World's Top Think Tanks


The annual "Global Go-To Think Tank Rankings" are out -- released last week by UPenn professor and report author James McGann during an event held at the United Nations University, "a think-tank for the United Nations system" located in the U.N. Plaza, in Manhattan.

For the second consecutive year, the Brookings Institute was McGann and his team's big winner, placing first in the "Top 25 Think Tanks -- Worldwide" category. The rankings are based on the returned surveys of think tank staffers, academics, and journalists. TTLA received a nominating ballot but didn't vote.

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There are, according to McGann and co., 6,305 think tanks in the world, housed in 169 countries. Brookings is based in the global think tank capital, Washington D.C. "Global Go-To," reports that D.C. hosts 393 tanks. That's more than any country except for China, which has 428.

(Last year, TTLA ran a week-long interview with McGann. McGann said: "...The Russians, the Chinese... have developed fairly onerous regulations and laborious-by-intent review processes for certifying think tanks that operate in the country. So if you're a threat, you can be assured you're not going to be certified.")

"Global Go-To" calculates that the U.S. is home to 1,815 think tanks. After China, the U.K. is third, with 285, followed by India at 261, and Germany with 190. Only nine nations have more than 100 tanks -- compared with five U.S. states and districts.

California, of course, is one of those five, with 167 tanks, third place overall and trailing only D.C. and Massachusetts (175). Wyoming is the only state without a think tank, according to the report.

Nations with no think tanks, as far as McGann and co. can figure, include Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Tonga, and Antigua & Barbuda, as well as Turkmenistan, Myanmar, and, oddly, Monaco.

Aside to the governments of Wyoming and most -- if not quite all -- of the above nations: Think Tank L.A. is willing to relocate and repurpose. Think Tank Monte Carlo, anyone?

Santa Monica-headquarted RAND Corporation continued to excel in the survey, placing fourth overall in the U.S. and worldwide rankings, same as during 2008. (Here's a link to the week-long interview TTLA ran with Michael Rich, RAND's executive vice president.)

RAND placed highly in various subcategories, including #1 in the new science and technology category, #6 in international development, #4 in health policy think tanks, #4 in security and international affairs think tanks, #6 in domestic economic policy, #4 in international economic policy, #7 in social policy, and #4 for most impact on public policy or policy debates.

The Bay Area's Hoover Institute placed tenth overall in the U.S., and 22nd on the worldwide list. TED, which holds its annual conference in Long Beach, came in at #40 on the U.S. list, and Reason Foundation was #43.

The Stanford University Program on Energy and Sustainable Development was ranked as the #9 environmental think tank. Of course, Washington D.C.'s Cato Institute placed #6 on that same list, and they fund climate change denial advertisements.

Cato made perhaps the year's biggest leap in the overall rankings, moving up from ninth place in the U.S. in 2008 to #5 in the U.S. and U.K. in 2009. And this was before the op-ed calling James Cameron's Avatar an eminent domain struggle.

The 2009 Global Go-To report is available for free-of-charge download here.

A powerpoint of McGann's recent U.N. presentation is likewise available, here.

TTLA readers will note upon arriving at that above link, they'll encounter a familiar-looking illustration -- twice. It's a "copyright and courtesy" original work done for TTLA by Los Angeles artist Richard Nielsen, and seen here last year. No credit is given. Did the U.N. ask Nielsen for his permission?

The complete 52-page report is available here as a free-of-charge .pdf download.

Photo Credit: The image accompanying this post -- admittedly, swimming trophies and not think tank prize trophies -- was taken by Flickr user terren in Virginia. It was used under Creative Commons license.

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