RAND claims to be non-partisan, but in general think tanks offer jobs that are like being in academia but without the academic freedom in that you are a hired gun whose purpose is to fight on behalf of specific ideological views. I do not know whether RAND is actually non-partisan, however. Do people there have tenure? If not it is hard to believe that they can actually pursue whatever direction their research takes them no matter who it offends among the the administrators running RAND.
They probably arrive late to work each day - like 10:00 am, and may leave quite late. Some may stay til midnight.
And they probably stay glued to their computer screens all day - you can’t talk to them in person - if you need to discuss anything with them, you need to communicate with them via the computer screen they are glued to (email).
RAND is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center, not a Washington think tank like Brookings or Heritage. While RAND tends to do more Air Force work, and thus tailors a good amount of research toward Air Force-y topics, your implication that RAND develops a political narrative that suits political donors is way off base.
RAND as an institution (but not in research areas) is more comparable to institutions like MIT Lincoln Labs, the Center for Naval Analyses, the Jet Propulsion Lab, the Institute for Defense Analysis, and similar groups, as opposed to the Heritage Foundation, the NRA, Center for American Progress, etc.
I don’t know what the daily routine of a RAND employee is, but at least I’m not taking wild guesses in a factual forum.
My company has worked with RAND on a couple of gov’t research contracts. These contracts are conducted for a specific agency and have fairly defined parameters. The research questions are specified, and sometimes the data collection and analysis methods are specified, too. RAND is non-profit, which means they can also apply for grants to conduct research that is not prescribed by a gov’t agency, but they do have to persuade someone to pay for that work. The senior staff likely spend a good chunk of their time on business development while overseeing the actual research being conducted by more junior staff.
The question, and a possible answer, strikes me as similar to asking about what a (subset) of CIA employees/analysts do all day.
They do in-house what they do for hire, or, in my father’s case, for hire once-removed. As a young political science post-doc in Soviet studies, during the early 1950s, he prepared research reports on Soviet Bloc politics for an academic publishing house, which, decades later, he found out was a wholly-owned CIA outfit.
In what field of employment, short of a non-teaching stipend at The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, or similar extraordinary yogi-like atmosphere, would such a thing take place?
RAND, like Google (although of course a financial-profit-seeking company) or any of the other tech companies pushing an image of the liberating “free thinking” (as if Bell Labs lacked for anything) must function optimally, which implies a hell of a lot of hierarchy and people establishing priorities.
This image of “wow, a bunch of geniuses can do whatever they want and get it done because their so smart” most stunningly was put to me by a family member (an adult), who, reflecting on how bad-ass our SEALs are, members of an assault team can wear whatever battle gear that they feel like. :smack:
As an aside: Kurt Vonnegut poked fun at this in Cat’s Cradle, where he has the think-tank nuclear research genius Felix Hoenikker suddenly get interested in turtles, and for a week did nothing but study turtles. Then, one night, his boss and boss’s secretary snuck into his office and took away all his turtles and aquariums, and when Hoenikker came to work the next day, he went back to work on The Bomb research, just as if it had all never happened, and never mentioned a word about it.