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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.