Goran’s recommendations on think tank rankings

23 January 2011

Goran Buldioski offers another take on the rankings in his blog Goran’s musings and some very interesting recommendations that I republish below:

As someone who works with think tanks, studies think tanks, writes about think tanks, I see very little value in it. Therefore, it is high time to move to alternatives to this study:

  1. Best national think tanks (see the suggestion of Enrique Mendizabal) modeled on the UK’s ranking done by Prospect magazine. Note: Thematic categories could be also established.
  2. Best Policy study ( for example see the Policy Association for Open Society (PASOS) award for the best study penned by their members).
  3. Best advocacy campaign by a think tanks (consisted of a series of policy products (from op-ed to book), events (briefings, debates, seminars, conferences, training events etc.).
  4. Best online presentation. [Or maybe best online communications strategy?]
  5. Best design and communication strategy

I would add categories related to:

  1. Best long term policy research programme -that has maintained and developed a reputation on a specific issue with or without support
  2. Best prospective think tank -thinking about the future challenges of its country
  3. Best think tank to work for -to highlight the human capital development role that think tanks have
  4. Think tank to watch

I would also encourage categories related to the other members of the policy space:

  1. Best use of research based evidence by the media
  2. Best or most innovative funder
  3. Most evidence based political party manifesto

At this level, whatever category would provide an opportunity to have a real public conversation about think tanks and their contexts (and histories). No need for a ranking: one winner and some honorary mentions would do. And if there are disagreements then these can be aired publicly and addressed rather quickly before the next award.

It would encourage communication between think tank directors and with their audiences (and possible members of the panel), serve as a platform from which to launch important new policy ideas and debates, contribute to the development of more informed cadres of journalists, policymakers and funders, etc.

Do have a look at Goran’s comments about the inconsistencies in the ranking -they are quite to the point.