Interactions between Transparency, Accountability and the Sustainable Development Goals: Freedom of Information as a Test for Implementation Within Public, Private and Hybrid Bodies

   School of Social Sciences

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  Prof C Reid, Dr Rasha Abdelbadie, Dr Sean Whittaker  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Keywords: Sustainability, Sustainable Development Goals, Transparency, Freedom of Information

Sustainable Development Goal 16 calls for the creation of “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions” and among the more specific targets are the “develop[ment of] effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels” and “ensur[ing] public access to information”. The ideals of transparency and openness are not limited to this particular Sustainable Development Goal: they are also key to measuring actions towards the other Sustainable Development Goals and to establishing responsibility for bodies obliged to achieve these goals.

The law has conventionally approached such issues in a bifurcated way, treating public bodies quite differently from private bodies in relation to their obligations to disclose information and publish public reports. Yet the reality in many states is that the line between the public and private sectors is both highly mobile and blurred. The former is exemplified by the impact of privatisation whereby functions once unquestionably seen as falling within the public sphere are transferred to the private sector; the latter by the increasing range of partnerships and other innovative arrangements that create hybrid structures for delivering policy goals.

The aim of this project is to explore the similarities and differences between the existing legal obligations in the UK to communicate with the public, with a view to considering whether a more consistent and coherent structure could be developed. This calls for a broad survey across a range of measures. In the public sector there are well-established audit requirements, as well as many specific reporting duties (e.g. in relation to biodiversity and climate change duties) and the wide obligations imposed under freedom of information legislation.

Similarly, transparency measures have also been implemented in the private sector, with various requirements for auditing in addition to a range of compulsory and voluntary reporting schemes in relation to environmental and social responsibility. Whilst sharing some similarities with the public sector provisions in nature, these transparency measures are distinct from those in the public sector due to differences between the intended purpose and audience of these measures compared to those in the public sector. 

In all cases, a key concept is communication with the public. Who decides what has to be communicated, in what format and on what timescale? It is here that the intersection of Law and Business provides a unique perspective on this concept and how well this fits with the needs of the public. Transparency and accountability play a significant role in the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals, which in turn impacts on the lives of citizens and private enterprises.

Applicants are encouraged to submit doctoral proposals which reflect their own research interests and expertise within the project’s broad themes of transparency, freedom of information, sustainability and hybrid organisations. Where appropriate this project can be based within Accounting and Finance in the School of Business rather than in Dundee Law School.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Professor Colin T Reid ([Email Address Removed])

For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact [Email Address Removed]

Our research community thrives on the diversity of students and staff which helps to make the University of Dundee a UK university of choice for postgraduate research. We welcome applications from all talented individuals and are committed to widening access to those who have the ability and potential to benefit from higher education.


Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a UK honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent for non-UK qualifications) and a Masters degree in a relevant discipline. For international qualifications, please see equivalent entry requirements here:

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) overall score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.5 in writing and not less than 6.0 in reading, listening and speaking). The University of Dundee accepts a variety of equivalent qualifications; please see full details of the University’s English language requirements here:


Step 1: Email Professor Colin T Reid ([Email Address Removed]) to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Professor Reid, formal applications can be made via our direct application system. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Candidates should apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Law or, if they have an agreement with the supervisory team, for the PhD in Accounting and Finance. Further instructions can be found at the relevant link:

Please select the study mode (full-time/part-time) and start date agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the Research Proposal section, please:

-       Enter the lead supervisor’s name in the ‘proposed supervisor’ box

-       Enter the project title listed at the top of this page in the ‘proposed project title’ box

In the ‘personal statement’ section, please outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding. For more information about funding opportunities, please see the Doctoral Academy website:


K Dunion, Freedom of Information in Scotland in Practice (2011, Edinburgh University Press)
E Kumi, A Arhin and T Yeboah, “Can post-2015 sustainable development goals survive neoliberalism? A critical examination of the sustainable development–neoliberalism nexus in developing countries” (2014) 16 Environment, Development and Sustainability 539
A Lashitew, “Corporate uptake of the Sustainable Development Goals: Mere greenwashing or an advent of institutional change?” (2021) 4 Journal of International Business Policy 184
S Perkiss, B Dean and B Gibbons, “Crowdsourcing Corporate Transparency through Social Accounting: Conceptualising the ‘Spotlight Account’” (2019) 39(2) Social and Environmental Accountability Journal 81
H Weber, “Politics of ‘Leaving No One Behind’: Contesting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda” (2017) 14(3) Globalizations 339
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