The political scene over the last decade, along with shifts in the administrative cycles of the government and changes in the policymaking process, have led think tanks to focus on a range of issues. Some think tanks have kept a great degree of operative independence despite the fact they are mostly supported by ministries, the government’s Planning Commission, and the Indian Council of Social Science Research ( ICSSR). At the same time, new think tanks, independent of funding from government ages, have emerged. The 2011 Global Go To Think Tanks Report refers to the vibrant Indian think tank ecosystem as capable of engaging in critical research.
When I was researching Indian think tanks for this series, I realised that their areas of research could be classified into groups. To do this, I listed all think tanks from the 1930s until early 2000s and categorised their areas of research into nine main categories (based on the information provided on their websites): advocacy, rural development, defence, education, economics and social public policy, human rights, science and technology and others.
Based on my research and understanding, public policy emerged as the key area of research interest for think tanks between 1930 and early 2000, followed by education and research on different topics. Surprisingly, international relations, politics and economics are less common areas of research interest. These choices could be a result of the changing political scene, funding opportunities, the needs of the country, and the interests of the think tanks themselves. Currently, think tanks in India conduct research work on more trending issues, such as politics, social environment, climate change, science and technology, and the environment, amongst others.
Have you conducted research on Indian think tanks and have an opinion on what their areas of research have been in the past, and what they are now? Drop us line!