Beware the Think Tanks !

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David Remer, June 9, 2003

Think Tanks are prevalent around the world, their influence pervades in the UN, the US Government, Political Parties, special interest groups like Teens, Gays, Blacks, and are also found influencing policy decisions and ideology from community centers and local governments right up to the World Trade Organization and World Health Organization.

So what should a think tank be?

A group or an institution organized for intensive research and solving of problems, especially in the areas of technology, social or political strategy, or armament. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)

And what is a think tank?

noun. A company that does research for hire and issues reports on the implications. WordNet 1.6, (c) 1997 Princeton University

Note the difference in the references above. The AH Dictionary definition implies objectivity through research since research should be based on empirical study with appropriate techniques to insure against biased results like double blind studies and Null Hypotheses. However, Worldnet's definition captures the reality of most if not all think tanks. They are hired or funded by special interests to conduct research that will support the funder's agenda. That is not to say that all think tanks are in the lying business. Many are quite reputable and do quality research. However, if the implications of their research fail to support the funder's agenda, the reports are not published or used. But, then there are the fundamentally biased think tanks, like those of the political parties, whose polls and surveys are designed to produce intended results.

Like politicians, to know what they are really doing and why, you often have to look at who is footing their bill. Gallop and Zogby have both been critized for slanting the results of their polls in the way they frame their questions to the people polled. Think tanks are the same. They can and often do frame their research in a fashion to produce intended results to support their own biases or those of their contributors.

So beware, of taking Think Tank results at face value. Go to their web site and question their results and advice against their contributor list to see if there is a hidden agenda behind their policy recommendations.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on June 9, 2003 11:49 PM.

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