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Abstract

Messenger of ASUE, N 6, pp. 106-125. - The paper presents the results of the research of the think tank sector in Armenia. The process of emerging and the process of development of the think tank sector since Armenia's independence, as well as the main factors hindering the development of that sphere and its full establishment were studied. The current situation and peculiarities of the think tank industry in Armenia were analyzed, including the quantitative and typological landscape of think tanks. The author has also touched upon the role and the influence of think tanks in the public policy of Armenia, as well as upon the cooperation issues with decision-makers. The summary outlines certain approaches, the application of which can have a positive impact and stimulate the development of the think tank industry in Armenia.
EDUCATION, INNOVATION,
KNOWLEDGE
VARDAN ATOYAN
Doctor of Sciences (Political Science),
Head of Social Sciences Department,
Armenian State University of Economics
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4974-0312
EMERGING INDUSTRY OF THINK
TANKS IN ARMENIA
The paper presents the results of the research of the think tank sector in Armenia.
The process of emerging and the process of development of the think tank sector since
Armenia's independence, as well as the main factors hindering the development of that
sphere and its full establishment were studied. The current situation and peculiarities of
the think tank industry in Armenia were analyzed, including the quantitative and
typological landscape of think tanks. The author has also touched upon the role and the
influence of think tanks in the public policy of Armenia, as well as upon the cooperation
issues with decision-makers. The summary outlines certain approaches, the application of
which can have a positive impact and stimulate the development of the think tank industry
in Armenia.
Keywords: Armenia, think tanks, ideas industry, marketplace of ideas, public policy,
research institutions
JEL: J24, D80
DOI: 10.52174/1829-0280_2021_6_106
Introduction. In recent decades unprecedented transformations in the
information and technology spheres, global political processes and constantly
changing mosaic of international security had a significant impact on public
policy. The risks associated with these realities, as well as the difficulty of
adapting to such rapid change, and predicting upcoming scenarios,
tremendously increase the uncertainty about the future for societies and political
elites, and complicate decision-making for decision-makers. The composition and
EDUCATION, INNOVATION, KNOWLEDGE
107
the level of involvement of the actors, who make the political decisions, are
involved in the process of their implementation, ensure the public legitimacy of
those decisions, are gradually changing. As a result, in the sphere of public
policy, the need for the involvement of new actors in the process of decision-
making and preparation of political decisions and their implementation, and in
the development of a new paradigm for the expert leadership, is gradually
escalating.
In the above-mentioned context, it is no coincidence that in recent decades
the think tanks have become active actors in the process of public policy in many
countries, including the preparation of decisions, their examination, evaluation of
effectiveness, and public legitimacy. In this respect, the last decades have always
been accompanied by an increase in the number of think tanks and by regular
growth of the latter’s role in public policy.
It is noteworthy, however, that the political and social system of each
country has its peculiarities. Therefore, in the think tank sector, it is not always
possible to replicate or apply a successful development experience of one
country in another country1. However, in the case of availability of favorable
political culture, or providing other necessary certain conditions, the think tanks
can both develop rapidly, and acquire the role of a sphere that serves the
national interest, and can be actively involved in shaping foreign and domestic
policy. In result, think tanks can form a unique pole of influence on public policy.
It is no coincidence that the think tanks are becoming quite remarkable and
significant in countries where there has been no tradition of such independent
policy consultation in the past2. In this context, the process of establishing the
think tank sector in countries in transition, including Armenia, is of academic
interest. As Raymond Struyk and Samuel Haddaway truly state, “The literature
for transition and developing nations is more limited but more relevant because
Western policy research organizations are generally larger, better resourced,
and operate in policy environments that are more open to input from policy
research organizations”3.
In this regard, the process of emerging the think tank industry in Armenia
in its modern sense has begun in the 1990s, when, after the collapse of the
Soviet Union and the restoration of independence, alongside the public
administration system, democratic and civil society institutions, researches in
public policy gradually began to emerge that are relatively more independent
actors.
Over the past three decades, the think tank sector in Armenia has come a
long way, but there are still many factors that hinder and disallow the full
1 Weaver, R.K. (1989). The Changing World of Think Tanks. PS: Political Science & Politics.
September, 22 (3): 563-578.
2 Åberg, P., Einarsson, S., and Reuter, M. (2021). Think Tanks: New Organizational Actors in a
Changing Swedish Civil Society. Voluntas, 32: 634648. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-019-
00174-9
3 Struyk, R.J., and Haddaway, S.R. (2011). What Makes a Successful Policy Research Organization
in Transition and Developing Countries?. Nonprofit Policy Forum, 2: 1.
https://doi.org/10.2202/2154-3348.1021
MESSENGER OF ASUE 2021.6
108
development of the sphere. This research aims to identify and analyze those
factors.
Literature review. Considering the fact of gradual increase of the role and
influence of the think tanks in public policy around the world, the discussion
topic has had its major place among the researches of academic society for
several decades.
Academic discussions and publications on think tanks have been gaining
momentum since the late 1980s. In recent years, many fundamental works have
been published on the think tank sector and its various issues which have been of
great importance in terms of further development and conceptualization of
academic discourse in this sphere. Among them are for example valuable
publications of Andrew Denham4, Andrew Rich5, Andrew Selee6, Alexander
Sungurov7, Diane Stone8, Donald E. Abelson9, Enrique Mendizabal10, Hartwig
Pautz11, James A. Smith12, James G. McGann13, Jordan Tchilingirian14, Mahmood
Ahmad15, Md. Rahat Hasan16, Raymond Struyk17, R. Kent Weaver18, Stephen
4 Denham, A.R.J. (1996). Think-tanks of the New Right. Aldershot: Dartmouth Press.
5 Rich, A. (2004). Think Tanks, Public Policy, and the Politics of Expertise. New York: Cambridge
University Press.
6 Selee, A.D. (2013). What should Think Tanks Do? A Strategic Guide to Policy Impact. Stanford:
Stanford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780804789295
7 Sungurov, A. (2020). Expert Communities and Government. Moscow: ROSSPEN. (In Russian).
8 Stone, D. (1996). Capturing the Political Imagination: Think Tanks and the Policy Process.
London: Frank Class.
9 Abelson, D.E. (1996). American Think Tanks and their Role in the U.S. Foreign Policy. New York:
St. Martins Press; Abelson, D.E. (2006). A Capitol Idea: Think Tanks and US Foreign Policy.
Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
10 Mendizabal, E. (2021). Describing and comparing think tanks. In Handbook on Think Tanks in
Public Policy, edited by D.E. Abelson and CH.J. Rastrick, 16-32. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar
Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781789901849.00011
11 Pautz, H. (2011). Revisiting the think-tank phenomenon. Public policy and administration, 26(4),
419-435. https://doi.org/10.1177/0952076710378328
12 Smith, J.A. (1991). Idea brokers: Think tanks and the rise of the new policy elite. New York: Free
Press.
13 McGann, J.G. (2007). Think Tanks and Policy Advice in the US: Academics, Advisors and
Advocates. New York: Routledge; McGann, J.G. (2016). The Fifth Estate: Think Tanks, Public Policy
and Governance. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.
14 Tchilingirian, J. (2021). Network Intellectuals and Networked Intellectuals: relational approaches to
the study of British think tanks. In Handbook on Think Tanks in Public Policy. Edward Elgar
Publishing.
15 Ahmad, M. (2008). US Think Tanks and the Politics of Expertise: Role, Value and Impact. The
Political Quarterly, 79: 529-555. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-923X.2008.00964.x
16 Hasan, M.R. (2012). Foreign Policy and Strategic Issues: Think Tanks in US and South Asia. New
Delhi: New Century Publications.
17 Struyk, R.J. (2006). Managing Think Tanks: Practical Guidance for Maturing Organizations.
Expanded 2nd ed., Budapest: OSI/LGI and Urban Institute.
18 Weaver, R.K. (1989). The Changing World of Think Tanks. PS: Political Science & Politics.
September, 22 (3): 563-578.
EDUCATION, INNOVATION, KNOWLEDGE
109
Boucher19, Thomas Medvetz20, works co-authored by Andrew Denham and Mark
Garnett21, and James G. McGann and R. Kent Weaver22.
The basis of the published studies was the definition of a “think tank”, the
typology of these institutions, the formation of think tanks in the political culture
of different countries, the peculiarities of development, as well as the evolution of
the sector, ideological orientations and the growing importance of think tanks in
public policy. The issues concerning the funding of think tanks, the functioning
of public policy, the role in foreign and domestic policy, public discourse,
relations with the government, mechanisms for influencing the society and
decision-makers and the peculiarities of think tanks management, and a lot of
other various issues have been comprehensively studied.
Thorough works on this sphere contain also publications devoted to the
contemporary issues of the industry and the expertise of ideas, including the
notable books by Tom Nichols23 and Daniel W. Drezner24.
In general, the academic discourse on think tanks can be divided into two
main groups. The first group may include the topics related to the organizational
and management peculiarities of the think tanks, the preconditions of the origins
and the development of these institutions in different countries, the issues of the
current situation and sector, the issues of funding and public policy impact.
Accordingly, the second group may include the observations of researchers,
which aim to identify the role and importance of expertise in public policy,
political system, public discourse, decision-making, involving trends in these
areas.
Nevertheless, the think tanks industry in Armenia is still poorly studied, and
there is barely any work on the think tank sector in Armenia or its issues,
especially in the English-language academic publications, with a few exceptions25.
Obviously, the very limited number of publications available cannot fill the gap.
The urgency and the relevance of this publication are conditioned by the above-
mentioned factors. This is an attempt to partially fill the gap of academic
19 Boucher, S., et al. (2004). Europe and its think tanks; a promise to be fulfilled. An analysis of
think tanks specialised in European policy issues in the enlarged European Union. Studies and
Research: 35, October, Paris, Notre Europe.
20 Medvetz, T. (2012). Think Tanks in America. Chicago: University Chicago Press.
21 Denham, A., and Garnett, M. (1998). British think-tanks and the climate of opinion. London: UCL
Press.
22 McGann, J.G., and Weaver, R.K. (2002). Think Tanks and civil societies: catalyst for ideas and
action. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
23 Nichols, T. (2017). The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why
It Matters. New York: Oxford University Press.
24 Drezner, D.W. (2017). The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats are
Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas. New York: Oxford University Press.
25 See, Atoyan, V. (2017). Some features of Armenian Think Tank Industry. European Science Review,
3-4: 87-89; Atoyan, V. (2017). Armenian Think Tanks influence aspects on Public Policy. European
Journal of Law and Political Sciences, 2: 59-62; Atoyan, V. (2015). University affiliated think tanks in
Armenia. Austrian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 11-12: 58-59; Iskandaryan, A., and
Dafflon, D. eds. (2011). An Assessment of Research Capacities in Social Sciences and Humanities in
Armenia. Caucasus Institute Research Papers: 4, Yerevan: Caucasus Institute.
MESSENGER OF ASUE 2021.6
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literature on Armenian think tanks in the English language, to outline the current
situation and dynamics of the development of the think tanks in Armenia.
