Dear Policy Expert,

I am a Fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, and I am writing to ask you for your assistance with what I hope will be an interesting and useful qualitative research project, titled “Survey of the Professional Experiences, Practices, and Ethical Commitments of Think Tank Experts.”  The purpose of this project is to gain a better understanding the research practices, professional activities and ethical commitments of policy experts like you.  If you choose to participate, I would like to interview you for approximately two hours.  I happen to be a former think tank expert myself, and you can read more about my background here:

If you choose to participate in this study, information gained from your interview will not be publicly associated with your name or the name of any institution with which you are or have been affiliated.  Please see the “frequently asked questions” section below this letter for more details about the process that we have established to preserve your privacy.

I hope that this project will provide valuable insight into the increasingly influential world of think tanks.  Perhaps you are as curious as I am!  If you would like me to do so, I will be happy to notify you when findings from this study are published.  Thank you in advance for considering this request.  If you would like to participate, or if you have any further thoughts or questions, contact me anytime at mnewhouse [AT]


Marie Newhouse


Frequently Asked Questions about: “Survey of the Professional Experiences, Practices, and Ethical Commitments of Think Tank Experts”

Am I obligating myself to do anything?

No.  Participation is voluntary at all times!  If you choose to participate, you may change your mind and leave the study at any time.  You do not have to answer any question you would prefer not to answer. 

How long will I take part in this research?

Your participation involves a single interview that is likely to take up to two hours.  You can take a break at any time.  I may contact you to follow up, but you will not be obligated to do so.

What can I expect if I take part in this research?

As a participant, you will be contributing to scholarly knowledge about an increasingly important group of contributors to public policy discourse in the United States.

If I take part in this research, how will my privacy be protected? What happens to the information you collect?

Audio recordings will be made of interviews.  The audio recordings will be transferred from removable media to password-protected files on a password protected laptop computer belonging to the principal investigator.  These files will be transcribed, either by the principal investigator or by a professional transcriber.  If the files are transferred to a transcriber, they will be transferred as password protected files.  The transcriber or the principal investigator will replace interviewee names and think tank affiliations with numeric codes corresponding to a key that the principal investigator will store in a separate, password-protected file.  The transcriber or the principal investigator will replace other proper names of people or organizations appearing in the transcript with general terms such as [colleague], [manager], [think tank expert], [think tank], and [government agency] before finalizing the transcript.  The transcriber or principal investigator will also replace specific research subjects, sources, and products with terms such as [research project], [database], [book], and [article] before finalizing the transcript.  Once the transcript is finalized, the audio files produced during participant interviews will be destroyed.  Despite these precautions, it is always possible that someone already very familiar with the details of events that you relate could recognize them and relate them to you.

If I have any questions, concerns or complaints about this research study, who can I talk to?

The researcher for this study is Marie Newhouse, and she can be reached at mnewhouse [AT] The Harvard faculty sponsor of this project is Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School, and he can be reached at 617-496-1124.  You can always contact us if:

  • If you have questions, concerns, or complaints,
  • If you would like to talk to the research team,
  • If you think the research has harmed you, or
  • If you wish to withdraw from the study.

This research has been reviewed by the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects in Research at Harvard University.  They can be reached at 617-496-2847, 1414 Massachusetts Avenue, Second Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138, or for any of the following:

  • If your questions, concerns, or complaints are not being answered by the research team,
  • If you cannot reach the research team,
  • If you want to talk to someone besides the research team, or
  • If you have questions about your rights as a research participant.