A think tank, think factory or policy institute is a research institute/center and organization that performs research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, technology, and culture. Most policy institutes are non-profit organisations, which some countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax exempt status. Other think tanks are funded by governments, advocacy groups, or corporations, and derive revenue from consulting or research work related to their projects.
The following article lists global policy institutes according to continental categories, and then sub-categories by country within those areas. These listings are not comprehensive, given that more than 7,500 think tanks exist worldwide.
- 1 History
- 2 Types
- 3 Advocacy by think tanks
- 4 Global think tanks
- 4.1 African think tanks
- 4.2 Asian think tanks
- 4.3 European think tanks
- 4.3.1 Belgium
- 4.3.2 Bulgaria
- 4.3.3 Czech Republic
- 4.3.4 Denmark
- 4.3.5 Estonia
- 4.3.6 Finland
- 4.3.7 France
- 4.3.8 Germany
- 4.3.9 Greece
- 4.3.10 Ireland
- 4.3.11 Italy
- 4.3.12 Latvia
- 4.3.13 Netherlands
- 4.3.14 Poland
- 4.3.15 Portugal
- 4.3.16 Romania
- 4.3.17 Serbia
- 4.3.18 Slovakia
- 4.3.19 Spain
- 4.3.20 Sweden
- 4.3.21 Switzerland
- 4.3.22 Ukraine
- 4.3.23 United Kingdom
- 4.4 Transcontinental countries (Asia-Europe)
- 4.5 North American think tanks
- 4.6 South American think tanks
- 5 Think tank watch
- 6 Think tank directories
- 7 Think tank rankings
- 8 Think tank awards
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
The Jixia Academy is an early ancestor of the modern think tank. Based on passages in the Records of the Grand Historian, the academy is generally credited to King Xuan and given a foundation date around 318 BC. The academy has been summarized as "the first time on record a state began to act as a patron of scholarship out of the apparent conviction that this was a proper function of the state".
According to University of Southern California historian Jacob Soll, the term "think tank" is modern, but "it can be traced to the humanist academies and scholarly networks of the 16th and 17th centuries." Soll notes that "in Europe, the origins of think tanks go back to the 800s, when emperors and kings began arguing with the Catholic Church about taxes. A tradition of hiring teams of independent lawyers to advise monarchs about their financial and political prerogatives against the church spans from Charlemagne all the way to the 17th century, when the kings of France were still arguing about whether they had the right to appoint bishops and receive a cut of their income." He also writes, independent "research teams became common in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, when states often depended on independent scholars and their expertise."
Several major current think tanks date to the 19th century. For instance, the Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) was founded in 1831 in London, and the Fabian Society in Britain dates from 1884. The oldest American think tank, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1910 by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie charged trustees to use the fund to "hasten the abolition of international war, the foulest blot upon our civilization." The Brookings Institution was founded shortly thereafter in 1916 by Robert S. Brookings and was conceived as a bipartisan "research center modeled on academic institutions and focused on addressing the questions of the federal government."
After 1945, the number of policy institutes increased, with many small new ones forming to express various issue and policy agendas. Until the 1940s, most think tanks were known only by the name of the institution. During the Second World War, think tanks were often referred to as "brain boxes" after the slang term for skull. The phrase "think tank" in wartime American slang referred to rooms where strategists discussed war planning. Later the term "think tank" was used to refer to organizations that offered military advice, such as the RAND Corporation, founded in 1946 as an offshoot of Douglas Aircraft and became an independent corporation in 1948.
For most of the 20th century, independent public policy institutes that performed research and provided advice concerning public policy were found primarily in the United States, with a much smaller number in Canada, the UK and Western Europe. Although think tanks existed in Japan for some time, they generally lacked independence, having close associations with government ministries or corporations. There has been a veritable proliferation of "think tanks" around the world that began during the 1980s as a result of globalization, the end of the Cold War, and the emergence of transnational problems. Two-thirds of all the think tanks that exist today were established after 1970 and more than half were established since 1980.
The effect of globalisation on the proliferation of think tanks is most evident in regions such as Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and parts of Southeast Asia, where there was a concerted effort by the international community to assist in the creation of independent public policy research organizations. A recent survey performed by the Foreign Policy Research Institute's Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program underscores the significance of this effort and documents the fact that most of the think tanks in these regions have been established during the last 10 years. Presently there are more than 4,500 of these institutions around the world. Many of the more established think tanks, having been created during the Cold War, are focused on international affairs, security studies, and foreign policy.
Think tanks vary by ideological perspectives, sources of funding, topical emphasis and prospective consumers. Some think tanks, such as The Heritage Foundation, which promotes conservative principles, and the Center for American Progress, a progressive organization, are more partisan in purpose. Others, including the Tellus Institute, which emphasizes social and environmental topics, are more issue-oriented groups.
Funding sources and the consumers intended also define the workings of think tanks. Some receive direct government assistance, while others rely on private individual or corporate donors. This will invariably affect the degree of academic freedom within each policy institute and to whom or what the institution feels beholden. Funding may also represent who or what the institution wants to influence; in the United States, for example, "Some donors want to influence votes in Congress or shape public opinion, others want to position themselves or the experts they fund for future government jobs, while others want to push specific areas of research or education."
A new trend, resulting from globalization, is collaboration between policy institutes in different countries. For instance, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace operates offices in Washington, D.C., Beijing, Beirut, Brussels and Moscow.
The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania, led by Dr. James McGann, annually rates policy institutes worldwide in a number of categories and presents its findings in the "Global Go-To Think Tanks" rating index. However, this method of the study and assessment of policy institutes has been criticized by researchers such as Enrique Mendizabal and Goran Buldioski, Director of the Think Tank Fund, assisted by the Open Society Institute.
Several authors have indicated a number of different methods of describing policy institutes in a way that takes into account regional and national variations. For example:
- Independent civil society think tanks established as non-profit organisations—ideologically identifiable or not;
- Policy research institutes affiliated with a university;
- Governmentally created or state sponsored think tanks;
- Corporate created or business affiliated think tanks;
- Political party think tanks and legacy or personal think tanks;
- Global (or regional) think tanks (with some of the above).
Alternatively, one could use some of the following criteria:
- Size and focus: e.g., large and diversified, large and specialized, small and specialized;
- Evolution of stage of development: e.g., first (small), second (small to large but more complex projects), and third (larger and policy influence) stages;
- Strategy, including: Funding sources (individuals, corporations, foundations, donors/governments, endowments, sales/events). and business model (independent research, contract work, advocacy); The balance between research, consultancy, and advocacy; The source of their arguments: Ideology, values or interests; applied, empirical or synthesis research; or theoretical or academic research (Stephen Yeo); The manner in which the research agenda is developed—by senior members of the think tank or by individual researchers, or by the think tank of their funders; Their influencing approaches and tactics (many researchers but an interesting one comes from Abelson) and the time horizon for their strategies: long term and short term mobilisation; Their various audiences of the think tanks (audiences as consumers and public -this merits another blog; soon) (again, many authors, but Zufeng provides a good framework for China); and Affiliation, which refers to the issue of independence (or autonomy) but also includes think tanks with formal and informal links to political parties, interest groups and other political players.
Advocacy by think tanks
In some cases, corporate interests and political groups have found it useful to create policy institutes, advocacy organizations, and think tanks. For example, The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition was formed in the mid-1990s to dispute research finding an association between second-hand smoke and cancer. According to an internal memorandum from Philip Morris Companies referring to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "The credibility of the EPA is defeatable, but not on the basis of ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] alone,... It must be part of a larger mosaic that concentrates all the EPA's enemies against it at one time."
According to the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, both left-wing and right-wing policy institutes are often quoted and rarely identified as such. The result is that think tank "experts" are sometimes depicted as neutral sources without any ideological predispositions when, in fact, they represent a particular perspective. In the United States, think tank publications on education are subjected to expert review by the National Education Policy Center's "Think Twice" think tank review project.
A policy institute is often a "tank", in the intellectual sense: discussion only in a sheltered group protected from outside influence isolates the participants, subjects them to several cognitive biases (groupthink, confirmation bias) and fosters members' existing beliefs. This results in surprisingly radical and even unfeasible ideas being published. Many think tanks[who?], however, claim to purposefully attempt to alleviate this problem by selecting members from diverse backgrounds.
A 2014 New York Times report asserted that foreign governments buy influence at many United States think tanks. According to the article: "More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities."
Global think tanks
African think tanks
Ghana's first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, set up various state-supported think tanks in the 1960s. By the 1990s, a variety of policy research centers sprang up in Africa set up by academics who sought to influence public policy in Ghana.
One such think tank was The Institute of Economic Affairs, Ghana, which was founded in 1989 when the country was ruled by the Provisional National Defence Council. The IEA undertakes and publishes research on a range of economic and governance issues confronting Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa. It has also been involved in bringing political parties together to engage in dialogue. In particular it has organised Presidential debates every election year since the Ghanaian presidential election, 1996.
Some of the active think tanks in Ghana include:
- Regional Advocacy for Public Development, Ghana ( RAPiD)
- Concerned Citizens Movement, Ghana (CCMG)
- The Institute For Democratic Governance ( IDEG)
- IMANI Centre for Policy and Education
- The Institute of Economic Affairs, Ghana (IEA)
- Artwatch Ghana
- The Institute for Health Policy and Research (IHPR)
- The Amadeus Institute is an independent Moroccan think tank, founded in 2008 and based in Rabat. It acts as a laboratory of ideas, a brainstorming platform, and a creator of debates. It contributes to the Moroccan and Maghreban public debate. It also acts as the Voice of the South to communicate its vision and concerns at the global level. The Amadeus Institute has a double role: analysis and creating debates. It operates as a laboratory of ideas and a unique creator of debates. It is at the same time a centre of reflection, dialogue proposition and consultancy, but also a platform of exchanges, meetings and North-South and South-South cooperation.
- According to Marianne Republic, AMAQUEN is one of leading think tanks in the world. Indeed, AMAQUEN, founded in 2003, is one of the most influential associations in the field of education through its publications (rapports) and international scientific journal Quality in Education and international events (CIMQUSEF).
- N.P. van Wyk Louw-sentrum (Afrikaans)
- IDASA: Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert, and Alex Boraine.
- FW de Klerk Foundation
- South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)
- South African Institute of Race Relations
- Institute for Justice and Reconciliation
- Helen Suzman Foundation
- Free Market Foundation
- Institute for Security Studies
- Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa
Most of the Tunisian think tanks have emerged after 2011. Taking advantage of the new climate of free expression and academic freedom, academics and politicians have attempted to set up research centers whose mission the development of public policies.
The Applied Social Science Forum (ASSF) was established in 2011 with the intent of analyzing social transformation and democratic change. As a civilian non-profit organization the program has become a think tank that seeks to develop "citizenship research" – that is research oriented towards policy formulation and public interest service. Today the ASSF works towards a dual mission of "preparing future generations of leaders", and "providing leadership in advancing policy-relevant and applied knowledge about the most important challenges of social dignity, Reform of Education system, Security Sector Reform, security, public health Reform and other critical issues."
Founded in 1995, the Tunisian Institute for Strategic Studies' (ITES) mission is to carry out research, studies, analyses, and forecasting regarding short- and longer-term horizons for a wide range of issues related to various national and international phenomena that may affect the process of development of Tunisian society. These issues cover the political, economic, social, and cultural fields. Among other things, the institute is a meeting place for exchange among those with different skills, experiences, and technical capabilities and a structure for building understanding and consensus among the intellectual elite on the important questions and serious challenges facing the country.
The Ibn Khaldun Institute, an affiliate of the Tunisian Community Center, is a non-partisan, non-profit and secular Advocay type Think Tank. Its focus is on the socio-economic development of Tunisia. The Ibn Khaldun Institute aims to be a Talent Bank as well as an online clearinghouse for information on activities taking place in the United States, that aim to promote the development of Tunisia. Created by the Tunisian Community Center in 2005, the think tank was named after Ibn Khaldun, the renowned 14th Century Tunisian polymath and statesman, whose name came to symbolize kinship and solidarity. It is composed of Tunisian and Tunisian American professionals in all disciplines, dedicated to promoting business, as well as, cultural and professional exchanges between the United States and Tunisia.
Asian think tanks
According to the Global Go Think Tank Report 2012, there are around 14 think tanks in Armenia of which the largest part is located in Yerevan. The Economic Development and Research Center (EDRC), International Center for Human Development (ICHD) are among the most active and well known think tanks in the country.
Bangladesh has a number of think tanks that are in the form governmental, non-governmental and corporate organizations.
- Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS)
- Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA)
- Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS)
- Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD)
- International Growth Centre (IGC)
- Making Our Economy Right (MOER)
In the People's Republic of China a number of think tanks are sponsored by governmental agencies, like Development Research Center of the State Council, but still retain sufficient non-official status to be able to propose and debate ideas more freely. In January 2012, the first non-official think-tank in China, South Non-Governmental Think-Tank, was established in Guangdong province. In 2009 the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, described as "China's top think tank," was founded.
In Hong Kong, those early think tanks established in the late 1980s and early 1990s focused on the political development including first direct Legislative Council members election in 1991 and the political framework of "One Country, Two Systems" manifested in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. After the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997, more and more think tanks were established by various groups of intellectuals and professionals. They have various missions and objectives including promoting civic education; undertaking research on economic social and political policies; promoting "public understanding of and participation in the political, economic, and social development of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region".
India has a number of think tanks. Most are based in New Delhi, and a few are government sponsored. A number of these work on foreign policy and security issues. There are few think tanks like Observer Research Foundation, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) and Centre for Civil Society who promote liberal social and economic ideas and others like the Rakshak Foundation, who encourage students to do empirical research and gain first hand experience in public policy issues.
In Mumbai, Strategic Foresight Group is a global think tank that works on issues such as Water Diplomacy, Peace and Conflict and Foresight (futures studies). Think tanks with a development focus are those like the National Centre for Cold-chain Development ('NCCD') which serve to bring inclusive policy change by supporting the Planning Commission and related government bodies with industry-specific inputs – in this case set up at the behest of the government to direct cold chain development.Some think tanks have a fixed set of focus areas and they work towards finding out policy solutions to social problems in the respective areas.
Initiatives such as National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) ( to ensure systemic and semantic consistency of data collection and data sharing), National e-Governance Plan (to automate administrative processes) and National Knowledge Network (NKN) (for data and resource sharing amongst education and research institutions), if implemented properly, should help improve the quality of work done by think tanks.
There are over 50 recently emerged think tanks in Iraq, particularly in the Kurdistan Region. Iraq's leading think tank is the Middle East Research Institute (MERI), based in Erbil. MERI is an independent non-governmental policy research organisation, established in 2014 and publishes in English, Kurdish and Arabic. It was listed in the global ranking by the USA's Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania as 46th in the Middle East. Other Iraqi think tanks, publish in Arabic, include the Shiite-focused Al-Rafidain Center in Najaf and the Islamic Dawa Party sponsored Al-Bayan Center.
- Shaharit - Creating Common Cause
- Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS)
- Neaman Institute
- Reut Institute
- Israel Council on Foreign Relations
- The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
- Adva Center
- Israel Democracy Institute
- The Institute for National Security Studies
- The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies
- Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute
- The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel
- The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
- AIX Group-Joint Palestinian-Israeli-International Economic Working Group
- Floersheimer Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- International Institute for Counter-Terrorism – IDC Herziliya
- Israel Center for Third Sector Research, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
- IPCRI – Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information
- The Milken Institute
- Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University
- The Shalom Hartman Institute
- The Begin-Sadat Center – Bar Ilan University
- The Center for the Study of Philanthropy in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- The Institute for Advanced Studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- The Jewish Arab Center (JAC), University of Haifa
- The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI)
- The Maurice Falk Institute for Economic Research in Israel, The Hebrew University
- The Shalem Center
- Institute for National Security Studies, affiliated with Tel Aviv University.
Japan has over 100 think tanks, most of which cover not only policy research but also economy, technology and so on. Some are government related, but most of the think tanks are sponsored by the private sector.
- Institute of World Economics and Politics (IWEP) at the Foundation of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan was created in 2003. IWEP activities aimed at research problems of the world economy, international relations, geopolitics, security, integration and Eurasia, as well as the study of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan and its contribution to the establishment and strengthening of Kazakhstan as an independent state, the development of international cooperation and the promotion of peace and stability.
- The Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the RK (KazISS) was established by the Decree of the President of RK on 16 June 1993. Since its foundation the main mission of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as a national think tank, is to maintain analytical and research support for the President of Kazakhstan.
Most Malaysian think tanks are government or political party related. They focus on defense, politics and policy. However, in recent dates, think tanks that focus on international trade and economics have also existed. Notable ones include the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), Institute for Pioneering of Education and Economic Excellence (INSPIRE), Penang Institute (PI), Center of Public Policy Studies (CPPS), and Khazanah Research Institute (KRI).
Pakistan's think tanks mainly revolve around social policy, internal politics, foreign security issues, and regional geo-politics. Most of these are centered on the capital, Islamabad. One notable think tank is the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), which focuses on policy advocacy and research particularly in the area of environment and social development. Another notable policy research institute based in Islamabad is the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS) which works in the fields of education, health, disaster risk reduction, governance, conflict and stabilization.
Think tanks in the Philippines could be generally categorized in terms of their linkages with the national government. Several were set up by the Philippine government for the specific purpose of providing research input into the policy-making process.
Sri Lanka has a number of think tanks that are in the form governmental, non-governmental and corporate organizations.
- LIRNEasia is a think-tank working across the Asia-Pacific on regulatory and policy issues. Their main focus is the ICT sector, although they do work in other sectors, such as agriculture and health, which can benefit from ICT.
- Verité Research is an interdisciplinary think tank in Colombo.
- The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies is a policy-studies institute that is often referred to as a think tank.
There are several think tanks in Singapore that advises the government on various policies and as well as private ones for corporation within the region. Many of them are hosted within the local public educational institutions.
Among them are the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (64th), Centre on Asia and Globalization, Asia Competitiveness Institute, The HEAD Foundation.
United Arab Emirates
The UAE has been a center for political oriented think tanks which concentrate on both regional and global policy. Notable think tank have emerged in the global debate on terrorism, education & economical policies in the MENA region. Think tanks include:
- Trends Research & Advisory
- Gulf Research Center
- Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre
- Orient Research Centre
- Dubai Economic Council
- CED – Center for Economic Development (Центр Содействия Экономическому Развитию) is a think-tank whose major tasks are: analytic support in economic reforming and development in Uzbekistan; improving knowledge and skills of the subjects of economic development; assistance in productive dialogue between the government, civil society and private sectors on the economic development matters.
