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Think Tanks and Evidence-based Policy

Category 'Best Course for Broadening Horizons and Diversity of Knowledge and Skills'
Category 'Best Course for New Knowledge and Skills'
Type: Mago-Lego
When: 1 module
Open to: students of one campus
Instructors: Artem Uldanov
Language: English
ECTS credits: 3
Contact hours: 36

Course Syllabus


This is an optional course that requires prior knowledge in political science and public policy analysis. The course is aimed at providing students with general knowledge about evidence-based policymaking and the roles and places of think tanks in the public policy process, with particular attention to the features of their work, their types, and their strategies in the advisory market. This course will give you theoretical and conceptual knowledge about the use of evidence in policymaking, think tanks, policy advisory practices, and practical insights. Think tanks in the XX century became strong actors not only in the intellectual support of policymakers but also in the policymaking process itself. Their knowledge and expertise might be valuable in very different spheres, and even authoritarian governments do not deny the possibility of using think tanks’ support for better policymaking and the promotion of the most adequate evidence. During the course, we will have a look at different regions and markets where think tanks operate 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

  • Able to structure and define types of analytical centers and their role in political process
  • 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
  • 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 structure and define types of analytical centers and their role in political process
  • Know definition of think tanks and their basic distinctive features from other institutes of intellectual policy support
  • Know the general characteristics of a think tank and able to define them
  • 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
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Introduction to the course
  • Evolution of intellectual support of policymaking: from advisers to expert organizations
  • Approaches to typology of Think tanks
  • Think Tanks and global politics
  • Think tanks, evidence-based policymaking and expertise in policy processes
  • Determining what is 'evidence' and to what extent policymaking could be based on evidence
  • Policy advisory systems
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Country report
    It is a group work (2-3 students in a group) on one country with a basic analysis of the think tank industry conditions and structure in this country
  • non-blocking Policy debate
    There will be several teams competing with each other to get approval of their policy proposal
  • non-blocking Essay
    You must prepare an essay on the topic: The pitfalls of interpretation: do think tanks produce better evidence? In this essay, you must summarize your thoughts on the issue of the use of evidence by political actors and the specific role of think tanks in making evidence more assessable and vivid. What kind of interpretation biases do we see in the policymaking process, and do think tanks have an opportunity to reduce the impact of these biases?
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • 2023/2024 1st module
    0.3 * Country report + 0.45 * Essay + 0.25 * Policy debate


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