Think Tanks in the Knowledge Society: A Comparative Approach for Analyzing the Role and Impact of Scientific Expertise

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:45
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Michael HOELSCHER, German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer, Germany
Thomas LAUX, University of Chemnitz, Germany
Alexander RUSER, Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen, Germany, Germany
Think tanks have frequently been described as intermediaries, as “switchboard organizations” between science, politics, economy and the civil sphere. Political consulting and the provision of expertise become increasingly important in determining responses to complex political challenges. Yet what think tanks actually do and why they seemingly thrive on a global scale remains a contested and intriguing question.

This contribution outlines a conceptual framework for analyzing the impact of think tanks on political decision-making and public deliberation in two political spheres. First, environmental politics provides a rich example representing a highly integrated international and inclusive field. Environmental challenges cannot usually be solved nationally. In addition the relevance of ‘environmental issues’ isn’t limited to a single dimension (e.g. ecology), but spills over to other political fields like economic or security politics. Its because of this insecurity and interdependency of issues that political expertise is demanded.

Second, higher education offers a distinct set of questions. Traditionally a domain of the nation state it has become an international political issue. Higher education has itself become a vital part of national and EU strategies to reach political, economic and social goals. It is therefore crucial to ask whether (and how) Think Tanks became complicit in setting out this new agenda and tracing their influence on higher education politics.

In order to analyze Think Tanks' role and impact , we refer to different institutional contexts in politics, the economy or the sciences. Regarding the differences (liberal vs. coordinated market economies; majoritarian vs. consensus democracies) the approach draws on the comparative analysis of theoretically selected cases of EU member states to deepen the understanding of the role of Think Tanks on national and transnational policy making. By using a set-theoretic approach, the aim is to present a relational understanding of Think Tanks applicable to various institutional settings.