Special Podcast Episode: ICRN Forum Panel on Communication Between Academics and Policymakers

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. This episode differs a bit from our usual format. Rather than featuring an interview of a single expert, this week’s episode features a recording of a roundtable discussion held at the fifth annual Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network (ICRN) Forum, which was held virtually last month with the sponsorship and support of Global Integrity. One of the highlights of the Forum was a special panel entitled “How Can Academia and Policy Communicate in Anti-Corruption?”, which, as the name implies, focuses on improving the channels of communication between the research community (especially academics based at universities) and the policy and advocacy communities. The roundtable, which was moderated by Johannes Tonn of Global Integrity, featured three distinguished experts with substantial experience working to bridge the gap between research and practice: Professor Heather Marquette of the University of Birmingham (currently seconded part-time to UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office); Professor Leslie Holmes of the University of Melbourne; and Jonathan Cushing, who leads Transparency International’s Global Health Program.The panelists had a lively discussion about the importance of improving channels of communication between researchers and practitioners, the challenges that researchers face in engaging with the policy community, and some of the approaches that might help overcome those challenges. While I hope the episode may be of interest to all of our readers, I would particularly commend it to up-and-coming scholars. One more quick note: After this week’s episode, KickBack will be going on hiatus for the (Northern hemisphere’s) summer break. We will be back in September with new episodes! You can also find our most recent episode, as well as an archive of prior episodes, at the following locations: KickBack is a collaborative effort between GAB and the ICRN. If you like it, please subscribe/follow, and tell all your friends! And if you have suggestions for voices you’d like to hear on the podcast, just send me a message and let me know.

More Compilations of Sources on the Corruption-Coronavirus Relationship

Yesterday, I posted an update to my small and incomplete compilation of sources on the relationship between corruption and the coronavirus pandemic. It turns out that (unsurprisingly) I’m not the only one trying to pull together sources on this topic into one place, so I wanted to highlight a couple of other sites where interested readers can find lists of sources (with links) to materials on this topic:

  • Professor Heather Marquette’s blog (“The Politics of Conflict and Governance”) has a useful list of “What we’re reading on conflict and governance–Covid-19 edition.” The most recent update (unless there’s been something new within the last 24 hours) is from April 9, but my impression is that Professor Marquette will be updating this semi-regularly. The scope of the sources she’s compiled is quite a bit broader than what I’ve been including in my lists, as Professor Marquette’s reading list covers governance issues related to Covid-19 generally, whereas my list is a bit more narrowly focused on corruption issues specifically.
  • The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has a compilation on “Corruption and Covid-19: Articles, Blogs, and Resources,” which includes links to a number of commentaries on this issue, as well as links to other useful general resources. The last update (as of 24 hours ago) was on April 15, but it appears that this site will also be regularly updated.

I’m sure there are others out there, and I encourage readers to get in touch with me if there are any other resources like this that I should share with GAB’s audience. Good luck everybody, and stay safe.

The UK Aid Impact Commission’s Review of DFID Anticorruption Programs Is Dreadful

Last week, the United Kingdom’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) released its report on the UK Department for International Development (DFID)’s efforts to fight corruption in poor countries. The report, which got a fair amount of press attention (see here, here, here, and here), was harshly critical of DFID. But the report itself has already been criticized in return, by a wide range of anticorruption experts. Heather Marquette, the director of the Developmental Leadership Program at the University of Birmingham, described the ICAI report as “simplistic,” “a mess,” and a “wasted opportunity” that “fails to understand the nature of corruption.” Mick Moore, head of the International Centre for Tax and Development at the Institute for Development Studies, said that the report was “disingenuous[]” and “oversimplif[ied],” and that it “threatens to push British aid policy in the wrong direction.” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, called the report a “wasted opportunity” that “has failed to significantly add to our evidence base,” largely because “ICAI’s attitude to what counts as evidence is so inconsistent between what it asks of DFID and what it accepts for itself.”

Harsh words. Are they justified? After reading the ICAI report myself, I regret to say the answer is yes. Though there are some useful observations scattered throughout the ICAI report, taken as a whole the report is just dreadful. Despite a few helpful suggestions on relatively minor points, neither the report’s condemnatory tone nor its primary recommendations are backed up with adequate evidence or cogent reasoning. It is, in most respects, a cautionary example of how incompetent execution can undermine a worthwhile project. Continue reading