Policy Sciences

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 105–124 | Cite as

Think tanks and strategic policy-making: the contribution of think tanks to policy advisory systems

  • Bert FraussenEmail author
  • Darren Halpin
Research Article


Think tanks have proliferated in most Western democracies over the past three decades and are often considered to be increasingly important actors in public policy. Still, their precise contribution to public policy remains contested. This paper takes the existing literature in a new direction by focusing on the capacity of think tanks to contribute to strategic policy-making and assessing their particular role within policy advisory systems. We propose that strategic policy-making capacity requires three critical features: high levels of research capacity, substantial organizational autonomy and a long-term policy horizon. Subsequently, we assess the potential of think tanks to play this particular role in policy-making, using empirical evidence from structured interviews with a set of prominent Australian think tanks.


Think tanks Strategic policy-making Policy advisory systems Policy advice Policy capacity 



Previous versions of this article were presented at the International Conference in Interpretive Policy Analysis, 8–10 July 2015; and the Australian Political Studies Association Annual Conference, 28–30 September 2015. We would like to thank the participants in those panels for their helpful comments and suggestions. The research presented in this article has been supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Scheme (DP140104097). We would like to thank the interviewees for their time in answering our questions. We would also like to thank Dr. She Hawke for her assistance in conducting these telephone interviews. Last but not least we thank the anonymous referees and the journal editor for their critical yet constructive comments which have improved the article considerably.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research School of Social SciencesAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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