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For other uses, see Think tank (disambiguation).

A policy institute (often termed "think tank" by journalists) is an 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 organizations, 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 businesses, or derive revenue from consulting or research work related to their projects.[1]

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 4,500 policy institutes exist world wide.


While the term "think tank" with its present sense originated in the 1950s, such organizations date to the 19th century. The Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) was founded in 1831 in London. The Fabian Society in Britain dates from 1884.

The original Washington think tank, Brookings Institution was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1916 by philanthropist Robert Brookings. It was conceived as a bipartisan "research center modeled on academic institutions and focused on addressing the questions of the federal government." [2]

After 1945, the number of policy institutes increased, as many small new ones were formed 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, perhaps most notably, the RAND Corporation, founded originally in 1946 as an offshoot of Douglas Aircraft Corporation, and which 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.[3]

The effect of globalization 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 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.[3]

Also see the United Nations Development Programme definition.


Think tanks vary by ideological perspectives, sources of funding, topical emphasis and prospective consumers.[4] 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. Still others, such as the Cato Institute, promote libertarian social and economic theories based on Friedrich von Hayek's idea of free markets and individual liberty.

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."[4]

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.[4]

The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania annually rates policy institutes worldwide in a number of categories and presents its findings in the "Global Go-To Think Tanks" rating index.[5] However, this method of the study and assessment of policy institutes has been criticised by researchers such as Enrique Mendizabal and Goran Buldioski, Director of the Think Tank Fund, assisted by the Open Society Institute.[6][7]

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 from Diane Stone Diane Stone (2005):

  • Independent civil society think tanks established as non-profit organisations –ideologically identifiable or not[8]
  • Policy research institutes affiliated with a university.
  • Governmentally created or state sponsored think tanks.
  • Corporate created or business affiliated think tanks.[9]
  • 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 specialised, small and specialised.[10]
  • Evolution of stage of development: e.g. first (small), second (small to large but more complex projects), and third (larger and policy influence) stages.[9]
  • Strategy, including: Funding sources (individuals, corporations, foundations, donors/governments, endowments, sales/events)[10] and business model (independent research, contract work, advocacy);[11][12][13][14][15] 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;[16] Their influencing approaches and tactics (many researchers but an interesting one comes from Abelson[17]) and the time horizon for their strategies: long term and short term mobilisation;[10][13] Their various audiences of the think tanks (audiences as consumers and public -this merits another blog; soon) (again, many authors, but Zufeng[18] 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.[19]


In some cases, corporate interests have found it useful to create "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.[20] 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."[21]

According to the Fairness and Accuracy in Media, both left-wing and right-wing policy institutes are often quoted and rarely identified as such. The result is that think tank "experts" are allegedly sometimes depicted as neutral sources without any ideological predispositions when, in fact, they represent a particular perspective.[22] 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.[23]

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, however, purposefully attempt to alleviate this problem by selecting members from diverse backgrounds.

Functional method in Latin America

Research done by Enrique Mendizabal[24] shows that Latin 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:[25]

  1. Seek political support for policies.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 U.S., 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, their staff, etc.).

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.[26] 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 based their funding on one or more ways, including:[27]

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Ideology, values or interests
  2. Applied, empirical or synthesis research
  3. 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".[28] 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.[29]


Argentina is home to 122 think tanks; many specializing in public policy and economics issues, Argentina ranks fifth in the number of these institutions worldwide.[30]

Argentine scientific and technological development think tanks include:


Brazil hosts a wide range of think tanks. Among them is Brazilian Center for International Relations (CEBRI), founded in 1998. CEBRI is one of the most important think tanks in Brazil and aims at the developing knowledge and promoting debate on topics of international relations.

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, at 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 [,[31] a report from the University of Pennsylvania's Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP).

Fundação Getulio Vargas (Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV or GV)) is a Brazilian higher education institution founded on December 20, 1944. It offers regular courses of Economics, Business Administration, Law, Social Sciences and Information technology management. Its original goal was to train people for the country's public- and private-sector management. Other courses began to be offered as the institution grew. It is considered by Foreign Policy magazine to be a top-5 "policymaker think-tank" worldwide.

