Are "Think Tanks" Good Sources of Info., Biased?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

What are your opinions about think tanks?

1.) Do you accept them as reputable, valid, and/or useful sources of political, social, and cultural commentary and analysis?

2.) Which think tanks do you find most reputable?

3.) Is there normally a bias associated with think tanks? Do researchers working for them have to share a particular political leaning? Are there any think tanks that are politically unbiased and allow for free, independent thought and research?

4.) Why are think tanks needed when professional academic communities already exist? (If someone wants to study American politics, history, or culture, why create a think tank when we already have universities and professors conducting research in these areas?)
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Buzz Bloom
Gold Member
2,099
355
Hi bbwb:

Here is a helpful definition from
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/think+tank
A group or institution organized for intensive research and solving of problems, especially in the areas of technology, social or political strategy, or armament.​

I think in general that technology think tanks, (e.g. RAND) are much more likely to avoid bias than social or political strategy think tanks. This seems reasonable since social or political think tanks may be created with a purpose based on a social or political point of view.

Therefore:
1. Yes and no.
2. RAND.
3. Yes and no.
4. A think tank is created to research multiple problems of specific interest to its founders. There may be practical reasons to fund the desired research this way rather than by specific grants to universities. RAND was created to investigate problems of specific interest to the USAF.

Regards,
Buzz
 
  • #3
phinds
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
2019 Award
15,918
5,608
I agree w/ Buzz that you HAVE to specify what think tank you are talking about to get any specifically meaningful answer to your question in general, else the answer is, again as Buzz has pointed out, totally indeterminate.

Some think tanks (mostly the STEM-oriented ones) are set up specifically to avoid bias against any particular point of view and some (the political ones) are set up specifically to promote bias towards a particular point of view or philosophy.
 
  • #4
Evo
Mentor
23,127
2,579
To sum up the above, they are biased based on what they are set up to support. I have yet to find a truly unbiased source. Some are more biased than others and you have to try to determine what they support. Having a small known bias may not be bad as long as you are aware of it and take their conclusions into this consideration.
 
  • #5
Ryan_m_b
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
5,841
711
Even scientific think tanks can hold bias, I can't think of any forms of influential research/technology that doesn't result in social/policy issues. Bias itself isn't always a problem if you can recognise it or (even better) it's admitted to and the best effort is made to minimise it.
 
  • #6
314
162
Follow the money. Who is funding the think tank. Examine their motives, and you will find your bias.
 
  • #7
663
312
My brother-in-law works for a think tank called Civitas. It is a propaganda-generating operation. He writes press releases and posts on social media.
 

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