The Opacity of Transparency

A letter from the Prime Minister to Cabinet Ministers on July 7th, 2011 stated that:

transparency boards will be established in each of the key delivery departments (health, education, justice, work and pensions, transport).

I’ve just done a quick trawl and found:

but not corresponding boards for DfE (Education) or MoJ (Justice)? If you know where to find any more info about these boards (or links to sources explaining why they don’t exist) please let me know via the comments…

It does, however, look as if there may be a Research Sector Transparency Board on the way…(?)

There’s also a smattering of other transparency boards/panels:

(Again, please let me know via the comments if I’m missing any…)

All departments are also required to publish open data strategies – you can find links to them here: Cabinet Office list of Departmental Open Data Strategies.

I do wonder what all this alleged transparency means or makes possible though…?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

5 thoughts on “The Opacity of Transparency”

  1. Interesting list. I think it’s clear that those departments with transparency boards or panels are those most active in opening up their information. That doesn’t necessary mean the driving influences are “top down” of course.

    It does not surpise me at all that there’s no evidence of a DfE transparency board yet. The other glaring omission is DeFRA, which you would expect to be taking a more proactive approach to transparency and open data given that it controls so much of the UK’s environmental information.

    I assume the Research Sector Transparency Board is the same as the “Research Transparency Sector Board” mentioned in a Russell Group press release in June. (I’d like to think these are being created as separate bodies, but only because that would be funnier.)

    The only board I would add to your list is the Social Mobility Sector Transparency Board, announced by Nick Clegg in May. According to BIS this will “work to link up and make better use of official data to gain a fuller picture of mobility in our society.” I haven’t heard anything further about it though.

    The Open Data User Group is indeed supported by the Cabinet Office’s transparency team. However it was set up to feed recommendations into the Data Strategy Board. (Heather Savory, chair of the ODUG, also sits on the DSB.)

    1. @Owen DfE is the only dept on the list that appeared in the Prime Minister’s letter that doesn’t appear to have publicly (erm, transparently?) convened it’s transparency board/panel. (It would be interesting to dig a little further as to why both boards and panels appear to have been convened? As I understand it, Panels tend to report to Boards..?) So whilst it might be good for DeFRA to be acting transparently, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs doesn’t appear to be one of the sectors identified for special transparency treatment?

      LOL re: the Research Board (memories of the People’s Front – splitters!;-)

      I hadn’t picked up on the Social Mobility Sector Transparency Board, so thanks for that link. Re: the ODUG’s reporting role up to the DSB – yes, I’d picked that up before (eg I included a copy of the organisation chart here).

    2. Yes … the PM and I differ on priorities for transparency. Cameron thinks the sheeple only need to know what public bodies spend and how they ‘perform’. In his own words, “the money that goes in, the results that come out”.

      I think myself that it’s just as important to have information about processes, including access to most of the big data produced as part of the work of Government (such as the technical datasets held by departments like DeFRA).

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