Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Most Think Tanks Flunk in Funding Transparency Says New Report

The nonprofit groups Transparify has released the first-of-its-kind report on think tank funding transparency, and not surprisingly, most think tanks have essentially failed.

Here is more from The New York Times:
According to a survey of the world’s most prominent research organizations, the institutions share an important trait: a relatively poor record of disclosing the sources of their financing.
The survey, conducted by a small nonprofit group called Transparify, has already caused major ripples in the think tank world, even before its official release.
Major research organizations around the world — including at least half a dozen in the United States like the Washington-based Stimson Center, which focuses on foreign policy, and the Center for Global Development, which combats poverty worldwide — have taken steps in recent months to avoid a poor ranking by disclosing more information about their funding sources on their websites.
Transparify is one of nearly three dozen nonprofit groups worldwide that have recently been stepping up pressure on research groups to be more transparent, with other major players including Who Funds You?, a Britain-based organization, and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard.

The ratings reportedly will be updated at the end of the year and then annually.  A partial rankings list can be found here.

Update: The full think tank survey of 169 think tanks in 47 countries can be found here.

On a scale of 1-5, North American think tanks are the most transparent (2.5), then European think tanks (2.3), then African (1.8) and South American (1.8), and finally South Asia & Oceania think tanks (1.5).

There were only two "highly transparent" (i.e., five-star) think tanks in the US: Center for Global Development (CGD) and World Resources Institute (WRI).

"Transparent: (i.e., four-star) think tanks in the US include: Brookings, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Heritage Foundation, RAND Corp., Urban Institute, and Wilson Center.

The least transparent (i.e., one-star) think tanks in the US include Center for American Progress (CAP), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Hoover Institution, and Hudson Institute.

The Transparify report says that the number of transparent or highly transparent think tanks increased from 25 to 35 over the first four months of 2014 alone, an increase of 40 percent.  Transparify says that at least 28 think tanks in its sample are likely to become more transparent by the end of 2014.

And in case you were wondering, Transparify if funded by the Think Tank Fund of the Open Society Foundations (OSF), a grantmaking operation funded by George Soros.