Speaker: John McLevey, Centre for Knowledge Integration
The relationships between think tanks and their funders are central to theory and public discourse about the politics of policy knowledge, yet very little research systematically examines these relationships across cases.
In this talk, I use original data on funding for 30 think tanks from 2000 to
2011 to evaluate assumptions from elite, pluralist, and field theories. I
find that foreign donations help support some conservative think tanks, but that it is a small amount of money relative to other funding sources.
Domestically, think tank funding is structured by an opposition between donor funded conservatives and state funded centrists. Since 2005, the cluster of conservative think tanks funded by private donors has become tighter, while the cluster of think tanks supported by the state has become looser and more reliant on self-generated revenue and interest and investments. These findings cast doubt on predictions derived from elite and pluralist theories, and offer some support for field theory. I conclude by discussing practical implications.
John McLevey is an Assistant Professor in Knowledge Integration, and is
cross-appointed with Sociology and Legal Studies at University of Waterloo. As a sociologist of knowledge and technology, Dr. McLevey’s research focuses on how complex environments shape the creation of intellectual and technical products. He is currently writing on knowledge production in think tanks, the organization of free / open source hacking, the reputations of elite social scientists, and debates about climate science in the public sphere.
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