The need for more Saudi “Think Tanks”



Mohammed AlSaif

Published — Monday 18 February 2013

Last update 18 February 2013 5:35 am

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Recently I read a new study by the University of Pennsylvania on the classification of thinking centers around the world. The annual Global Go To Think Tanks Report was issued last month and is considered to be one of the most important international reports on these quality research models that are known as think tanks.
The term “Think Tank” is considered a fairly new concept, since it was introduced by journalists in the 1950s to describe those institutions and study centers that are concerned with research and analysis on matters such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, technology, and culture. They provide advice and enlightened visions for the decision-makers and public opinion on vital issues.
According to the report, 6603 think tanks from 182 countries were invited to participate in the ranking process. Think tanks around the world were nominated and subsequently ranked in 38 categories. In the end, a total of 171 were selected as the world’s top think tanks.
What grabbed the attention of many observers is that more than 60 percent of these centers are located in North America and Europe. The extraordinary dependence of policymakers in those areas on the work of these centers gives a big indication on the relation between their dependability on think tanks, and the level of development their governments have achieved.
Locally, it seems that the feeling of indifference toward the importance of these fundamental study institutions is preventing the launch of such centers. But due to the increased complexity of policy issues, governments and decision-makers are faced with highly technical and complicated problems that require policymakers to seek outside advice.
In fact, now more than ever before we are truly in need more of these policy research institutions. New accelerating developments in the Saudi legislative framework, and the increasing dependency on the newly appointed Shoura Council, are putting increased pressure on the government to help launch such independent centers and provide them with needed support. And with hundreds of Saudi postgraduates who have studied abroad in various specialties, the Kingdom has a wealth of people to choose from to become members of local think tanks.
The good news is, that at least one Saudi research center came in at good ranking in the think tanks international classification. The Gulf Research Center is ranked 147th of the top worldwide centers and achieved second place in the top think tanks in the Middle East and North Africa. There were also two other Arab centers: one from Lebanon and one from Egypt in the top one hundred think tanks.
A tweet: “The potential of think tanks to support and sustain democratic governments and civil society is far from exhausted. Today policymakers and civil society throughout the developed and the developing world face the common problem of bringing expert knowledge to bear on government decision-making.”
— James McGann
@msalsaif

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