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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs