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News, Research and Events from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy
Baker Institute Update — Baker Institute's global rankings rise
Feb. 12, 2016: In this edition
Baker Institute ranked among top five university-affiliated think tanks

Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy is now ranked among the top five university-affiliated think tanks in the world, according to an annual index of global think tanks. The Baker Institute rose to No. 4 in 2015 — up from No. 9 in 2014.

The Baker Institute’s Center for Energy Studies (CES) was ranked No. 2 among the world’s energy- and resource-policy think tanks — up from No. 4 in 2014 — according to the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program’s 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report.   

The institute ranks No. 18 among the top think tanks in the United States.

The top four university-affiliated think tanks in the world are, in ranked order, Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard’s Center for International Development, the London School of Economics’ IDEAS/Public Policy Group and Rice’s Baker Institute. The top-ranked global energy think tank is the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan, followed by the Baker Institute’s Center for Energy Studies.   

“These rankings reflect our commitment to excellence and to delivering research, programs and policy recommendations to decision-makers in the public and private sectors,” said Baker Institute Director Edward P. Djerejian. “Our fellows, scholars and staff are to be commended for their dedication and work. We will continue to grow in meaningful ways in the years ahead.”

Rice President David Leebron cited Djerejian’s strategic and effective leadership in elevating the Baker Institute to among the top globally recognized think tanks. “Under Ambassador Djerejian’s leadership, the important policy work and influence of the Baker Institute has both deepened and broadened. Its extraordinary success in a relatively brief time would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of Ed Djerejian, and the guiding influence and steadfast support of Secretary James A. Baker, III. The Baker Institute has played a critical role in advancing and engaging Rice University both locally and globally.”

“We have an outstanding group of fellows, scholars and graduate students across multiple academic departments who contribute to our work on many different topics in the energy-environment arena,” said Kenneth B. Medlock III, CES senior director and the James A. Baker III and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics. “This interdisciplinary model will continue to drive our approach to providing unbiased analysis of factors that shape the energy future with the goal of engaging policymakers, corporate leaders and the general public.”

Founded in 1993, the Baker Institute has fellows and scholars who conduct research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. Core fields of study include energy, the Middle East, Mexico, health care, taxes and public finance, entrepreneurship, international economics, science and technology, China, space policy and drug policy.

The University of Pennsylvania Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program’s Global Go To Think Tank Index has become the gold standard for think tanks around the world and is widely cited by governments, donors, journalists and policymakers as the foremost guide to the performance of thousands of domestic and international public-policy centers.

The program’s report is compiled with assistance from 2,000 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions, and governments in the U.S. and around the globe.

For more insight, read "Baker Institute ranks among best think tanks in world," published Feb. 7, 2016, in the Houston Chronicle (article starts at the bottom, right-hand corner of the first page). 

Click here to read the full 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report.

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After the Paris Attacks: The Challenge of the Islamic State

The defeat of the Islamic State will require the concerted actions of an international coalition focused more on strategic planning than religious ideology, Baker Institute and Rice University experts said at a recent panel discussion.
The Feb. 3 event,  “After the Paris Attacks: The Challenge of the Islamic State,” was co-sponsored by the institute’s Center for the Middle East and Rice’s Politics, Law & Social Thought Program.
“ISIS poses a threat to every single regime in the Middle East region and to the international community,” said Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, the Baker Institute’s director. “When you have a common enemy, it’s not beyond the grasp of diplomacy to build strong coalitions to defeat it.”
Ambassador Djerejian said ISIS's control of territory in Syria and Iraq must be reversed. "While the U.S. has announced plans to work with Iraqi forces to overtake Mosul and to unite Kurdish fighters and Syrian rebels to reclaim Raqqa, the U.S.-led coalition is not that coherent in terms of coordinated action of all the parties involved," he said.

