Think Tank Initiative 2012 Exchange: Sustaining quality in social policy research – lessons learned from institutional approaches

14 September 2012

This is the third set of videos from the TTI Exchange sessions. This panel was about reviewing the lessons learned from institutional approaches on sustaining quality in social policy research.

First up was Rajeev Bhargava of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).

Rajeev points out several factors that help nurture quality research. Some of these are creating a milieu that acknowledges that academics “get it right”: they grasp what is going on and strive for internal goods such as truth and plausibility. However, research also produces external goods, such as power, and think tanks can be lured by these goods, which is why they should not become the aim of research practice. He also emphasizes evidence based research and the importance of pluralism in any good institution.


Next was Mahmood Mamdani of the Makerere Institute of Social Research

Mahmood points out that while think tanks’ goal is to generate public debate on issues of public policy, researchers cannot assume that there is a causal relationship between policy makers and researchers. Academics must also not forget that the relationship between think tanks and policy makers stems from the understanding that think tanks are autonomous, and that the public agenda is not defined by the existing scope of public policy.


Sukhadeo Thorat of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR)

Sukhadeo stresses that sustainable policy demands that all policy suggestions are based on a realistic understanding of the issue at hand. Research is understanding, and policy is action based on understanding. This is why methodology is also an extremely important factor in research. He also states that ideal solutions may not be politically acceptable, so research should always try to offer more than one solution.


And finally, Roxana Barrantes of the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP) 

Roxana first gives an account of the history of research institutions in Latin America, particularly in Peru, to point out that for strong academic contribution to knowledge, you need strong academic leadership. She mentions a couple of well known Latin American intellectuals and their impact on research and policy, and also emphasizes the importance of attracting young talent from universities.