PVBLICA is an independent think tank established in Florianópolis, Brazil, that engages in policy relevant research and advocacy. PVBLICA works in a stem cell organizational structure, and has as principles innovation, design and protection of diffuse interests.


IMCO[32] – The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad A.C.) is a think-tank that focuses on public-policy research and solutions. IMCO was created in 2004 with the goal of promoting public policies to boost Mexico's competitiveness -defined as a country's capacity to attract and keep investments and talent. IMCO regularly undertakes projects with various international organizations such as the World Bank and its Doing Business report, the OECD and the Inter American Development Bank (IADB).

IMT[33] – The Mexican Institute of Transportation (Instituto Mexicano del Transporte) is an influential public think-tank with strong capabilities in state-of-the-art applied research and technological innovations related to transportation systems and logistics. The Mexican Institute of Transportation (IMT) is an institution of the Department of Communications and Transportation (SCT) of the Mexican Government, created by a presidential agreement on April 15, 1987. The IMT seeks to contribute with the scientific and technological advancement of Mexico. Its mission is to support, in coordination with the SCT, the integral development of the transportation sector, both public or private, by means of scientific research, technological innovation and development of norms and specifications, in order to help improve safety, quality, reliability and efficiency of transportation and communication infrastructure and its related services, taking into account the impact on society and on the environment. It also participates in the training and continuous education of the human resources of the transportation sector. IMT frequently undertakes projects with international organizations and global recognized research centers.

CIDE is one of the most important think tank institutes. The researching lines are the "public policies", "public choice", "democracy", and "economy".

Fundación Ethos is a non profit, non partisan think tank, committed to the analysis of issues of relevance for Mexico and Latin America’s development, as well as to the evaluation and design of technically sound public policies.

CIDAC[34] – 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-U.S. relations.

AML[35] – The Mexican Logistics and Supply Chain Association (Asociación Mexicana de Logística y Cadena de Suministro A.C.) is a think-tank that focuses on logistics and supply chain research and technology. AML was created in 2012 with the goal of generating and transferring state-of-the-art knowledge to the productive sector through the effective application of research, innovation and technology in logistics, transportation systems and supply chain to boost Mexico's logistics competitiveness. AML collaborate with various international organizations such as the MIT, CRET-LOG (France), Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the main universities in Mexico as well as government agencies and recognized research institutions as the Mexican Institute of Transportation (IMT).


Consejo Venezolano de Relaciones Internacionales (COVRI)

Centro Internacional Miranda

Centro de Divulgación del Conocimiento Económico para la Libertad (CEDICE).


Consejo de Investigación Económica y Social (CIES)

Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (Grade)

Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP)

Instituto Libertad y Democracia (ILD)

Asian think tanks


In the People's Republic of Bangladesh a number of think tanks are working on foreign policy and security issues. Most of these are based in Dhaka. Among the think tanks set up by the government, Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) stands as one of the prime organizations that works to undertake and promote research and deliberation on international affairs, security and developmental issues of the country. In 1984, the government of Bangladesh issued an ordinance to define organogram and objectives of the think tank.[36]

People's Republic of China

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,[37] but still retain sufficient non-official status to be able to propose and debate ideas more freely. Most of the actual diplomacy between China and the United States has taken the form of academic exchanges between members of think tanks. In January 2012, the first non-official think-tank in China, South Non-Governmental Think-Tank, was established in Guangdong province.

Hong Kong

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 the third largest number of think tanks in the world.Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations, a think tank based in Mumbai looks at the intersection of foreign policy and business - and how India's businesses are shaping India's interactions with the world. 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. Other think tanks in India could be privately organisations with voluntary contributions from mutli-disciplinary professionals and academic or industry leaders.

By way of total number, India is ranked 4th with 269 think tanks. However, no Indian think tank appeared in University of Pennsylvania's "Global 50 annual list for 2012". Indian think tanks face several challenges such as — insufficient funding, lack of skilled staff and limited support from the government. Very few think tanks can afford a heavy investment in computing infrastructure. For example, a single user licence for the TIMES suite, a popular energy modelling software, costs over Rs 10 lakh ($18,000). Since Government departments are often reluctant to share data they collect, access to quality data is difficult. Although the Right to Information Act addresses this to some extent, it is still a time-consuming process for obtaining data.[39][40]

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)[41] 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.[40]


Several organizations established in Iran since the late 1990s offer a unique blend of interdisciplinary research. Their focuses have been to provide social managers and policies. Persian language. For the first time in the world, based on idea of Abolfazl Zohoorian to provide space for gathering criticisms, suggestions, new ideas and constructive citizens, and consequently to analyze and deal with them, Iranian National Think Tank launched in July 2013( Iranian National Think Tank - اتاق فکر ملی).


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.

Republic of Korea (South Korea)

In Korea, the National Research Council for Economics, Humanities and Social Sciences (NRCS) is a public institution that supported 23 related research institutes in their quest to achieve the effective management and improvement of their research environment under the Prime Minister. It was established with the objective of supporting and fostering research institutes in the area of economics and social science and systematically supervising them in their contributions to the production of high-quality national policy research and the development of a concrete knowledge industry. The NRCS was reorganized in 2005 through the merger of the Korea Council of Economic and Social Research Institutes and the Korea Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences established separately in 1999.

The Center for Free Enterprise (Korea) is a free market think tank located in Seoul, South Korea, with pages in English and Korean.


Most Malaysia think tanks are government or political party related. They focus on defence, politicsm and policies. Notable ones include the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), Malaysian Strategic Research Centre (MSRC), (INSPIRE)


Pakistan's think tanks mainly revolve around internal politics, foreign security issues, and regional geo-politics. Most of these are centered around the capital, Islamabad. Most recently, institutes such as the National University of Sciences and Technology have embarked on creating industrial linkages to create think tanks focusing on industrial and economic growth issues.

Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) is a think-tank in policy advocacy and research particularly in the area of environment and social development . SDPI was founded in August 1992, on the recommendation of Pakistan National Conservation Strategy (NCS), also called Pakistan’s Agenda 21. The Institute acts as both a generator of original research on sustainable development issues and as a knowledge disseminator.

There are several other think tanks as well, such as those concerning the state of education in the country, which hold many former or present educators. There are also think tanks concerning human rights, women rights, labour rights, justice, city development, heritage protection, and environmental protection, all headed by the country's urban dwelling, educated elite living, most of whom have studied or worked abroad. There remains a vacuum for former high ranking Government officials and party members to contribute to the think tank and policy advocacy process in these areas.

Other think tanks concern religion and how its influence could grow in an already religious country. These are centred throughout the country and work under the umbrella of the mammoth Jamaat-e-Islami with headquarters in Lahore and has immense global influence, reach and regard among more traditional Muslims. However the Jamat is a political party, and affiliations with reputable think tanks in Pakistan are not clear.

Some notable Pakistani think tanks are the MEASAC Research Center, the Institute of Policy Studies, the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, PakistanKaKhudaHafiz and the Corporate Advisory Council (NUST).

Most are known to the general public through seminars and newspaper articles, or conducting workshops and lectures at colleges and universities.


The Institute for Strategic and Development Studies (ISDS Philippines) is an independent non-profit, policy research and advocacy institution that is also involved in training activities in cooperation with other training institutions at home and abroad. It was founded by a group of academics from the University of the Philippines Diliman in April 1991. It was established in response to the need for an ongoing evaluation and interpretation of the changes in national and international affairs by serious international, regional, and national analysts. It was also aimed at responding to the need to provide academics a venue for research to enrich teaching and to provide inputs to policy-making.[42]

The PIPVTR is an independent, non-stock, non-profit, non-governmental research organization officially registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on 29 November 2007 as Philippine Institute for Political Violence and Terrorism Research. It was first conceptualized in September 2005 by a group of experts, academics and practitioners who see the need to establish a center in the Philippines dedicated to the study of political violence and terrorism and their implications for peace and security.[43]

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.[44]

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a number of think tanks that are in the form governmental, non-governmental and corporate organizations.

Verité Research is perhaps the best recognised interdisciplinary think tank in the country, providing strategic analysis and advice for governments and the private sector in Asia. Founded by Dr. Nishan de Mel, a former senior Sri Lankan policy maker, the organisation's clients include multinational firms, multilateral agencies, diplomatic missions, government agencies and civil society actors. It features research divisions in economics, politics, law and media.

Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs of Sri Lanka (formerly known as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) established a "Foreign Policy Think Tank" to facilitate the professional advancement of the country's foreign policy and the conduct of its external affairs. The structure of government Think Tanks in Sri Lanka are structured with the help of many academics and intellectuals affiliated with the government.

The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies is a regionally acclaimed policy-studies institute that is often referred to as a think tank. The Institute of Policy Studies in Colombo is another policy planning related think tank. The International Center for Ethnic Studies (located both in Colombo and Kandy) is another research-related think tank. There are several other focus-research institutes throughout the country that may be referred to as Think Tanks, such as the Marga Institute of Sri Lanka.

Other think tanks in Sri Lanka include the Islamic Think Tank and the Sri Lanka Think Tank – UK. Many private and government universities in Sri Lanka have research-related think tanks.

European think tanks


According to the Global Go Think Thank 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) and the Armenian International Policy Research Group are among the most active and well known think tanks in the country.


Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), though based in London, is a network of researchers based throughout Europe that contributes actively to European policy debates.


Bulgaria has a number of think tanks providing expertise and shaping policies. Most active are:

  • Institute of Modern Politics – focused on legislation and parliamentary conduct from human rights and good governance perspective;
  • Center for the Study of Democracy – working on anti-corruption and judicial reform issues;
  • Institute on Market Economy – budget and macroeconomy.
  • Centre for Liberal Strategies - The research activities of CLS pursue academic depth while at the same time reacting to the current problems of the political, economic and social life in Bulgaria and taking into account the context of today's global world.


In Croatia, Innovation Institute is a NGO with a mission to develop innovative potential by promoting creativity, innovativeness, unorthodox thinking and questioning existing dogmas. It aims at changing the culture from being focused on redistribution of value to being focused on value creation. The key target segments include: managers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, academics and students.

Czech Republic

The Association for International Affairs is the foremost Czech think-tank specializing in the field of international politics and diplomacy. It focuses on three areas: education (with the largest educational project in Central Europe, the Prague Student Summit), research (at its Research Center) and international outreach (currently in Belarus and other countries).[45]


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.

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.[by whom?] 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 Fondation Concorde. The foundation focuses on increasing the competitiveness of French SME's and aims to revive entrepreneurship in France.


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 Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Social Democratic Party-aligned), the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (Christian Democratic Union-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 U.S. The Institute for Media and Communication Policy is the leading think tank in the realm of media.


In Greece there are many think tanks,[46] also called research organisations or institutes.


The Iona Institute is a conservative, Catholic think tank.



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 established 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. One of the oldest think tanks in the Netherlands is the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam (1974). Maastricht in the Netherlands is also the headquarters of the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) a "think and do tank" with a Europe and Africa focus.


There is a large pool of think-tanks in Poland; none of them stands out however. 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 specialises in the countries neighbouring Poland and in the Baltic Sea region, the Balkans, the Turkey, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Among the private think tanks the most important are: the Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE) 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.


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 nonpartisan 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 world know standards. IPP developed and consolidated a recognized expertise in the fields of public administration reform (public services reform, modernization of the civil service body, fiscal decentralization), political parties finance, analysis of electoral systems and processes, health reform, public procurement, anti corruption policies. This was achieved by working with specialized personnel and by permanent collaboration with experts in the aforementioned fields. Since 2004, IPP is a member organization of the Policy Association for an Open Society (PASOS) network, together with other similar organizations from 22 countries. IPP motto is It's all about thinking.


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".[47]

Notable Russian think tanks include:


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, such as Institute of Public Affairs (Inštitút pre verejné otázky or IVO in Slovak) and Forum Minority Research Institute (Fórum Kisebbségkutató Intézet or Fórum Intézet in Hungarian and Fórum inštitút pre výskum menšín or Fórum inštitút in Slovak), with the latter concentrating on minority issues. Since most of these organizations are generally perceived to be associated with right-wing and liberal parties of Slovakia (with the perception being particularly strong among Slovak nationalists),[48] findings and proposals made by these organizations are generally resented or ignored by left-wing supporters and nationalists.,[49] k.h.


