Think tank: Wikis


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A think tank (also called a policy institute) is an organization or individual that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economy, science or technology issues, industrial or business policies, or military advice.[1] Many think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax exempt status. While many think tanks are funded by governments, Advocacy groups, or businesses, some think tanks also derive income from consulting or research work related to their mandate.[2]

There are different opinions about think tanks; supporters like the National Institute for Research Advancement, itself a think tank, hail them as "one of the main policy actors in democratic societies ..., assuring a pluralistic, open and accountable process of policy analysis, research, decision-making and evaluation".[3] Others[citation needed] consider the term to be a euphemism for lobbying groups.

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.[4]



Since "think tank" is a term that has only found use since the 1950s, there is still some debate over what constitutes the first think tank. One candidate is the Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), founded in 1831 at the initiative of the Duke of Wellington. Another is the Fabian Society, which dates from 1884. The term think tank itself, however, was originally used in reference to organizations that offered military advice, most notably the RAND Corporation, founded originally in 1946 as an offshoot of Douglas Aircraft and which became an independent corporation in 1948.

Until around 1910, there were no more than several dozen think tanks, mostly focused on offering non-partisan policy and military advice to the United States government, and generally with large staffs and research budgets. After 1930, the number of think tanks exploded, as many smaller new think tanks were formed to express various ideological views.

Until the 1940s, most think tanks were known only by the name of the institution. During the Second World War, think tanks were referred to as "brain boxes" after the slang term for the skull. The phrase "think tank" in wartime American slang referred to rooms in which strategists discussed war planning.

Also see the UNDP definition.

Types of think tanks

Think tanks represent a variety of ideological perspectives. Some think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, are clearly aligned with conservative causes. Others, especially those focused on social and environmental reforms, such as the Tellus Institute, are viewed as clearly liberal. Still others, such as the Cato Institute, promote libertarian social and economic reforms. The most modern type is the crypto-think tanks preferring concealment of their partisanship, and these prefer to be called by other names like current affairs forum.

A new trend, resulting from globalization, is collaboration between think tanks across continents.


Critics such as Ralph Nader have suggested that, because of the private nature of the funding of some think tanks, their results are biased to a varying degree. Some argue that members will be inclined to promote or publish only those results which ensure the continued flow of funds from private donors.

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 a link between second-hand smoke and cancer.[5] According to an internal memo from Philip Morris, "the credibility of the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] 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."[6]

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. The Centre for International Affairs[7] is one of them. It was established by Dr. Ataur Rahman Khan, Professor of International Relations in Jahagirnagar University.[8] It is now incorporated with the Department of International Relations, Jahangirnagar University.[8]


In the People's Republic of China a number of think tanks are sponsored by governmental agencies but still retain sufficient non-official status to be able to propose and debate ideas more freely. Indeed, most of the actual diplomacy between China and the United States has taken the form of academic exchanges between members of think tanks.[citation needed]

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 return of sovereignty to the Mainland 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 SAR".


India has a number of think tanks working on foreign policy and security issues. Many of these are based in New Delhi, the capital and a few are government sponsored. Others are independent and are free to voice views that may be at tangent with current Indian policies. These include the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Centre for Land Warfare Studies that are associated with the Defence Ministry of the Indian government. The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS)[9] is the first independent think tank to be established in India and is today regarded as one of the premier think tanks on South Asian strategic affairs. There are also a few economics related think tanks such as ICRIER. Strategic Foresight Group, a think tank that works on global issues is based in Mumbai. Centre for Civil Society (CCS) is another famous independent organisation promoting public policy for change by their program with youth in India. Another think tank in India is Apeejay Stya Education Research Foundation (ASERF) inspired by the educationist Dr. Stya Paul, whose objective is to study all aspect of "quality education". [1] International Institute for Non-Aligned] a Think Tank having the elite status of General Category with the United Nations and Observer of Non-Aligned Movement

Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Pakistan has a number of think tanks which mainly revolve around Internal Politics, Foreign Security Issues, and Regional Geo-Politics. Most of these are centered around the capital, Islamabad, and have been founded by former Military and Intelligence Personnel.

Other think tanks concern religion and how its influence could grow in an otherwise unreligious 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 Muslims.

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 educationists. 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 and/or worked abroad.

Most are known to the general public through seminars and newspaper articles, or conducting workshops and lectures at colleges and universities. BrassTacks, a security and geopolitical think tank based in Islamabad however has broken the trend and now has a TV show with its head now a TV personality. Islamic think tanks and their heads were already famous throughout the world.

Islamic Republic of Iran

Several organizations were established in IR Iran since late 90’s which offer a unique blend of interdisciplinary research. Their focuses have been to provide social managers and make policies. Nano Health Think Tank, ASEF Think tank and Sharif Think tank are some famous Think tanks in this region.

European think tanks


The Liechtenstein Institute in Vienna, Austria (LIVA) is an international think tank established in 2007 and associated with the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination (LISD) of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. LIVA is a bridgehead organization between Europe, the United States, the Middle East and South Asia. Through its work on conflict management, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and state- and security-building issues, LIVA works to find a modus vivendi between various cultures, religions, ethnicities and political groups.


The Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SAM) is Azerbaijan’s first governmental, non-profit think tank founded on November 12, 2007. Its headquarters is located in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD) is an independent non-profit think tank, established in 2005, with headquarters located in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Center focuses on policy research, advocacy and reform and capacity building issues. CESD involves leading researchers prominent in their fields and enjoys a broad regional and international networking.


Brussels hosts most of the European Institutions, hence a large number of international think tanks are based there. Among them there is The European Policy Center (EPC), Think Young, The Friends of Europe, The Lisbon Council, The Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), The European Centre of International Political Economy (ECIPE), Centre for the New Europe (CNE) and BRUEGEL. The 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.


Finland has many interesting small think tanks that provide expertise in very specific fields. Vasemmistofoorumi researches the future of leftism, OK Do is socially-minded design thinking organization, Demos Helsinki is a think tank that researches future society and Culture Crisis Management is political artists' think tank, just to mention few.

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 EK, which acts as think tank in addition to negotiating salaries with workers unions.


First think-tanks in Georgia appeared after the collapse of the USSR. Number of organizations in 2009 is 13. New Economic School - Georgia is the libertarian one which is included in the Global Think-Tank Survey of 2008.


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. The Berlin-based Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) (url: is the largest independent foreign policy research institution in Germany.


See also: List of Greek think tanks

In Greece there are numerous think tanks,[10] which are usually called research organisations or institutes, with some of them being related with political parties or named after political leaders.


Vision is an independent, non-profit think tank based in Rome, Italy. Its main efforts are "dedicated to strategic thinking on the transformations triggered by technologies and globalization".

Military Centre for Strategic Studies (Centro Militare Studi Strategici - Ce.Mi.S.S.) is a military think-tank responsible for joint-services strategic research, located in Rome, Italy


All of the major parties in the Netherlands have a state-sponsored research foundation that play a role in shaping policy. The Dutch government also has its own think tank: the Scientific Council for Government Policy.


In Portugal, SEDES is one of the oldest civic associations and think tanks which was incorporated in 1970.


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, or the Foreign Policy Spanish Edition. 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) is also in the process of creating a new think tank called the Fundación Ideas.


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.

United Kingdom

See also: List of think tanks in the 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.

United States think tanks

Think tanks in the United States form both foreign and domestic policy. Think tanks in the United States generally 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 liberal 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%.[11] 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. The Center for Economic and Policy Research estimated that it was the most cost-effective of the think tanks, measured by the citations per $10,000 budgeted, followed by the Lexington Institute. Its report has a list of top 25 think tanks measuring their citations per dollar.[12]


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 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.

Other countries


Ieral de Fundación Mediterránea- is a non profit, independent think tank (founded by private sources and research projects), committed to the analysis of the major economic issues of relevance for Argentina and Latinamerican Countries and to enhace the public debate on these issues, therefore it publish a weekly economic review and organize monthly working meetings with entrepreneurs and politicians.


Most Australian think tanks are based at universities[citation needed] - 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.[citation needed]


MARKESTRAT[13] - Marketing & Strategy Projects and Research Center, is an organization founded by PhDs and Masters of Science in Business Management graduated by the School of Economics, Business and Accounting (FEA) of the University of São Paulo (USP). The Center develops Strategic and Marketing Management for organizations, aiming to enhance the competitiveness of companies and people.

Brazil hosts pro-market private think tanks working on public policies. Among them is Instituto Liberdade, a University-based Independent 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, from the 2009 Global Go To Think Tanks Index, a report from the University of Pennsylvania - Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program.


Canada has many think tanks: The Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, Cardus, C.D Howe Institute, Conference Board of Canada, Caledon Institute of Social Policy, Council of Canadians, Canada West Foundation, Fraser Institute, Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Institute for Public Economics, Canadian Council on Social Development, Institute for Research on Public Policy, Canadian Employment Research Forum, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, North-South Institute, Canadian International Council, Parkland Institute, Canadian Labour and Business Centre, Pembina Institute, Public Policy Forum, Canadian Tax Foundation, Western Centre for Economic Research, Centre for Trade Policy and Law. Each have their specific areas of interest with some overlaps. Many think tanks have closed their doors in Canada, including most recently Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN).


The Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) acts as the Egyptian cabinet think tank. Its mission is "to impartially support the government decisions through advice on best policy scenario mix and analytical research to improve the socio-economic well-being of the Egyptian society."


Ghana's first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, set up various state-supported think tanks in the 1960s such as the Cocoa Research Institute and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. 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. The input of such centers has become significant in the public's discourse on policy issues in contemporary Ghana.


Israel is home to several political and social think tanks, such as The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), Shalem Center and Adva Center.


IMCO [14] - 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).

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[15] - The Center of Research for Development (Centro de Investigación para el Desarrollo, Asociación Civil, or CIDAC) 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.


Russian think tanks have experienced a precipitous decline over the past five years. Think tanks under the Soviet Union, analogous to their American counterparts, grew to play a significant role in strategic policy formation. During the era of glasnost, begun by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and continuing under Russian President Boris Yeltsin, public think tanks and policy organizations underwent a brief blooming. However, as economic problems intensified under Yeltsin, and political pressure on public organizations grew under President Vladimir Putin, most of the Russian think tanks have withered away while those who stood closer to Kremlin saw a recent revival.

South Africa

  • Idasa: Frederik Van Zyl Slabert, and Alex Borain.
  • F W De Klerk Foundation



  1. ^ See The American Heritage Dictionary. "Think Tank." 2000. and Merriam Webster's Dictionary. "Think Tank."
  2. ^ Diane Stone 'Think Tanks and Policy Analysis', in Frank Fischer, Gerald J. Miller. & Mara S. Sidney (eds.) Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory, Methods, and Politics, New York, Marcel Dekker Inc. 2006: 149-157
  3. ^ "Introduction" NIRA's World Directory of Think Tanks 2002.
  4. ^ Foreign Policy, January/February, 2009
  5. ^
  6. ^ How Big Tobacco Helped Create "the Junkman" | Center for Media and Democracy
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^
  10. ^ Greek Institutes And Think Tanks
  11. ^ FAIR. The Incredible Shrinking Think Tank.
  12. ^ CEPR. Cost Effectiveness of the Most Widely Cited Think Tanks.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^

See also

Additional reading

  • Abelson, Donald E. Do Think Tanks Matter? Assessing the Impact of Public Policy Institutes. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2002.
  • 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 [2]
  • 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.[3]
  • Fan, Maureen. "Capital Brain Trust Puts Stamp on the World", Washington Post (16 May 2005): B01.[4]
  • Patrick Dixon. Futurewise - Six Faces of Global Change - issues covered by Think Tanks and methodology for reviewing trends, impact on policy 2003): Profile Books
  • Hellebust, Lynn and Kristen Hellebust, editors. Think Tank Directory: A Guide to Independent Nonprofit Public Policy Research Organizations. Topeka, Kansas: Government Research Service, 2006 (2nd edition).
  • 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.
  • Ranquet, Robert. Think Tanks and the National Security Strategy Formulation Process: A Comparison of Current American and French Patterns, 1997. [5]
  • 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).[6]
  • 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

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Simple English

A Think tank is a special organization that helps other organizations and groups with problems that they do not know how to solve.

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