The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University has provided influential research for some of the world's most complex scenarios — from conflict in the Middle East to shifting cultural values in 21st-century China to cybersecurity.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, the nonpartisan think tank owes much of its success to a challenging mission dedicated to bridging the gap between scholarly theory and the on-the-ground needs of public policy.
Say, you want to know how the Affordable Care Act is really going to affect you? Sure, you can read White House press releases or watch Fox News. But to better get to the truth, you need information compiled by firsthand experience and expertise rather than by party politics or special interest groups.
Created in 1993 and named for former U.S. secretary of state James A. Baker, III, the institute maintains a research team of both scholars and statespeople, who together work to unravel hot-button issues like governmental policy in the Middle East and Latin America as well as the changing dynamics of energy and technology.
“My vision for the institute is simple: To build a bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action,” says honorary chair James A. Baker, III.
The Baker Institute has crafted detailed reports on health care, shale gas exploration and immigration reform as well as on the ongoing crisis in Syria. A special report on possible avenues to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks recently made its way to both Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama.
“My vision for the institute is simple: To build a bridge between the world of ideas and the world of action,” says former secretary of state Baker, who serves as the institute’s honorary chair.
"Scholars should learn firsthand from statesmen. And policymakers should hear from scholars' rigorous, logical — and always practical — analyses of how to improve the work they do."
Institute experts have established themselves on the front line of media outreach for two decades, sharing their balanced research with reporters as news breaks.
For example, Baker Institute founding director Edward P. Djerejian, former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Israel, has been interviewed by international media outlets on dozens of occasions for insight into the Syrian civil war. Political science fellow Mark Jones, in another media example, spoke to national and international press for 10 straight hours during Texas state senator Wendy Davis’ marathon filibuster in June.
To reach an audience outside the cloistered world of policy-making, the Baker Institute holds regular events on the Rice University campus, hosting high-profile speakers such as Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice, President Bill Clinton and a number of Nobel Prize winners. The think tank also opens itself to student participants from Rice, offering internships in Houston, Washington, Paris, Moscow and the Middle East.
Looking to carefully form your own opinion on today's most pressing global issues? Check out the Baker Institute's constantly-updated blog and website for some of the most well-considered, unbiased information on the Internet.