November 25, 2020

OTT Conference 2020, the 3rd online event: a report

The first online OTT Conference 2020 was held in March/April after the need to postpone our annual face-to-face conference (read about the process). Our second event was held in June, and the third and final event of 2020 was in November. 

For our third online event, we tried a different approach: the first day focused on conversations on the topic of ethics and integrity, and the second day was devoted to a series of workshops and fringe events organised by OTT and partner institutions.

Visit the Event Report Page for an overview of all the sessions or follow the articles below.

Day 1: 10 November: Ethics and integrity

Keynote and Q&A
Ethical dilemmas for think tanks: Drawing bright lines

by Ruth Levine, CEO of IDInsight

Back in 2018, Ruth Levine spoke at the OTT Conference in London about the moral case for evidence in policymaking. For our third online event of 2020, she revisited her argument in a new keynote reflecting on her more recent experience as the head of IDinsight.

Parallel sessions

Parallel 1
Ethics in research

with Douglas Mackay (University of North Carolina), hosted by Norma Correa (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú)

Think tanks do not often consider the ethical implications of their research methods. Douglas has reflected on the ethics of public policy RCTs. In his presentation, Douglas considers issues such as (lack of) consent of participants, distributive justice and other important issues.

Parallel 2
Ethics and organisational partnerships

with Alba Gómez (European Council on Foreign Relations), hosted by Ajoy Datta (On Think Tanks)

Partnerships between think tanks and other funders are not always equitable and can create dilemmas and challenges for both sides. This may affect the overall equity of the policy research system in a country, a regional or globally. In this session, Alba reflects on how organisational partnerships, following certain principles and guidelines, could be more ethical.

Parallel 3
Ethics in reporting the work of think tanks

with Laura Zommer (Chequeado), hosted by Keith Burnet (Chatham House)

We have made huge improvements in financial transparency. But more needs to be done in other forms of transparency. This involves how think tanks, thinktankers and their work are presented in the media. In this session, Laura reflects on how media organisations should do it – ethically.

Closing remarks with keynote listeners

Keynote listeners, including: Janis Emmanouilidis (EPC), G Gurucharan (PAC India), Pamela M. Nakamba (ZIPPAR), Sarah Lucas (Hewlett Foundation), Regine Wehner (Bosch Foundation)

Day 2: 11 November

Sessions organised by partner organisations

Cracks in the knowledge system: whose knowledge counts and whose knowledge do we need?hosted by INASP

Panelists: Prof Maha Bali (American University in Cairo), Dr. Joy Kiiru (Mawaso Institute and University of Nairobi), and Chalani Ranwala (Verité Research)
Host: Jon Harle (INASP Director of Programmes)

Roundtable discussion: Narrative power & research, hosted by Oxfam and On Think Tanks

Speakers: Krizna Gomez (co-author of Be the Narrative) and Enrique Mendizabal (On Think Tanks)
Hosts: Caroline Cassidy (On Think Tanks) and Isabel Crabtree-Condor (Oxfam)

Academic session. Think tank ecosystems: characteristics, functions, and implicationshosted by the On Think Tanks Research team

Presenters: Silvia Menegazzi, PhD (Adjunct Professor International Relations, LUISS Guido Carli University), Dr. Bert Fraussen and Dr. Valérie Pattyn (Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs, Leiden University)
Moderator: Andrea Baertl (On Think Tanks)

Data Detox Kit, hosted by Tactical Tech

The era of the think tank: An analysis of the German think tank landscape in foreign and security policy, hosted by Robert Bosch Stiftung

Speakers: Annalena Rehkämper (Phineo) and Enrique Mendizabal (On Think Tanks)
Moderator: Verena Heinzel (Robert Bosch Stiftung)

Defining a think tank model of storytelling, hosted by Cast from Clay

Speakers: Aidan Muller and Katy Murray (Cast from Clay) and Lizzie Harvey (Theos think tank)

18:30 – 19:30
Secrets of digital content for policy engagement, hosted by Soapbox

Speakers: Jennifer Trent Staves (Wellcome Trust), Paul Franz (CSIS iDeas Lab), and Clair Grant-Salmon (IIED)
Host: John Schwartz (Soapbox)

Our supporters

This event is possible thanks to the support from the Hewlett Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, Mercator Stiftung, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, Universidad del Pacífico, and Soapbox.

OTT Conference 2020 in numbers: the 3rd online event had 257 attendees from 44 countries +

At the start of the event, we asked participants if they thought ethics is a serious problem for the think tank sector. Out of 32 respondents, two did not think it is a problem, 12 think it is a problem in some cases, and 18 think it is a problem.

About the author:

Erika Perez-Leon:  Director of Communications at On Think Tanks

Read more from: Erika Perez-Leon

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