Key projects: Preparation of the National human development report for Uzbekistan, Sociological "portrait" of the Uzbek businessman, Preparation of an analytical report on export procedures optimization in Uzbekistan, various industry and marketing researches in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
Taiwanese think tanks in alphabetical order:
Private sources fund about 20 to 30 "independent" Australian think tanks. The best-known of these think tanks play a much more limited role in Australian public and business policy-making than do their equivalents in the United States. However, in the past decade[which?] the number of think tanks has increased substantially. Prominent Australian conservative think tanks include the Centre for Independent Studies, the Sydney Institute and the Institute of Public Affairs. Prominent leftist Australian think tanks include the McKell Institute, Per Capita, the Australia Institute, the Lowy Institute and the Centre for Policy Development. In recent years[when?] regionally-based independent and non-partisan think tanks have emerged. Some, such as the Illawarra's i-eat-drink-think, engage in discussion, research and advocacy within a broader civics framework. Commercial think-tanks like the Gartner Group, Access Economics, the Helmsman Institute, and others provide additional insight which complements not-for-profit organisations such as CEDA, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and the Australian Institute of Company Directors to provide more targeted policy in defence, program governance, corporate governance and similar.
Listed in alphabetical order, think tanks based in Australia include:
- Ainslie Institute
- Air Power Australia
- AltSolved Commonwealth Think Tank
- Asia Education Foundation
- Asia Society (AustralAsia)
- Australasian Institute of Business Productivity
- Australia India Institute
- The Australia Institute
- Australian Fabian Society
- Australian Institute of International Affairs
- Australian Institute of Policy & Science
- Australian Strategic Policy Institute
- The Brisbane Institute
- Centre for Independent Studies
- Centre for Policy Development
- Chifley Research Centre
- Committee for Economic Development of Australia
- Crowther Centre for Learning and Innovation
- Development Policy Centre
- Doctors Reform Society of Australia
- Evatt Foundation
- Grattan Institute
- H. R. Nicholls Society
- Infrastructure Partnerships Australia
- Institute for Economics and Peace
- Institute of Public Affairs
- International Energy Centre
- International Water Centre
- Issues Deliberation Australia/America
- Laboratory for Visionary Architecture
- Lowy Institute for International Policy
- Mannkal Economic Education Foundation
- The McKell Institute
- The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research
- Menzies Research Centre
- National Civic Council
- New England Futures Group
- New South Wales Institute for Educational Research
- Per Capita
- Samuel Griffith Society
- Strategic and Defence Studies Centre
- Sydney Institute
- Transport and logistics centre
- United States Studies Centre
- Western Australia Policy Forum
European think tanks
Brussels hosts most of the European Institutions, hence a large number of international think tanks are based there. Among them there are, Bruegel, the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Centre for the New Europe (CNE), the European Centre of International Political Economy (ECIPE), the European Policy Centre (EPC), the Friends of Europe, the Global Governance Institute (GGI), Sport and Citizenship, and ThinkYoung.
- Liberales is a Flemish independent liberal think tank
Bulgaria has a number of think tanks providing expertise and shaping policies, including Institute of Modern Politics.
- CEPOS is a classical liberal/free-market conservative think-tank in Denmark.
- Cevea is a centre-left think tank, mainly founded as an opposition to CEPOS.
- PRAXIS is a socio-economic research think-tank.
Finland has several small think tanks that provide expertise in very specific fields. Vasemmistofoorumi researches the future of leftism, OK Do is a socially-minded design thinking organization, Demos Helsinki is a think tank that researches future society and Culture Crisis Management is political artists' think tank. Other similar think tanks include:
- Åland Islands Peace Institute
- European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE)
- Crisis Management Initiative (CMI)
- Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (Etla)
- Finnish Institute of International Affairs
In addition to specific independent think tanks, the largest political parties have their own think tank organizations. This is mainly due to support granted by state for such activity. The corporate world has focused their efforts to central representative organization Confederation of Finnish Industries, which acts as think tank in addition to negotiating salaries with workers unions. Furthermore, there is the Finnish Business and Policy Forum (Elinkeinoelämän valtuuskunta, EVA). Agricultural and regional interests, associated with The Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (Maa- ja metsätaloustuottajain Keskusliitto, MTK) and the Centre Party, are researched by Pellervo Economic Research (Pellervon taloustutkimus, PTT). The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiliittojen Keskusjärjestö, SAK) and the Social Democratic Party are associated with the Labour Institute for Economic Research (Palkansaajien tutkimuslaitos, PT). Each of these organizations often release forecasts concerning the national economy.
The French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) was founded in 1979 and is the third oldest think tank of western Europe, after Chatham House (UK, 1920) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sweden, 1960). The primary goals of IFRI are to develop applied research in the field of public policy related to international issues, and foster interactive and constructive dialogue between researchers, professionals, and opinion leaders. France also hosts the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), a Paris-based agency of the European Union and think tank researching security issues of relevance for the EU. There are also a number of pro-business think tanks, notably the Paris-based Fondation Concorde. The foundation focuses on increasing the competitiveness of French SME's and aims to revive entrepreneurship in France.
On the left, the main think tanks in France are the Fondation Jean Jaures, which is organizationally linked to the French Socialist Party, and Terra Nova. Terra Nova is an independent left-leaning think tank, although it is nevertheless considered to be close to the Socialists. It works on producing reports and analyses of current public policy issues from a progressive point of view, and contributing to the intellectual renewal of social democracy.
Only French Think Tank mentioned in the list "Think Tank to watch" of the 2014 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report GenerationLibre is a French think-tank created by Gaspard Koenig in 2013, independent from all political parties, which aims at promoting freedoms in France, in terms of fondamental rights, economics and societal issues. GenerationLibre is an interesting breed able to connect to the right on pro business freedom and regulations issues but also to the left on issues such as "basic income", gay marriage or marijuana legalization.
In Germany all of the major parties are loosely associated with research foundations that play some role in shaping policy, but generally from the more disinterested role of providing research to support policymakers than explicitly proposing policy. These include the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (Christian Democratic Union-aligned), the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Social Democratic Party-aligned), the Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung (Christian Social Union-aligned), the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (aligned with the Greens), Friedrich Naumann Foundation (Free Democratic Party-aligned) and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (aligned with Die Linke). The German Institute for International and Security Affairs is a prominent example of a German foreign policy think tank. Atlantic Community think tank is an example of independent, non-partisan and non-profit organization set up as a joint project of Atlantische Initiative e.V. and Atlantic Initiative United States The Institute for Media and Communication Policy is the leading think tank in the realm of media. Transparency International is a think tank on the role of corporate and political corruption in international development.
In Greece there are many think tanks, also called research organisations or institutes.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) is an independent research institute in Dublin, Ireland. Its research focuses on Ireland's economic and social development to inform policy-making and societal understanding.
The Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) is Ireland's leading think tank on European and International affairs
The Iona Institute is a conservative, Catholic think tank.
