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So who's gonna vet the vetters?

In the spirit of Media Matters going after conservative media bias both real and perceived, a group of academics is targeting conservative/libertarian think tanks:

A group of education researchers recently launched a project to review education reports released by private think tanks to judge the quality of their research, the accuracy of their conclusions and expose any ideological bias. But some targets of the project contend that its motives and objectivity are suspect.

The project is a joint effort of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado’s Education and Public Interest Center. It will critique studies of topical education issues, which are often published without undergoing independent peer reviews.

"Calling these reports to account brings more discipline to what’s become kind of a ‘wild west’ of scholarly writing," said University of Illinois education professor Christopher Lubienski, one of the participants in what is being called the Think Tank Review Project. It plans to provide policymakers and the news media with "expert reviews" of major education studies within two weeks of a report’s release.

And where does this outfit get its funding? 

The Think Tank Review Project is itself funded by a think tank, which raises questions about its own political bias, some education advocates said. The project’s funding comes from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, an East Lansing, Mich.-based group founded by the Michigan Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union.

Critics say it’s no coincidence that the first three reviews conducted by the project, which were released in March online at http://thinktankreview.org, criticized reports released by well-known conservative think tanks on issues opposed by teachers’ unions.

And according to the Goldwater Institute (who will likely be targeted but doesn’t appear concerned), that may not be the only union funding this project is receiving:

Under new Department of Labor regulations, the NEA and other employee unions must file reports documenting how they spend member dues. We recently dug through the NEA’s 455-page filing. In addition to spending nearly $25 million on “political activities and lobbying,” the NEA awarded $250,000 to ASU’s “Office for Sponsored Research.”

What kind of research is the NEA sponsoring? We placed calls to the Office of Sponsored Research and the Education Policy Studies Laboratory, and the College of Education to ask whether it had received NEA funding for targeted research. The Office of Sponsored Research had no record of any NEA grants. And after four days, the EPSL still hasn’t responded.

Look.  As we’ve stated earlier, who cares if an individual or group wants to advance a particular agenda or question a set of conclusions?   But you really should be transparent about what you’re doing.  And more to the point, you shouldn’t attempt to hide behind some façade of neutrality when it can be pretty fairly concluded that you’re just as invested in the outcome (maybe even moreso) as those who you seek to criticize. 

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