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In recent years, a variety of efforts have been made in political science to enable, encourage, or require scholars to be more open and explicit about the bases of their empirical claims and, in turn, make those claims more readily evaluable by others. While qualitative scholars have long taken an interest in making their research open, reflexive, and systematic, the recent push for overarching transparency norms and requirements has provoked serious concern within qualitative research communities and raised fundamental questions about the meaning, value, costs, and intellectual relevance of transparency for qualitative inquiry. In this Perspectives Reflection, we crystallize the central findings of a three-year deliberative process—the Qualitative Transparency Deliberations (QTD)—involving hundreds of political scientists in a broad discussion of these issues. Following an overview of the process and the key insights that emerged, we present summaries of the QTD Working Groups’ final reports. Drawing on a series of public, online conversations that unfolded at www.qualtd.net, the reports unpack transparency’s promise, practicalities, risks, and limitations in relation to different qualitative methodologies, forms of evidence, and research contexts. Taken as a whole, these reports—the full versions of which can be found in the Supplementary Materials—offer practical guidance to scholars designing and implementing qualitative research, and to editors, reviewers, and funders seeking to develop criteria of evaluation that are appropriate—as understood by relevant research communities—to the forms of inquiry being assessed. We dedicate this Reflection to the memory of our coauthor and QTD working group leader Kendra Koivu.1
Watching the uprisings unfold in the Middle East, as well as the opposition to them, leads me to appreciate the insights of social movement theory, which suggests that heterogeneous forces can unite in coalitions around super targets when political opportunities suddenly and serendipitously emerge. In this historic moment of change and resistance, will we see the unfolding institutional transformation of the state as it responds to a more participatory ethos, or will former regime stalwarts reconstitute themselves? Elected officials and new governance strategies will still confront serious distributional and economic challenges as states remain enmeshed in neoliberal policies. Political scientists are already studying constitutional change and debates about electoral design, party construction, and other institutional changes to democratize the polity, but we should also look to different transition models that seek to redress deep structural inequalities following decades of repression and rent seeking. Should principles of political or economic affirmative action be incorporated into new institutional designs of transitology?