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Frequently asked questions about the directory data and use.

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 undertake research, generate knowledge and use evidence-informed arguments 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 is broad:

  • The organisation must carry out some form of research with the aim 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).

How is the directory updated?

The directory is been compiled and populated using a mixed approach: web searches in Google to find existing country, regional or world think tank lists and organisations; suggestions of inclusion by country and regional experts; and direct submissions and updates 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 it presents a good overview of think tanks worldwide. If you have a suggestion for inclusion please let us know.

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 processing level of the data. There are three levels of reliability that are 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.

The source of the information can also be seen in the profile of each organisation.

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 its main activities differed (e.g. pure research, advocacy, programme implementation, etc.). We have kept them in the directory but they are excluded from our 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 the 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 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 main 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 them here. Washington, D.C.
Country Country where the think tank is located. USA
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 or blogs, but to the general publications page.
Job listing page URL of the webpage listing jobs, if applicable. As with publications, the links should not be to individual postings.
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/registered as a business (for-profit), a charity (not-for-profit), part of a university, or is it government-affiliated? Charity
Funding mechanisms* The mechanisms by which the organisation 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 be the think tank’s location). Mid-west | New England
Date founded Date founded at the most accurate level available, usually the 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, full-time 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 of 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 it is still functioning. Defunct
Reviewed The level of review of the organisation’s 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 organisation. 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 its main activities are different (pure research, advocacy, programme implementation, etc.) Yes
Website link Link to the organisation’s profile on the directory.

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


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 Examples
Children Focus Focus on children and adolescents
Defence/Peace/Security Military studies; violence; peace promotion; conflict; war; social cohesion
Education Education models; Strengthening the education system;
Environment/Natural Resources/Energy Rainforest; adaptation and mitigation of climate change; biodiversity; forests; energy efficiency; fossil fuels; renewable energy
Food/Agriculture Value chains and agribusiness; food safety; sustainable agriculture; food security
Gender Women’s rights, gender violence, gender inequalities
Governance/ Transparency Citizenship; democracy; transparency; decentralisation; elections
Health Infant nutrition; drugs; funding healtcare
 International Affairs /Development International relations,;development; regional integration; foreign policy
 Law/Justice/Human Rights Discrimination; trafficking; legal studies; rule of law
Media/Culture/Sport Religion; language; press freedom
Private Sector Development Business; entrepreneurship; future of work
Social Policy Poverty; protection of children and adolescents; social inclusion; inequality
Technology/Innovation Information technology; sustainable technologies
Trade/Economics/Finance Commerce; macroeconomy; fiscal studies; economic growth; trade policies
Transport/Infrastructure/Urban Engineering; road policy; urban or rural infrastructure (hospital buildings, highways etc.)

Other data considerations

  • University policy research centres and Twitter handles: Some university-affiliated centres may use their university accounts 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 vary. We have tried to feature the think tanks as they present themselves. Also, as the directory is used more by organisations, 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 their main activities.