Methods. Within the framework of the preparation of the presented publication,
information was collected, coordinated, developed, and analyzed about the
institutions that are more active in the sphere of public policy of Armenia, thus
can be functionally defined as the think tanks. The following criteria developed
by Allern and Pollack were used as a basis to distinguish think tanks from other
institutions, and to identify think tanks in terms of the function: “The
organisation must be a non-profit institution and engaged in independent
research and/or dissemination of research-based knowledge in one or more
policy areas. The organization may be funded privately or by the government,
but must be organized independently and represent its own voice in policy
debates. The organization must regularly produce and disseminate research
articles and/or reports that are made available for a wider public. The
organization must be engaged in opinion building and networking via seminars,
conferences or other public events. The organisation must have known
leadership”26.
To collect the data and to check the compliance with the above-mentioned
criteria and within the framework of the empirical approach, the official websites
of several dozen Armenian organizations, close to performing similar functions
as the think tanks, were examined. The necessary information was collected and
processed, due to which it was possible to get a more complete picture of the
real level of involvement of the think tanks in the public policy of Armenia.
To determine the typology of the selected organizations, to receive
additional and more up-to-date data on them, in March-April of 2021 e-mails
were sent and information was received from relevant organizations.
During the research historical, cultural, institutional, systematic,
generalizing, and empirical methods, principles and approaches of research
were mainly used. In particular, the historical method has made it possible to
analyze changes in political norms and environmental factors in the context of
the past and the present. This approach also allowed to analyze the evolutionary
changes and characteristics of the think tanks in Armenia. The cultural method
provided an opportunity to consider the involvement of think tanks in the public
policy of Armenia in the context of the peculiarities of local political culture. The
institutional method made it possible to identify and describe the institutional
issues that contribute to or hinder the development of the think tank sector.
The systematic method enabled us to consider the think tank sector in
Armenia within a complex wholeness of public policy, as well as to analyze the
involvement of think tanks in the policy-making process. The generalizing
method was used as well, which provided an opportunity to summarize the
observations and approaches proposed by other researchers dealing with the
sphere.
26 Allern, S., and Pollack, E. (2020). The role of think tanks in the Swedish political landscape.
Scandinavian Political Studies, 43 (3): 145169. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9477.12180
EDUCATION, INNOVATION, KNOWLEDGE
111
Results and discussion. The last decade of the previous century marked the
beginning of global geopolitical transformations. The collapse of the USSR and
the end of the Cold War created a completely new situation in the region and in
the world. Along with the other Republics that were part of the Soviet Union,
Armenia gained independence too. It was then that the first independent think
tanks resembling Western models gradually emerged, along with the
establishment of government institutions, democratic values, and civil society
institutions in a newly independent state. It should be noted that, despite some
difficulties of the transition period, there is already a small community of think
tanks in Armenia that plays a certain role in public policy.
It should also be mentioned that during the Soviet years, there were
structures in Soviet Armenia that somewhat duplicated some of the functions of
modern think tanks, but taking into account the conceptual difference in their
operating format, and the fact that of not being an independent actor, it is not
proper to classify the latter among the think tanks in their modern sense. As
Katarzyna Jezierska states clearly, “given the conditions of policymaking under
communist rule, these institutions were heavily controlled by the party and did
not even aspire to make an appearance of independence”27.
Obviously, in the Soviet period, the highly centered state administrative
system, the ideological pressure of intolerance towards variety of opinions,
severely limited both the political and economic alternatives of the state
development and the development and implementation of non-standard or
alternative approaches for the political and economic reforms, which is one of
the important functional features of modern think tanks. As Chankseliani,
Lovakov, and Pislyakov describe, “The Soviet research community was uniform
and centralized, highly politicized, and entirely state-driven.”28 It is natural that
in such conditions there could not be institutions that do not correspond to the
state official ideology, with an alternative perspective, which is a significant
component of civil society.
Thus, in the 21st century, the academic system, the industry of ideas and the
intellectual potential need to be classified as one of the soft infrastructure vital to
the country. At the same time, the country's academic system, as a workshop for
“producing” scholars, experts, analysts, professionals in various spheres, is the
intellectual pillar that allows the development of think tank industry. In this
respect, after the collapse of the USSR, Armenia inherited quite significant
resources, i.e. strong scientific potential, leading academic system, and advanced
scientific infrastructure. For example, it is worth mentioning that in 1989 in the
sphere of science of Soviet Armenia, more than 47 thousand people were
employed29. Meantime, dozens of powerful research institutes operated in the
27 Jezierska, K. (2020). Three Types of Denial: Think Tanks as a Reluctant Civil Society Elite. Politics
and Governance, 8 (3): 152161. https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v8i3.3015
28 Chankseliani, M., Lovakov, A. and Pislyakov, V. (2021). A big picture: bibliometric research of
academic publications from post-Soviet countries. Scientometrics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-
021-04124-5
29 State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Armenia. (1991). The national economy of the
Armenian SSR in 1989, Statistical Yearbook of Armenia. Yerevan.
https://www.armstat.am/file/doc/99507078.pdf (Accessed 10 August, 2021). (In Armenian).
MESSENGER OF ASUE 2021.6
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system of the National Academy of Sciences and under various ministries and
government agencies.
However, despite such an impressive scientific potential, the process of
research institutions establishing of public policy in newly independent Armenia
was rather slow and difficult, due to a number of objective and subjective factors.
As the main and interrelated factors that significantly slowed down the
process of establishing of think tank sector in the country, we can highlight the
following:
Nagorno Karabakh conflict in the first half of the 1990s;
The deep economic breakdown and socio-economic crisis caused by the
transport blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan, as well as the collapse of
the USSR's common industrial system and the loss of traditional
economic ties with the former Soviet Republics;
The energy crisis, which was large because of the shutdown of the
Armenian Nuclear Power Plant, which reopened only in the mid-1990s;
Loss of traditional scientific ties due to the collapse of the USSR shared
scientific-educational complex;
Extremely insufficient funding for science, which, by the way, has
remained low so far;
Weak involvement in the international scientific network;
The complicated process of establishing a market economy, democratic
institutions, the formation of state authorities;
The peculiarity of the political culture, which was still endowed with
inertial manifestations typical of the Soviet system, etc.
