Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Does Anyone Actually Read Think Tank Reports?

The World Bank recently conducted a study about how many of its reports are actually downloaded.  Here are the shocking results, as summarized by The Washington Post:
Nearly one-third of their [World Bank] PDF reports had never been downloaded, not even once. Another 40 percent of their reports had been downloaded fewer than 100 times. Only 13 percent had seen more than 250 downloads in their lifetimes. Since most World Bank reports have a stated objective of informing public debate or government policy, this seems like a pretty lousy track record.
...It's fair to assume that many big-idea reports with lofty goals to elevate the public discourse never get read by anyone other than the report writer and maybe an editor or two. Maybe the author's spouse. Or mom.
And don't think for a second that this is just a World Bank problem. PDF reports are basically the bread and butter of Washington's huge think tank industry, for instance. Every single one of these groups should be taking a serious look at their own PDF analytics the way the bank has.

Think Tank Watch is not aware of any think tank that has publicly released data regarding the viewership of its reports.  But Think Tank Watch is pretty sure that many think tanks reports fade away into obscurity without any readers at all.