Think Tank Review – issue 25/2015

Welcome to issue 25 of the Think Tank Review compiled by the EU Council Library (click to share on Twitter). It references papers published in May 2015. As usual, we provide the link to the full text and a short abstract.

As noted in the preview a few days ago, the publications in this month’s TTR offer a mixture of short term concerns and longer term perspectives from think tanks across the continent and beyond.

Think tank papers reflected international and national events which took place in May: the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga; the presidential ballot in Poland; the release of the Commission’s package on Better Regulation. Still in May, ILO published its employment and social outlook, which can be read in conjunction with the many publications we gathered on welfare, pensions and employment; while some of them surveyed policies or stakeholder opinions across Member States, others (like those from IAI and CEPS) set out possible schemes for a European Unemployment Insurance.

A recurrent concern are the TTIP negotiations, on which we found the usual abundance of publications from both sides of the Atlantic and of the for/against divide. Equally recurrent is the think tanks’ focus on climate change, where we see a cluster of policy papers building up to the Paris Conference of the Parties in December 2015.

Another recurrent issue on which we found various substantial papers in May is the economic and monetary union in its various aspects; see inside for readings on the banking union, QE, adjustments in labour costs, the fragmentation of financial markets, and a comparison of how Latvia and Greece went through the crisis; to be read in conjunction with the 5 Presidents’ report on Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union,  published on 22 June

The special focus is devoted to the state of German relations with some of the main ‘others’ in its history, namely France, Russia and the US. As this month’s regards croisés choice, a paper on ‘Brexit’ stands out, as it looks at the possible impact from Asia, notably from Singapore.

And now for some self-indulgence…

Just bear with us: we were very pleased to reach the symbolic figure of 1.000 subscribers in May. In fact we suspect readers are (many?) more, because of the physical and digital information outlets – from Brussels to Pittsburgh to somewhere on the Web – which are kind enough to catalogue or mirror the TTR. Nevertheless, the round figure is a good opportunity to take stock of just over two years of TTR.

Here’s what we hear from our 1.000th subscriber, a desk officer in a UK government administration. We reproduce her comments in full as they cast some light on how and by whom the product is used:

“I discovered the TTR through a colleague, who shared one of the articles from the ‘economics’ section with my team, which works on European economics, and referred to the TTR as her source. Having checked out the TTR’s website and the full review, I am really impressed by its user-friendly format and the excellent analysis carried out across Europe that is summarised there. I subscribed to the mailing list primarily in order to keep abreast of research carried out outside of the UK

At close reading, the reasons that brought the team to launch this slightly odd library product are all there: referencing grey literature in a simple, user-friendly format; looking for sources across national boundaries and outside a single policy bubble, be it in Brussels or a Member State capital; focusing on papers with a minimum of analytical quality.

So who uses the TTR? Apart from our core readers in the General Secretariat of the Council, the TTR seems to be popular with staff in government bodies (of whom a few dozens in Permanent Representations in Brussels), other European Institutions (some 150 readers, including in power-houses of EU policy research such as the EPSC and EPRS) and, to a lesser extent, in academia, and of course in think tanks themselves. But even a quick glance at the readership shows that at least a half of the readers are not Brussels insiders, and would rather fall within a ‘civil society’ or simply ‘informed citizen’ category. They appear to be mostly, but not only, in Europe and mostly, but not exclusively, in junior research or policy jobs.

So, in practice, what have these 25 issues of TTR been, apart from a fairly labour-intensive but rewarding effort? A roughly monthly, low-technology collection of links to papers by some 250 think tanks, which in time has grown from 20 to 120-150 a month; a repository for indexing and permanent retrieval; a feed of tweets by the #EUCOlibrary team to announce topical publications. In the next weeks we will publish more insights into our coverage and readership. Stay tuned, and don’t hesitate to share your views on how you use the TTR and how it can be improved.

As always, feedback is welcome at The next Review will be out in July 2015, with papers published in June.

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