Mark Kleiman asks a question:
The Reality-Based Community: On "think tanks" : A question, in the wake of the latest Heritage Foundation scandal (part of a pattern unearthed by Tom Edsall more than a year ago):
Is there any hope of getting the press to distinguish between (1) the original "think tank" — the RAND Corporation — and comparably respectable universities-without-students (Brookings, the Urban Institute) where real social scientists (and real natural scientists, engineers, mathematicians, historians, and policy analysts) do real research and analysis looking for real answers to real questions and (2) faux "think tanks" (Heritage, Cato, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse) set up for the purpose of providing "studies" in support of pre-determined ideological points?
The distinction isn't hard to make. If you have to read the report to know the conclusion, it's a real think tank. If you know the conclusion as soon as you know the topic and where it was written, you're dealing with a phony. (And yes, that's precisely like the distinction between an actual news outlet and Fox News or the Washington Times.)
So is there any hope of getting to the press to stop calling Heritage and its ilk "think tanks"?
No, I didn't think so. But it never hurts to ask.