Books & Monographs

The Fifth Estate, Think Tanks, Public Policy, and Governance

(Brookings Press, 2016) James G. McGann

What role do think tanks play in shaping public policy and public discourse in the United States? In The Fifth Estate: Think Tanks, Public Policy, and Governance, James G. McGann illustrates how policymakers have come to value the independent analysis and advice provided by think tanks and why it has become one of the defining characteristics of the American political system. Drawing on case studies in both foreign and domestic policy, McGann clarifies the correlation between think tank research and the policies enacted by the past three presidential administrations. He also describes a phenomenon known as “the revolving door,” where think tanks provide former government officials an opportunity to share insights from public service, remain involved in policy debates, and continue to provide advice and commentary.

Based on the history and the level of involvement seen today, the influence of think tanks is unlikely to diminish in the coming years.

Think Tanks and SDGs Catalysts for Analysis, Innovation and Implementation

(University of Pennsylvania, 2015) James G. McGann

Think tanks have the ability to play a key role in the ongoing discourse by providing analysis and advice on the effects of SDGs and the best means to execute them. Think tanks can provide a vital link and mediating role between the civil society, the governments, and the intergovernmental organizations that will constitute the main contributors to SDG implementation. This book explores these issues further by documenting the role think tanks are playing in engaging the public and policymakers on the SDGs and specific strategies and programs they have developed to help implement them.

How Think Tanks Shape Social Development Policies 

(University of Pennsylvania, 2014) Edited by James G. McGann, Anna Viden, and Jillian Rafferty

Across the globe, there are more than four thousand policy institutes, or think tanks, that research or advocate for economic and social development. Yet the relationship between these organizations and the policies they influence is not well understood. How Think Tanks Shape Social Development Policies examines case studies drawn from a range of political and economic systems worldwide to provide a detailed understanding of how think tanks can have an impact on issues such as education policy, infrastructure, environment and sustainable development, economic reform, poverty alleviation, agricultural and land development, and social policy.

Each chapter provides an overview of the approaches and organizational structures of specific think tanks, as well as the political, economic, and social opportunities and the challenges of the environments in which they operate. The contributors study the stages of innovative think-tank-aided strategies implemented in highly industrialized world powers like the United States and Russia, emerging countries such as China, India, Brazil, and South Korea, and developing nations that include Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Accompanied by an extensive introduction to contextualize the history and theory of policy institutes, this comprehensive comparison of policy success stories will be instructive and transferable to other think tanks around the globe.

Global Think Tanks, Policy Networks and Governance

(University of Pennsylvania, 2010) James G. McGann with Richard Sabatini

Global Think Tanks provides a clear description of and context for the global proliferation of think tanks. Whilst these institutions are still relatively new players in global and national politics, they are becoming a significant source of strength in an increasingly transnational and less Western-led world. This work presents an important guide to the factors contributing to the proliferation of think tanks, the present nature of this proliferation, and the future of think tanks at the global, regional, and national level.

The book:

  • identifies the forces driving these phenomena by addressing some of the historical and current factors that have dominate policy debates around the world
  • attempts to identify the range of existing global think tanks and a representative group of global public policy networks and conduct detailed profiling of these organizations.
  • extrapolate trends in current think tank research that provide a basis for understanding the impact that think tanks have on policy makers
  • identifies and critique the role of global think tanks and global public policy networks in civil society and analyze the challenges and opportunities facing global think tanks and policy networks.
  • seeks to recommend improvements to think tanks and global public policy networks so that they can continue to contribute to global public policy and serve as a catalyst for civic engagement around the world.

Examining the issues that face think tanks on a global scale, this book will be of great interest to all students of international relations and international organizations.

Democratization and Market Reform in Developing and Transitional Countries: Think Tanks as Catalysts

(Routledge, 2010) James G. McGann

This book explores the pivotal role of think tanks in the democratization and economic reform movements by evaluating their overall effect on the transformation process in developing and transitional countries around the world.

James G. McGann assesses twenty-three think tanks, located in nine countries and four regions of the world: Chile, Peru, Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, Botswana, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, that have most impacted political and economic transitions in their respective countries. The author examines the role they played in the process of democratization and market reform during the late 80s and 90s and identifies the importance of think tanks in these processes by evaluating their overall effect on the policymaking process. He argues in the early stages of a transition from an authoritarian regime to an open and democratic society the activities of think tanks are especially critical, and they have provided a civil society safety net to support these fragile democracies.

