The Romanian Academic Society (SAR) is the oldest still active think-tank in Romania, established as a “laboratory of ideas” in 1996. Over the years, it has been a public policy research institute, a leader for the promotion of good governance, a consultant to the Romanian government, but also to other governments, a long-term partner in transition and state reform for the United Nations, the World Bank, and the European Union both before and after integration.
SAR’s board of directors consists of:
- Alina Mungiu Pippidi – president
- Anca Harasim
- Madalina Doroftei
- Sorin Paveliu
- Laura Voinea
- Ana Demsorean
- Clara Volintiru
SAR’s vision is of a society where citizens are actively involved in the exercise of public power and where public power is only exercised in the interest of the common good. To this end, our mission is to increase the capacity for advocacy among civic actors and to develop original research products for the creation of a public policy framework that is both scientifically rigorous and democratic. The core belief at the heart of SAR is that policy should be enacted based on evidence and supported by empirical and statistical data.
In practice, we seek to promote the principles of good governance, which are based on the following ideas:
- The government is at the service of the citizen, and not the other way around.
- A nation implies a community of equals before the law.
- For the country to prosper, it is indispensable for the state to ensure compliance with the laws and contracts in force, starting by respecting these laws and contracts itself.
- The governing act must be transparent in all its phases, from the adoption of a policy to its implementation.
- Public goods and services are distributed universally and non-discriminatory, without favoring members of political parties or interest groups.
- The government must be impartial towards private actors and ensure equal conditions for the development of all.
- For the economy to grow, it is necessary for the government to allow entrepreneurial spirit to develop unfettered, reducing the bureaucratic and operating costs of companies to a minimum, simplifying the tax system and applying the rules and laws without discrimination.
- Elected representatives are legitimate only if, even between elections, they are accountable to the rule of law and those who elected them.
- Citizens or companies that evade their debts to the state are not cheating the state, but the other citizens or companies.
- Only clear, predictable laws that respect citizens’ rights can and deserve to be respected.
- The presumption of innocence applies to both the citizen and the state.
As such, our activity over time has focused on providing a hub where ideas and research can flourish, and where help can be found to support those ideas become policy.
Concrete activities and projects that SAR is or has recently been active in include:
- Research projects and activities:
- Editing the Romanian Journal of Political Science (PolSci), a peer-reviewed political science journal published biannually for the benefit of the Romanian community of political science specialists. The journal publishes a wide range of political science articles, especially from fields such as comparative politics, public policy, political economy, or political psychology, covering Romanian or broader Central or South-East European issues. Papers are theory-grounded and based on solid empirical work.
- Implementing shared anti-corruption and good governance solutions in Southeast Europe: innovative practices and public-private partnerships (or R2G4P). This project, funded through EEA grants, aims to deliver shared anticorruption solutions to increase the accountability of state institutions and strengthen civil society and the rule of law in South-Eastern Europe (SEE). The goal is to close gaps in anticorruption policy implementation and in public procurement across SEE. As such, the focus is on identifying said gaps, risks and vulnerabilities, establishing cross-border cooperation and elaborating and disseminating policy solutions to tackle them.
- Integrity Pacts – Civil Control Mechanism for Safeguarding EU Funds. This project aimed to pilot Integrity Pacts as preemptive safeguards against corruption in public procurement, by involving civil society monitors in every step of the procurement process, from identifying the need all throughout the implementation phase. One component of the project also involved researching risks associated with procurement during the Covid-19 state of emergency in Romania.
- Anticorruption Policies Revisited: Global Trends and European Responses to the Challenge of Corruption (ANTICORRP) – a large-scale research project funded by the European Commission, aiming to investigate factors that promote or hinder the development of effective anti-corruption policies. Running from March 2012 to February 2017, this was the largest corruption research project at the time, spanning 15 EU countries and drawing in researchers from fields such as political science, law, public policy and public administration, anthropology, criminology, economics, gender studies and history.
- Corruption Institutional Analysis Diagnosis (CIAD) was a project sponsored by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), whose goal was to train researchers from several countries (Armenia, Sudan, and Ecuador) in using a corruption diagnosis tool, and overseeing their application of said tool to conduct a diagnostic of their respective countries.
- Advocacy and activism:
- Over the years SAR has initiated and supported initiatives for academic integrity, including several projects pertaining to integrity in higher education – the Coalitions for Clean Universities and, more recently, in secondary education – the Alliance for Clean Schools.
- Citizens involved in the transparentizing of the county passenger transport in Călărași County was a project in partnership with the County Council of Călărași. It had a research component, where a report on the state of public transportation in the county was produced, and an advocacy and activism component wherein citizens were involved to suggest policy solutions and monitor their implementation.
In addition to these projects and funded activities, SAR is present in public debates and commissions on various public policy issues, with direct, well-documented positions. One example is our participation in the debates around drafting the Administrative Code, which was adopted in 2019.
SAR also has a functional operational team that successfully attracts financing from both public and private funds, taking pride in our political neutrality, having accepted no funding from the Romanian government or other national authorities.