Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bias in think tanks

Writing occasionally here about ways that media can, usually unintentionally, distort news, I was interested to see this article pointing to similar distortions by defence think tanks. Benjamin H Friedman gives five ways that think tanks may become biased:

1) Institutional funding: "If you take government or industry money, you will hesitate to undertake research that offends your sponsors."

2) Personal profit bias: "Many defense and homeland security experts, especially the most prominent ones, work for defense contractors or investment companies in that industry."

3) Ambition: "Those pining for jobs in the Obama or Thune administration are not going to tell you exactly what they think about Afghanistan without considering how their would-be bosses would react."

4) Selection bias: "as people that go into the international development business are likely to support increased foreign aid, defense analysts are more likely than most to be hawkish people."

5) Social convention: " seems impolite and for many people uncomfortable to swim against the tide. And we unconsciously adjust our political views to fit in with those around us."


  1. other words, think tanks are as human as the rest of us, eh, Shane?!


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