NIRA's World Directory of Think Tanks 2002

by NAKAMURA Madoka
Senior Researcher
Center for Policy Research Information, NIRA

Think tanks are one of the main policy actors in democratic societies. Think tanks could be regarded as the intellectual and knowledge-based "soft infrastructure" of the policy community, assuring a pluralistic, open and accountable process of policy analysis, research, decision-making and evaluation.

NIRA's World Directory of Think Tanks is an introduction to the world's most prominent public policy research institutes, or think tanks. This directory provides up-to-date information on 320 think tanks selected from 77 countries and regions. In addition to providing information on each institute, in this edition we have included figures and a table, representing the collected data. These tables provide an overview and outline of the worldwide think tank community, and will be helpful in understanding the issues and problems the entire community, as well as each institute, grappling with. NIRA hopes that this project will help to lay the groundwork for a future global network of policy research institutions.

Think tanks are usually described as an invention of the twentieth century, and have been proliferating all over the globe, particularly in the decade, since the end of the cold war. In order to clarify this growth in numbers, we have included a table of think tanks established by region (Table 1). The Russell Sage Foundation (US), founded in 1907, the Fabian Society (UK), founded in 1884 (not in this directory), and the Hamburg Institute for Economic Research (Germany), founded in 1908, are generally considered to be the oldest institutions. However, on the basis of our research and their response to our inquiry, we have listed the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies (UK), founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, in this directory.

In Asia, think tanks were established mainly after the World War II, several decades later than in Western nations. The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs was founded in 1947, the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies in 1948, the Institute of International Relations (Taiwan) in 1953, the National Institute of Development Administration (Thailand) in 1955 and the Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi (India) in 1958. These were pioneering institutions in their respective countries.

In Japan, the Kokumin Keizai Research Institute (KKRI), founded in 1945, and the Kyushu Economic Research Center (KERC), founded in 1946, were the trailblazers shortly after the end of the war. But there were also several institutes which operated as think tanks in the pre-war period. Despite the fact that it was an internal department of a government-owned company, the research department of the South Manchuria Railway Company (SMRC), founded in 1907, is often considered as the origin of the Japanese think tank. The SMRC produced a considerable number of research reports and applied multi-disciplinary methods. They assembled research teams from diverse disciplines, who officially remained researchers for other companies or universities. The methods used by the SMRC were similar to those utilized by think tanks. Other institutes established in the pre-war period include the Ohara Institute for Social Research (OISR), established in 1919 (merged with Hosei University in 1949), the Institute for Science of Labour (ISL, 1921), and the Tokyo Institute for Municipal Research (TIMR, 1922). Ohara Magosaburo, an industrialist and philanthropist, founded the OISR and ISL. Goto Shinpei was the first president of the SMRC, and was later elected as a mayor of Tokyo and established the TIMR. These two men were intellectual leaders and established the direction of policy research institutions in Japan. Although the SMRC was abolished after the Japan's surrender, the three other institutes continue to play a role in the recent policy community.

Japan has a longer think tank history than other Asian nations. However, most members of the present policy industry were established shortly before or after 1970, the year named as "the dawn of Japanese think tanks."

Think tanks have definitely become one of the fundamental factors in policy process in democratic societies. As shown in the table, policy institutes were constantly established in Asia and Western Europe in the latter half of the century. By contrast, in Eastern Europe, the number of think tanks increased from 1980s, and particularly in the 1990s. Many well-known US institutes, such as the Brookings Institution (1916) and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1914), date their origin to the beginning of last century, but the US policy community as a whole, as the number of establishment increased, considerably expanded after the 1970s. In the 1960s, the term "think tank" was used for contract research organizations, such as the Rand Corporation, but the meaning was expanded to take in public policy research institutes by the 1970s. The year 1970 could be regarded as the turning point for think tanks on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Think tanks have developed into a variety of types and feature different characteristics related to the political and policy systems of their countries of origin. The Figure 1, analyzing think tanks by type clarifies the expansion of organizational varieties in each region. Because the term was first used to describe the RAND and policy institutes established remarkable influence and power in the US, such institutes are frequently considered to be the model prototypes of think tanks in other countries. However, in recent studies of think tanks, even RAND became atypical example of policy research institutes. Because of the diversity of think tanks, it is inappropriate to define think tanks by reference to a single institute. In the US recently, the number of advocacy institutes, particularly those promoting conservative and/or free market ideologists, has been increasing, in addition to regional or state-based institutes.

Looking at the Western Europe, UK think tanks are more likely to be small charitable institutes, while German institutes have more academic characteristics, having a number of researchers and staff, supported largely by the Federal and local governments. In the Scandinavian countries, think tanks are funded largely by the government. China and South Korea are two examples of Asian nations in which think tanks are gaining power and influence. They are expanding and developing rapidly, with the government and public funding. Many institutes in Western Europe, other than the UK, utilize public funding and apply it effectively in public policy studies. Financial independence ensures research independence, but research independence may also be established harmoniously with the combination of public funding.

The characteristics of think tanks are diverse and they differ extensively in their organizational status, stated missions, funding source, number of staff (Figure 2), research style, output and operation. Although many institutes in the world have learned from traditional US institutes, they have developed their own styles and frameworks suitable to dealing with the policy process and government system within their own countries.

In the context of Japanese think tank industry, a number of for-profit institutions operate under the think tank category. Although aware that this situation is extraordinary in comparison with other countries, we have listed these corporate institutions in the 2002 Directory. Because public policy research itself does not generate profits, these institutions have additional departments and sections, such as information systems and consulting, which earn revenue to support their research and analysis endeavors. These for-profit institutions have lead the Japanese think tank industry, particularly since 1970, but because profit-making is their primary aim and given the state of recession, corporate think tanks have recently tended to focus more intensely on profit-making activities, and some company subsidiaries have been terminated or transformed into different organizations. Several regional government-related institutes, on the other hand, have been dissolved in administrative reforms. The Japanese think tank industry is, at present, in transition.

While the think tank community has been constantly growing, the transition mentioned above is not only observed in the case of Japan. In the course of our three-year survey, we discovered several cases concerning institutes in other countries, which illustrates the transformation of the community.

The Policy Studies Institute (UK), which was formerly independently operated and devoted to policy studies centering on the social issues, became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the University of Westminster in 1998. In the United States, the Overseas Development Council (ODC) ceased operation at the end of 2000, after 30 years of work on development issues.

The Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID, USA) closed after a quarter century of operation, in June 2000. The HIID was a multidisciplinary center connected to Harvard University devoted to coordinating development assistance and research on developing countries. The task force appointed to make recommendations on the role of the HIID and its relationship to the university was established because of an incident in which two administrators of a program in Russia were accused of insider trading by the US Agency for International Development. The task force proposed four options for the future of the HIID, and in their final conclusion recommended that the institute should be dissolved and its functions integrated into the university, with its key functions and programs being maintained and many of its personnel continuing to work at Harvard. The task force also recommended that the schools succeeding to the role of the HIID, preserve the HIID's multidisciplinary approach, maintain its unique applied research methods and long-term on-site project activities, and encourage cross-faculty collaboration. These issues are also relevant to the responsibilities and key functions of think tanks in general. Consideration of institutional transformation highlights the key principles of think tanks.

Think tanks support and encourage policy pluralism, broad participation and involvement of policy actors, citizen empowerment, and a diverse range of ideas and alternative policy proposals. The range and degree of policy participation by across external to governments is prominent. More years may be required to fix the definition of "think tanks," because the community is expanding and broadening. The community will certainly be a growing sector in the twenty-first century, the 'information and knowledge age'.

One of the important roles of think tanks is to bridge policy ideas and knowledge with other researchers and institutions, and sometimes with people having different backgrounds or ideologies. Linkages and networks will be essential for think tanks. Think tank networks are expanding beyond the borders of nations and regions. They are globalizing.

ASEAN-ISIS, the Global Development Network (GDN), Global ThinkNet, the International Think Tank Forum (ITTF), the Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) and the Transition Policy Network (TPN) are examples of think tank networks. Prof. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a 2001 Nobel Prize-winning economist, stated "Scan globally, reinvent locally" when launching the GDN. He has emphasized the importance of 'bridging knowledge and policy.'

Analyzing network types, Raymond J. Struyk, a senior fellow of the Urban Institute, has identified eight management tasks for think tank networks to ensure successful operation. They are: 1) inspiration, organization, initial funding; 2) balancing consultation with their objectives; 3) ensuring funding; 4) maintain "structured informality"; 5) membership determination; 6) agenda determination; 7) motivating participation in network activities; and 8) promoting coherence. It is hard work to successfully manage think tank networks, given that managers have to balance several competing interests, and it is therefore anticipation that networks will generate both advantages and disadvantages. Their endeavors will certainly make some networks cutting edge leaders, which will provide guidelines for policy network operation.

With the increasing understanding of the key issues for think tanks- transparency, diversification and pluralism - the concept of networks will become more influential. These networks will not only be global, but also potentially regional, domestic and local. Networks are loose structures of cooperation, debate and information exchange, but are relatively independent of the policymaking powers. They do not severely restrict their participants or members. Freedom in networks will ensure transparency and diversity, and knowledge and opinions are essential to promoting policy debates. Network alliances will help to increase the degree of pluralism.

Informal networks will be able to support the accumulation of policy knowledge in the formal policy arena. As mentioned above, many global public policy networks have emerged over the last decade, and they aim to fill in gaps in the formal policy process. The formal process requires the involvement many actors including international organizations, lengthy discussions, numerous participants and tremendous efforts to achieve decision-making. This is because a variety of actors with completely different backgrounds participate, and absolute leadership is not acceptable in the international community.

Face-to-face discussion is sometimes more effective and constructive, supported by everyday discussion or communication by e-mail. 'Network' does not only indicate virtual or Internet-based groups. Certainly, recent advancements in ICT (Information and Communication Technology) will provide more chances for people and researchers to exchange ideas without lengthy flights or costly travel expenses. However, these ICT networks are tools to establish people's policy networks. Knowledge will not be generated by ICT networks, but by networks of people.

Because of our continuous efforts in data collection, our wide coverage and the detailed information disseminated through our website, this directory is referred to and established as a link on various websites, including those of the Harvard University Law School Library, the Columbia University Lehman Social Science Library, the Documents Center of the University of Michigan, the MIT Careers Handbook, the US Department of the Interior Library and these links makes us confident that the directory is recognized as an essential information resource on policy research institutes worldwide. We develop and maintain basic web-resources on NIRA's website, and we would appreciate your candid suggestions and recommendations for our links. NIRA is pleased to collaborate with its colleagues worldwide.

Table 1: Chronicle of Think Tanks by Regions (Year Founded)
Asia and
North AmericaLatin America and
Western EuropeEastern EuropeMiddle East and
1831RUSI (UK)
1908HWWA (Germany)
1914CCEIA IfW (Germany)
1925DIW Berlin (Germany)
1928CIIA (Canada)
1933AIIA (Australia)
1938SIIA (Sweden)
1943AEI SIAW-HSG (Switzerland)
1945KKRI (Japan)
1946KERC (Japan)
1947PIIA (Pakistan)
1949EAI DFG (Germany)
Ifo (Germany)
1951CIS IW (Germany)
1952Population Council
Atlantic (Netherlands)
1953IIR (Taiwan)
1954ICAP (Costa Rica)IEHAS (Hungary)
1955NIDA (Thailand)FPRI DGAP (Germany)
1956Asia Society IFA (Germany)IMEMO (Russia)
1957BIDS (Bangladesh)IEIE (Russia)
1958IEG (India)RTI CEDE (Colombia)OGA (Austria)
OSI (Austria)
SFI (Denmark)
1959IRI (Japan)
JIIA (Japan)
NUPI (Norway)
PRIO (Norway)
Moshe Dayan (Israel)
1960SIIS (China)
EWC ODI (UK)AISA (South Africa)
Hudson Inst.
FIIA (Finland)
1962CSIS CEPB (Bolivia)
ILPES (Chile)
SWP (Germany)INADES (Cote d'Ivoire)
1963JCER (Japan)IMO (Croatia)
1964INTAL (Argentina)CENSIS (Italy)
1965IDSA (India)
Nomura, NRI (Japan)
KIIS (Korea)
IAI (Italy)IWE (Hungary)
IER (Slovenia)
1966SDSC (Australia)IPR SIPRI (Sweden)
IFES (Russia)
1967IPA (Canada)
IEM (Romania)KISR (Kuwait)
1968ISEAS (Singapore)IFTF
Urban Inst.
1969CDR (Denmark)
1970JCIE (Japan)
KIIS (Japan)
MIRI (Japan)
SRDI (Japan)
IDRC (Canada)
FEDESARROLLO (Colombia)CETIM (Switzerland)
1971CSIS (Indonesia)
IDCJ (Japan)
IFTECH (Japan)
IPS (Japan)
KDI (Korea)
1972Marga (Sri Lanka)CDI CIUP (Peru)IIASA (Austria)
CEDIMES (France)
WRR (Netherlands)
1973CPR (India)C.D. Howe (Canada)
WIIW (Austria)
1974NIRA (Japan)
WES (Taiwan)
Fraser (Canada)
TNI (Netherlands)ISSUP (South Africa)
FPI (Turkey)
1975IFPRI EADI (Germany)CAUS (Lebanon)
1976KIET (Korea)EPPC
Rockford Inst.
PSOJ (Jamaica)
1977Nippon Res., NRI (Japan)
PIDS (Philippines)
Northeast-Midwest Inst.
IWG BONN (Germany)
JCSS (Israel)
CERMOC (Lebanon)
1978INESASS (China)
IAE (Japan)
KRIHS (Korea)
CIEM (Vietnam)
EBRI ETUI (Belgium)
CEPII (France)
1979IRI (Brazil)IFRI (France)
1980AJRC (Australia)
ERI, SDPC (China)
APDC (Malaysia)
INSOTEC (Ecuador)
ILD (Peru)
EAC (France)
1981IWEP (China)
CIER (Taiwan)
ISSP (Taiwan)
YCISS (Canada)
Rockefeller Inst.
1982ICES (Sri Lanka)Carter Center
1983ISIS Malaysia (Malaysia)
IPS (New Zealand)
Focus/OMB Watch
Liberal (Brazil)CEPS (Belgium)
Clingendael (Netherlands)
IPIS (Iran)
1984TDRI (Thailand)Reischauer Center
1985DRC (China)
SRIC Corp. (Japan)
IDS (Malaysia)
MIER (Malaysia)
CDEE-ICESI (Colombia)WIDER (Finland)
FIEF (Sweden)
TARKI (Hungary)
WERI (Poland)
CSS (Yugoslavia)
1986CPIS (Indonesia)
P2E-LIPI (Indonesia)
KEEI (Korea)
Sejong (Korea)
1987HKCER (China (HK))
IPS (Singapore)
CPPCI Futures Studies (Sweden)PASSIA (Palestine)
1988F-RIC (Japan)
IIPS (Japan)
NLIRI (Japan)
ELIAMEP (Greece)
Rosselli (Italy)
IPCRI (Israel)
1989CDI (China)
CPU (China (HK))
ICSEAD (Japan)
KIEP (Korea)
IA (Peru)IIR (Greece)
CSD (Bulgaria)
ASRC (Poland)
IBnGR (Poland)
1990AAI (Australia)
JIL (Japan)
KLRI (Korea)
IISD (Canada)
IOG (Canada)
Consensus Council
Discovery Inst.
South Peru (Peru)IRIS (France)
Alfred Mozer (Netherlands)
21st Century (Bulgaria)
Economika (Bulgaria)
LFMI (Lithuania)
CAS UE (Slovakia)
NEPRU (Namibia)
FIDEG (Nicaragua)
ARIJ (Palestine)
ISS (South Africa)
1991ISS (Mongolia)Cascade Policy Inst.
Milken Inst.
AFA (Austria)
UNISCI (Spain)
CDFE (Czech )
CASE (Poland)
RPPC (Russia)
FAHF (Slovakia)
1992HID (Nepal)
SDPI (Pakistan)
Nautilus Inst.FPC (Chile)IWH (Germany)IISEPS (Belarus)
EMLA (Hungary)
ECES (Egypt)
1993LEWI (China (HK))
ERINA (Japan)
NPF (Taiwan)
TEI (Thailand)
Adam Smith (Italy)
CESS (Netherlands)
Demos (UK)
EUREKA (Albania)
CERGE-EI (Czech )
CED (Slovakia)
ESRF (Tanzania)
1994TAI (Australia)
CICP (Cambodia)
CPRN (Canada)
Nixon Center
BICC (Germany)ASA (Bulgaria)
ISIS (Bulgaria)
ICPS (Ukraine)
CEPA (Ghana)
IPAR (Kenya)
EPRC (Uganda)
1995PRI (China (HK))CBP DUPI (Denmark)EURISC (Romania)
IUE (Russia)
CEE (Turkey)
1996IDSS (Singapore)NOVA (Norway)
SCAF (Belarus)
WIIC (Lithuania)
EIIPD (Ethiopia)
1997The EPC (Belgium)EPI (Bulgaria)
IE AS (Latvia)
IVO (Slovakia)
1998MDRC (Mongolia)Phoenix CenterFPC (UK)CASE (Kyrgyz )
1999Brisbane (Australia)New America Foundation
2000CIPPEC (Argentina)
2001Earth Policy Inst.
* North American Institutes without country name are US institutions.

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