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Regular version of the site
Master 2020/2021

Think Tanks as Policy Actors

Type: Elective course (Political Analysis and Public Policy)
Area of studies: Political Science
Delivered by: Public Policy Department
When: 2 year, 1, 2 module
Mode of studies: offline
Instructors: Nina Y. Belyaeva, Alexandra Alexandrovna Moskovskaya, Artem Uldanov
Master’s programme: Political Analysis and Public Policy
Language: English
ECTS credits: 5
Contact hours: 40

Course Syllabus


This course is a professional one, taught in the second year of master’s program ‘Political Analysis and Public Policy’ for specialization ‘Political Analysis and Public Policy’. This is an optional course that require prior knowledge in political science and public policy analysis. The course is aimed to provide students with general knowledge about roles and places of think tanks in public policy process with particular attention to features of their work, their types and strategies on advisory market. This course will give you theoretical and conceptual knowledge about think tanks, policy advisory systems, and practical insights on the functioning of diverse think tanks around the globe. Think tanks in XX century became a strong actor not only in intellectual support of policy-makers, but also in policy-making process itself. Their knowledge and expertise might be valuable in very different spheres and even authoritarian governments do not deny possibility to use think tanks’ support for better policy-making. During the course, we will have a look on different regions and markets where think tanks operating and see how influential and successful they could be in various environments.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • To show possibilities of the political analysis in defining of political actors, a role and a place of not-governmental actors in political process, in an estimation of their political status and influence
  • To analyze activity of the main Russian and foreign think tanks their role in policymaking and types of their participation in this process
  • To understand features and characteritics of policy advisory systems in different regions
  • To study how think tanks could positively contribute to the quality of policy decisions and development of democratic institutions in a country
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Know the general characteristics of a think tank and able to define them
  • Know definition of think tanks and their basic distinctive features from other institutes of intellectual policy support
  • Able to structure and define types of analytical centers and their role in political process
  • Be able to structure and define types of analytical centers and their role in political process
  • Know the methodological approaches to the analysis of role and place of think tanks in political process, function and forms of their participation in political process
  • Be able to define possible set of resources and strategies of think tanks, types of think tanks, based on their role in political process, types of analytical products of think tanks
  • Be able to conduct a research on activities of think-tanks with the ability to compare think tanks with each other, based on the clearly defined criteria and their influence on political process in respected countries
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction to the course
    What is a think tank and how can we define it? How the first think tanks were established and why Anglo-Saxon countries led this process?
  • Evolution of intellectual support of policymaking: from advisers to expert organizations
    How kings and rulers of the past organized work of their advisors and who were involved in policy advisory in different periods of time? Role of Catholic Church, lawyers, scholars, "mages", sages and alchemists in policy advisory processes. Preconditions for institutionalization of expert bureau and creation of modern think tanks in the U.S and Britain
  • Typology of Think tanks
    How we can categorize think tanks and put them into different brackets. What kind of features could be used to define think tanks? ‘Universities without students’, contract research organizations and advocacy centers
  • Think Tanks and global politics
    After the end of the Cold War, think tanks underwent another profound evolution. During this era of rapid globalization, US think tanks expanded in size, as the demand to understand and engage in the world has grown. Some have opened think tanks in key capitals around the world. Specialized think tanks have also flourished across the West, responding to the demand for analysis of particular dimensions of globalization. The rapid growth of think tank capacity on climate change, development assistance, cyber security, global health and international finance, has reflected the deepening of international interdependence.
  • Think tanks in different regions of the world
    The state of play with think tanks in CIS region with the focus on Russian cases; the U.S; and European countries
  • Think tanks, evidence-based policymaking and expertise in policy processes
    How thinks tanks can improve quality of public administration and balance different issues of policymaking process? The opportunities for think tanks to rely on the trickle-down technique of taskforces and study groups to influence policymaking are shrinking. Indeed, if they want to influence policy, think tanks must apply a growing proportion of their resources to try to mobilize popular engagement with their ideas.
  • Policy advisory systems
    Think tank outputs now extend beyond traditional expert reports and executive summaries to blogs, infographics and sophisticated data analytics. These, then, enable think tanks to inform policy audiences about the resonance that their ideas are having among relevant constituencies and these constituencies are no longer just to meet decision makers and opinion-shapers, but increasingly, the larger interested public, whose engagement is needed to legitimize the policy influence of think tank ideas.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Reflection paper
  • non-blocking Individual presentation in class
  • non-blocking Final essay
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (2 module)
    0.5 * Final essay + 0.2 * Individual presentation in class + 0.3 * Reflection paper


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Abelson, D. E. (2018). Do Think Tanks Matter? Third Edition : Assessing the Impact of Public Policy Institutes (Vol. Third edition, revvised and expanded). Montreal: MQUP. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1944843
  • James G. McGann. (2018). 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.13E9CE4F
  • Kubilay Yado, A. (2013). Think Tanks : The Brain Trusts of US Foreign Policy. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=618323
  • McGann, J. G. (2019). Think Tanks : The New Knowledge and Policy Brokers in Asia. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press and ADBI. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=2040635
  • Oxford handbook of governance / ed. by David Levi-Faur. (2012). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.362893454
  • Rich, A. (2004). Think Tanks, Public Policy, and the Politics of Expertise. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=161170
  • Think tanks and strategic policy-making: the contribution of think tanks to policy advisory systems. (2017). POLICY SCIENCES, 50(1), 105–124. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsnar&AN=edsnar.oai.openaccess.leidenuniv.nl.1887.55212
  • Think tanks should come out of the shadows. (2019). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.F465758B

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Bergmair, B., Buchegger, T., Hoffelner, J., Schatz, G., Silber, S., & Klinglmayr, J. (2018). Instantly Deployable Expert Knowledge - Networks of Knowledge Engines. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsarx&AN=edsarx.1811.02964
  • Guzansky, Y. (2017). Foreign policy think tanks and decision making processes. Strategic Assessment, 20(2), 125–135. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsram&AN=edsram.000596158
  • Hoppe, R. (2008). Scientific advice and public policy: expert advisers’ and policymakers’ discourses on boundary work. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.D041BB
  • Lavertu, S., & Weimer, D. (2009). Information Costs, Policy Uncertainty, and Political Control: Federal Advisory Committees at the FDA. Conference Papers —— Midwestern Political Science Association, 1. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=poh&AN=45298430
  • Think tanks in policy making - do they matter? / Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. (2011). Shanghai: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.38937346X