The difficult socioeconomic situation of newly independent Armenia,
followed by an acute reduction in funding, harmed the academic system. The
number of people working in the sector of science, research and development
institutions has tremendously decreased. The above-mentioned factors also
explain the unprecedented “brain drain” that began in the country during the
first years of independence, the dangerously large volumes of which threatened
national security. It is not accidental that the first document on “National Security
Strategy of the Republic of Armenia” adopted yet in 2007, specifically mentioned
the issue of “brain drain”, and the drain of educational and scientific potential
was considered a threat30.
Moreover, the flow of scientific migration from Armenia had two main
directions, which can be conventionally called Northerni.e. to Russia, and
some other former Soviet Republics in more favorable socio-economic conditions
than Armenia, and Western” i.e. to North America and European Union (EU)
countries.
Apparently, the Armenian ruling elite of those years was aware of the
existing difficulties, yet the existential threats, which were mainly related to
ensuring national security, in particular, the ongoing Nagorno Karabakh conflict
and its aftermath, dictated the political elite completely different priorities. At the
same time, as a result of the ineffective actions of the government, Armenia's
30 National Security Strategy of the Republic of Armenia. (2007). “Haykakan Banak”, The Special Issue.
EDUCATION, INNOVATION, KNOWLEDGE
113
industrial potential was basically demolished, which was largely interconnected
with research and development, thus significantly hindering the process of
modernization of the economy in the following years.
During that difficult period for Armenia, many international and foreign
foundations became interested in the scientific potential of the country. Of
particular interest are the scientific researches, including in the sphere of social
sciences, conducted by Armenian scholars under the request, sponsorship or
grants of these institutions, which were estimated significantly less than it could
cost in many other countries. In addition, the thematic areas of such researches
were largely in the interests of the external client; they could not always coincide
with Armenia's social, economic, academic, security and political agenda
priorities. However, such funding partially allowed Armenian researchers to
continue working at least by profession, to have a stable income, which to some
extent, albeit for a limited number of professionals, alleviated the difficult socio-
economic situation, and actually helped not to lose completely the country's
scientific potential31.
Nevertheless, it is in those years that the first institutes operating in the
format of think tanks began to appear in Armenia, the number of which
gradually increased in the following years. In this context, the observation of
Mark Sandle is worth attention, who singles out several reasons for the creation
and spread of such institutions in post-Soviet countries.
A sharp reduction in public funding for the National Academy of
Sciences, which pushed talented scientists to set up their own think tanks
or replenish new ones;
External funding by Western foundations and agencies aimed at civil
society establishment, in particular for the establishment of independent
research institutes;
The increased competition and fragmentation, especially in the new
political and economic conditions, the replacement of virtual
‘monopolies’ of expertise with a more competitive environment;
The increasing complexity of management, as well as the development of
policies to create viable economies and political systems in the post-
Soviet era, created a demand for expertise that governments were
unable to address32.
In the context of the discussion of the current state of the think tanks in
Armenia, it is possible to present the typological diversity of these institutions. In
total, there are currently 33 think tanks in Armenia that can be divided into four
main types: independent, university affiliated, government affiliated, and political
party affiliated, the quantitative indicators of which are shown in Table 1.
31 Atoyan, V. (2016). The industry of “think tanks” in Armenia. National Strategy Issues, 4 (37): 158-
176. (In Russian).
32 Sandle, M. (2004). Think tanks, post communism and democracy in Russia and Central and
Eastern Europe. In Think Tank Traditions: Policy Research and the Politics of Ideas, edited by D.
Stone and A. Denham, 121-137. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
MESSENGER OF ASUE 2021.6
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Table 1
Categories of Think Tanks Affiliations
Category
Number of Think Tanks
Autonomous and Independent
23
University affiliated
5
Government affiliated
4
Political party affiliated
1
Total
33
Hereby we can add that despite numerous announcements by a number of
political parties in recent years about the intention to establish affiliated think
tanks, the implementation has not yet been noticed. The only institution currently
operating in Armenia that can claim the title of such a think tank, is Hrayr
Marukhyan Foundation established in 2009 by the Supreme Council of the
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) as a social democratic think tank.
However, the public activities of this institution do not either stand out yet with
the stable, visible activity typical of similar institutions abroad.
The monitoring of the Armenian think tank sector shows that since the
restoration of independence, dozens of institutions have been formally
established in the country, the activities of which are close to the think tanks.
However, most of them existed either exclusively in a formal form, or had a short
period of real activity, after which they became inoperative or ceased to exist and
closed down altogether. At present, the situation, in general, has not changed
essentially either; most of the functioning think tanks do not stand out with
active, steadily growing public activity. There are so-called “one man think
tanks”, where the director or founder of the institution is the only expert and the
only one who is active in the public and expert sphere. Such institutions
sometimes serve simply as the “intellectual packaging” of a particular person in
order to be more presentable in the public sphere.
Another peculiarity of the sphere of think tanks in Armenia is that the think
tanks are highly concentrated in the capital Yerevan: 31 out of 33 monitored
institutions are located there, i.e. about 94% of the total number. Meanwhile, 25
or about 76% of the think tanks currently operating in Armenia have been
established since 2000. This phenomenon can be explained by the following
main reasons:
Together with the improvement of the socio-economic situation in the
country, the gradual expansion of the financial resources and
opportunities necessary for the activities of such institutions;
Expanding domestic, especially foreign grant opportunities; developing a
culture of participating in such programs;
Some establishment and strengthening of state, civil and democratic
institutions;
Internationalization and increasing the level of integration into
international expert networks;
Expanding Internet access and activating socialization in the Internet
domain;
EDUCATION, INNOVATION, KNOWLEDGE
115
Some increase in the interest of the political elite in the ideas and
intellectual product of the think tanks and expert advice33.
