Panel discussion

Think tanks, Trump, and populism: The death of policy advice as we know it?

With Tyson E. Barker, Patrick Gilroy, James G. McGann, Nicole Renvert, and Julian Zuber.

  • Welcome: Helmut K. Anheier (President, Hertie School)
  • Introduction: James McGann (Director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania; author of the book The Fifth Estate: Think Tanks, Public Policy, and Governance)
  • Discussants: Tyson E. Barker (Program Director and Fellow, Aspen Institute Germany), Nicole Renvert (Associate Fellow, Transatlantic Relations Program, German Council on Foreign Relations), and Julian Zuber (Co-founder, Polis180)
  • Moderation: Patrick Gilroy (PhD Candidate, Hertie School)

What does the future hold for think tanks? How should policy institutes on both sides of the Atlantic adapt to Trump's presidency and growing populism? And which roles can they play in our crisis-ridden world? As fears of populism sweep Europe and Trump-style politics threaten to undermine fundamental democratic values, sound policy advice is more sought-after than ever. The discussants will debate about the assault of "post-truth" politics on evidence-based policy. Are think tanks part of the solution or part of the problem?


Tyson Barker is a Program Director and Fellow at the Aspen Institute. Prior to that, he worked on digital policy and cybersecurity at the Brandenburgisches Institut für Gesellschaft und Sicherheit and the Atlantic Council. He served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the US State Department in Washington, D.C. from 2014 to 2015. Prior to joining State, he worked for 6 years at the Bertelsmann Foundation, most recently as the Director for Trans-Atlantic Relations. Tyson was named one of the top 99 foreign policy professionals under 33 by Diplomatic Courier Magazine in 2011. He has a Bachelor's degree from Columbia University and a Master's degree from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

James G. McGann is a Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the Lauder Institute and Director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the creator and editor of the Global Go To Think Tank Index. Prior to assuming his current post, James was Assistant Director of the university's International Relations Program. He has also served as the Senior Vice President for the Executive Council on Foreign Diplomats, the Assistant Director of the Institute of Politic at the Kennedy School of Government, and the Public Policy Program Officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts. James earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Nicole Renvert is Associate Fellow, Program USA/Transatlantic Relations at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and Non-Resident Fellow of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), in Washington, D.C. From 2008 to 2014, she was a researcher at the German Institute for International Affairs and Security Studies (SWP). Nicole Renvert held assignments at the World Bank, the OSCE, the Aspen Institute and the Policy Planning Division of the German Foreign Office. Nicole Renvert has studied history, international relations and political science at the University of Bonn, Sorbonne, and Georgetown University and did her dissertation at the NRW School of Governance, University Duisburg-Essen.

<link en who-we-are profile person zuber>Julian Zuber is currently pursuing a PhD in Governance at the Hertie School, under the supervision of Mark Kayser and David Miller. He holds degrees in philosophy and economics as well as economic and social history from Bayreuth and Oxford University. He has co-founded Polis180, a grassroots think tank on European and foreign politics. Before starting his PhD, Julian worked as strategy consultant for public sector projects.


<link en who-we-are profile person gilroy>Patrick Gilroy is a PhD candidate in the Berlin Graduate School for Transnational Studies. His PhD research focuses on the roles and influence of think tanks at the EU-level. He has worked with Transparency International, Freedom House, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.


<link en who-we-are profile person anheier>Helmut K. Anheier is President of the Hertie School and Professor of Sociology. His research centres on indicator systems, social innovation, culture, philanthropy, and organisational studies.