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What is a Think Tank?

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A think tanker was kind enough to provide this blog with a copy of both the "2008 Global Go To Think Tanks Report" awards nomination packet, as well as the accompanying "Policy Research and Civic Engagement Impact Survey."

Sound boring? Hardly. The latter is an 18-page document put together by Dr. James G. McGann that features 52 questions asked of think tank workers in the U.S. and abroad.

The former is 21 pages mostly consisting of names of well-regarded tanks, divided into ten categories such as "Best New Think Tank (established in the last 3 years," "Best Use of the Internet to Communicate Programs and Research (Global)," and of course, the intellectual Granddaddy of Them All, "Think Tank of the Year - Top Think Tank in the World."

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Winners will be revealed in the January/February edition of Foreign Policy, according to the "Dear friend and colleague" cover letter which accompanies the documents.

While we're on the topic of honorees, here's some found internet footage of a recent Stockholm Network "Best Think Tank Award" ceremony. Don't sleep on the witty introduction.

Okay, you back? Continuing with McGann and our reading...

McGann is the Senior Fellow and Director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. Please scroll down another paragraph here to read two paragraphs from his impact survey. This "Definition of Think Tanks" is clearly authoritative.

But first, one more interruption... Keep in mind, too, that throughout the run of this blog, we'll be hearing from folks inside tanks and out who will present alternative notions of what, precisely, is a think tank. We'll soon hear, for example, from one of the most celebrated think tank administrators in the nation as he explains why the Southland-based org where he works prefers not to be labeled as a think tank, no matter how many of the rest of us call it that why.

More from that gent soon. In the meanwhile, though, let's read McGann on today's main topic:

DEFINITION OF THINK TANKS
(James G. McGann, 2007)

Think tanks or public policy research, analysis, and engagement institutions are organizations that generate policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on domestic and international issues in an effort to enable policymakers and the public to make informed decisions about public policy issues. Think tanks may be affiliated with political parties, governments, interest groups, or private corporations or constituted as independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). These institutions often act as a bridge between the academic and policymaking communities, serving the public interest as an independent voice that translates applied and basic research into a language and form that is understandable, reliable, and accessible for policymakers and the public.

Structured as permanent bodies, in contrast with ad hoc commissions or research panels, think tanks devote a substantial portion of their financial and human resources to commissioning and publishing research and policy analysis in the social sciences: political science, economics, public administration, and international affairs. The major outputs of these organizations are books, monographs, reports, policy briefs, conferences, seminars, formal briefings and informal discussions with policymakers, government officials, and key stakeholders."

Source: Policy Research and Civic Engagement Impact Survey

Coming Next Post: Meet the Ferals! And More About What 'Is' Is

Photo Credit: The image accompanying this post was taken by Flickr user gumption. It was used under Creative Commons license.

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