Describing and comparing think tanks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Evaluating, rating, ranking and comparing think tanks is an attractive endeavour. Simple comparisons reinforce a narrow understanding of think tanks that help neither them nor their supporters to learn and act on the multiple challenges that they face. More complicated comparisons offer greater opportunities for learning, allowing think tanks to find relevant lessons even from organizations with few common characteristics. Central to this challenge is the effort to determine what is - and is not - a think tank. This chapter explores the definition of think tanks, reflecting on how each one affects the manner in which we compare them and the effects of these comparisons. It argues that more limited definitions of think tanks make comparisons easier, whilst more nuanced discussions about the label’s boundaries make comparisons harder. The latter offer greater opportunities for learning within and across policy communities, allowing think tanks to find relevant lessons even from organizations with few, if any, common characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on think tanks in public policy
EditorsDonald E. Abelson , Christopher J. Rastrick
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78990-184-9
ISBN (Print)978-1-78990-183-2
StatePublished - 16 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Donald E. Abelson and Christopher J. Rastrick 2021.


Dive into the research topics of 'Describing and comparing think tanks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this