The competition for dollars, scholars and influence in the public policy research industry

James G McGann, University of Pennsylvania


The Brookings Institution was established in 1916, and since that time over 1,200 organizations have come into being that are actively involved in conducting public policy research; yet little is known about these institutions and even less in known about their influence on the policy-making process. In the last 16 years or so, a relatively small number of scholarly and a large number of popular books and articles have been written on what are commonly called "think tanks," yet none of these publications effectively defines this area of inquiry. Our failure to develop a clear conceptualization of this universe of institutions has lead to a good deal of confusion and has prevented scholars from conducting a systematic assessment of the public policy research industry. The purpose of this study is to provide scholars and policy makers with a better understanding of these institutions by (1) defining this universe of institutions and (2) constructing a conceptual framework that will enable us to examine the internal and external forces that have shaped the public policy research industry and the firms that operate within it. Specifically, the study is designed to answer the following questions: (1) What are public policy research institutes and how are they organized? (2) What are the forces that have shaped the industry? (3) What are the major strategies and structures employed by these institutions in their competition for dollars, scholars and influence? and (4) Does the strategy and structure of the organization affect its inputs and outputs? Seven exemplar organizations have been selected to provide a vehicle for testing the conceptual framework presented and to serve as examples of the seven strategic groups within the public policy research industry (academic diversified, academic specialized, contract/consulting firm, advocacy tank, corporation, literary agent/publishing house, and state-based think tank). Each institution is profiled and its strategy and structure examined in detail. An analysis of the competitive dimension of each organization and the industry as a whole is then conducted.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development|Management|Political science

Recommended Citation

McGann, James G, "The competition for dollars, scholars and influence in the public policy research industry" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9200370.