On 30 June and 1 July, researchers from several European countries and academic disciplines convened in Lausanne for a workshop on government transparency research.
The workshop was convened by prof. Martial Pasquier of IDHEAP (Institut de hautes études en administration publique, host research centre), prof. Albert Meijer (Utrecht School of Governance and member of the Open Government in the EU research team), and dr. Jean-Patrick Villeneuve (University of Lugano).
The workshop convened academics from Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay, working in such diverse fields as public administration, law, political science, philosophy, business studies and public accounting. In line with the research values propagated by the European Science Foundation, participant included researchers both at more senior levels and PhD students.
The workshop gave rise to interesting debates about the nature, shape, purpose, and instruments of government transparency. Though often referred to as a symbolic term or “empty signifier”, this concept and its rapidly rising popularity have now been subject of academic research for around two decades. In short presentations, participants expounded their views on the phenomenon’s ontology (how should transparency be understood?), epistemology (what types of knowledge about transparency can we find?), methodology (how are such types of knowledge best collected?) and normativity (why, and when, is transparency a good thing?).
The workshop successfully led to the beginnings of a common understanding and language of the concept of government transparency across disciplines. The research group will continue to look into forms of future cooperation and collective research. Such joint research projects could look, inter alia, at the empirical effects of government transparency, its ideational and geanological origins and historical development, and the construction and sustenance of government transparency in multiple cultural, institutional and policy contexts. -MH