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Think Tank Network Initiative

Welcome to the Think Tank Network Initiative! 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. In addition to becoming a home for a wide range of comparative think tank studies we also aim to advance the discussion on legal foundations of and other rules and regulations for think tanks. The Think Tank Network Initiative comes out in favor of comprehensive transparency rules for all think tanks, not for profit organizations and others. The need for research (and advocacy) in this area is particularly important in order to improve the conditions for think tank research in general. An example of a related project is provided by a group studying the regulation of lobbying acitivities [1]


A predecessor project named "buena vista neoliberal?" has been founded back in the late 1990s in order to advance comparative think tank research. In 2008, a comparable "Think Tank Initiative" has been developed by researchers at the Social Science Research Council in New York City. Initiative on Think Tanks


In contrast to the U.S. based initiative we consciously decided in favor of the slightly modified name stressing networks because the overall think tank phenomenon has to be explained in light of frequently systematic efforts to link and coordinate think tanks. Frequently transnational networks of think tanks have become key actors and infrastructures in and for academic, policy and interest group purposes, expressing one aspect of the intensified socialization across borders in the present age of globalization. The Initiative thus aims to examine think tank landscapes in particular with regard to the resulting new opportunities of division of labor and action. While a particular focus has to be placed on think tank networks within the European Union, the initiative does not restrict the attention to European network affairs but intends to include non-European think tanks, too. Furthermore we are interested in covering other regional and global think tank networks like the Global Development Network, which has been founded under the auspices of the World Bank back in 1998.

The Think Tank Network Initiative will provide comprehensive information on think tank networks and their individual members (complete documentation of networks beyond the information advanced by the individual think tanks and networks). Such documentation aims to make it easier for experts and interested lay people alike to gain a better understanding of the think tank landscape and think tank politics in general. Beyond complete documentations of individual networks we aim to develop in depths research projects on specific subject matters. For example, we are interested to clarify if and to what extent networks yield a thematic cohesion capable of unifying political positions within thematic or partisan (ideological) networks and disseminating such positions across netowrk borders. Independent from many other opportunities to interpret think tank efforts we understand think tanks as organizations, which pursue particular aims in discourse communities and coalitions.

We offer:

  • General Information on think tank networks and ressources to study think tank networks and think tanks (will be updated on a regular basis)
  • Critical documentation of individual think tank networks (systematic features of organizations and indivduals)
  • In-depths studies on specific (thematic / organizational) aspects

Current Projects

Conferences 2012

IPA 2012 in Tilburg: 29. Post-Democratic policy making and post-national dimensions of order (3 sub-panels: regimes, actors and technology)

Deadline: 31. Januar 2012!!!

Recent Papers

ECPR Research Session Proposal "A comparative study of transnational think tank networks, policy entrepreneurship and the governance of expertise in the European Union (and beyond)"

Dieter Plehwe, 2010, Im Dickicht der Beratung. An Europa-Think Tanks mangelt es nicht, wohl aber an Transparenz, WZB Mitteilungen 130

Completed Projects

1) Documentation and in-depth analysis of the Stockholm Network

The neoliberal Stockholm Network [2] is the largest European think tank network regarding its members. Currently 128 institutes are associated with the Stockholm Network. The Think Tank Initiative website provides comprehensive documentation of the network. Additionally, Werner Krämer researched and analysed the network's output regarding the global financial and economic crisis and climate change policies.(funded by Rosa Luxemburg Foundation).

2) Think Tanks in international development: Global Development Network

GDNet [3] (Matthias Schlögl)

3) Special Issue Östereichisches Journal für Entwicklungspolitik 2/2010 "Global Development Network" ( guest editor: Dieter Plehwe)

4) Interpretative Policy Analysis conference June 23-26, 2010 in Grenoble, Panel 15 (Benoit Monange, Dieter Plehwe)

5) Documentation and analysis of three party affiliated think tank networks in Europe; funded by the Social Sciences Research Center Berlin (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung - WZB), Werner Krämer in cooperation with Dieter Plehwe, WZB research unit Internationalization and Organization.

  • The European Progessive Studies Network has got 36 partner organizations in Europe and the U.S. and is associated with the Social Democrats.
  • The European Ideas Network consists of 40 partner organizations is conservatively oriented.
  • The Transform Europe Network of the European left comprises 16 think tanks.

6) Development of a visualization tool for geographically locating think tanks and representing networks; Matthias Schlögl, Wien, funded by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).