One of the main activities of the FDA is research. Current research includes audits of the fairness of electoral systems, as well as reviews of government processes.
In the past three years, the FDA has conducted electoral fairness audits of the electoral systems in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bolivia, Cameroon, Canada, The Congo, Egypt, France, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Syria, the United States, and Venezuela. The FDA has also conducted research into electoral finance processes of the Canadian Provinces. The results of FDA research are published in reports which are available on the FDA website.
There are two components to the FDA methodology: research and audit.
The research component is qualitative, based on collecting relevant facts and data, and sourcing [i.e., citing the source of] the information collected using APA guidelines.
The audit process involves both a qualitative and quantitative aspect. The audit involves a team analysis of research (rather than analysis by a lone individual). Audits take into account financial and statistical data, and they make use of matrices to analyze the more qualitative data. The matrices are essentially detailed, spreadsheets that use scoring systems to quantify relevant qualitative data and information; their purpose is to objectify the audit process and help create reliable results. Finally, the interpretation of the audit reports is done using scoring / grade scales. The grade scales are similar to grading system used in universities, and scoring scales are based on audit team consensus and democratic significance of the variable being scored.
This methodology has many virtues:
- Reliability (appeal to relevant, credible sources)
- Transparency (all sources and information are made available to readers, as are methodological assumptions)
- Objectivity (through use of matrices and grade scales)
- Bias reduction (through use of team analysis rather than individual analysis)
- Humility (the FDA is open to amending its methodological assumptions in the face of sound reasons and evidence for doing so)
More detail on audit methodology can be found here.