Though the situation in the think tanks sphere in Armenia has been
gradually improving over the last two decades34, and more favorable conditions
were created for the development of think tanks, the Second Nagorno Karabakh
War in 2020, and political crisis, national security challenges and serious
economic difficulties, plus the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 epidemic,
and the health, economic, social and psychological consequences, have created a
new situation and new realities in Armenia. All this has a direct negative effect on
think tanks, the consequences of which are uncertain in the long run, and
difficult to predict.
As for the expert potential of the think tanks of Armenia, about 380 experts
are permanently involved in the staff of the observed think tanks. However, this
number does not reflect the full picture. In some think tanks, visiting experts are
also involved in various research projects on a non-permanent basis. For
example, the AMBERD Research Center of the Armenian State University of
Economics, in addition to 12 permanent staff members, employs about 60 visiting
experts each year on a temporary, up to a 6-month contract for various
research. Table 2 presents the quantitative picture of the experts permanently
working in Armenian think tanks.
Table 2
Number of Experts in Think Tanks
Category of Think Tank
Number of Experts
Government affiliated
175
Autonomous and Independent
143
University affiliated
60
Total
378
Another feature of Armenian think tanks is that most of the independent
think tanks in Armenia are legally registered as nonprofit non-governmental
organizations and rarely as foundations.
The issue of recognition of Armenian think tanks in various political and
public circles is also considered an important factor that should be discussed. In
general, most of the think tanks in Armenia are little known to the mass media,
political circles, and sometimes even academics. As Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan
notes, “Armenian think tanks remain virtually unknown to the public, including
such important segments of the public as journalists, students, scholars, and
others who would clearly benefit from think tank generated, systematised and
stored information”35.
33 Atoyan, V. (2016). The industry of “think tanks” in Armenia. National Strategy Issues, 4 (37): 158-
176. (In Russian).
34 Atoyan, V. (2018). Are Armenian Political Elites Opening up to Think Tanks?. On Think Tanks.
Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3865724 (Accessed 20 July, 2021).
35 Paturyan, Y.J. (2015). Think Tanks in Armenia: Who Needs their Thinking?. On Think Tanks.
https://onthinktanks.org/articles/think-tanks-in-armenia-who-needs-their-thinking/ (Accessed June
15, 2021).
MESSENGER OF ASUE 2021.6
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The low level of recognition of the think tanks of Armenia can be explained
by some interrelated possible reasons:
Insufficient financial resources for sustainable development, proper use
of public relations (PR) and marketing tools, which also causes the
insufficient activity of the institution in the sphere of information and
public platforms;
Sometimes insufficient efficiency of think tanks management;
Insufficient financial resources to engage professional experts and
analysts;
Underestimation of the importance of think tanks by other policy actors
and decision-makers;
Extremely limited involvement of think tanks in the decision-making
process.
Regarding the issue of funding for think tanks, it should be noted that while
government affiliated and university affiliated think tanks are often able to
provide sustainable funding from the state and university's budget respectively,
the situation is somewhat different for independent think tanks. The latter rely
mostly on external funding, mainly on grants from foreign organizations, and to
a lesser extent on domestic sources. This is confirmed by the Caucasus Institute
research, which also addresses funding issues in this sphere36.
In the current reality, after the completion of the external grant program,
such organizations are forced to slow down the operations until the next grant is
received, or in some cases, they are closed down altogether. Such an unstable
financial situation also hinders the strategic development of think tanks. On the
other hand, with the low level of cooperation with national actors, the research
agenda of Armenian think tanks, in general, is formed abroad, as grant
programs are usually given to projects that are of interest to the relevant foreign
institution37.
As for the research interests of the Armenian think tanks, the monitoring of
the publications of the official websites shows mainly the following thematic
preferences:
Democratization, civil society and human rights;
Conflicts and regional security issues (South Caucasus and neighboring
countries, Middle East);
Economic issues;
European Union and Eurasian Economic Union integration processes;
Education and youth issues.
Another circumstance should be mentioned, which is often essential for the
normal development of the think tanks: the tradition of philanthropy, which has
not yet been formed in Armenia, especially in this sector. Significant evidence of
this phenomenon is the World Donation Ranking Report. Thus, in the published
36 Iskandaryan, A., and Dafflon, D. eds. (2011). An Assessment of Research Capacities in Social
Sciences and Humanities in Armenia. Caucasus Institute Research Papers: 4, Yerevan: Caucasus
Institute.
37Atoyan, V. (2021). The role of think tanks in integration processes. Science. Culture. Society,
27(3): 10. https://doi.org/10.19181/nko.2021.27.3.1 (In Russian).
EDUCATION, INNOVATION, KNOWLEDGE
117
record of 2019, which covers 126 countries, Armenia ranks only 114th in terms
of donation38. This issue is important by the fact that in many countries, think
tanks often raise funding for research, not only by grants, research requests,
and the sale of intellectual products, but they also receive donations from various
organizations or individuals. Normally, the share of income from the above-
mentioned sources varies in different institutions, yet it is also logical that the
think tanks attempt to diversify their financial sources in order to avoid
dependence on just one source.
In the context of the above, it should be noted that the financial flows of
independent think tanks in Armenia remain one of the most difficult issues to
analyze. The Armenian think tanks often do not publicly share such information,
and information on financial statements in open, public sources is very limited.
The monitoring of the official websites of the think tanks shows that the financial
statements of the latter are more often missing or are a few years old.
