Who took the “think” out of think tanks? from The Berkeley Blog

25 June 2012

Dan Farber, professor of law asks: Who took the “think” out of think tanks? He visited several (US) conservative think tanks’ websites and found little research on climate change; lots of opinions but no research:

I did find some interesting policy papers on their webpage on the topic of climate policy. But here’s the surprising part: the latest paper on the subject is dated June 23, 2010.  Of course, AEI has continued to produce a stream of op-eds on the subject, but no actual research.

Why? Is it because these centres have stopped doing any research or, as he suggests, that doing any research on the subject would lead to a rather uncomfortable situation. He considers several reasons:

  • it would mean taking the climate change science seriously;
  • their agendas are reactive; and
  • they are being driven by headlines and visibility.

All of these are critiques that can be made about other think tanks. I have often criticised that most international development think tanks stay away from the aid debate because of the same reasons.

In any case, this is a good indicator of intellectual autonomy that donors could consider when assessing think tanks. Are there any great absentees -and why?