eurostars

The Brexit vote has sent a chilling message across Europe: This European Union can fall apart. The growing strength of right-wing populism and Euroscepticism is frequently considered to result from the neoliberal turn of the EU and from the relative weakness of pro-European progressive forces. In response to increasing calls for partial or complete disintegration, a number of pro-European think tanks and online platforms have been founded or significantly stepped up their activities in recent years. Did they manage to develop and disseminate new ideas to advance European integration?

 

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Thomas Medvetz has written a powerful comment on a recent NYT times article, which reported on how foreign governments use think tanks in Washington for lobby purposes. Medvetz points to other private industry funding for lobbying through think tanks in the United States and to the necessary complicity of journalists in this process. Remains to point to the use of think tanks in European and other countries for U.S. government and private sector lobby purposes (e.g. the financing of climate change scepticism in Europe by Exxon Mobile or the recent offer of T-TIP small grants by the U.S. Embassy).

In September, the world of political science will gather in Glasgow,
Scotland, to meet at the European Political Consortium Conference. A
new Section ‘Governing knowledge’ has been established that ‘would
provide a forum for a growing body of research examining the
relationship between knowledge, monitoring and policy in the context
of global and European governance’. A total of six panels have been
accepted within this ECPR section in Glasgow (See details at
http://ecpr.eu/Events/SectionDetails.aspx?SectionID=229&EventID=14).

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Which institutions and people do British think-tanks ‘talk to’ to turn
their policy ideas into influence on domestic policy? Who do they
collaborate with? What form does such communication and collaboration
take? Does it extend to organisations outside the UK at all? Hartwig
Pautz’ article attempts to give answers to these questions by using
data from a survey which he undertook in 2012. The data suggests that
while British think-tanks communicate and co-operate intensively with
some actors within the UK, contacts and cooperation with organisations
outside the UK are rather lacklustre. Particular actors are more
important for advocacy think-tanks than they are for academic
think-tanks; some actors have very little importance for either type.
Pautz cautiously presents his data as another insight into the British
think-tank landscape without claiming that his findings can be
generalised.

Pautz, Hartwig. (2014) British Think-Tanks and Their Collaborative and
Communicative Networks. Politics. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9256.12056

 

Dieter Plehwe

Just came across the 2012 National Affairs contribution of Tevi Troy, a conservative think tank pundit (affiliations with Hudson and AEI). Troy asks if the evolution of the think tank landscape has been detrimental to the species. He distinguishes between the first generation of university without students, organizations that were by and large devoted to scholarly work no matter the normative bias (of the American Enterprise Institute, for example).  The second generation of advocacy think tanks (like Heritage Foundation) redirected attention to political causes in a much more straight forward and strategic way. The most recent — third generation — of think tanks Troy calls marketing think tanks. If the interest in new political ideas and instruments has already been qualified in the second generation type think tank, the marketing think tank is basically shedding any pretense of “thinking”, or research. Troy’s title is his comment: Davaluing the think tank. Read at http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/devaluing-the-think-tank

Dieter Plehwe

 

New website

In: Introduction

11 Apr 2013

We are proud to announce that the TTNR finally has a new, modern looking website packed with new features:

  • The new entry-point is the blog you are reading right now. This change follows the insight that data (the wiki) is nothing without the analysis (what the blog should become). We therefore plan to regularly publish short articles discussing certain highlights of our research. These articles are not only going to show what we found, but also how.
  • The blog as well as the wiki are now connected to the most popular social media platforms. Feel free to use this new possibilities to share our articles with your online-communities. Especially Twitter became increasingly important for research projects like ours during recent years. We acknowledge this trend by joining the Twitter-community. Follow us under @TTNetR!
  • The bulk of data in our wiki is now semantic. That made it possible to provide you with a new basic search at the main page. Use it to search for Think Tanks in certain countries or cities, for Think Tanks dealing with certain topics, or for those with a defined minimum budget and staff size. Additionally it is of course still possible to use the standard wiki search.
  • The semantic mediawiki made it also possible to further enhance the detail pages of the Think Tanks. They feature now a map showing the exact location of the Think Tank and several on the fly generated charts that provide a fast overview.
  • We decided to discontinue the German version of our website. Though it is still available online, we won’t update it anymore.

The screencast down below offers a short introduction to the new website.

Think Tanks and think tank based experts have gained important roles both in policy networks and in the public at large. It is not always clear if a particular think tank is rooted in the academic world, or must be considered close to a political party, an advocacy or commercial organization. Nor can it be taken for granted that the output of a think tank is subject to quality control. Frequently it is also difficult to determine who paid for a particular piece of expertise no matter where the author(s) are based. At the same time the large quantity of think tanks and the easy distribution of expertise from their quarters raise many questions with regard to the relations between science and society. Scholars of science history have so far tackled the changing interplay of researchers and practical men and women due to commercialization and multiplication of organizations involved in knowledge production mainly in the field of natural sciences or engineering. Social scientific think tank research is presently not well prepared to systematically capture and assess the transformation of policy related research and consulting let alone explaining the think tank phenomenon at large. The Think Tank Network Initiative has been founded to close this gap. To this end a wiki database has been developed together with a visualization instrument, individual research tools and the blog, which we start with this article.
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Cologne, Germany, summer of 2010. The subway infomercial system reports: “German study: Development of renewable energies will make electricity bills more expensive”.

An inconvenient truth, which will leave a bitter taste with consumers considering the necessity of the switch to climate-friendly energy production. Newspapers  also reported on the story. But how reliable were the results of the study? What motivated it? The daily buffet of information appetizers proved insufficient to clarify this.

Weeks later the main author of the study, Manuel Frondel of RWI (Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung) grudgingly conceded in an interview with ARD Monitor that a “non-partisan institute in the United States” had sponsored the report. Enter the “Institute for Energy Research“.
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About the TTNR

Think Tanks have become influential organizations both in expert circles and in public media. Social scientific research on think tanks at the same time has remained underdeveloped, and is not currently up to the task of adequately capturing and explaining the think tank phenomenon. The Think Tank Network Initiative has been founded to meet this challenge and to narrow the gap.

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