Research Projects

FGV’s Public Transparency Program and the Transparency Evaluation Network

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. We have compiled over 300 evaluations on transparency in Latin America, from 2003-19. Advert: we are looking for new partners to give continuity to the TEN project.

Book Project

From August 2020 to August 2021 I will taking sabbatical leave from the FGV in order to complete a longstanding book project, Surrendering Secrecy: Transparency and Freedom of Information in Latin America (contracted by Cambridge University Press). I have already written several chapters and have a mountain of data that deserves – and on my sabbatical shall receive -finite attention. The culmination of an MA, PhD, and years of follow-up research, the book will not only advance a theory on the determinants of political commitments to transparency, but will also analyze political information ecosystems more generally, including the vastly expanding number of information ‘unfreedoms’.

Co-Chair of the 6th Global Conference on Transparency Research

Together with Michael Mohallem of the FGV Law School, I chaired the 6th Global Conference on Transparency Research, which was co-hosted by the FGV and Columbia University Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro. The Conference theme was “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 recently published this research as, “Googling the Requester: Identity-Questing and Discrimination in Public Service Provision”.


Paper Projects Underway

Currently, I am involved in several research projects at different stages of data collection, analysis or writing. These include:

  • Measuring ‘Wrongful Resistance’ to transparency. I am working with Marcio Cunha and Bernardo Schwaitzer, who are coding a block random sample of close to 700 appeals received by Brazil’s Comptroller General (CGU), in order to ascertain whether appeals received by the CGU (after two internal appeals) are legimately complex or simply reflect ‘wrongful resistance’, defined as resistance likely stemming from bad faith or ignorance. I organized a panel proposal for the 2020 Latin American Studies Association conference in Guadalajara that looks at questions of transparency and freedom of information. Have a look at the panel here.
  • How Government-Paid Advertising Can Buy Releelection: Originally a Master’s thesis by Luis Filipe Kopp, I am now working with Elizabeth Stein (Clarkson) and Filipe to submit this research for publication. We find a strong relationship between mayoral spending on government-paid advertisements and reelection. In the Americas, only Canada has a stringent policies regulating the disbursal of money on public advertising. In Latin America, such advertising has been associated with political self-promotion, the cooptation of news media outlets, and fraudulent contracts to feed political slush funds.
  • 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, with one article already submitted and more on the way.
  • 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).
  • How the Lava Jato has Impacted Transparency and Accountability Mechanisms in Latin America. This project follows up on Carlos Pereira and my 2016 article in the Journal of Latin American Studies on Brazil’s infamous Mensalão Corruption Scandal. I organized a panel on broadly the same theme, for the International Political Science Association Conference, to be held in Lisbon during July 2020.

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