Update: The results presented in this piece have been featured in the online newspaper El Confidencial, including an interactive visualization with d3. You can read the article (in Spanish) here, and some clarifications to the report here
This research question quickly stumbles against two main barriers. One is the opacity of the field, with only 21 out of 48 institutions disclosing some kind of information regarding their revenue sources; the second is the cumbersome task of operationalizing corporate influence in an effective way.
The first barrier can be overcome with some
stubbornness determination. Let’s measure what we can, and conform the project to the subset of ‘somewhat open’ organizations, in the hope that results will be representative or may be improved in the future. The second barrier is much more substantial, and I fear that my response is very partial at best. My operational definition of ‘corporate influence’ is the existence of funding provided by one of the companies in the IBEX35 (the index of the 35 most important companies in Madrid’s stock exchange).
1. Mapping methodology
- Check the websites of the think tanks with at least one star in our DIY Transparify like rating of Spanish think tanks. I also excluded party foundations, as I know that they never identify their sources of private funding;
- List all supporting entities. This generates some noise: it’s common practice to recognize sponsors with the inclusion of their logos in the projects they support; but quite often there is no way of distinguishing true sponsors and donors from partners, collaborators and clients;
- Cross-reference supporting entities with IBEX-35 companies;
- Generate an affiliation matrix;
- Upload the affiliation matrix to NodeXL;
- Code vertices by
- type of institution (donor(circle)/grantee (pink square));
- node degree (number of ties);
- industry. I used banking (purple), energy (green) and infrastructures (orange), as they are the most important with the results at hand.
2. Structural similarity
A second step I took was to classify the grantees by similarity of their revenue structure. I chose to do a cluster analysis on SPSS with the following metrics:
- Total IBEX35 funders
- Ratio of IBEX35 to non-IBEX35 funders
- Total public funders
To be honest, I played with the different possible measures until I saw clusters forming, so this is more of a heuristical approach than a solid taxonomy. However, even given the small amount of information on which this analysis is based, it’s interesting to see, at the bottom, a cluster of corporate think tanks clearly bound together and distinguished from outliers like Fundación Sociedad y Educación or Fundación Ortega y Gasset, which has as many ties to IBEX35 as COTEC or FEDEA, but a lot more ties to public institutions both in Spain and in the Americas; at the top, a cluster of independent organizations with no relation to IBEX35 companies, and a middle group of more diversified entities which includes ECODES (which was rated 5 stars); and Fundación Alternativas, related but formally independent from the Spanish socialist party.
The research question can be answered with a grain of salt. The network mapped is quite dense in spite of the fact that a lot of institutions are missing. However, since many think tanks don’t disclose their total budget or the amounts provided by each donor, an accurate measurement of the weight of corporations as a ratio of overall support is impeded. In any case, this exercise has identified a number of central actors in the interaction between corporate interest and policy recommendations and suggests the interest of many of the biggest Spanish companies in using corporate think tanks as their proxies.
Table 1. IBEX35 companies and number of funding ties to transparent think tanks
Table 2. Think tanks with at least some degree of financial transparency and number of ties to Ibex-35 companies
|CATALUNYA I EUROPA||4|
|CIRCULO DE EMPRESARIOS||14|
|CLUB DE MADRID||0|
|FUNDACION CIUDADANIA Y VALORES||1|
|FUNDACION ORTEGA I GASSET||12|
|FUNDACION SOCIEDAD Y EDUCACION||2|
|REAL INSTITUTO ELCANO||0|