As for the insufficient activity of Armenian think tanks in the sphere of
information, it should be stated that most Armenian think tanks have an official
website on the Internet, but most of them rarely update the information on their
pages. At the same time, Armenian think tanks are mostly represented on
Facebook, where they have an official page. However, most of these pages are
not active enough. In other social networks, Armenian think tanks’ presence is
generally much more limited. In result, insufficient information accompanying
the activities of think tanks affects the level of visibility, recognition and impact
on public opinion of these organizations.
In general, think tanks in Armenia do not have enough institutional channels
to convey their ideas to the political elite. The impact of think tanks on the
process of shaping the political reality is not so evident. Furthermore, the
intellectual product of many Armenian think tanks is not yet sufficiently focused
on practical and actual issues. On the other hand, the insufficient demand for
think tanks research outputs in the political market does not contribute to the
development of a competitive environment in this sector, which could have a
positive impact on the quality of work management.
Evidently, in the changing realities of the 21st century, in order to grab the
attention of the public and especially the political elite, it is necessary that the
research outputs and publications of the think tanks meet the requirements of
the decision-makers, be non-extensive, targeted, of a practical nature, suitable
for reading. If necessary, think tanks should be able to design various scenario
cases, give practical proposals, prepare policy recommendations, thereby
creating appropriate demand among decision-makers. Many think tanks in
Armenia are not yet sufficiently functioning in this manner and do not regularly
produce such intellectual products of the required frequency. Some think tanks
focus on publishing extensive work, which, however, is mostly used in basic
science or in the case of classical academic institutions. At the same time, as
already mentioned, Armenian think tanks generally do not make sufficient use of
38 CAF World Giving Index. (2019). https://www.cafonline.org/docs/default-source/about-us-
publications/caf_wgi_10th_edition_report_2712a_web_101019.pdf (Accessed 12 July, 2021).
MESSENGER OF ASUE 2021.6
118
PR and social media marketing (SMM) tools and are not able to effectively
promote their own ideas and research outputs in the media sphere, on public
platforms, with the society or decision-makers.
Another reason for the current situation is the low level of cooperation with
the legislative and executive powers, the political culture in the decision-making
process, where the expert community has not traditionally been sufficiently
involved. In this respect, there are some positive trends in the last two decades,
but in general, the situation in this direction has not changed radically so far. It
can be stated that the policy-making process in Armenia is rather closed39, and
think tanks have limited resources to reach decision-makers40.
In this sense, it is important to mention that the challenges in the sphere of
foreign and domestic policy in the 21st century and changing realities are
distinguished by their complexity and multi-layering, which significantly
complicates the decision-making process for the political elite. In this regard, the
involvement of the expert community in the decision-making process, which
should be of a permanent, institutionalized nature, can be of great benefit in
increasing the effectiveness of policies developed and implemented in various
spheres. Moreover, the lack of interaction and cooperation with think tanks may,
in some cases, create risks for the formation of unbalanced or polarized
stereotypes in society. For example, in the decision-making process, public
administration representatives are often not seen as objective parties. In this
case, some of the decisions made by the latter have the problem of public
legitimacy, and in this process, the think tanks and the expert community can
also play a huge role. By the way, the use of this tool is typical not only for some
Western countries, but also, for example, for China, and it is not accidental that
in recent years the political elite of that country has greatly supported the
establishment and development of the think tank industry41. Surprisingly, in this
case, the problem may not be related to the legitimacy of the ruling elite itself
but can be related to make some of its decisions more perceptible and
acceptable to the public, especially when those decisions may be necessary, yet
not popular, or have significant importance in terms of changes in foreign or
domestic policy in some field.
The level of influence of the Armenian think tanks can be determined by
another indicator of the government's approach in this sector. It is well known
that in many countries, especially in the United States, the principle of the so-
called “revolving door” has become widely used, when former government
officials, including high-ranking officials, politicians move to the industry of ideas,
39 Gutbrod, H. (2015), The Lay of the Land: An interview with Hans Gutbrod on think tanks in the
South Caucasus. On Think Tanks. https://onthinktanks.org/articles/the-lay-of-the-land-an-interview-
with-hans-gutbrod-on-think-tanks-in-the-south-caucasus/ (Accessed June 10, 2021).
40 Gilbreath, D. (2015). Thinking about Think Tanks in the South Caucasus: A New Series. On Think
Tanks. https://onthinktanks.org/articles/thinking-about-think-tanks-in-the-south-caucasus-a-new-
series/ (Accessed June 12, 2021).
41 See, Köllner, P., Zhu, X., & Abb, P. (2018). Understanding the development of think tanks in
mainland China, Taiwan, and Japan. Pacific Affairs, 91 (1): 5-26. https://doi.org/10.5509/20189115;
Zhang, D. (2021). The media and think tanks in China: The construction and propagation of a think
tank. Media Asia, 48 (2): 123-138. https://doi.org/10.1080/01296612.2021.1899785
EDUCATION, INNOVATION, KNOWLEDGE
119
academia, expertise, leading or joining the staffs of think tanks. On the other
hand, after the change of government, experts and analysts from other think
tanks are invited to work in the sector of public administration. With this
approach, the synergy of knowledge based on the practical and research
experience of professionals involved in the sector of public administration and
think tanks can have a significant positive effect on both the development of the
think tank industry and the effectiveness of the public policy. This approach also
facilitates the exchange of ideas, experiences, between governmental and non-
governmental institutions, and strengthens cooperation between them. In this
regard, a goal-oriented and consistent policy in this direction has not been
implemented so far. Although there have been some precedents when experts
from Armenian think tanks have been invited to public administration or
appointed to diplomatic positions, this has been of a very individual, non-systemic
nature. Meantime, high-ranking officials in Armenia rarely join the staffs of
existing think tanks after leaving office.
