Transparency and reputation of Spanish Think Tanks

Complete transparency rating of Spanish Think Tanks

This has been an exciting week. On Wednesday my article with Francesc Ponsa, Director of the Spanish Office of the Observatory of Think Tanks, was published on Onthinktanks.org. Today, January 22, McGann’s 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, the most renowned independent evaluation in the field of Think Tanks, came out. Our article, entitled ‘How transparent are Spanish Think Tanks’, is a complete transparency rating of all Spanish Think Tanks using Transparify’s framework, and a powerful diagnostic of the development of the field, the types of organizations that fall under the ‘Think Tank’ tag, and the current and still marginal culture of disclosure. Out of 48 institutions, 27 disclose no financial information whatsoever, 19 were given a 1 or 2 stars rating, and only 2 had a rating higher than two, out of five possible stars. Fundación Ecología y Desarrollo (ECODES), a small environmental Think Tank, and the foreign policy Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Desarrollo Exterior (FRIDE) lead the rating with 5 and 3 stars respectively.

The reputation of Spanish Think Tanks

A number of the institutions we reviewed appear in McGann´s Index, showing that, in spite of the marginality of the sector and the still low profiles these organizations have in Spanish media, they are well known internationally and, in some cases, are even important partners and members of international networks. This is the case of Real Instituto Elcano, that hosted the co-authors of two of the top three reports profiled in the index. Here is the complete list of Spanish institutions in GTTTI and the rating we assigned them:

The reason why the last bullet does not link to an external website is simple: IDEAS, formerly the party tank of the Spanish Socialist party, was discontinued in 2013 following a scandal of nepotism, and its staff relocated in Fundación Pablo Iglesias, the official non-profit arm of the party. This is an illustration of the lack of rigour of the GTTTI report, which seems to have defective procedures for factual check and quality assurance. The rating is not applicable to Fundación Carolina because it is an endowment Foundation, not a Think Tank, and to Bankinter’s because this is a corporate Think Tank, which means that the transparency standards for independent institutions do not apply. In any case, it´s somewhat encouraging to see that the average transparency rating of better known institutions is higher than that of the complete sector: 1.4 rather than 0.7, including GRAIN. This  doubles the general average, and I consider it a reasonable indicator that the consolidation of the sector in the years to come may also result in more disclosure and stronger reputations. It should be pointed out the FRIDE, a reasonably new player, responded directly to Transparify’s first evaluation one year ago and has disclosed their funding in different brackets as a direct result of Hans Gutbrod’s team advocacy. A fantastic example of why this work matters.

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