De-constructing credibility. Factors that affect a think tank’s credibility

[This working paper was published as part of the Working Paper Series.]


This paper explores the concept of credibility and its importance for think tanks. Credibility is paramount to a think tank as having it qualifies think tanks to be consulted on and invited to participate in policy processes. It makes them attractive to funders; promotes engagement with the media as experts in their field; and facilitates access to reputable networks. Without it, none of this can occur. The paper explores the concept of credibility, and explains (based on a literature review) that credibility is constructed through the interaction of characteristics and actions of an organisation, and the assessment of others in the context within which communication takes place. Stakeholders give (or take away) credibility based on their assessments of the information they have and the influence of the current context. The credibility of a think tank goes beyond the quality of its research. Quality research is desirable, needed and even the foundation on which credibility rests, but it is not sufficient. The paper argues that beyond it there are a common set of factors from which individuals draw from and focus on (in various degrees) to assess the credibility of a think tank. These are: Networks; Past Impact; Intellectual independence; Transparency; Credentials and expertise; Communications and visibility; Research quality; Ideology and values; and Current context.

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