ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Public Policy Research in South Asia

Nature of Demand

Evidence-based, rigorous, relevant and up-to-date research is vital to the public policymaking process; it enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of policy decisions. This article reflects on the nature of demand for such research in the South Asian region and contends that though the quantity and quality of evidence and knowledge for policy research is important, it is equally important to assess the factors that affect its demand. Hence, the preferences and requirements of the policymaking community should be taken cognisance of, otherwise the uptake and use of evidence and knowledge in policymaking would be impeded.

We thank Jai Asundi and Anshu Bharadwaj at CSTEP as well as the anonymous referee of this journal for invaluable comments and guidance. 


In recent decades, there has been a steady increase in organisations seeking to influence or inform policy through research or evidence in South Asia. The supply of research for policymaking in developing countries comes from a variety of institutions—think tanks, university or academia, or studies undertaken by multilaterals, media reports or even civil society organisations and advocacy groups. Further, in South Asia, the growth and influence of these organisations has been shaped by a variety of factors; democracy, strategy of economic development, and open sociopolitical systems have greatly influenced the way policy research organisations have emerged. Initially, bureaucrats (non-elected government officials) and technocrats in line ministries were the key source of knowledge, meant to aid policy formulation and decision-making, with experiential learning being a key factor. The planned economic development and reforms initiated from the 1970s onwards in the South Asian region changed this modus operandi, when the demand for expertise, not necessarily available within the bureaucracy, began to grow. The first and modest state response was to incorporate experts within the government bureaucracy. It was only much later that external support from think tanks began to be recognised as a resource for policymaking. Therefore, even though policy research institutions were encouraged by the government and several were housed in universities, due to shrinking government funding over time, external (bilateral/multilateral) funding sources assumed increasing importance.

“With liberalisation and increased interest of international agencies in policy research, civil society and advocacy groups have also taken the initiative to form their own institutions” (Mathur 2009: 2). At present, the influence of national and international think tanks on policy is considerable. In India, while there is no precise information available on the total number of think tanks1—or even what would constitute a think tank—it is widely agreed that there are a large number of them in the country, largely supported by external funding, especially since the mid-1990s. Several of them churn out good quality work on some of the most complex and challenging areas of development policies.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Back to Top