Bureaucrats don’t take think-tank reports seriously: Study

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Toronto, July 24 (IANS) Government policy makers and advisors do not attach as much credibility to think-tank reports as to those coming from a university, a new research has found.

“We expect public servants to objectively examine the research evidence available to them,” said Carey Doberstein, assistant professor of political science at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Canada.

“However, it seems many are taking shortcuts, and in essence giving academics a free pass,” Doberstein said.

Doberstein conducted a survey experiment involving British Columbia public service staff, asking them to read and assess the credibility of various policy studies.

For half of the respondents, the authorship of the studies was randomly switched but the content remained the same.

Doberstein then compared the average credibility assessments between the control and experimental groups.

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“There were systematic and at times extraordinarily large differences between the credibility assessments provided by these policy professionals on precisely the same policy studies, when the only part I changed was the label of who wrote it,” Doberstein said.

“Irrespective of the content and just by virtue of presenting it as written by an academic, the report suddenly becomes more credible in the eyes of bureaucrats,” he said.

“Put simply, the think-tank affiliation was a significant drag on the perceived credibility of their report and analysis,” Doberstein noted.

The same was true for reports said to be written by research-based advocacy groups, showed the study published in Policy Studies Journal.



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