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The ACRN Research Paper Competition 2010

In August 2010 the Anti-Corruption Research Network (ACRN) held its very first research paper competition for young scholars. We wanted to hear from young corruption researchers from various academic disciplines and regions about their thoughts, innovative approaches, and fresh insights on how the problem of corruption can be best understood and tackled. We received several high quality research papers spanning a wide variety of topics, from corruption issues in procurement or the health sector, to the role of corruption in post-conflict reconstruction, international anti-corruption conventions, and deforestation.

Selecting the winner was not an easy task for our jury of international experts which included both academic and non-academic corruption researchers.

We are very pleased to announce that the winner of the ACRN research paper competition is Aiden Sidebottom, a PhD student at the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science at University College London. Aiden’s winning submission provides a complementary perspective to traditional anti-corruption approaches, which are primarily concerned with sanctions, structural reforms and laws. Aiden borrows a concept from criminology called Situational Crime Prevention, which looks at causation and incentives in the immediate situation in which the crime takes place. Applying this concept to corruption in the health sector, he makes a persuasive case that Situational Crime Prevention can be a fruitful approach to tackling corruption in the health sector and beyond. As the winner of the research paper competition, Aiden will be attending the 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Bangkok, Thailand from November 10 – 13.

The competition between the four short-listed papers was very close and the three other shortlisted papers also provide extremely interesting new insights on some policy-relevant corruption issues that deserve an honorary mention and the attention of fellow researchers and policy-makers.

Andrew de Castro, for example, makes a compelling and analytically thorough case for linking the international trade and corruption agendas via the use of anti-corruption conventions as defences in WTO dispute settlements. He argues that the WTO is not only an alternative venue for enforcing international anti-corruption conventions, but an optimal one. Shawn Cole and Anh Tran in their submission break new ground in mapping the scale, scope and structure of firm-level bribe paying in almost unprecedented details by examining data from internal bookkeeping records of firms in three industries: procurement, pharmaceutical sales and construction. Their approach raises the possibility of asking a broader range of questions and receiving more precise answers than the usual survey-based approaches allow. Last but by no means least, Yujin Jeong and Robert J. Weiner take a closer look at the supply side of corruption in one of the largest corruption schemes discovered in recent years, the U.N.’s Oil-for-Food Program. Using publicly available data from official investigations, they provide new insights into cross-border bribery by firms.  

The innovative spirit and refreshing diversity of these shortlisted contributions clearly demonstrates: corruption research by young scholars can make a tremendous to the current anti-corruption discourse. The abstracts for the winning paper and the honorary mentions can be found below and three of the papers are also available for download. Please contact Andrew Castro directly if you would like to receive a copy of his paper.

We would like to thank all the participants for their submissions and the judges for their help with the selection process. A special thanks to the International Anti-Corruption Conference for their sponsorship of the competition. We plan to hold the ACRN research paper contest on a yearly basis and we look forward to reading many more innovative and illuminating contributions from young corruption scholars in the years to come.





Farzana Nawaz

Editor, the Anti-Corruption Research Network


Winning Submission


Aiden Sidebottom, “Enriching Corruption: Some suggestions on how situational crime prevention can inform the analysis and prevention of corruption”


Corruption remains a major problem. Recent years has seen a growth in efforts to document the causes, correlates and consequences of corruption, and determine effective strategies to reduce it. Traditionally, explanations of corruption, like crime, have tended to focus on offenders and the wider conditions which give rise to corrupt behaviour. This is reflected in the typical approaches designed to reduce corruption: stiffer sanctions, structural reforms and the passing of new laws. This paper offers a complementary perspective with which to consider corruption. Situational crime prevention is concerned with the immediate situation in which crime occurs. It holds that opportunities play a causal role in crime and seeks to reduce crime by removing or reducing opportunities which permit or are conducive to criminal behaviour. Presently, situational approaches have featured rarely in discussions on how best to tackle corruption. The purpose of this brief paper is to lay out how situational crime prevention might usefully inform the research agenda on corruption and how this might lead to analytical and preventive benefits. This is discussed in the context of corruption in the health sector. It is hoped that the suggestions which follow from the findings will provide a fruitful avenue for future research and prevention efforts.

Read the full paper here


Honorary Mentions


Andrew de Castro, “Corruption as a Defense in the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism”


Corruption affects trade. Yet, a survey of anti-corruption provisions of World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements reveal that these measures are inadequate and non-commensurate to the negative effects of corruption to trade. At the same time, there are various multilateral treaties against corruption which, though comprehensive are not enforceable due to the absence of an enforcement mechanism or tribunal. This thesis determined whether or not the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism’s compelling nature can be the venue where international anti-corruption conventions can be enforced. It argues that anti-corruption measures fall under the WTO exceptions based on public morals and that through conflict of norms doctrines, non-WTO obligations against corruption can be used as a defence in dispute settlement proceedings. It concludes that the WTO is not merely an alternative venue but an optimal one for enforcing international anti-corruption obligations.

To read the full paper, please contact Andrew. 


Shawn Cole and Anh Tran, “Evidence from the Firm: A new approach to understanding corruption”


Due to its clandestine nature, most of what we understand about corruption comes from survey evidence and self-reported perceptions of corruption: this limits both the range of questions that can be asked, and the precision of answers that can be provided. This chapter proposes a new lens to understand corruption, using internal records collected from firms that pay bribes. We examine widespread corruption in three industries in an Asian developing country: procurement, pharmaceutical sales and construction. Using data of real bribes, we provide new estimates of corruption and study its relationship with organisational ownership.

Read the full paper here

Yujin Jeong and Robert J. Weiner, “Sacks of Cash, Tankers of Oil: Who helped Iraq circumvent United Nations’ sanctions?”


Most corruption research examines the demand side (officials’ request for bribes) in a domestic setting. In contrast, we study supply-side corruption (firms that paid bribes) in a global setting – the United Nations’ (UN) Oil-for-Food Program (OFFP), part of UN sanctions on Iraq. During the Program, the Iraqi government requested oil exporters to pay illicit surcharges on tankers of oil, and some helped Iraq circumvent UN sanctions through sacks of cash – bribe payments. Official inquests into OFFP yielded well-documented investigative reports, which made bribes public information. Exploiting the unique transaction-level data, we examine determinants of cross-border bribery by firms. Our approach is built upon the economic theory of crime, which analyses the level of criminal activity as a function of expected costs and benefits. Results show that firms pay larger bribes when they face stronger economic incentives, and home-country implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention reduces bribery in international business. Moreover, we find little relationship between the most widely used corruption perception index and actual bribery by firms.

Read the full paper here

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09 Nov 2010

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