Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
What are the unique/interesting ways in which Think Tanks have played a role in the policy making process?
I speak from experience in the U.S. primarily. There are many types of examples. Much of the impetus for the U.S. to go to war with Iraq was generated by the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for a New American Century, two conservative Think Tanks. Conversely, Think Tanks over the past 10 years helped push the objective of negotiating with Iran to resolve the nuclear crisis and injected a number of ideas that were then taken by negotiators into the process. Think Tanks produce data on defense spending, drone strikes, and other actions that governments either may not collect and publicise, or may not do so in ways that are seen as objective. Think Tanks also organise Track II and Track 1.5 dialogues, usually amongst representatives of countries that do not get along well at official levels and there are hundreds of examples of this. Think Tanks have done great technical analysis of government programs, providing a check on what officials and contractors claim. These are merely the first types of examples that come tomy mind.
How would you assess research quality and ensure its importance when engaging with policy makers?It begins with hiring. You want to hire people who've demonstrated that they know how to do first-rate research, publish in peer-reviewed publications, etc. You also often send publications in draft to leading experts from various countries to seek their critiques before you promote results with policy-makers. Then, to engage with policy-makers, it often helps to set up face-to-face meetings. Many policy-makers are too busy to read more than very short texts, and it is a challenge to help them choose to read "yours." So, face-to-face contacts are invaluable.