Know Us Better

The project

Protego >  The project

The Project

Procedural Tools for Effective Governance is an Advanced Project Funded by the European Research Council - Grant agreement n°694632.

Governments have adopted a range of administrative procedures, policy instruments and special bodies to open up the processes through which new laws and regulations are made, delivered and evaluated.

In Protego we consider consultation, freedom of information acts, impact assessment of proposed laws and regulations, judicial review, the Ombudsman, and general principles of transparency and access to regulation usually contained in administrative procedure acts. Our project covers the EU-28 because at the time of data collection the UK was still part of the European Union. We also cover the EU as a separate case.

When we look at the design of instruments, procedures and institutions we face one question that has not been addressed by the literature (with the exception of a few studies): How do these innovations work together?

These innovations have been adopted in different years, some in connection with the emergence of the better regulation agenda, some as an outcome of administrative law reforms. They have a strong “family resemblance” and –albeit in different ways– they open up the policy formulation process in two ways. 

First, they provide citizens and stakeholders access to the process. Second, they impose obligations –on government departments, regulators, courts and institutions– to consider preferences and interests that originate from outside the public administration.

Thus one important research question is how do access rights and obligations combine together? This is the same as asking the question about the presence or lack of synergy in the mechanisms triggered by different instruments and procedures. The second research question is about the effects of these combinations of instruments and procedures that we find in each country on outcomes that are fundamental to the quality of governance. To illustrate, what difference does a given combination make to corruption and to the quality of the business environment?

To answer these two research questions, our project is designed to provide high levels of interdisciplinary research, including political science, public policy, political economy and law. Our extended team is made of a core group of researchers, an International Advisory Team and 40 national consultants. The project is hosted by the European University Institute, School of Transnational Governance. The consortium includes the University of Exeter and the University of Milan. In the period 2016-2018 the project was hosted by the University of Exeter. University College of London was in the consortium for the period September 2018 – August 2020. Our core team is described in the ‘Team’ section. 

Our approach

The thrust of PROTEGO is to test the claim that the combinations of administrative procedures, instruments and institutions have causal effects on the following governance outcomes: perceptions of corruption, sustainability, the quality of the business environment, and trust in government.

To explore that, we draw on a suitable causal modeling of the relationships between the combinations and the outcomes. We need causal models that allow us to explore whether the complex design of rights and obligations work coherently or not, knowing that there are many ways to assemble instruments and procedures, and some may work well in a given political context but not in another. In other words, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. This is called equifinality.

A fundamental characteristic of our approach is not to measure the single average effect of one instrument at a time on the governance outcome we are interested, but the overall relationship between the ecology and the outcome. These considerations lead us to consider set-theoretic methods as the main conceptual and empirical framework for the project, although the suite of PROTEGO publications contains studies carried out with other methods, as shown by the ‘Publications’ section.

Finally, our project is focused on the design, not on implementation. We are interested in how governments have designed the complex web of instruments and procedures, knowing that in practice there is variation in utilization and implementation.


We are the first team to measure cross-country DESIGN with a single theory-informed measurement template across the EU-28.

This template is not based on surveys and self-diagnosis by government officers. Instead, it is anchored to a robust theoretical framework, that is, Elinor Ostrom’s analysis of rules within the grammar of institutions and in particular the Institutional Grammar Tool. By using this approach, we have collected data on national procedures, taking into account whether specific sectors have their own procedures.

Our dataset is unique because of its internal coherence. It sits alongside other regulatory indicators like the ones produced by the World Bank and the OECD. We will release the full dataset as an online tool upon completion of the project 


With these data we show how the procedures work together, as different combinations or ecologies.

It is not the single policy instrument, but the combination of specific rule-types in different instruments that causes the outcome. Our findings are reported in the ‘Publications’ section.

How we do it

Our objectives are scientific excellence and the production of usable knowledge.

We achieve these objectives in the following ways:

  • Data generation, validation and aggregation
  • Scientific articles, see the ‘Publications’ section
  • Contributions to the public debate via blogposts, presentations at conferences, and podcasts. For these and for our tweets see the ‘Blog’ section
  • A final scientific conference and a final dissemination conference, both scheduled for 2021
  • Prototypes of new training courses for executive managers and post-graduate courses, see the ‘Training’ and ‘Events’ sections