NIRA's World Directory of Think Tanks 2005
Introduction: September 11, Globalization, and Think Tanks

SAITO, Tomoyuki
Researcher, Center for Policy Research Information
National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA)

Since the dawn of the new century, clear trends have been observable in the research scope and focus of activity of the world's public policy research institutions, often referred to as "think tanks." These trends are most apparent in three geographical regions: the United States, East Asia, and Europe. In the U.S., 9/11 and subsequent events - such as the campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan, and the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq in 2003 - have driven domestic think tanks to shift their scholarly attention and practical activity to security issues in terms of topic, and to the Middle East and its neighbors in terms of region. As a general trend, most East Asian think tanks have, on the other hand, in sharp contrast with their counterparts in the U.S., been examining the possibilities of intraregional integration in East Asia, in which the major terms of reference have been economics, trade and investment. This overall research focus on issues related to East Asian economic regionalization can be considered a reaction to Washington's intellectual detachment from the region, with the exception of China and North Korea. The concerns of European think tanks tend to stand between those of think tanks in the U.S. and East Asia. Two distinct predominant research interests have emerged among European think tanks: institutional, political, and security topics in the wake of 9/11; and the monetary and market integration (in addition to other relevant issues) of the EU, which commenced in January 2002.

The fact that a wide variety of think tanks today are tend to focus on a particular topic and region might be a derivative of the broader trend towards regionalism that has been developing steadily on a global scale, a trend which runs counter to the ongoing surge of globalization: for think tanks, "[r]egionalization appears to be a stronger dynamic than globalization."(1) Or it may be appropriate to see this as a concrete example of the widespread idea of 'glocalism', thereby posing a clue to the question of how to secure the future of public policy-oriented think tanks in an age of globe-spanning communications. To a great extent, today's think tank needs to be both generalized and specialized in nature, well-balanced in its research scope and activities according to the circumstances, and must dare to take the right action at the right time - no matter where it is located - in a struggle for survival.

U.S. Think Tanks in Vogue
9/11 and its aftermath has had an enormous impact on how think tanks operate in the U.S., and most profoundly in Washington: events have featured the involvement of a group of think tanks inside the Beltway whose primary research foci are security-related issues such as terrorism, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), homeland defense, and postwar reconstruction, as well as pertinent geographical regions such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, the Arab and Islamic world, and Central, South and Southeastern Asia. One of the Washington-based think tanks which has been attracting a great deal of international attention since the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001, and particularly since 9/11, is the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). PNAC was co-founded in 1997 by William Kristol, a Harvard-educated scholar, "to explain what American world leadership entails" and "to rally support for a vigorous and principled policy of American international involvement and to stimulate useful public debate on foreign and defense policy and America's role in the world."(2) In tandem with the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), now famous as a stronghold of the so-called "neo-conservatives," the PNAC has been deeply involved in the foreign and defense policymaking process of the Bush administration. In particular, the PNAC has tenaciously called for the adoption of hard-line policies towards the Middle East, and has had a strong influence on the administration in the dispute over military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another embodiment of the recent trend towards security policy research is the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), which was established in January 2001 by CNN founder and philanthropist Ted Turner, and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn in the hope that, confronted with the threats of worldwide WMD proliferation, it could "reduce the risk of use and prevent the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons."(3) Two years later, the NTI changed its status from a private operating foundation to a public charity. Since its inception, the NTI has demonstrated some of the characteristics of a think tank, engaging in research, on-line database development, network building and other activities in the field of global security. Both the PNAC and the NTI are symbolic byproducts of the broader transformation of Washington's policy industry and its law of survival of the fittest.

In the U.S., traditional think tanks are echoing this transformation. For example, the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), a realistic, policy-oriented conservative think tank located on Washington's K Street has newly launched a series of nontraditional security-focused programs and projects in response to 9/11: the Homeland Security Program, the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project, and the Task Force on Terrorism, to name only a few.(4) Other recognized domestic think tanks such as the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Heritage Foundation, and the RAND Corporation have followed this trend and developed similar programs and activities in the study of security and counterterrorism. James McGann, senior fellow and director at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), points out in his study of recent research efforts conducted by eight leading U.S. think tanks that "while there has been a spike in the number of terrorism-related research, analysis, and public engagement activities at each of these institutions since 9/11, there appears to be a lack [of] financial resources and critical thinking to support and sustain a truly effective response to the events of 9/11."(5)

The shift in the emphasis of research has also altered to a certain extent the framework of how think tanks interact with one another on a global basis. In fact, the study of security and terrorism constitutes one of the major scholarly (and sometimes political) foundations for research collaboration among think tanks in the post-9/11 era. CSIS, the NTI and the Carnegie Corporation of New York have collaborated closely in the analysis of WMD terrorism, jointly leading an international consortium named Strengthening the Global Partnership: Protecting against the Spread of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons (SGP) - a project initiated in late 2001 to "build political and financial support for G8 efforts to reduce the dangers from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons . . . ."(6) The consortium is coordinated by CSIS with the participation of more than 20 research organizations from 16 European, Asian, and North American countries, and is primarily sponsored by the NTI and Carnegie. Today, it can be a worldwide phenomenon - beyond the Potomac River - that dozens of think tanks are concentrating on the study of security-relevant issues.(7)

Think Tanks in East Asia and the Logic of Regionalization
The currency crises of the late 90's, coupled with lessons learned from the successful monetary integration of the EU, have underscored the importance of economic regionalism in East Asia. On the one hand, this shared understanding has encouraged track one-level dialogues towards constructing possible economic frameworks such as free trade agreements (FTA) among representatives of the region's governments. On the other, it has influenced regional think tanks, most of which have been enthusiastically developing new programs and projects on regional economic and financial integration in East Asia. For example, the Korea Development Institute (KDI), an autonomous policy-oriented think tank established in 1971 by the South Korean government, "has played an increasingly important role in promoting international economic cooperation."(8) This is partially explained by the fact that KDI has developed as one of its "cooperative research projects" in 2004 a project titled Economic Cooperation in Northeast Asia: Past Achievement and Future Directions.

In Japan, one of the think tanks which have come to the forefront of the country's economic policymaking is the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI). RIETI was established in April 2001 under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) "as a new platform to bring about creative and innovative policy debates based on world-class research, analysis and policy studies from mid- and long-term strategic perspectives."(9) To fulfill this mission, RIETI has set out six specific research targets as "major common themes," at least a few of which are closely linked with the issues of multilateral economic integration in East Asia.(10) With its unique status as an "incorporated administrative agency" (IAA), RIETI now meets both the challenge of "optimization" in Japan's public policy industry as well as the difficulties in managing the Japanese-style think tank in corpore.

Another prominent research think tank in Japan is the Institute of Developing Economies (IDE), which, since its merger with the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in July 1998, "aims at expansion of trade relations and promot[ion of] economic cooperation with all developing countries and regions . . . ."(11) Since its foundation, IDE-JETRO's research activities have primarily focused on development issues, and in recent years it also has expanded its analytical horizon to such issues as the pros and cons of the creation of a future East Asian economic zone.

Some think tanks have been proactive in finding intraregional collaboration partners, pointing to a trend of research networking. For example, China's Development Research Center (DRC), Japan's National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA), and the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) have been conducting a joint research project on strengthening economic relations among their three nations since 2001. As a new research phase commencing in 2003, they have been studying the topic of "long-term economic vision and medium-term policy directions," the first stage of which aimed primarily to facilitate trade and investment and to estimate the positive economic effects of an FTA among the three nations. Research findings and policy proposals generated by the three institutions are to be reported regularly to the trilateral summit meetings held between the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea as part of the ASEAN+3 meetings, and have already produced substantive results, such as the holding of joint international symposiums participated in by representatives of industry, government and academia.(12)

Today, an increasing number of think tanks in East Asia are collaborating with each other to some extent, and in many cases these collaborations center on economic and trade issues. It is noteworthy that some of these cooperative frameworks have already been institutionalized; a variety of networks have emerged among East Asian think tanks. In part, this is explained by the East Asia Vision Group (EAVG) and the East Asia Study Group (EASG), established in 1999 and 2001 respectively under the auspices of ASEAN+3, both of which proposed in their final reports multilateral interdependence and the creation of an "East Asian community" as a long-term goal. These track one initiatives supported the creation of the Network of East Asian Think Tanks (NEAT), inaugurated at its first annual conference in Beijing in September 2003. This conference was participated in by almost 100 scholars from ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea (ASEAN+3). In terms of research scope, NEAT gives top priority to international economic and trade issues such as FTA and further financial and currency cooperation in the region. Furthermore, as shown in the venue of its inaugural conference, it seems that Beijing has taken the lead role in NEAT.(13)

Whereas China sees NEAT as the hub of its domestic think tanks and those from the region, South Korea similarly wishes to exercise its leadership in regionalization and therefore launched the East Asia Forum (EAF) in December 2003. Like NEAT, the concept of the EAF stems from the EAVG and the EASG. The EAF consists of representatives of government, academia and private enterprise from the ASEAN+3 countries, and think tanks are another major actor in this framework.(14) In Tokyo, the Council on East Asian Community (CEAC) was inaugurated in May 2004; like the EAF, the CEAC seeks to develop a network of think tanks, intellectuals, business leaders and government agencies to deal not only economic and trade issues, but also political, security, and social/cultural issues.(15) Finally, it should be noted that these three frameworks for intraregional cooperation involving think tanks interact with each other, thus providing centripetal force for the regionalization of East Asia at both the research and the practical level.

The fact that most East Asian think tanks are now focusing on economic, business and trade issues and mechanisms for intraregional networking can be identified as a result of the lack of interest of U.S. think tanks in these topics and the region. Indeed, in recent years, a number of Washington-based think tanks and programs focusing on East Asian (economic) affairs have been downsized, and consequently many Asia specialists have been forced to move from one think tank to another, searching for suitable positions. By the same token, however, it is now possible to play the China and North Korea 'cards' for higher stakes in Washington's policy circle. By and large, U.S. think tanks vary in their views on how to deal with East Asia, showing a mixed (and sometimes inconsistent) attitude as to whether East Asia, as a research theme, can be a friend or foe in the never-ending war of ideas.

European Think Tanks Wearing Two Hats
European think tanks can be classified somewhere in between those of Washington and East Asia. Since the dawn of the new century - and most apparently in response to 9/11 - two areas of research have been of particular importance to European think tanks: political, security and institutional issues (e.g., NATO enlargement, the transatlantic alliance, and relations with the Middle East) on the one hand, and the economic and market integration of the EU on the other.(16) EU think tanks, Heidi Ullrich indicates, "now cover a wide spectrum of European policy issues, ranging from broad questions of institutional reform and enlargement to much more specific topics, such as financial regulation and the creation of a single market for European advertisers."(17)

This is often the case with think tanks in Germany - where academic expertise generally tends to be emphasized over research diversity. Subsequent to 9/11, German think tanks that specialize in international relations, security and foreign policy have been eager to seize the moment by further expanding their scholarly horizons into these related issues; this characterization is applicable, for example, to the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). Meanwhile, the majority of other well-established think tanks in Germany, such as the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWA), the Kiel Institute for World Economics (IfW), and the Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH), have essentially continued to pursue their traditional research interests in economics and have recently emphasized EU issues relevant to market integration. In the contemporary German policy arena "European integration research . . . has been booming, while foreign policy . . . has been boosted, with a new focus on international affairs, in the wake of the war in Kosovo in 1999 and the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001."(18) On the other side of the coin, however, German think tanks have made no significant attempts to cross the boundaries of their original domains, regardless of the research trend of the day.

British think tanks, much smaller in size than their German counterparts, have long adopted a relatively narrow and rigid approach in determining the scope of their research and activities partly because they have tended to be "confined by traditional ideologies" rather than "focusing on 'topical' issues."(19) Recently established think tanks in Britain, in contrast, have been released to some extent from orthodox ideological agendas and have instead been free to pursue any research interests they set. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the Social Market Foundation (SMF), and Demos are only a few exceptions to "these . . . organizations [which] recognize that painstaking research designed to force neglected issues onto the political agenda is far less fruitful for their purposes than the (hasty) production of ideas on subjects that were already widely discussed."(20)

Conventional wisdom has it that European think tanks, in general, are reluctant to form any type of research network or partnership with other institutions. Yet recent years have witnessed a rapid development of networking activities, both formal and informal, within and across the EU countries.(21) As an example, the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) - an independent Brussels-based, public policy-oriented think tank - was engaged in at least five cross-regional network activities in 2003, thus becoming a core of these research networks in the Western European policy environment.(22) Certainly, as Diane Stone points out, "the EU acts as a policy magnet for think tanks."(23)

The world of think tanks is one of diversity: they differ in size, status, goal, type of activity, area of research, and so on. NIRA's World Directory of Think Tanks 2005 covers more than 300 organizations in approximately 90 countries, and works to demonstrate that think tanks cannot be defined in a precise manner. This lack of a fixed definition should not be criticized, however. Due to the nature of these institutions - filling a niche in the larger policymaking apparatus - they should be 'amorphous' at any given time to be able to meet swiftly and flexibly the needs of the societies to which they belong. We hope that the Directory will facilitate the creation of a variety of networks, at both the research and practical levels, among think tanks worldwide, and that this humble endeavor will contribute to the revitalization of the public policy community across the globe.


1. Diane Stone, "Think Tanks beyond Nation-States," in Think Tank Traditions: Policy Research and the Politics of Ideas, ed. Diane Stone and Andrew Denham (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004), 36.

2. PNAC, PNAC Home Page, <> (accessed 15 September 2004).

3. NTI, Annual Report 2003 (Washington, D.C.: Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2003), 6, <> (accessed 15 September 2004).

4. At the same time, CSIS has instituted various new programs within its existing research framework, including the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy Program, the International Security Program, and the Islam Program. Furthermore, while seeking to establish an unassailable position as a 'strategic' institute, CSIS has maintained a pluralistic approach through the development of more interdisciplinary programs, such as the Global Aging Initiative, and the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy. In general, CSIS is highly cross-disciplinary and well-balanced in its research agendas.

5. James McGann, "Responding to 9/11: Are Think Tanks Thinking outside the Box?" Foreign Policy Research Institute, 2003, 1, <> (accessed 16 September 2004).

6. SGP, "Project Description," SGP Home Page, <> (accessed 21 July 2004).

7. For a comprehensive overview of the general functions of American think tanks focusing on security and foreign policy issues, see U.S. Department of State, ed., "The Role of Think Tanks in U.S. Foreign Policy," U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda 7, no. 3 (2002), [e-journal] <> (accessed 17 September 2004).

8. KDI, "Mission & History," KDI Home Page, <> (accessed 14 November 2004). The following is base on KDI, "KDI Projects in 2004," KDI Home Page, <> (accessed 14 November 2004).

9. RIETI, "About RIETI," RIETI Home Page, <> (accessed 19 September 2004).

10. RIETI's 'major common themes' consist of the following key economic issues: Comprehensive Appraisal of the 'Lost Decade'; New Global Imbalances in an Era of Asian Integration; Public Debt and the Economics of Aging; New Financial Market Architecture and Corporate Governance; Exploring New Systems for Innovation; and Strengthening Database and Model Operations. For details, see RIETI, "Major Common Themes," RIETI Home Page, <> (accessed 19 September 2004).

11. IDE-JETRO, "Outline of the Institute of Developing Economies (IDE)," IDE-JETRO Home Page, <> (accessed 21 September 2004).

12. The foregoing is based on NIRA, "Joint Report and Policy Recommendations on Strengthening Economic Cooperation among China, Japan and Korea" (Tokyo: Trilateral Joint Research by Development Research Center of China, National Institute for Research Advancement of Japan, and Korea Institute for International Economic Policy of Korea, October 2003, photocopied).

13. For more detail, see Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China (FMPRC), "The Coordinator-General's Report of the First Annual Conference of Network of East Asian Think-Tanks," FMPRC Home Page, <> (accessed 14 July 2004).

14. EAF, "EAF 2003: Peace, Prosperity and Progress in East Asia: Challenges and New Visions," EAF Home Page, <> (accessed 14 July 2004).

15. CEAC, "Introduction to the Council on East Asian Community (CEAC)," CEAC Home Page, <> (accessed 14 July 2004).

16. For an outline of the major research trends in U.S. think tanks on transatlantic issues, see Andrea Detjen, "Current U.S. Think Tank Trends on the Issue of the Transatlantic Relationship," Center for International Relations - Reports & Analyses 3/03/A (2003), [e-journal] <> (accessed 27 September 2004).

17. Heidi Ullrich, "European Union Think Tanks: Generating Ideas, Analysis and Debate," in Stone and Denham, eds., 51.

18. Martin Thunert, "Think Tanks in Germany," in Stone and Denham, eds., 80.

19. Andrew Denham and Mark Garnett, "A 'Hollowed-Out' Tradition?: British Think Tanks in the Twenty-First Century," in Stone and Denham, eds., 238-39. A large part of the discussion in this paragraph is indebted to this source.

20. Denham and Garnett, 239.

21. Ullrich attributes this "to the unique features of the EU policy environment, including that it is multinational, multi-lingual and multi-level . . . ." For details, see Ullrich, 61-62.

22. Centre for European Policy Studies, Activities Report 2003 (Brussels: CEPS, 2003), 13-17, <> (accessed 30 September 2004).

23. Stone, 36.

Works Consulted

CEAC. "Introduction to the Council on East Asian Community (CEAC)," CEAC Home Page, <> (accessed 14 July 2004).

CEPS. Activities Report 2003, (Brussels: Centre for European Policy Studies, 2003), <>, (accessed 30 September 2004).

Detjen, Andrea. "Current U.S. Think Tank Trends on the Issue of the Transatlantic Relationship," Center for International Relations - Reports & Analyses 3/03/A (2003), [e-journal] <> (accessed 27 September 2004).

EAF. "EAF 2003: Peace, Prosperity and Progress in East Asia: Challenges and New Visions," EAF Home Page, <> (accessed 14 July 2004).

IDE-JETRO. "Outline of the Institute of Developing Economies (IDE)," IDE-JETRO Home Page, <> (accessed 21 September 2004).

KDI. "KDI Projects in 2004," KDI Home Page, <> (accessed 14 November 2004).

________. "Mission & History," KDI Home Page, <> (accessed 14 November 2004).

Koike, Hirotsugu. Seisaku Keisei no Nichibei Hikaku: Kanmin no Jinzai Koryu o Do Susumeruka, Chuko Shinsho, no. 1504, Tokyo: Chuo Koron Shinsha, 1999.

McGann, James. Responding to 9/11: Are Think Tanks Thinking outside the Box?, Philadelphia: Foreign Policy Research Institute, 2003, <> (accessed 16 September 2004).

McGann, James G., and R. Kent Weaver. Think Tanks & Civil Societies: Catalysts for Ideas and Action, New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2000.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China (FMPRC). "The Coordinator-General's Report of the First Annual Conference of Network of East Asian Think-Tanks," FMPRC Home Page, <> (accessed 14 July 2004).

NIRA. "Joint Report and Policy Recommendations on Strengthening Economic Cooperation among China, Japan and Korea." Tokyo: Trilateral Joint Research by Development Research Center of China, National Institute for Research Advancement of Japan, and Korea Institute for International Economic Policy of Korea, October 2003, (Photocopied).

NTI. Annual Report 2003 Washington, D.C.: Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2003, <> (accessed 15 September 2004).

PNAC. PNAC Home Page, <>, (accessed 15 September 2004).

RIETI. "About RIETI," RIETI Home Page, <> (accessed 19 September 2004).

________. "Major Common Themes," RIETI Home Page <> (accessed 19 September 2004).

SGP. "Project Description," SGP Home Page, <> (accessed 21 July 2004).

Smith, James Allen. The Idea Brokers: Think Tanks and the Rise of the New Policy Elite, New York: Free Press; Toronto: Collier Macmillan Canada, 1991.

________. Strategic Calling: The Center for Strategic and International Studies 1962-1992, Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1993.

Stone, Diane, and Andrew Denham, eds. Think Tank Traditions: Policy Research and the Politics of Ideas, Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004.

Suzuki, Takahiro, and Makiko Ueno. Sekai no Shinku-Tanku: 'Chi' to 'Chi' o Musubu Sochi, Tokyo: Simul Press, 1993.

U.S. Department of State, ed. "The Role of Think Tanks in U.S. Foreign Policy," U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda 7, no. 3 (2002). [e-journal] <> (accessed 17 September 2004).

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