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Call for proposals: Think tanks and universities in Latin America

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[Editor's note: this post has been written by the project team drawn from a consortium including Grupo FARO, Ecuadorian think-and-do tank, and the Centro de Políticas Comparadas de Educación, research center of the Universidad Diego Portales in Chile. On Think Tanks is providing a platform to support their engagement with the wider think tank community and facilitate collaboration and learning. For questions about the project please contact the organisers by following the links below.]

The International Development Research Centre, IDRC, through its program Think Tank Initiative, TTI, seeks to generate and share knowledge on strategies to strengthen think tank capacities to produce applied research and contribute to improving public policies at the local, national, regional and global level.

Under this objective, the IDRC is funding a research project to understand relationships between think tanks and universities in Latin America (the Initiative is funding similar studies in Africa and South Asia). To find the call for proposals for the Latin American project go to: Think tanks and universities in Latin America: is there collaboration between them? 

Why is it important to understand the relationship between think tank and university ?

Although Latin America represents 10% of the world population, the region produces only 2.3% of the scientific knowledge that is generated globally. Universities and think tanks in Latin America have a key role to play in order to overcome the challenge of generating knowledge, especially knowledge generated by applied policy research. However, relationships between these two key actors have not been studied in great detail. [Editor's note: some work has been done on the relationship between think tanks and political parties in Latin America.]

It is likely that we will find that the relationships between think tanks and universities in the region are very different. In some countries, relationships may be scarce or nonexistent, in others these may be competitive, whereas in other they might be characterised by collaboration generating knowledge or organising strategies to use it. Although the reality of both institutions is very different (characteristics, structures, governing rules, budgets, and main objectives), the coincidence in research orientation and knowledge generation presents an opportunity for synergy that should be taken and enhanced.

Who is carrying on this research project in Latin America?

The study for Latin America will be implemented through a consortium formed by Grupo FARO, Ecuadorian think-and-do tank, and the Centro de Políticas Comparadas de Educación, research center of the Universidad Diego Portales in Chile.  The research team is led by José Joaquín Brunner (CPCE) and formed by: Orazio Bellettini (Grupo FARO), Soledad González (CPCE), Adriana Arellano (Grupo FARO) and Marcela Morales (Grupo FARO). The project also receives conceptual and methodological support from an Advisory Committee formed by three experts in the region: Mario Albornoz (Iberoamerican Network of Science and Technology Indicators, RICYT), Norma Correa Aste (Universidad Católica del Perú, Perú), and Enrique Fernández (Universidad de Tarapacá, Chile).

How are the relationships between think tanks and university going to be studied?

Framing the analysis

We are framing the analysis under a systemic approach, conceiving the “policy knowledge sector” as an ecosystem formed by:

  • policy knowledge providers: universities, think tanks, public institutes, state bodies, international organizations, among others;
  • intermediaries: actors who serve as liaison between policy makers and knowledge generators like think tanks, opinion makers, and the media; and
  • policy knowledge seekers: policy designers at public institutions both at central and local government level.

This will help us understand the impact of the knowledge system (i.e. resources allocated to the production of knowledge, number of actors acting in the system) on the relationships between think tanks and universities, analyse the system itself and evaluate the interaction between think tanks and universities with other actors. [Editor's note: for an alternative approach see: The density model: an alternative to trying to control the uncontrollable.]

Methods of analysis

We will conduct qualitative and quantitative analyses: ten country studies exploring the “policy knowledge sector” in each country and presenting three cases of relationships (successful and unsuccessful) between think tanks and universities in each country; webometric and bibliometric studies to determine the visibility of think tanks in the web, identify thematic clusters and quantify collaboration between think tanks and universities in terms of research production; and a regional study analysing the “policy knowledge sector” in the region and developing a typology of think tank–university relationships in Latin America (collaboration/competition; focused on research, training, publications, communications, advocacy, events, projects and/or other; permanent/transitory; etc.) to understand factors hindering and enhancing collaboration.

How does this study contribute to the regional debate?

On the basis of these studies the project will produce regional and national public policy recommendations to improve the quantity and quality of linkages between universities and think tanks in the region. On March 2014, we will host a regional event to present findings and discuss policy recommendations with key stakeholders.

We believe that collaboration between think tanks and universities is key to produce knowledge for building more prosperous societies: only through synergies can we improve our ability to produce knowledge and use it to influence public policy.

How to participate?

If you would like to be part of the project that will discover the links between think tanks and universities in Latin America, please look at the terms of reference for the country studies (in Spanish).

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