How to Research Corruption?

Collaborative Project on Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Empirical Research: Critical Reflections on Concepts, Data and Methods


We presented the progress of our CAT project during the Paris IAS seminar. We have got very valuable feedback from Paris IAS fellows and staff, and from our invited discussant prof. Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Marseilles.


The project is presented at the Madrid IAS seminar. We thank all seminar participants for their valuable feedback! 


The Paris Institute of Advanced Studies hosted our team for two weeks within the CAT program fellowship. It was a tremendously valuable opportunity for our team to meet in person and to work on the next steps of the project.


Our project is discussed at the Quality of Government Institute. Marina Povitkina presented our project during the QoG workshop in person and other team members were able to join on Zoom for the discussion. We sincerely thank all QoG workshop participants for their feedback! 


Our team is hosted by the Madrid Institute of Advanced Studies for two weeks. We work in a hybrid mode - some of our team members in Madrid IAS and some joining on Zoom. 


The project “Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Empirical Research: Critical Reflections on Concepts, Data and Methods” aims to address the challenge of sparse communication between the disciplines by facilitating an interdisciplinary collaboration with critical reflections on 


(a) the link between conceptualizations and methodological approaches in studying corruption,

(b) limitations and benefits of particular data and methods for corruption research and 

(c) ethical and security-related issues in applying different methods of researching corruption.


The overarching aim of the project is to develop resources (Handbook, website and podcast) which will foster critical reflections on appropriate data collection and research methods for investigating the chosen forms of corruption, taking into account practical and ethical issues.


The Team

Ilona Wysmulek, PI, Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland

Oksana Huss, International & Area Studies, Bologna University, Italy / Anti-Corruption Research and Education Centre, Kyiv, Ukraine

Marina Povitkina, Political Science, Quality of Government Institute, Gothenburg, Sweden / University of Oslo, Norway

Christopher Starke, Communication & Philosophy Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf, Germany

Nils Köbis, Psychology & Economics Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany




The Project won the Constructive Advanced Thinking grant of the Institutes for Advanced Studies that is designed to support the interdisciplinary research teams of early career researchers:  


The grant provides “a team of early career researchers time and space for thought and discussion in the best research environments Europe has to offer. During a period of up to three years, teams benefit from a series of short stays (i.e. between one and two weeks, two to three times a year) in participating institutes”. More about the application can be found here.


The project team will be hosted by The Paris Institute for Advanced Study, the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (Amsterdam), the Madrid Institute for advanced Study and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (Uppsala) for a series of short stays in 2020-2023. 


The project idea is endorsed by both prominent researchers in corruption research, such Kazimierz Slomczynski, director of CONSIRT (Cross-National Studies: Interdisciplinary Research and Training Program), Matthew Stevenson, founder of the Global Anticorruption Blog, and Bo Rothstein, founder of the Quality of Government Institute, as well as prominent policy organizations involved in Anti-Corruption work, such as Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Center, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Corruption and Economic Crime branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.



Current Status and Ambition

We are currently working on conceptualizing the Handbook on Methods in Researching Corruption, developing the outline and chapter structure, and preparing the proposal for prospective authors. Our ambition is to make the Handbook useful for both academia and anti-corruption practitioners. To do so, we plan to run an online survey and collect feedback from two groups:  

• early-career corruption researchers 

• international anti-corruption organizations, such as UNODC, UNESCO , OECD , OSCE/ODHIR, the EU, Open Society Foundation, U4, Transparency International and others.

This is in order to identify interest in methods-related content, to make an overview of the currently used resources on methods in corruption research as well as to evaluate how comprehensive these resources are. 

We also plan a series of podcasts related to the Project within the “KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast”.


Project Updates


The project team hosted two panels at the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) general conference: “Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Empirical Research: Methodological, Ethical and Security Challenges” and “Measuring Political Corruption - How to Hit a Moving Target?”, which took place online 24-28 August 2020. The participants discussed various novel methods of measuring corruption, methods of data collection and analysis, as well as ethics and security issues in corruption research. 



The project team presented the project idea at a three-hour internal webinar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Paris and received feedback from an interdisciplinary team of scholars, including anthropology, sociology, and history, see here 

The discussant of the presentation was Alena Ledeneva, Professor of Politics and Society at University College London.



The project idea is discussed at a co-creation session at the 4th Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Forum "Varieties of (anti)corruption: Learning from the past for the future” and receives feedback from the interdisciplinary group of junior scholars as well as advisory board members of the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network.