Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Research and the Think Tank

When researching in particular subject areas, I forget to tap into the power of “think tanks.”

The 10th edition of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary describes a think tank as an institute, corporation, or group organized for interdisciplinary research, and indicates that the word originated in approximately 1959. Consulting the Oxford English Dictionary, I learned that the original use of the term “think tank” was a reference to one’s brain (“Truman..said he hoped to live to be 90 but only ‘if the old think-tank is working’.”)  By 1958, the use of “think tank” in the way we use it today started to appear in journals, newspapers, etc. (Yes I noticed that Merriam Webster puts it at 1959 but I’m not about to ignore the OED on this point).

Now that we know this, what research use can we make of think tanks?

Let’s use RAND Corporation as an example. RAND’s evolution is linked with the waning days of WWII, the Douglas Aircraft Company, and the military. The story is interesting and you can find it on the RAND website.  I am interested in elder law since I recently embarked on my institution’s LL.M. program in Estate Planning and Elder Law.  Visiting Rand, I see that one of their research areas is “population and aging” and I quickly find articles and reports addressing crucial elder law issues such as improving dementia long-term care, and a summer 2014 presentation on cognitive aging, neuropathology and resilience. All of the research topics include an email service for keeping one up-to-date with new reports, and you can also sign up for an account that will permit you to save articles.

I think you will be surprised to see the breadth of topics researched and reported on by RAND so consider checking the site out for your next research project.

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