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On Think Tanks was founded in mid 2010. It has evolved from a blog into a global platform dedicated to study and support policy research and policy research centres, or think tanks. The members of the On Think Tanks Team and its Advisory Board are spread out across 6 continents!

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Information on the directory data and use.

Frequently asked questions

Why does this directory exist?

The Open Think Tank Directory was born because information about think tanks, and other policy research centres, expertise bodies, etc. is is scattered across different sites with different focus areas and is seldom kept up to date. And when seemingly detailed information exists it tends to be private and not available to the public.  So, it is difficult for think tanks to find each other, for the public to know which centres exist and for funders to know which ones’ work on which topic. It is therefore problematic, if not impossible, to answer questions like:

  • What is the city with most think tanks?
  • Which organisations focus on health?
  • What is the average staff size of a think tank?
  • How many women lead think tanks?

This directory aims to pull together everything into one place. We want to make sure it’s as accessible as possible. That’s why it’s an open database — it’s available in its entirety to download and use for non-commercial purposes.

Who is On Think Tanks?

On Think Tanks (OTT)focuses on a range of issues of relevance and interest to think tanks as well as their staff and supporters. OTT is a global collaboration of researcher and policy entrepreneurs driven by the conviction that better informed societies have a better chance of delivering progress for their most vulnerable. The members of the OTT team and its partners consider that policy research institutes, or think tanks, can play many important roles in supporting better informed societies. To us, think tanks, and policy research centres more generally, are the way to address the broader challenges that pose macro level and

We hope that our initiatives and the articles and the resources published here will support think tanks to be more strategic in the ways they make short and long-term decisions; and that this will result in better policy advice and policy outcomes for all.

How have we defined which organisations to include?

Thinks tanks are difficult to define as the term applies to various organisations with different characteristics, development pathways and even different business models and structures. Organisations labelled think tanks include for-profit consultancies, university-based research centres, NGOs, public policy bodies, foundations, advocacy organisations and membership-based associations, to name a few. But despite their differences – and for the purpose of the Open Think Tank Directory – we have defined think tanks as a diverse group of knowledge and engagement organisations that have as their (main) objective to use research to inform and/or influence policy and its outcomes. To do this, they perform a range of functions, some of which are: undertaking research, aiming to influence the public agenda, monitoring how specific policies are carried out, suggesting or advocating for policy changes etc..

Given this broad definition the inclusion criteria for the directory are:

  • The organisation must carry out some form of research with the aims of informing public policies – those doing research without a public policy angle were not considered, neither were organisations mainly focusing on advocacy and not carrying out research.
  • The organisation must have an independent identity (particularly in the case of university affiliated centres).
  • The organisation needs to be formally registered in a country (it can undertake research or influence in that or any other country).

The directory has been compiled and populated using a mixed approach: web searches in google to find existing country, regional or world think tank lists; web searches to find organisations (looking for terms such as  think tank, policy research centre or thought centre in different languages) in each country; suggestions of inclusion by country and regional experts; and by direct submission by think tanks. All organisations are reviewed to verify they fit the inclusion criteria and either accepted, accepted but deemed boundary or not accepted. The Open Think Tank Directory does not make any evaluation of the organisations it features.

We do not claim that this is the complete and final think tank list but, acknowledge that some might not appear,and if you have a suggestion for inclusion please let us knows. Despite it not being the final list of think tanks it does  however a good overview of think tanks and related organisations around the world

How reliable is the data in this directory?

The information in this directory is of different levels of reliability. We aim to be transparent in this by labelling the level or processing the data we present has had. There are three levels of reliability, described below:

  • Imported: This information is the most basic level. We have compiled information from different credible sources. However, this data has not been reviewed at all by On Think Tanks, and may not be up to date
  • Authenticated: Data collectors from around the globe sourced the information, under our guidance, by validating information available on the Internet, which may be of variable quality. On Think Tanks has not reviewed the accuracy of this data).
  • OTT reviewed: Members of On Think Tanks have looked at the information and are satisfied that it is in the correct format and accurate (to the best of our knowledge). They have also made decisions about whether it should be included in the directory.

What is a boundary organisation?

During the process of finding organisations to include in the directory, we realised that some organisations somewhat met the criteria but were not think tanks in the classical definition, their characteristics were different. We decided to include them in the database but mark them as boundary organisations. A centre was deemed a boundary organisation if it carried out some form of research to inform public policy, but it´s main activities were others (pure research, advocacy, programme implementation, etc.). We have kept them in the directory but they are excluded from country and general averages of data.

Which variables does the directory track?

Variable Description Example
Think tank name (original) Name of the think tank in its original language and characters. El Think Tánk ; 싱크 탱크
Think tank name (English) Name of the think tank in English Think Tank
Initials Initials of think tank, where applicable. Initials are the acronym the think tank is most commonly known by, either in its own language or in English. TT
Website address URL of the main website of the think tank
Think tank strapline The strapline, or slogan, of the think tank, if applicable Researching policy
Think tank logo URL URL to a version of the think tank’s current logo png
Think tank description A short description of the think tank. Ideally the description should include what the TT is, its aims/mission/objectives and main activities. Think Tank works to ensure the best outcomes for our priority topics through independent, rigorous and policy-relevant research coupled with effective communication.
City name Name of the city in which the think tank head office (or main branch) is located. If states or provinces are commonly identified in the country also include here Washington, D.C.
Country Country where think tank is located USA
Latitude city* The latitude of the city. -36.85232
Longitude city* The longitude of the city. 174.76389
Continent Continent where the organisation is located. Asia
 Main region Main region where the organisation is located. North Africa
Sub-region* Sub-region where the organisation is located based on the United Nations geoscheme. South-Eastern Asia
Region group Grouping of subregions where the organisation is located. West & Central Asia
Other offices A list of other offices the think tank may have, usually including just a list of cities and countries N/A
Full postal address Postal address of the think tank in the format of the country in which it is located. This should include the city and country again. 101a Idea Drive, Washington, D.C., 90293, USA
General contact email Email address of a general contact for the think tank. Do not include any personal accounts! [email protected]
Operating language(s) List of main languages the think tank operates in. English | French
Publication listing page URL of the webpage listing publications, if applicable. Links should not be to individual publications pages, but to the general publications page.
Job listing page URL of the webpage listing jobs, if applicable. As in publications links should not be to individual posting.
Events listing page URL of the webpage listing events, if applicable. Links should not be to individual events
Organisational structure Is the think tank structured as a business (for-profit) a charity (not-for-profit), part of a university, or is it government? Charity
Funding mechanisms* The mechanisms by which the organisations fund its work Project based funding (grant), Core funding (grant), Project based (consultancy)
Funding sources* The sources of the organisation´s funds International foundations, Multilateral organisations, Private sector (international)
Think tank affiliations Does the think tank have any particular affiliations, or does it operate as an independent, standalone organisation? Independent
Topics covered List of general topics covered by the think tank. See below for more information on specific topics Trade and economics | Health | Education
Primary geographies covered A list of the main geographical areas that the think tank researches about (might not the think tank´s location) Mid-west | New England
Date founded Date founded at the most accurate level available, usually year. 2001
Founder May be more than one person, or even another organisation. Titles can be included if needed Dr Individual McPearson
Gender Founder  Gender of the founder, if more than one person and of mixed gender select the both option. Leave blank if it was founded by another organisation Female
Director/chief executive Name of the director or chief executive of the organisation. Titles can be included if needed. Longitudinal data since 2016 Salvador Crousse, Diana Schwarz and Olivia Juric
Gender leader Gender of the leader: Male, Female or both (if more than one founder and of both genders). Longitudinal data since 2016 Female
Number of staff Number of staff. This includes all staff, whether researchers, communications, support, fulltime or part-time (except research associates) 30
Percentage female staff Percentage of female staff (all staff). Longitudinal data since 2017 15%
Percentage of female researchers Percentage of female researchers (any level). Longitudinal data since 2017 30%
Number of associates Number of research associates (sometimes called fellows). 20
Number of publications Number of publications per year. Includes any kind of publications except promotional material, blogs, comment pieces, or multimedia. Longitudinal data since 2015 15
Turnover In USD the amount of money turned over/received by the think tank in the last year. Convert to USD using the official exchange rate on 31 Dec on that year. Longitudinal data since 2015 $500,000
Twitter handle The Twitter handle of the organisation @thinktank
Twitter follower count The number of followers when the data was updated. Longitudinal data since 2016. 23054
Facebook page URL of the organisation’s Facebook page, if applicable.
Facebook likes Number of likes on the organisation’s Facebook page, if applicable. Longitudinal data since 2016. 259
YouTube channel URL of the organisation’s YouTube channel, if applicable
YouTube subscribers Number of subscribers to the organisation’s YouTube channel, if applicable. Longitudinal data since 2016. 1035
Vimeo channel URL of the organisation’s Vimeo channel, if applicable
Vimeo subscribers Number of subscribers to the organisation’s Vimeo channel, if applicable. Longitudinal data since 2016. 95
Instagram account URL of the organisation’s Instagram account if applicable
Instagram followers Number of followers, if applicable. Longitudinal data since 2018 450
Linkedin page URL of the organisation’s LinkedIn page if applicable
Linkedin followers Number of followers, if applicable. Longitudinal data since 2018 50
Defunct* Registers if the organisation is defunct. Blank if still functioning Defunct
Reviewed The level of review of the organisations data by On Think Tanks: Imported, Authenticated or OTT Reviewed Authenticated
Information sources Where the data on the organisation comes from (including if provided by the organization itself. And when applicable what suggested the inclusion of the organization. NIRA Think Tank Directory, Organisation´s website
Notes Any relevant notes on the data Number of staff not provided
Date created* Date the record was created 2/8/2016
Date updated Date the record was updated 1/4/2020
Boundary Registers if the organisation is a boundary organisation, that is, if it carries some form of research to inform public policy, but it´s main activities are others (pure research, advocacy, programme implementation, etc.) Yes

*These variables are only visible when you download the database.

Other data considerations

  • University policy research centres and Twitter handles: Some university affiliated centres might be using the universities account and therefore appear to have more followers because of this.
  • Publication numbers: Publication numbers include any type of publication, excluding promotional material. Generally, blogs are not included.
  • Descriptions: The description of think tanks varies as we have tried to represent the think tanks as they present themselves. Also as the directory is used more by organizations, each will start describing themselves in the way they see fit. We encourage them to share, who they are, their aims/mission or objectives and main activities.


The list of topics is succinct in purpose. The objective is to provide an overview of the topics that an organisation focuses on and also enable comparisons. Here is a list of examples of what each topic includes:

Topics of research


Children Focus Focus on children and adolescents
Defence/Peace/Security Military studies; violence; peace promotion; conflict; war
Education Education models; Strengthening the education system;
Environment/Natural Resources/Energy Rainforest; Adaptation and mitigation of climate change; Biodiversity; Forests; Energy efficiency; Fossil fuels
Food/Agriculture Value chains and agribusiness; Food Safety; Sustainable agriculture
Gender Women´s rights, Gender Violence, Inequality
Governance/ Transparency Citizenship; Democracy; Transparency; Decentralization
Health Infant nutrition; Drugs, WASH
 International Affairs /Development International relations, Development, Humanitarian actions
 Law/Justice/Human Rights Discrimination; Trafficking; Legal studies
Media/Culture/Sport Religion; Language
Private Sector Development Business; Entrepreneurship
Social Policy Poverty; Protection of children and adolescents; Social inclusion; Inequality
Technology/Innovation Information Technology; Sustainable technologies;
Trade/Economics/Finance Commerce; Macro economy; Fiscal studies
Transport/Infrastructure/Urban Engineering; Road policy; Urban or rural infrastructure ( hospital buildings, highways etc)