We talk about time-bound opportunities that open up for effective policy intervention: policy windows. Similar “windows” open up in public discourse. One needs to grab them before they disappear. Of course, one can seek to expand and shape the window as well.
In LIRNEasia and CPRsouth we tend to use the term “policy intellectual” rather than the broader term “public intellectual.” The latter is quite relevant to everything we do at LIRNEasia, and what we seek to achieve in CPRsouth.
A policy intellectual succeeds (and becomes one) because of the receptivity to her ideas by the decision makers. That is hard enough. A public intellectual is so recognized by the acknowledgement by the public at large. Much much harder.
In both cases, there are problems of quality, of erroneous information being fed into the policy process or public discourse. With blogs and social media, there are no controls. But the public generally pays attention to public intellectuals who have made a name for themselves in mainstream media. In both pieces I point to the responsibility borne by editors/producers (gatekeepers) in presenting putative public intellectuals to the public.