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Spreading expertise: think tanks as digital advocators in the social media era


  • Jing Zhao
  • Xufeng Zhu


Think tanks and their roles in rendering expertise in policy advice have been the subject of historical and ongoing research in policy sciences. However, the widening trend of digital behaviors of think tanks in the social media era is yet to be investigated. While social media is reshaping the political ecology and challenging conventional sources of knowledge, it also serves as a potential channel for think tanks to publicly share their expertise and policy advice with the public and decision-makers, thus evolving into “digital advocators.” Based on social media big data methods, this paper has constructed two sets of new think tank indicators with “network centrality” of social media accounts and “ripple effect” of social media citations from Facebook and Twitter to capture and observe the digital activities of 207 prominent think tanks in 62 countries or regions. We have concluded that think tanks have displayed their opinion and values and increased visibility as digital advocators by spreading expertise on social media platforms with online marketing skills. With various values and ideas, social media not only is hosting massive policy advocacy activities and being an expertise spreading arena for think tanks but has also been changing the ecology of the think tank industry and expertise markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Jing Zhao & Xufeng Zhu, 2023. "Spreading expertise: think tanks as digital advocators in the social media era," Policy and Society, Darryl S. Jarvis and M. Ramesh, vol. 42(3), pages 359-377.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:polsoc:v:42:y:2023:i:3:p:359-377.

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Giliberto Capano & Michael Howlett & Leslie A Pal & M Ramesh, 2023. "Dealing with the challenges of legitimacy, values, and politics in policy advice," Policy and Society, Darryl S. Jarvis and M. Ramesh, vol. 42(3), pages 275-287.

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