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Transparency at the Parish Pump: A Field Experiment to Measure the Effectiveness of Freedom of Information Requests in England

Worthy, B; John, P; Vannoni, M; (2017) Transparency at the Parish Pump: A Field Experiment to Measure the Effectiveness of Freedom of Information Requests in England. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory , 27 (3) pp. 485-500. 10.1093/jopart/muw063. Green open access

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Abstract

How effective are systems of transparency, such as Freedom of Information (FOI) requests? The ambitious aims of FOI laws hinge on whether requests produce the desired information for the citizens or groups that use them. The question is whether such legally mandated requests work better than more informal mechanisms. Despite the high hopes of advocates, organizational routines, lack of awareness or resistance may limit legal access and public bodies may seek to comply minimally rather than behave in concordance with the spirit of the law. This article reports a field experiment that compared FOI requests and informal nonlegal asks to assess which is more effective in accessing information from English parish councils. The basic premise of statutory access is borne out. FOI requests are more effective than simple asks and the size or preexisting level of openness of a body appears to make little difference to their responsiveness. FOI requests are more effective in encouraging bodies to do more than the law asks (concordance) than encouraging more minimal levels of legal cooperation, when a body simply fulfils its obligations to varying degrees (compliance). This finding indicates high levels of support for FOI once it is embedded within the system.

Type: Article
Title: Transparency at the Parish Pump: A Field Experiment to Measure the Effectiveness of Freedom of Information Requests in England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/jopart/muw063
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1093/jopart/muw063
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Inc. All rights reserved. This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1528778
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