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Transparency has become a widespread nostrum of ‘good governance’ in many different contexts today. But its meaning and history are obscure and so are its consequences. So the aim of this volume, which brings together scholars and practitiioners from economics, law, accounting, politics and government, public management and information technology studies, is to examine the theory and the practice of the doctrine of transparency in three ways.

One is to trace out the history of ‘transparency’ and cognate doctrines in government and public policy. Where did this now pevasive idea come from? Is transparency an exclusive preocuupation of modern times and democratic government or does it have an earlier life or lives?

A second is to collect and compare ideas of transparency across some different disciplines and fields. Who means what by this term? Do the meanings add up to a single idea, or are they multiple or even contradictory?

 A third is to go beyond statements of first principles and to accumulate empirical evidence on the benefits and costs of transparency. Is there a trade-off between quantity and quality? What does the introduction of transparency in one or other of its forms do to decision-making processes? How do institutions respond to measures intended to increase transparency and with what consequences, for instance in terms of memory, candour, or cost of service?

Transparency: The Key to Better Governance?
Edited by Christopher Hood and David Heald
Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, 2006

For reviews of this book see David Heald’s website

 The Key to Better Governance_ cover

This volume originates from a one-day workshop in London in January 2005, ‘Transparency: The Word and the Doctrines’, co-sponsored by the British Academy and the ESRC Public Services Programme, which marked the launch of the Programme.