Tasc (Think tank for Action on Social Change) is an Irish left wing think tank.
- Bruno Leoni Institute
- Future Italy
- ISPI – Italian Institute for International Political Studies
- Istituto Affari Internazionali
- ‘Trinità dei Monti’ think tank
- Sardegna Democratica
While think tanks are not widespread in Latvia, as opposed to single issue advocacy organizations, there are several noticeable institutions in the Latvian think tank landscape:
- The oldest think tank in Latvia is Latvian Institute of International Affairs. LIIA is a non governmental and non partisan foundation, established in 1992, their research and advocacy mainly focuses on: Latvian foreign policy, Transatlantic relations, European Union policies, including its neighborhood policy and Eastern Partnership, and multilateral and bilateral relations with Russia.
- Centre for Public policy PROVIDUS is a non governmental and non partisan association, established in 2002. Providus focuses their work (both research and advocacy) on topics especially relevant in transition and post-transition environments and Latvia in particular: good governance; criminal justice policy; tolerance and inclusive public policy and European policy.
There are several think tanks that are established and operate under the auspices of Universities. Such as:
- Centre for European and transition studies is a think tank working under the auspices of the University of Latvia,- the largest public university in the country. CETS was established in 2000.
- or Defense research centre in 1992 under the auspices of the National Academy of Defense.
All major political parties in the Netherlands have state-sponsored research foundations that play a role in shaping policy. The Dutch government also has its own think tank: the Scientific Council for Government Policy. The Netherlands furthermore hosts the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael, or Clingendael Institute, an independent think tank and diplomatic academy which studies various aspects of international relations.
There is a large pool of think-tanks in Poland on a wide variety of subjects. The oldest state-sponsored think tank is The Western Institute in Poznań (Polish: Instytut Zachodni, German West-Institut, French: L'Institut Occidental).The second oldest is the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) established in 1947. The other most important state-sponsored think tank is the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW), which specializes in the countries neighboring Poland and in the Baltic Sea region, the Balkans, Turkey, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Among the private think tanks the most important are: the Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE), founded in 1991 and the oldest economic think tank in the country; and Institute for Structural Research (IBS) on economic policy, The Casimir Pulaski Foundation on foreign policy, demosEUROPA on EU affairs, the Institute of Public Affairs (ISP) on social policy, the Center for International Affairs (CSM) and The Sobieski Institute.
Founded in 1970, the SEDES is one of the oldest Portuguese civic associations and think tanks. Contraditório think tank was founded in 2008. Contraditório is a non-profit, independent and non-partisan think tank.
Romania's largest think tank is the Romanian Academic Society (SAR), which was founded in 1996.
The Institute for Public Policy (IPP) is a think-tank established in 2001 with the aim to support the development of democratic processes in Romania through in-depth research, comprehensive debates and non-partisan public policy analysis. Its mission is to contribute to a better process of public policy formulation in Romania. From its very inception, the Institute adhered to high professional standards and to promote concrete, objective and data-supported policy measures, with the aim to contribute to a consolidation of the democratic system in Romania by promoting the idea of public policy designed in accordance with global standards of scholarship. The IPP developed and consolidated recognized expertise in the fields of reform of public administration (reform of public services, modernization of the civil service body, fiscal decentralization), political parties finance, analysis of electoral systems and processes, health reform, public procurement and policies to combat corruption. This was achieved by working with specialized personnel and by permanent collaboration with experts in the aforementioned fields. Since 2004, the IPP is a member organization of the Policy Association for an Open Society (PASOS) network, together with other similar organizations from 22 countries. The IPP's motto is "It's all about thinking".
Serbia's best known think thank is the Foundation for the Advancement of Economics – FREN, founded in 2005 by the Belgrade University's Faculty of Economics. Thanks to the quality and relevance of its research, FREN has established itself as one of the leading economic think tanks in Serbia. FREN's team comprises a network of over 30 associates who regularly and systematically monitor economic trends in Serbia, conduct in-depth research and encourage and facilitate the exchange of information and availability of economic data.
Besides the international think tanks present in the surrounding countries as well (with Open Society Foundations being the most notable one) Slovakia has a host of its own think tanks as well. Some of the think tanks in Slovakia focus on public policy issues, such as Institute of Public Affairs (Inštitút pre verejné otázky or IVO in Slovak) or Central European Labour Studies Institute (Stredoeurópsky inštitút pre výskum práce or CELSI in Slovak). Others specialize on human rights issues such as minority protection, for example Forum Minority Research Institute (Fórum Kisebbségkutató Intézet or Fórum Intézet in Hungarian and Fórum inštitút pre výskum menšín or Fórum inštitút in Slovak). Since some of the Slovak think tanks are perceived to be associated with right-wing and liberal parties of Slovakia (with the perception being particularly strong among Slovak nationalists), findings and proposals made by these organizations are generally resented or ignored by left-wing supporters and nationalists.
In Spain, think tanks are progressively raising their public profile. There are now at least 30 think tanks in the country.
One of the most influential Spanish think tanks is the Elcano Royal Institute, created in 2001 following the example of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in the UK, although it is closely linked to (and receives funding from) the government in power.
More independent but clearly to the left of the political spectrum are the Centro de Investigaciones de Relaciones Internacionales y Desarrollo (CIDOB) founded in 1973; and the Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE) established in 1999 by Diego Hidalgo and main driving force behind projects such as the Club de Madrid, a group of democratic former heads of state and government, the Foreign Policy Spanish Edition and DARA (international organization).
Former Prime Minister José Maria Aznar presides over the Fundación para el Analisis y los Estudios Sociales (FAES), a policy institute that is associated with the conservative Popular Party (PP). Also linked to the PP is the Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos (GEES), which is known for its defense- and security-related research and analysis. For its part, the Fundación Alternativas is independent but close to left-wing ideas. The Socialist Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) created Fundación Ideas in 2009 and dissolved it in January 2014. Also in 2009, the centrist Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) created Fundación Progreso y Democracia (FPyD). More specialized think tanks has also emerged in Spain during the past 10 years, like the Future Trends Forum from Bankinter Foundation, a unique think tank in Europe, focused on detecting social, economic, scientific and technological trends and analyzing their possible application and impact on current business models.
There are also regional think tanks, such as Institución Futuro, considered one of the most influential think tanks in the World, according to the Global Go to Think Tank Index Report, by James McGann. Lately, a new Thinktank has been founded on European Union, it is called "Institute for European Advancement".