Furthermore, the so-called Legacy-based think tanks, which are usually set
up by the retired heads of state or former high-ranking officials, are not common
in Armenia. None of the three former presidents of Armenia has yet established
such an institution. There are also no think tanks set up by former prime
ministers. As for the former ministers, it is worth mentioning the Armenian
Center for National and International Studies founded in 1994 by the first
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Raffi Hovannisian (1991-1992). Though the
latter was much more active and noticeable in the first decade of its existence,
but the institute has been still operating so far42.
It may be concluded that the think tank industry in Armenia is not yet fully
formed. There are many issues, including the low level of institutional
cooperation with the legislative and executive powers, the lack of philanthropy,
weak financial resources, and their non-diversification, insufficient inclusiveness
of the decision-making process, the limited activity of think tanks in the
information domain and sometimes the lack of professional expert resource. In
general, the Armenian think tanks have a relatively weak influence on public
policy, in particular on the decision-making process.
The issue of ensuring financial resources and financial stability remains an
“Achilles’ heel” for Armenian think tanks, which has a significant impact on the
development of this sector. Furthermore, in some cases, the operation of think
tanks is to some extent detached from the priorities of the state. In this regard,
the possible solution to the above-mentioned issue is ensuring the continuous
development of the think tanks, and it depends not only on the political system or
political culture but also on the country's modernization and economic success.
The economic development of the country can lay the ground for the expansion
of domestic funding sources for think tanks.
The development of the sector can also be significantly influenced by the
initiative of the political elite, which can develop appropriate institutional
mechanisms for cooperation with them to ensure greater involvement of think
42 Atoyan, V. (2020). Legacy-based Think Tanks. AMBERD Bulletin, 4 (5): 67-74. (In Armenian)
MESSENGER OF ASUE 2021.6
120
tanks in public policy. This, in its turn, can have a positive impact on the
strengthening of the country’s democratic system, the development of civil
society institutions, as well as significantly increase the effectiveness decisions
made in domestic and foreign policy, support the think tanks to use their ideas
and expertise more effectively to face the many challenges the country and
society is facing, and to solve issues of strategic importance.
Conclusions. In the 21st century, the need for the use of soft power tools is
steadily increasing. The methods of fighting for the “hearts and minds” of the
people are being improved. In this context, think tanks are considered as unique
intellectual platforms to discuss the above-mentioned issues and various other
issues related to public policy research, generate strategic ideas. In some cases,
think tanks also turn into important players of domestic and foreign policy; in
domestic policy, contributing to the solution of problems in various spheres, and
in foreign policy, projecting the soft power of the state and supporting official
diplomacy by the tools of Track II Diplomacy. Meanwhile, in transition countries
such as Armenia, think tanks often do not have favorable conditions for effective
functioning. However, as Eric C Johnson rightly points out, “in countries where
democracy is a new phenomenon, the role of think tanks in stimulating the flow
of ideas is even more important.”43 Moreover, for Armenia, which is at the stage
of facing various geopolitical, economic, demographic, and security challenges,
overcoming another difficult period in its history, the development of the think
tank industry is gaining additional importance.
The current transformations in public and political life and in the global
environment are essentially changing the procedures and approaches of
decision-making and policy implementation in the sphere of public policy too,
meanwhile presenting issues on the regulation of mentioned change. Due to this,
the number of relating researches on the issues of elaboration, preparation,
adoption, public legitimacy, and the process of their implementation in academic
community is gradually increasing. In this regard, think tanks can play a
significant role in increasing the effectiveness of decisions in public policy, as
well as in building a positive public attitude towards decision-making through
professional and reasoned activities. Think tanks can serve as a unique platform
for promoting a culture of dialogue by providing a link between the government,
academia, business communities, and civil society involved in the political
process. At the same time, think tanks' role in connecting the social, political,
and academic layers of society creates unique opportunities for the formation of
collective approaches, programs, strategic vision, public solidarity, and
consensus decisions to solve various public policy issues. As Åberg, Einarsson,
and Reuter rightly point out, “think tanks can provide the public debate with
something that no one else can: ideologically grounded, realistic, and far-sighted
policy advice”44.
43 Johnson, E.C. (1996). How Think Tanks Improve Public Policy. Economic Reform Today, 3: 34-38.
44 Åberg, P., Einarsson, S., and Reuter, M. (2020). Organizational Identity of Think Tank(er)s: A
Growing Elite Group in Swedish Civil Society. Politics and Governance, 8 (3): 142151.
https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v8i3.3086
EDUCATION, INNOVATION, KNOWLEDGE
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The advantage of independent think tanks over analytical structures in
public administration is also remarkable since in practice think tanks operate
more freely than the structures somehow constrained by hierarchical and, other
formal or informal relations, links, and impacts of the state bureaucratic system.
The comparatively free status of think tank researchers allows for bolder, more
objective, creative, non-standard, flexible, and alternative approaches to
problem-solving.
As discussed above, independent think tanks operating in modern format
have begun to form in Armenia too, since its independence. After the collapse of
the USSR, Armenia inherited a strong scientific potential, a well-developed
academic system, and advanced infrastructure, which are the main workshops
for training think tank professionals. Still, the process of establishing think tanks
in Armenia has been rather slow and complicated, due to various factors, such as
financial difficulties of the country (that hinder the establishment of think tank
funding sources within the country), insufficient level of requesting researches,
low level of development of philanthropic traditions, as well as the peculiarities of
political culture, including the very limited cooperation of think tanks with the
legislative and executive powers and the business sector.
