Think tanks

What think tanks do depends on their size and funding, but principally their aim is to publish and influence public policy debate. 

Most think tanks are non-profit organisations and may be based in the charity sector. Others are funded by particular advocacy groups, the voluntary sector, government, businesses, generate revenue from consulting or research or combination thereof. Although these policy institutes may have political bias they are usually independent of political parties and government.

Think tanks conduct research into a range of issue oriented topics as well as broader business, political and economic areas including different aspects of social policy, political strategy and reform, the environment, security and the military, technology and economics using a variety of social science research methods.

Think tanks are no longer a North American and Western European phenomena and indeed the past 10 years has witnessed the impact of globalization on the think tank movement.

This is most evident in regions such as Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and parts of Southeast Asia. Here there has been a concerted effort by the international community to support the creation of independent public policy research organizations resulting in collaboration across geographical regions.

The think tank sector employs relatively few people. The smallest institute may have a core staff of 3 or 4 and employ extra staff when needed. The largest employ around 50.

Useful links

  • - features links to International and Canadian think tanks.
  • - international journalism website, contains lists of lobbyists.
  • National Institute for Research Advancement - think tanks and Policy research resources.  This site contains links to research institutes in more than 50 countries. Search for job vacancies, fellowships and special events sponsored by the organisations. 
  • Policy Library - Social, economic and foreign policy resource - updated daily with the latest jobs, research and events in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Sourcewatch - encyclopedia entry on Think Tanks - includes excellent list of American, UK, European and Australian think tanks and public affairs organisations and publications.   
  • Foreign Policy - comprehensive index of international think tanks, including top 10s, and political standing.