The Ideas Industry Conference: Think Tanks

Thinking about Think Tanks

Think tanks have been a vital cog in the American foreign policy machine in the past, functioning as both a generator and sounding board for new ideas for generations. Over the past decade, however, questions have been raised about the autonomy and quality of the foreign policy expertise provided by these institutions. Are they becoming more partisan? Is their expertise open for influence from the highest bidder? This evolution of think tanks reflects deeper trends in American society over the past few decades and raising some interesting questions about whether they can continue to play such a role.

  • Has the marketplace of ideas changed, and have think tanks adapted to that change?
  • Has political polarization shunted foreign policy expertise aside?
  • What role do funders play in influencing the output of think tanks?
  • What is the proper relationship between the academy and think tanks?

We will tackle these questions – part of a larger, multiyear, overarching project on the ideas industry in American public policy here at a Fletcher School. Participants will include scholars, journalists, and a host of experts from the think tank community.