Ambassador Djerejian also said the Geneva III peace talks to resolve Syria's civil war remain problematic, noting that negotiators must move beyond "talks about talks" as the UN Envoy has stated and toward and effective ceasefire with humanitarian aid and access. Beyond that, a consensus must be reached on talks leading to a political transition in Syria.
Other regional conflicts further complicate matters. A.Kadir Yildirim, fellow for the Middle East, noted that Turkey benefits from ISIS’ attacks against the Kurds, who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan views as the main opposition to his quest for uncontested leadership over the country.
Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar, fellow for the Middle East, said Iran may also gain short-term benefits from ISIS’ actions. As long as ISIS remains the top international security threat in the region, Iran faces less pressure to force Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad from power and can instead position itself as the most stable major country in the Middle East.
Yet Iran, a predominantly Shiite state, is also concerned that ISIS may attempt to recruit from the country’s small Sunni population, which makes up 10 percent of its residents. Iran officials in recent months have said they prevented ISIS members from carrying out several attacks within Iran, Tabaar said.
Yildirim cautioned against framing ISIS as a group motivated solely by religion. While ISIS often invokes Islam, it is a strategy to advance its political goals, he said. “Their intention is never to implement a religious doctrine in its entirety. Whatever is expedient for their political purposes, they pick those components of the religion.” The approach resonates in a region where about 75 percent of residents cite the importance of religion in their lives, Yildirim added.
Islam and terrorism should not be conflated in efforts to thwart violent acts, said Julie Fette, associate professor of French studies in Rice’s School of Humanities. France’s ongoing challenges in the aftermath of the Paris attacks include defusing hostility toward Muslims and better integrating them into society.
Tabaar said the international community has focused on the Islamic State’s doctrines and religious ideology in an attempt to identify the root cause of its actions. In turn, ISIS has seized upon its widespread media coverage, using scripture to justify their actions to recruit more followers and further its impact on the region, he said.
“It’s not that they commit violence because God said so. Because they want to use violence to obtain political power, they put words in God’s mouth,” Tabaar said.
“The more we understand and show their tactical use of religion, the more we prove they are politically motivated and the more quickly we will be able to defeat them.”
Click here to watch a video of the event.

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Upcoming Events
  • Campaign 2016: Analyzing Where the Candidates Stand on the Issues (Domestic Policy). Be prepared to make your selection on Super Tuesday. The Baker Institute offers a chance to cut through the spin, learn about the important issues and identify those that don't matter. On Feb. 16, join us for an interactive panel focused on domestic policy. An earlier panel on Feb. 10 discussed international affairs. 6:30 pm February 16
  • The Startup Path: From Ideation to Exit. Discover your inner entrepreneur! Join the Roundtable Young Professionals (RYP) for its first event of the year. Fellow Ed Egan, director of the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is the featured speaker. Registration is free for RYP members and $15 for nonmembers. 6:00 pm February 23
  • Director's Lecture Series: American Leadership in a Changing International Landscape. Ambassador William Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former U.S. deputy secretary of state, is the featured speaker for this Director's Lecture Series Event. 5:30 pm February 24
  • The Link Between Urban Food Deserts and Community Health. Featured speaker Alex Ortega, director of the Center for Population Health and Community Impact at Drexel University, will describe a comprehensive corner store intervention in two Latino communities in Los Angeles, California, that are classified as food deserts. 11:45 am March 7
  • Law Enforcement Perspectives on Drug Prohibition. Law enforcement experts will discuss the impact of drug prohibition on society and public safety. This event also will examine existing and future drug policies in Harris County and the nation. 6:30 pm March 9
  • Global Health in a Globalized Texas. This conference will focus on Texas’ unique vantage on international health issues. Experts will discuss how advancements in the state can shape local and global health priorities, including emergency response, service delivery and research and development. The event also will feature retrospective analysis of the U.S. response to Ebola in 2014 as well as policy recommendations for more effective responses to future global health threats. 8:00 am April 22

For a complete list, visit our event page.

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Research and News

For a complete list, visit our research library.

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Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan, independent think tank in Houston, Texas. The institute's fellows and scholars conduct research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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