Statement and resolution regarding the independence of the Institute’s research effort
When MLI makes comments on public policy, it wants to be heard by all groups and parties that can influence the public policy being discussed. Each group and individual will understand the comments differently from their own perspective. Their perception of the credibility of research and results is partially shaped by whether they believe that the research and results are biased. So, it is very important to the Institute that these groups and individuals perceive a disinterested fairness in the statements made by the institute and its authors. In other words, they must perceive that the statements are the result of research and the resulting thinking done by the researcher(s), not a reflection of the vested interests of the board or any other body. As is the case with other think tanks, it is important for the Board to address the issue of credibility and non-bias by setting in place policies to ensure that this value is practised in the day to day work of the institute. MLI has already established two separate bodies who have clearly defined roles in relation to research topics and research results (including publications, conferences and public presentations).
The first such body is the Board of Directors whose role it is to determine or approve the general themes MLI will concentrate its research effort in. For example, they may decide that this year it is important to deal with issues related to the land claims of First Nations peoples or the management of the national economy. They do not determine the perspective that the researcher(s) will take or the shape of the resulting findings and public presentations.
The second body is a Research Advisory Board (RAB), which body is responsible to review draft research from MLI. This body is made up of professionals and experts in various public policy fields. The RAB is a key part of MLI’s research quality control. MLI’s authors and the RAB are only accountable to the Managing Director and the Board for ensuring that the research is of good quality, not for results that match the thinking of the individual Board members or even the Board as a whole.
By ensuring a clear separation between these two functions (and groups), MLI is able to present its findings credibly to all, without the perception of biased vested interest. In order to give effect to this separation, at its meeting of February 24th, 2010, the Board of Directors of MLI unanimously adopted the following resolution:
The Managing Director will at least annually present to the Board for approval a proposed program of research for the coming year or more, setting out in general terms the subject areas of research to be pursued by the Institute. After the Board has approved the research program, the Managing Director, with the advice of the Research Advisory Board, will have the responsibility for commissioning the Institute’s specific research projects and approving research work product.
As a matter of policy, therefore, the Board will have no authority or responsibility for research product. This policy does not preclude the Managing Director or individual researchers from seeking advice or information from individual Board Members regarding particular pieces of research.
In addition to these policies, MLI conducts rigorous peer reviews of its research, commissioning two recognised experts in the public policy field under consideration to conduct a full review and make recommendations about the publishability of major institute research. You can read the instructions given by MLI to peer reviewers here.