The Go to Think Tank Index: two critiques

14 March 2012

This is a bit old news but i feel it is worth sharing reviews by other researchers on the think tank index produced by James McGann.

Jan Trevisan, at the International Centre for Climate Governance has published an interesting critique. There is not much I disagree with in his assessment. He points at several mistakes in the analysis regarding think tanks in the sector he is more familiar with. And this is not surprising because it is difficult for any one person (or team) to delve into the detail that is necessary to adequately assess al think tanks in the world. It makes me think that we should not only attempt to think of think tanks at a country level (which is what I have argued before) but also by theme or issue.

My only disagreement, I guess, is that the ICCG does not consider government or party think tanks in their map. I think that this is a mistake as in many developing countries (and indeed developed countries) it is not possible to find truly independent centres. Affiliation with should not be confused with lack of autonomy.

A couple of years ago, Christian Seiler and Klaus Wohlrabe published their own, very well researched, critique of the 2009 think tank index. Their critique, besides identifying several inaccuracies, focused on the methodological weakness of the ranking. I remember that at the time I offered a similar critique.

I think it is clear that the method is inaccurate and the output is therefore flawed. At least, however, it has got many think tanks and researchers thinking about it. And these critiques and analyses offer far more insights into the world of think tanks than the ranking will ever do.