First off why am I writing this on my own blog rather than on the Guardians comment pages? Because they’ve closed comments. Why?
I can only presume it’s because they had too many responses, or that they think that the internet is like a newspaper and that after a few days nobody will read the articles anymore. Either way, they’ve process issues. If there’s too much comment data then design a decent comments path that limits comment dialogue in main arena, allows opportunity to indicate agreement, and add links if someone wants to blog about it.
Back to the question at hand. Will the internet kill Think Tanks?
Richard Reeves concludes “So long as politicians are hungry for ideas, thinktanks have a bright future.” What’s to stop them getting ideas elsewhere?
“So long as think-tanks can demonstrate real expertise – be “elitist” in the best sense of the term – they should welcome the heat of online debate.”
Firstly, I take objection to “experts”, indeed I’d go so far as to challenge the myth of experts in the realm of thought wholesale. What qualifies an expert? How is someone living in a london suburb a better “expert” on poverty, than someone who is living in poverty?
So if an “expert” is someone who works for a think tank, what about the “experts” who are not in such a form of employ? What of the people on the ground? Those who research by doing and applying their thinking, and feeding this back into their processes? When these individuals generate voice and opinion, the only thing that makes theirs less valid is that they don’t take the ministers out for lunch.
Right now the influence that Think Tanks continue to hold over government is, as he rightly points out is due to “intimate” relationships.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the internet should kill think tanks (only cos I’d quite like to work for one), but it’s about time they started thinking along the following lines – The internet is a million voices, I have the politicians ears, how do I act as a filter to find and share the good ideas.
If they don’t do this effectively, how long will it be before we have a virtual collaborative think tank? All we need is someone who can take MPs out for dinner 😉