The three biggest think tanks in Sweden are the right oriented Timbro, the left oriented Arena Idé and the "green and liberal" Fores, Forum for Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability. Others are Sektor3, SNS, Arbetarrörelsens Tankesmedja (socialdemocratic oriented), Civitas (Christian democratic oriented), Institute for Security and Development Policy, DNV (Den Nya Välfärden, no party connection) and Cogito (green oriented).
The first think tank of Switzerland is the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute(GDI), envisioned by the Migros-founder Gottlieb Duttweiler in 1946. It opened its doors in 1963 after the death of Duttweiler. Other think tanks include:
- Liberal Institute, founded in 1979.
- Avenir Suisse, founded in 1999 by fifteen of the largest Swiss companies. It is supported by over 130 companies to date.
- DCAF, the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, founded in 2000 to research security sector governance and reform.
- Denknetz, founded in 2004.
- The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.
- Universal Rights Group.
- foraus, Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy, founded in 2009.
There are more than 100 registered think tanks in Ukraine. For example:
- Centre of Policy and Legal Reform (CPLR)
- Razumkov Centre is a non-governmental think tank founded in 1994. It carries out research of public policy in the following spheres: domestic policy; state administration; economic policy; energy; land relations; foreign policy; social policy; international and regional security; national security and defense.
Razumkov Centre united experts in the fields of economy, energy, law, political sciences, international relations, military security, land relations, sociology, history and philosophy. The Centre has about 35 full-time employees, and over 100 persons work on contractual basis. The Ukrainian-wide public opinion polls of Razumkov Centre Sociological Service are carried out by over 300 interviewers.
Analytical materials of Razumkov Centre are:
- recognized and used by different political forces;
- recognized by scientific and expert community;
- presented on the web sites of the Government, some ministries and departments;
- used as analytical and reference materials during the parliamentary hearings in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine;
- listed as recommended for the students of Ukrainian universities;
- have high index of quoting in Ukrainian and foreign mass media and scientific literature.
In 2004, on the International Economic Forum in Krynica (Poland) Razumkov Centre was named the best non-governmental organisation of Eastern Europe.
The Razumkov Centre is listed among top-25 think tanks of the Central and Eastern Europe.
The average Centre's yearly budget is approximately $600,000.
Institute for Social & Economic Studies is a non-governmental organization in Ukraine, a think tank that aims to analyze public policy in various aspects of the life of the state. The mission of the think tank: to be an intellectual bridge of trust between government, business, and community. Such intellectual bridges primarily aimed at the formation and restoration of trust among all stakeholders to achieve synergy and better results of joint efforts in assessing and improving public policy in all spheres of social and economic development – from the nomination of an idea to the analysis of the results of its implementation.
Products and activities:
- Drafts of normative legal acts;
- Conclusions to draft laws and recommendations to authorities
- Studies in the field of public policy
- Analytical publications
- Expert comments, presentations, briefings
- Organization of seminars, workshops and training for government officials, people's deputies, representatives of local communities and businesses
In Britain, think tanks play a similar role to the United States, attempting to shape policy, and indeed there is some cooperation between British and American think tanks. For example, the London-based think tank Chatham House and the Council on Foreign Relations were both conceived at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 and have remained sister organisations.
The Bow Group, founded in 1951, is the oldest centre-right think tank and many of its members have gone on to serve as Members of Parliament or Members of the European Parliament. Past chairmen have included Conservative Party leader Michael Howard, Margaret Thatcher's longest-serving Cabinet Minister Geoffrey Howe, Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont and former British Telecom chairman Christopher Bland.
Transcontinental countries (Asia-Europe)
According to research done by the University of Pennsylvania, there are a total of 12 think tanks in Azerbaijan.
The Center for Economic and Social Development, or CESD; in Azeri, Azerbaijan, İqtisadi və Sosial İnkişaf Mərkəzi (İSİM) is an Azeri think tank, non-profit organization, NGO based in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Center was established in 2005.
CESD focuses on policy advocacy and reform, and is involved with policy research and capacity building. CESD employs leading researchers prominent in their fields and enjoys a broad regional and international network. CESD has been set up to promote research into domestic and regional economic and social issues, advocacy towards reforms and capacity building for the purpose to positively impact the policy making and improve the participation.
CESD ranked as one of the top think tanks in the world by the University of Pennsylvania. According to the University of Pennsylvania rankings – a result of surveys from 1500 scholars and peer review evaluation – the Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD) is one of the top 25 think tanks in Central and Eastern Europe, including CIS. CESD is the only think tank from the Caucasus and Central Asia included in the top think tanks rankings.CESD is also ranked as one of the top 25 domestic economic policy thinks tanks in the world. Only CESD (ranked 19) and the Center for Economic and Social Research (CASE), (Poland, ranked 21) were included in the list from Central and Eastern Europe and CIS countries.
The Economic Research Center (ERC) is a policy-research oriented non-profit think tank established in 1999 with a mission to facilitate sustainable economic development and good governance in the new public management system of Azerbaijan. It seeks to do this by building favorable interactions between the public, private and civil society and working with different networks both in local (EITI NGO Coalition, National Budget Group, Public Coalition Against Poverty, etc.) and international levels (PWYP, IBP, ENTO, ALDA, PASOS, WTO NGO Network etc.).
According to the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Russia has 112 think tanks, while Russian think tanks claimed four of the top ten spots in 2011's "Top Thirty Think Tanks in Central and Eastern Europe".
Notable Russian think tanks include:
- Analytical Center for the Government of the Russian Federation
- Carnegie Moscow Center
- Institute of World Economy and International Relations
- Moscow State Institute of International Relations
- Center for Economic and Financial Research
- Institute for US and Canadian Studies
- Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (in Russian)
- Independent Institute for Social Policy
- Pskovian Laboratory of Urban Macroeconomics (PLUM)
Turkish think tanks are relatively new. Many of them are sister organizations of a political party, University or a company. University think tanks are not typical think tanks. Most Turkish think tanks provide research and ideas, yet they play less important roles in policy making when compared with American think tanks. There are at least 20 think tanks in the country. There are number of Think Tank organizations both independent and supported by government. Turksam, Tasam and the journal of Turkish weekly are the leading information sources.