In the early days of independent statehood, weak democratic institutions and
inherited political culture developed a decision-making model in which other
actors of public policy were not involved or, in very rare cases, their involvement
had no significant impact on creating the overall picture. The dialogue and the
link between the political elite, expert community, business and society were not
at a respective level, which was a serious obstacle for the development of the
newly established think tanks. All this has left its mark on the whole further
development of think tanks in Armenia. It can be stated that in Armenia the
influence of the think tanks on the formation of the public policy agenda, in
general, is not so significant. Moreover, a lot of the Armenian think tanks still
have the problem of becoming more visible, conspicuous and recognizable,
which is partly because they do not have the required resources to ensure stable
activity and to practice PR and SMM tools, or that resources are quite scarce. As
a result, the informational coverage of the activities of the Armenian think tanks
is mainly insufficient, which significantly limits the development of these
institutions and their impact on public policy.
It is worthy to mention that the intellectual product of the Armenian think
tanks is not often sufficiently aimed at solving practical problems, including in
terms of provided format and content. As a result of the lack of internal
resources, the activities of many think tanks in Armenia are highly dependent on
foreign donors, and the necessary funds to ensure sustainable activity remain the
“Achillesheelof these institutions. At the same time, the target theme of grants
or research requests received from abroad does not always coincide with the
agenda, priorities, and challenges facing the country, which significantly weakens
the attention of the political elite and the society to research outputs of think
tanks. The lack of internal funding equivalent to external funding actually creates
a certain imbalance in the targeted agenda of think tank activities. In this context,
the increment of funding opportunities for think tanks within the country,
MESSENGER OF ASUE 2021.6
122
including the development of a research request culture, the promotion of
philanthropy, supporting the creation of endowments to support the sustainable
operation of think tanks, and developing effective mechanisms for collaboration
among the government, a business sector, and expert community can
significantly improve the situation in think tank industry.
Acknowledgments. The author thanks all the representatives of the think tanks
of Armenia who kindly provided information about their institution, thus greatly
assisting in the preparation of this article. The author also thanks the editor and
anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and useful suggestions.
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ՎԱՐԴԱՆ ԱԹՈՅԱՆ
Հայաստանի պետական տնտեսագիտական համալսարանի
հասարակագիտության ամբիոնի վարիչ, քաղաքական գիտությունների դոկտոր
Ուղեղային կենտրոնների ոլորտի ձևավորումը Հայաս-
տանում.
Հոդվածում ներկայացված են Հայաստանի ուղե-
ղային կենտրոնների ոլորտի ուսումնասիրության արդյունքնե-
րը։ Վերլուծվում են անկախության ձեռքբերումից ի վեր Հա-
յաստանի ուղեղային կենտրոնների ծագման և ոլորտի զար-
գացման ընթացքը, նաև վերջինիս ձևավորմանն ու լիարժեք
կայացմանը խոչընդոտող հիմնական գործոնները։ Քննարկ-
վում է ոլորտում առկա իրավիճակը, ներկայացվում են Հայաս-
տանում դրա առանձնահատկությունները, այդ թվում՝ ուղեղա-
յին կենտրոնների քանակական և տիպաբանական լանդշաֆ-
տը։ Հեղինակն անդրադարձել է նաև Հայաստանի հանրային
քաղաքականությունում ուղեղային կենտրոնների դերին և
ազդեցությանը, ինչպես նաև որոշում կայացնողների հետ
փոխգործակցության խնդիրներին։ Եզրակացության մեջ ուր-
վագծվում են որոշակի մոտեցումներ, որոնց կիրառումը կա-
րող է դրական նշանակություն ունենալ և խթանել Հայաստա-
նում ուղեղային կենտրոնների ոլորտի զարգացումը։
Հիմնաբառեր. Հայաստան, ուղեղային կենտրոններ, գաղափար-
ների շուկա, հանրային քաղաքականություն, հետազոտական կենտ-
րոններ
JEL: J24, D80
DOI: 10.52174/1829-0280_2021_6_106
ВАРДАН АТОЯН
Заведующий кафедрой общественных наук Армянского государственного
экономического университета, доктор политических наук
Формирование сферы фабрик мысли в Армении.
В
статье представлены результаты исследования сферы фаб-
рик мысли (мозговых центров, аналитических центров) Ар-
мении. Анализируется процесс возникновения и развития
данной индустрии с момента обретения Арменией незави-
симости, а также основные факторы, препятствующие раз-
витию и полноценному становлению этой сферы. Отражена
текущая ситуация и выявлены особенности данной сферы в
Армении, включая количественный и типологический ланд-
шафт фабрик мысли. Автор также затронул проблему роли и
влияния фабрик мысли в публичной политике Армении, а
также вопросы взаимодействия с лицами, принимающими ре-
шения. В заключении излагаются определенные подходы,
применение которых может положительно повлиять и стиму-
лировать развитие индустрии фабрик мысли в Армении.
Ключевые слова: Армения, фабрики мысли, мозговые центры,
аналитические центры, индустрия идей, рынок идей, публичная
политика, исследовательские центры
JEL: J24, D80
DOI: 10.52174/1829-0280_2021_6_106
... According to a recent study, there are currently more than 30 think tanks or similar institutions in Armenia [1]. However, many of these are not active. ...
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Chapter
This chapter aims to introduce the reader to two broad approaches to the study of the intellectual life of think tanks and their networks – what I call the ‘Network Intellectuals’ and the ‘Networked Intellectuals’ approaches. The former investigates think tanks as servants of an established policy network. The latter approach traces the emergent networks that think tank researchers make within the policy–knowledge nexus. The chapter begins with an overview of the literature on British think tanks, paying particular attention to the Network Intellectual approach. I then introduce an alternative Networked Intellectuals approach and present some illustrative findings from an ongoing study of British think tanks. The chapter concludes with an evaluation of the Networked Intellectual approach and potential avenues for its use in future research.