least once per year.