The oldest and most influential think tank organization in Turkey is ESAM (The Center for Economic and Social Research – Ekonomik ve Sosyal Araştırmalar Merkezi) which is established in 1969 and centrally based in Ankara. There are also branch offices of ESAM in İstanbul, Bursa, Konya and other cities. ESAM has strong international relationships especially with Muslim countries and societies. Ideologically it performs policies, produce ideas and manage projects in parallel to Milli Görüş and have also influential effects on political parties and international strategies. The founder Leader of Milli Görüş movement Prof. Dr. Necmettin ERBAKAN was very concerned with activities and brainstorming events of ESAM. In The Republic of Turkey, 2 of the presidents, 4 of the prime ministers, various ministers, many members of the parliament, a lot of mayors and bureaucrats had been member of ESAM. Currently the General Chairman of ESAM is a famous veteran politician Recai KUTAN (who is older Minister for two different ministries, older main opposition party leader, and founder General Chairman of Saadet Party).
Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) is another leading think-thank. Established in 1994, TESEV is an independent non-governmental think-tank, analyzing social, political and economic policy issues facing Turkey. Some of the most remarkable of TESEV's work have been on the issues of Islam and democracy, combating corruption, state reform, and transparency and accountability. TESEV serve as a bridge between academic research and policy-making process in Turkey. Its core program areas are democratization, good governance, and foreign policy.
Education Reform Initiative (ERI) was launched within Sabancı University in 2003 with the aim of improving education policy and decision-making through research, advocacy, and training. ERI mobilizes a wide range of stakeholders in participatory education policy processes in pursuit of its mission of "quality education for all."
Other influential Turkish think tanks are the International Strategic Research Organisation (USAK), SETA, BİLGESAM, Academic Research Institute (AAE) etc.
North American think tanks
Canada has many think tanks (listed in alphabetical order). Each has specific areas of interest with some overlaps
- Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada
- Atlantic Institute for Market Studies
- Broadbent Institute
- C.D Howe Institute
- Caledon Institute of Social Policy
- Canada 2020
- Canada West Foundation
- Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
- Canadian Employment Research Forum
- Canadian Global Affairs Institute
- Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
- Canadian International Council
- Canadian Labour and Business Centre
- Canadian Tax Foundation
- Centre for International Governance Innovation
- Centre for Trade Policy and Law
- Clean Energy Canada
- Conference Board of Canada
- Council of Canadians
- Digital Economy Forum
- Digital Finance Institute
- Franco-Canadian Research Centre
- Fraser Institute
- Frontier Centre for Public Policy
- Canadian Council on Social Development
- Institute for Public Economics
- Institute for Quantum Computing
- Institute for Research on Public Policy
- Institute on Governance
- International Institute for Sustainable Development
- International Justice Institute
- International Policy Forum
- Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-économiques
- Manning Foundation
- Montreal Economic Institute
- Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation
- North-South Institute
- Parkland Institute
- Pembina Institute
- Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
- Public Policy Forum
- The Conference of Defence Associations
- Western Centre for Economic Research
Note: The Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) is a Canadian think-tank that has disbanded.
- CIDE is one of the most important think tank institutes. The researching lines are the "public policies", "public choice", "democracy", and "economy".
- CIDAC – The Center of Research for Development (Centro de Investigación para el Desarrollo, Asociación Civil) is a not-for-profit think tank that undertakes research and proposes viable policy options for Mexico's economic and democratic development. The organization seeks to promote open, pluralistic debate pursuing: the Rule of Law & Democracy, market economics, social development, and strengthening Mexico-United States relations.
As the classification is most often used today, the oldest American think tank is the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, founded in 1910. The Institute for Government Research, which later merged with two organizations to form the Brookings Institution, was formed in 1916. Other early twentieth century organizations now classified as think tanks include the Hoover Institution (1919), The Twentieth Century Fund (1919, and now known as the Century Foundation), the National Bureau of Economic Research (1920), the Council on Foreign Relations (1921), and the Social Science Research Council (1923). The Great Depression and its aftermath spawned several economic policy organizations, such as the National Planning Association (1934), the Tax Foundation (1937), and the Committee for Economic Development (1943).
In collaboration with the Douglas Aircraft Company, the Air Force set up the RAND Corporation in 1946 to develop weapons technology and strategic defense analysis.
More recently, progressive and liberal think tanks have been established, most notably the Center for American Progress and the Center for Research on Educational Access and Leadership (CREAL). The organization has close ties to former United States President Barack Obama and other prominent Democrats. In 2002, a French economist, Dr Gerard Pince, founded the Free World Academy well known for its entrepreneurship program.
Think tanks help shape both foreign and domestic policy. They receive funding from private donors, and members of private organizations. By 2013, the largest 21 think tanks in the US spent more than $1 billion per year. Think tanks may feel more free to propose and debate controversial ideas than people within government. The progressive media watchgroup Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has identified the top 25 think tanks by media citations, noting that from 2006 to 2007 the number of citations declined 17%. The FAIR report reveals the ideological breakdown of the citations: 37% conservative, 47% centrist, and 16% liberal. Their data show that the most-cited think tank was the Brookings Institution, followed by the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Recently in response to scrutiny about think tanks appearing to have a "conflict of interest" or lack transparency, executive vice president, Martin S. Indyk of Brookings Institution – the "most prestigious think tank in the world" – admitted that they had "decided to prohibit corporations or corporate-backed foundations from making anonymous contributions." In August 2016, the New York Times published a series on think tanks that blur the line. One of the cases the journalists cited was Brookings, where scholars paid by a seemingly independent think tank "push donors' agendas amplifying a culture of corporate influence in Washington." For example, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars the Brookings Institution provided the publicly-traded company Lennar Corporation – one of the United States' largest home builders – with a significant advantage in pursuing their $US8 billion revitalization project in Hunters Point, San Francisco. In 2014 Lennar's then-regional vice president in charge of the San Francisco revitalization, Kofi Bonner in 2014, was named as a Brookings senior fellow – a position as 'trusted adviser' that carries some distinction. Bruce Katz, a Brookings vice president, also offered to help Lennar Corporation "engage with national media to develop stories that highlight Lennar's innovative approach."
Government think tanks are also important in the United States, particularly in the security and defense field. These include the Institute for National Strategic Studies, Institute for Homeland Security Studies, and the Center for Technology and National Security Policy, at the National Defense University; the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the Naval War College and the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College.
The government funds, wholly or in part, activities at approximately 30 Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs). FFRDCs, are unique independent nonprofit entities sponsored and funded by the United States government to meet specific long-term technical needs that cannot be met by any other single organization. FFRDCs typically assist government agencies with scientific research and analysis, systems development, and systems acquisition. They bring together the expertise and outlook of government, industry, and academia to solve complex technical problems. These FFRDCs include the RAND Corporation, the MITRE Corporation, the Institute for Defense Analyses, the Aerospace Corporation, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and other organizations supporting various departments within the United States Government.
