Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Overabundance of Think Tanks and Think Tank Reports

This is from a new piece in The Atlantic by Lee Drutman (of New America Foundation) and Steven Teles (of Johns Hopkins University):
Washington is also now awash in privately funded policy research. According to R. Kent Weaver and Andrew Rich, the number of Washington-based think tanks more than tripled between 1970 and 1996, from 100 to 306. James G. McGann at the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program counted 1,828 think tanks in the United States in 2013. But fewer and fewer think tanks can claim the mantle of truly neutral expertise anymore. Instead, most are funded by industry, labor, or wealthy partisan donors whose official stance as “nonpartisan,” necessary for tax status, is a transparent veil for their advocacy-first work product. One does not go to the Heritage Foundation or the Center for American Progress for their neutral expertise. While such think tanks may produce much substantive analysis, their analysis is intended for (and consumed by) adherents of only one political party.

The piece also notes that in 2012, there were about 1.9 million articles published in 28,000 scholarly peer-reviewed academic journals, creating even more competition with think tank work.

As Think Tank Watch has reported, it seems that few people are actually reading think tank reports anymore, and an analysis done by Think Tank Watch using Google Trends shows that interest in think tanks has been in a steep decline.