From "think tanks" to "do tanks" despite job gets tougher and funding gets harder

Global think tanks are more important than ever to help public authorities in decision-making process. But the job, and finding the money, is getting harder.

Thinking about think tanks.

Global think tanks  are more important than ever in helping public authorities plan and make decisions in a world increasingly hard to analyze, experts told a forum on Friday.

“Relations between China and other countries are undergoing profound changes,” said Wang Zhan, chief expert at the High Rank Think Tank, under the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

“It affords us new opportunities for the development of new-type think tanks  with Chinese characteristics,” Wang told the SASS Shanghai Global Think Tank Forum, entitled “Think Tanks in the New Era: Global Vision and Chinese Approach.”

Jonathan Stromseth, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the role of global think tanks should be enhanced to make them more like “do tanks” in policy advocacy.

Francoise Nicolas, director of the Center for Asian Studies at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris, said think tanks face more challenges — but more opportunities.

“We have seen a lot of new think tanks these days but they are of different quality levels,” said Nicolas. “The competition is a good thing but bad-quality think tanks will lead to people's loss of confidence in experts.”

And such groups face tougher competition for funding and visibility.

“It is paradoxical that in a time when think tanks are more necessary than ever, it is also more difficult for them to find the means to do their job,” Nicolas said.



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