The Role of Academics in Anticorruption: Some Tensions

As I mentioned in a couple of previous posts (here and here), I was fortunate enough to attend a conference last month, hosted by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, for academics who write and teach on anticorruption and related subjects. Virna di Palma of TRACE International, who also attended the conference, has posted a very nice overview and discussion of some of the conference themes on the B20 Collective Action Hub’s blog. Ms. di Palma accurately summarizes three main roles that academics can and do play in this field:

  1. Research: “[A]cademic research into the nature of corruption and measures to reduce it is needed … Academics [also] need to challenge existing information on anti-corruption and to filter out low-quality research.”
  2. Activism/advocacy: Professors can serve as “activists and play a firsthand role in shaping public opinion and policy issues.”
  3. Teaching: “Academics educate future policy makers and business executives, directly shaping social, economic and political structures and values…. Academics can influence behavior, promote international standards and norms, counter rationalizations before they become ingrained and mold future leaders.”

I agree with all of this (and I get a warm, fuzzy feeling when someone who is not a professor says something nice about my tribe). But I want to highlight a potential tension between goals 1 and 2 (research and activism/advocacy), and point out how that same tension may play out in the context of goal 3 (teaching). Continue reading

UNODC’s Academic Anticorruption Initiative (ACAD)

The good folks over at the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), along with Professor Nikos Passas at Northeastern University, launched an “Anti-Corruption Academic Initiative” (ACAD) about three years ago. (I was fortunate enough to be able to attend ACAD’s most recent meeting last November in Panama, as well as a conference on teaching anticorruption courses last week in Vienna.) The initiative is still a work in progress, but UNODC has created a useful webpage for ACAD as part of the TRACK system, with links to an assortment of papers on different topics (a bit haphazard, but nonetheless useful). One of the things that came out of the Panama meeting was the need for those of us who teach, or hope to teach, courses on corruption and anticorruption in university settings to exchange syllabi and other course materials; the ACAD website may eventually become a repository for such materials. I recommend checking out their website. In addition, the TRACK website also includes a “legal library” with a list of (and links to!) anticorruption laws from many different countries.  A very useful resource.