This book will be of interest to students and scholars of political science, democratization, development, economic development and civil society.

Think Tanks and Policy Advice in the US: Academics, Advisors and Advocates

(Routledge, 2006) James G. McGann

The book, Think Tanks and Policy Advice in the US: Academics, Advisors and Advocates, examines the role of independent, nonprofit research organizations, or think tanks, in US policy debates, charting their early origins and the current impact of their research and analysis on the policy making process. The purpose of the book is to capture the distinctive nature of 30 leading think tanks in America while capturing the political and intellectual ecology of more than 1500 think tanks in the US. Many changes have taken place since I first wrote about think tanks 15 years ago in The Competition for Dollars, Scholars and Influence in the Public Policy Research Industry and some recent developments have distorted the original promise and purpose of public policy research organizations. The book is intended to chronicle and analyze these changes while exploring the impact think tanks have on politics, public policies and governance in the US.  Presidents from 15 leading think tanks in the US have contributed essays for the book that examine the role, value and impact of these organizations.

Comparative Think Tanks, Politics and Public Policy

(Edward Elgar, 2005) James G. McGann and Erick Johnson

Independent institutes conducting policy research, analysis and public dialogue, or “think tanks” as they are more commonly known, are one of the leading catalysts for ideas and action in civil societies around the world. Examining the role of think tanks in the policy formulation process, this groundbreaking study provides the first systematically comparative and methodologically rigorous map of such organizations and the social, political, legal and economic conditions that shape their work.

Once found only in advanced industrial democracies, think tanks now provide information and advice for policymakers in countries as diverse as India, Lebanon, Chile, Bulgaria, Germany, Senegal and Thailand. Using case studies of 20 countries across five regions of the world (Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, Europe and Asia), James McGann and Erik Johnson explore how the environments in which think tanks operate serve to expand or constrict their autonomy and influence. They also suggest ways donors, policymakers and international organizations can ensure the viability and sustainability of these important organizations.

With incisive analysis and cogent recommendations for how to seed and sustain independent think tanks around the world, this volume will be of great interest to those involved with think tanks themselves, as well as public policy and political science scholars, international development agencies and policymakers around the world. The comparative dimensions of the book will have considerable appeal among students of comparative politics, public policy and international affairs.

Think Tanks and Civil Societies: Catalysts for Ideas and Action

(Transaction, 2000) James G. McGann and R. Kent Weaver

Think tanks build the intellectual infrastructure for decision makers, offering research, analysis, forecasts, and recommendations on a wide range of issues–hunger, disarmament, urban planning, monetary policy, the environment. Just who does all this thinking in think tanks?

In Think Tanks and Civil Societies: Catalysts for Ideas and Action, scholars James G. McGann and R. Kent Weaver collect the insights of the world’s leading think-tank researchers in a comprehensive look at the role of policy analysts and advocacy organizations in international decision-making.

“This volume is an informative collection of essays providing an overview of think-tanks from a global perspective…. The book should be of interest both to academics working on the third sector and the international flow of ideas and to policy-makers and think-tank practitioners because of its prescriptive nature.”—Stella Ladi, University of York, International Affairs

“The Book should become the pre-eminent comparative reference source on the characteristics and roles of think tanks in all regions of the world… The format is helpful for giving the reader a sense of both the “forest” and the “trees” with regard to think tanks and dispels any notion that think tanks remain a peculiarly Western phenomenon… In its entirety the book elaborates a valuable, sophisticated and complex framework for understanding how research and ideas are packaged and promoted to affect government and politics.”—Andrew Rich, Wake Forest University, Canadian Journal of Political Science

The Competition for Dollars, Scholars and Influence in the Public Policy Research Industry

(University Press of America / Rowman & Littlefield, 1995) James G. McGann

The American political culture has created a vibrant marketplace of ideas that is populated by lobbyists, the media and public policy research organizations. The nature and evolution of public policy research organizations in the United States is explored in The Competition for Dollars, Scholars and Influence in the Public Policy Research Industry by James G. McGann. The book compares and contrasts the mission, structure and operating principles of some of the leading think tanks in the US. Institutions such as the Brookings Institution, the Rand Corporation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Urban Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Institute for International Economics and the Hoover Institution are profiled and analyzed to determine how their strategy and structure influences their role in the policy making process.

James McGann has written the first truly rigorous analysis of the fascinating but neglected world of policy formulation at U.S. “think tanks.”—Thomas H. Henriksen, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution