Sound policy making needs a continuous flow of equally sound information. Many different actors contribute to policy processes and they all have their own particular information needs. So who actually provides the evidence that these actors need? Universities have long been seen as the key generators of research in many countries. But a shift is occurring. Today the institutional landscape for research and knowledge generation in many countries is becoming ever more varied, and more fractured, as different types of institutions join the field.

TTI has supported a series of studies looking at how the relationships between universities and think tanks play out in Africa, South Asia and Latin America. This series takes the form of one study in Latin America, one in Africa, and four in South Asia. They are all available on our Results Page, or individually, below:

Study Global Summary:

Latin American Study:

Sub-Saharan Africa Study:

South Asian Studies:

The studies highlighted the strong practical orientation and policy focus of think tanks, and the more theoretical emphasis of many university researchers. They also confirmed that researchers from think tanks and universities often work together because they share an interest in quality research which has the potential to influence policy making for the good of society. Think tank researchers appreciate the status that comes from working with their colleagues in universities. And university researchers appreciate the flexible conditions related to working with their colleagues in think tanks, as this helps them avoid the often heavy bureaucracy of universities that makes it difficult to kick-start time-sensitive research.

Although competition certainly exists between the two, the studies have confirmed that researchers from think tanks and universities are producing knowledge and evidence – and getting it into the hands of policy actors - in ways that might not have been possible had they not worked together.

An accompanying blog series is available at onthinktanks.

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