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 Socialist 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 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.


The two biggest think tanks in Sweden is the liberal oriented Timbro and center-left oriented Agora. Others are Sektor3, SNS, FORES, Arbetarrörelsens Tankesmedja (sociodemocratic oriented), Civitas (Christian democratic oriented), Institute for Security and Development Policy and Cogito (Green oriented). The public service radio channel P3 also hosts the programme Tankesmedjan.


Turkish think tanks are relatively new. Many of them are sister organizations of a political party 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).

Other influential Turkish think tanks are the International Strategic Research Organisation (USAK), SETA, BİLGESAM etc.

List of think-tanks in Turkey: http://tr.World Heritage'deki_d%C3%BC%C5%9F%C3%BCnce_kurulu%C5%9Flar%C4%B1_listesi


Razumkov Centre 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 defence.

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 heariings

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.

United Kingdom

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.

Centre for Strategic Research and Analysis (CESRAN), CIVITAS, Demos are three of the most significant think-tanks of the United Kingdom.

United States think tanks

As the classification is most often used today, the oldest American think tank is the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, founded in 1910.[50] 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), and the Council on Foreign Relations. The Great Depression and its aftermath spawned several economic policy organizations, such as the National Planning Association (1934) and the Committee for Economic Development (1943).[50]

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.

In 1971 Lewis F. Powell Jr. urged conservatives to retake command of public discourse by "financing think tanks, reshaping mass media and seeking influence in universities and the judiciary."[51] In the following decades conservative policies once considered outside the political mainstream—such as abolishing welfare, privatizing Social Security, deregulating banking, embracing preemptive war—were taken seriously and sometimes passed into law thanks to the work of the Hoover Institution, Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and smaller tanks.[52][53]

Think tanks help shape both foreign and domestic policy. They receive funding from private donors, and members of private organizations. 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%.[54] 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.

A database of articles released by these organizations can be found here: The Think Bank.


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 U.S. 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 U.S. Government.

Similar to the above quasi-governmental organizations are searchable database.

Other countries


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.[5] 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 and etc.) and international levels (PWYP, IBP, ENTO, ALDA, PASOS, WTO NGO Network etc.).


Most Australian think tanks are based at universities[55] – for example, the Melbourne Institute – or are government funded – for example, the Productivity Commission or the CSIRO.

There are also about 20–30 "independent" Australian think tanks, which are funded by private sources. The best-known of these think tanks play a much more limited role in Australian public and business policy making than in the United States. However, in the past decade 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, Lowy Institute and the Centre for Policy Development. In recent years 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:


Canada has many think tanks (listed in no particular order). Each has their specific areas of interest with some overlaps:

Note: The Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) is a Canadian think-tank that has disbanded.


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:

  • The Institute For Democratic Governance (IDEG)
  • Africa Centre for Development & Integrity (CeDI-Africa)
  • IMANI Centre for Policy and Education
  • The Institute of Economic Affairs, Ghana (IEA)
  • The Center for Policy Analysis (CEPA)
  • Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER)
  • Centre for Democratic Development (CDD)
  • The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC)
  • Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas
  • The Institute for Health Policy and Research (IHPR)


There are many think tank teams in Israel:[56]


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."


  • 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.[57]
  • Mazagan InstituteMazagan Institute promotes the development of intercultural dialogue, bringing people together through culture and the development of cultural activities based on the diversity of disciplines, thematic approaches, stakeholders, forms, audiences, and places of achievement in promoting youth participation in projects related to urban culture and social development ... Awaken in them the notion of citizenship and social integration ... a conception of culture for which the Institute Mazagan engages and advocates.
  • According toMarianne RepublicCIMQUSEF).


CED[59]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.


  • Puntland Development Research Center
  • Center for Research and Dialogue
  • Heritage Institute for Policy Studies
  • Somaliland Academy for Peace and Development
  • Policy Analysis Centre

South Africa

  • Idasa: Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert, and Alex Borain.
  • FW de Klerk Foundation
  • South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)
  • South African Institute of Race Relations
  • Centre for Development and Enterprise
  • Helen Suzman Foundation
  • Free Market Foundation
  • sbp Business Environment Specialists
  • Good Governance Africa
  • Institute for Security Studies
  • AfriMAP
  • Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa
  • Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection

See also


Further reading

  • Abelson, Donald E. Do Think Tanks Matter? Assessing the Impact of Public Policy Institutes. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002.
  • Arin, Kubilay Yado: Think Tanks, the Brain Trusts of US Foreign Policy. Wiesbaden: VS Springer 2013.
  • Boucher, Stephen, et al., Europe and its think tanks; a promise to be fulfilled. An analysis of think tanks specialised in European policy issues in the enlarged European Union, Studies and Research No 35, October, Paris, Notre Europe, 2004 [3]
  • Cockett, Richard, Thinking the unthinkable: think tanks and the economic counter revolution; 1931–1983, London: Fontana, 1995
  • Dickson, Paul. "Think Tanks". New York: Ballantine Books, 1972. 397 pages.
  • Goodman, John C. "What is a Think Tank?" National Center for Policy Analysis, 2005.[4]
  • Fan, Maureen. "Capital Brain Trust Puts Stamp on the World", Washington Post (16 May 2005): B01.[5]
  • Patrick Dixon. Futurewise – Six Faces of Global Change – issues covered by Think Tanks and methodology for reviewing trends, impact on policy 2003): Profile Books
  • Lakoff, George. Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don't. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
  • Ladi, Stella. Globalisation, Policy Transfer And Policy Research Institutes, Edward Elgar, 2005.
  • Mendizabal, Enrique and Kristen Sample (2009) "Dime a quien escuchas... Think Tanks y Partidos Politicos en America Latina", ODI/IDEA: Lima
  • McGann, James (2006) Comparative Think Tanks, Politics And Public Policy, Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing
  • Medvetz, Thomas (2012) "Think Tanks in America", Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Ranquet, Robert. Think Tanks and the National Security Strategy Formulation Process: A Comparison of Current American and French Patterns, 1997. [6]
  • Smith, James. A. The Idea Brokers: Think Tanks and the Rise of the New Policy Elite, New York: The Free Press, 1991.
  • Snider, J.H. "Strengthen Think Tank Accountability", Politico (3 February 2009).[7]
  • Stone, Diane. 'RAPID Knowledge: ‘Bridging Research and Policy’ in International Development at the Overseas Development Institute', Public Administration and Development, 29, 2009: 303–15.
  • Stone, Diane. Capturing the Political Imagination: Think Tanks and the Policy Process, London: Frank Cass, 1996
  • Stone, Diane. 'Garbage Cans, Recycling Bins or Think Tanks? Three Myths about Policy Institutes', Public Administration, 85(2) 2007: 259–278
  • Stone, Diane, and Andrew Denham, eds. Think Tank Traditions: Policy Research and the Politics of Ideas. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.
  • Struyk, Raymond J. Managing Think Tanks: Practical Guidance for Maturing Organizations, Budapest, Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative Washington DC., Urban Institute 2002
  • UNDP – United Nations Development Program. Thinking the Unthinkable, Bratislava, UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, 2003

External links

  • On Think Tanks: a free resource for think tanks
  • The Economist Magazine and NPR's Marketplace report: "Under the Influence: Think Tanks and The Money That Fuels Them"
  • Foreign Policy Research Institute, Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program directory of over 5000 think tanks and research on the role and impact of think tanks.
  • : "Thinking About Think Tanks" – interview with Christopher DeMuth, President of AEI, October 13, 2005
  • Enrique Mendizabal (Former head of programme at the on the definition of think tanks: towards a more useful discussion -a new way of studying think tanks that focuses on their functions rather than form.
  • 2009 Global Think Tank Rating
  • Network Functions Approach
  • Fundación Ethos
  • Vivekananda International Foundation
  • Rakshak Foundation
  • ThinkSync Malta
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