Similar to the above quasi-governmental organizations are Federal Advisory Committees. These groups, sometimes referred to as commissions, are a form of think tank dedicated to advising the US Presidents or the Executive branch of government. They typically focus on a specific issue and as such, might be considered similar to special interest groups. However, unlike special interest groups these committees have come under some oversight regulation and are required to make formal records available to the public. Approximately 1,000 these advisory committees are described in the FACA searchable database.
South American think tanks
Research done by Enrique Mendizabal shows that South American think tanks play various roles depending on their origins, historical development and relations to other policy actors. In this study, Orazio Bellettini from Grupo FARO suggests that they:
- Seek political support for policies.
- Legitimize policies – This has been clearer in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. New governments in Ecuador and Peru have approached policy institutes for support for already defined policies. In Bolivia, the government of Evo Morales has been working with Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and other research institutes to do the same. However, in Chile, many think tanks during the 1990s seemed to endorse and maintain the legitimacy of policies implemented during the previous decade by the military dictatorship headed by Pinochet.
- Spaces of debate – In this case think tanks serve as sounding boards for new policies. In Chile, during the Pinochet dictatorship, many left wing intellectuals and researchers found ‘asylum’ in think tanks. In Ecuador, think tanks are seen as spaces where politicians can test the soundness of their policies and government plans.
- Financial channels for political parties or other interest groups – In Ecuador and Bolivia, German foundations have been able to provide funds to think tanks that work with certain political parties. This method has provided support to the system as a whole rather than individual CSOs.
- Expert cadres of policy-makers and politicians – In Peru after the end of the Fujimori regime, and in Chile after the fall of Pinochet, think tank staff left to form part of the new governments. In the United States, the role of major think tanks is precisely that: host scholars for a few months or years and then lose them to government employ.
How a policy institute addresses these largely depends on how they work, their ideology vs. evidence credentials, and the context in which they operate including funding opportunities, the degree and type of competition they have and their staff.
This functional method addresses the inherit challenge of defining a think tank. As Simon James said in 1998, "Discussion of think tanks...has a tendency to get bogged down in the vexed question of defining what we mean by ‘think tank’—an exercise that often degenerates into futile semantics." It is better (as in the Network Functions Approach) to describe what the organisation should do. Then the shape of the organisation should follow to allow this to happen. The following framework (based on Stephen Yeo's description of think tanks’ mode of work) is described in Enrique Mendizabal's blog "onthinktanks":
First, policy institutes may work in or base their funding on one or more of:
- Independent research: this would be work done with core or flexible funding that allows the researchers the liberty to choose their research questions and method. It may be long term and could emphasize ‘big ideas’ without direct policy relevance. However, it could emphasize a major policy problem that requires a thorough research and action investment.
- Consultancy: this would be work done by commission with specific clients and addressing one or two major questions. Consultancies often respond to an existing agenda.
- Influencing/advocacy: this would be work done by communications, capacity development, networking, campaigns, lobbying, etc. It is likely to be based on research based evidence emerging from independent research or consultancies.
Second, policy institutes may base their work or arguments on:
- Ideology, values or interests
- Applied, empirical or synthesis research
- Theoretical or academic research
According to the National Institute for Research Advancement, a Japanese policy institute, think tanks are "one of the main policy actors in democratic societies ..., assuring a pluralistic, open and accountable process of policy analysis, research, decision-making and evaluation". A study in early 2009 found a total of 5,465 think tanks worldwide. Of that number, 1,777 were based in the United States and approximately 350 in Washington DC alone.
Working on public policies, Brazil hosts, for example, Instituto Liberdade, a University-based Center at Tecnopuc inside the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, located in the South Region of the country, in the city of Porto Alegre. Instituto Liberdade is among the Top 40 think tanks in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the 2009 Global Go To Think Tanks Index a report from the University of Pennsylvania's Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP).
Fundação Getulio Vargas (Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV)) is a Brazilian higher education institution. Its original goal was to train people for the country's public- and private-sector management. Today it hosts faculties (Law, Business, Economics, Social Sciences and Mathematics), libraries, and also research centers in Rio, São Paulo and Brasilia. It is considered by Foreign Policy magazine to be a top-5 "policymaker think-tank" worldwide.
The Igarapé Institute is a Brazilian think tank focusing on public security and policing.
Instituto Acende Brasil focuses on energy policies and is the only Brazilian think tank dedicated to this economic sector. It produces research and studies aimed at increasing the level of transparency and influencing the public policies of the Brazilian energy sector.
The Planning Institute of Jamaica is an agency of the Office of the Prime Minister that is "committed to leading the process of policy formulation on economic and social issues and external co-operation management to achieve sustainable development."
Think tank watch
In some countries, blogs and organizations have been established to monitor the activities of think tanks.
- Transparify provides the first-ever global rating of the financial transparency of major think tanks.
- Think Tank Watch "The World's Top Source for Think Tank News & Information" is a one-stop-shop for learning and thinking about think tanks.
- "THINK TANK & TRANSPARENT" is a quality label developed by the OETT, in France.
Think tank directories
- Think-Tanks'Guide is a think tank directory in 39 different languages.
- Open Think Tank Directory is a collaborative project organised by On Think Tanks to collect and capture a rich set of information about think tanks from all around the world. The list currently comprises almost 3,000 think tanks.
- The University of Pennsylvania's guide of Top Think Tanks Worldwide presents regional lists of think tanks.
- The directory of the OETT allows users to browse by countries and networks.
- NIRA's World Directory of Think Tanks provides a systematic introduction to the world's most prominent and innovative public policy research institutes.
- The Think Tank Map: a worldwide observatory of climate think tanks. TTmap is a platform which aims to provide a complete overview of every active think tank in the field of climate change economics and policy.
Think tank rankings
- TTCSP The Global Go To Think Tank Index is the result of an international survey of over 1,950 scholars, public and private donors, policy makers, and journalists who helped rank more than 6,500 think tanks using a set of 18 criteria developed by the TTCSP.
Think tank awards
- Prospect annual Think Tank Awards. In 2017 there were three categories : The US, EU, and UK Awards.
- Collective intelligence
- Internet think tanks
- List of think tanks
- Mass collaboration
- Mass communication
- Overton window
- Strategic studies
- TED (conference)
- Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP)
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