News / USA

Research 'Think Tanks' Have Notable US Policy Role

One of the very first think tanks, and still one of the most prominent, is the RAND Corporation
One of the very first think tanks, and still one of the most prominent, is the RAND Corporation

Multimedia

Washington D.C. is filled with research organizations -- so-called "think tanks" -- that span the political spectrum and range from neutral to strongly ideological.  Some specialize in specific topic areas, such as in social problems, economics or defense.  All provide opinions on policy and aspects of governance. These think tanks also house officials from previous administrations who often return to government when their political party comes back in power.

Washington, D.C., like many other national capitals, is a city filled with opinions -- and research -- on nearly every topic one could imagine.

Many of these opinions are put forth by the scores of research organizations that make their homes here.  
These organizations, which some people nickname think tanks, are an integral part of the Washington process of examining issues and arriving at policy decisions.

One of the very first research organizations, and still one of the most prominent, is the RAND Corporation.  The name is a short form of the term "research and development."

RAND was created in the aftermath of World War II.  Media Relations Director Jeffrey Hiday, says the term think tank goes back to that era.

"The idea that [RAND] is a place where people were 'putting their heads together' and thinking," noted Hiday.  "And, coming up with ways to shape the world, and to improve the world. [Think tank] was a term that was used with RAND early on, but it is actually a term that we are not quite as comfortable with today. We very much try to call ourselves a 'research organization.'"

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is now with a research organization in Washington called the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  He describes it as a collection of scholars, former government officials, and people who are interested in public policy -- and who write on public-policy issues.

"We have foreign policy experts, national defense experts, health care experts, [and] macro-economic policy experts," explained Bolton.  "In the case of AEI, you name a public policy issue [and] we have people who are working on it.  And we write this [these research reports] for decision makers in Congress and the Executive Branch - or, corporations, unions, opinion leaders in the media."

Ambassador Bolton's description fits many Washington research organizations. But some specialize on specific issues -- such as the Middle East, immigration, or drug policy.  And there are others which have strong ideological or political viewpoints, through which they frame their examination of the issues.

While similar research organizations can also be found in other world capitals, Georgetown University Public Policy Professor Mark Rom says they are bigger, and more prominent in the United States for a couple of reasons.

"We have a longer history of social science research [in the United States compared to many other countries], so we have lots of people doing the kinds of policy work that can influence government," noted Professor Rom.  "We have a for-profit sector that is willing to fund think tanks. So, think tanks tend to be fairly well funded here, perhaps by international standards. And again, our Constitution allows people to petition the government.  So, think tanks can say 'We think you should do this. It would be a good thing.' And, that is constitutionally protected.'"  

While providing political decision makers with research information is a common activity among think tanks, some go beyond that role and advocate a particular side or perspective to an issue.


Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid