With Dave Weigel’s piece earlier this week about the Koch brothers-Cato saga, Slate found itself having to explain exactly what a “think tank” is. Overall, I’d say Katy Waldman got it right, but I’m curious to know: Does this sound familiar to anybody? How about the intra-tank social stratification?
Lots of reading and writing, with occasional breaks for coffee. Think tank employees pore over studies, articles, and history books and issue policy briefs and reports on a bevy of topics. In global-oriented institutes such as AEI, scholars focuses on specific hotspots like the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Think tank workers must cultivate an extensive network of connections, so coffees, lunches, and meetings also eat up a large part of a scholar’s day. There are also plenty of TV appearances and phone interviews. Like college professors, think tank scholars are always traveling to conferences and joining in panels.
Life at a think tank tends to be stratified: There are the scholars, and then there’s everybody else. The former are treated very well, because they purvey the ideas and analysis that fuel the think tank’s operations. At the Carnegie Endowment, scholars get to stretch out in large offices. Senior fellows at Cato are paid salaries of about $160,000. Most think tank members get plenty of help from their own research assistants and administrative aides.