Introduction to the Handbook on Think Tanks in Public Policy
Handbook on Think Tanks in Public Policy
In recent years think tanks have struggled to reconcile populist shocks within their polities, faced growing challenges to secure institutional and project funding, and are under greater pressure to establish a more visible presence in the ideas industry, or what some have dubbed the 'thought-leadership' arena. In the process, scholars from various academic disciplines have delved into their toolbox to make better sense of what these eclectic and diverse organizations are and do, and the
... ies they employ to shape public opinion and public policy. Whilst significant strides have been made in the think tank literature to address these and other questions, fundamental gaps remain. Among the many questions scholars continue to debate is how to develop appropriate qualitative and quantitative methods to better evaluate the extent to which think tanks affect policy change. These and other questions have been fomenting for some years, and scholars and observers of think tanks have rapidly sought to understand these pressures and opportunities as they relate to the operations, ontologies and longevity of think tanks. The timing and release of this volume comes at a moment when the acute challenges confronting think tanks are being amplified in unprecedented scale and scope. At the time of this volume's writing the world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, fears and postulations of a global recession, a presidential election in the United States in 2020 which could shape the destiny and character of the country, and indeed the world, for decades, and protests around the globe in response to the painful and disturbing realities of systemic racism and discrimination. At a time of growing anxiety and unrest it is more important than ever that think tanks capable of engaging in reasoned and thoughtful analysis share their ideas and policy recommendations with those entrusted to govern. Although the pace and reach of these global and structural challenges are significant, this is not the first time think tanks in various regions have faced epochal changes and transformations. Despite a modest median of funding, staffing and media coverage, the case can be made that think tanks represent a resilient form of epistemic organization. Certainly, ebbs and flows of economic performance, ideological popularity and media ownership have challenged the longevity of some think tanks. However, for many of these organizations, these vicissitudes have not generally spelled their demise. Whilst it would be premature to speculate on what legacy these highly volatile and evolving transformations will ultimately bear on think tanks, it is not unreasonable to suggest that think tanks will for the foreseeable future occupy a critical space between the academic and policymaking worlds.