Go To Index Category Definitions

Best Think Tank (Non-US):

Top-ranked think tanks will exhibit superiority in each of the impact indicators used in TTCSP’s Global Index Methodology. These think tanks excel in the cited resource, utilization, output, and impact indicators in the methodology. This qualitative methodology measures a think tank’s ability to positively contribute to society by analyzing the organization’s financial and human capital; resourcefulness to policy elites and civil society; number and quality of proposals and publications; and success in bringing new ideas to the forum. Top-ranked think tanks must prove their usefulness to both the government and civil society as “go-to” organizations by demonstrating efficiency in several key areas:

1) Policy consultations by governments and civil society groups

2) Expert media commentary

3) Engagement with policy and civil society in presenting the organization’s research.

In addition to these qualities, the stature of top think tanks can also be assessed by their ‘independence,’ as well as the global purview of their research agendas. A diversified funding scheme is deemed highly important to maintaining the organization’s integrity and partisanship. Top think tanks exhibit significant independence from potential external influences including, donors and governments, which helps them to maintain an individual, and unbiased global purview of their research agendas. Finally, an internationally revered think tank must display that its work and research is ‘impactful;’ this does not necessarily mean the organization has directly shaped government policy, but alternatively could have introduced new modes of thought that were ultimately considered and accepted.


Best Energy and Resource Policy:

Energy and resource policy seeks to understand the increasingly strenuous relationship between energy production and consumption, and its global and domestic impacts on economic development, government policy, and the environment. As such, energy and resource policy should evaluate and make recommendations to policymakers on how to manage positive economic, and government policies while maintaining energy security and minimizing environmental degradation. Internationally, growing global interconnectedness makes understanding the relationship between energy producers and energy consumers a necessary component for increasing mutually beneficial global cooperation in the energy sector. Given the stark implications of resource development in many developing countries, who appear to bear the brunt of natural resource production’s detrimental effects, think tanks should recommend strategies on how to make energy production a key source of development in these states as a opposed a ‘curse.’ For both policymakers and civil society, think tanks must foster an understanding of environmentally cautious natural resources, cost-benefit analysis of alternative energy forms, and the rising challenges of climate change.


Best Advocacy Campaign:

Advocacy Campaigns must meet the following criteria:

1) Identify an issue: The institution must clearly illustrate the overarching topic in which it focuses its resources towards a given subject for cause

2) Establish a set of objectives: The institution must clearly state actions it will take to achieve its cause. Generally, there is a distinction made between short-term and long-term goals

3) Distinguish targeted audiences: The institution must recognize and target the primary and secondary audiences. It must then identify its decision-makers and those who influence the decision-makers

4) Support relations: The institution must have an overall favorable perception by its targeted audience, as well as the general public in order to ensure credible institutions and donors back the campaign

5) Campaign implementation: The institution must employ effective tactics and impressive internal organization to push the agenda of the campaign

6) Strong impact: The institution must be able to conclude that its initial goals were reached, its cause for campaign was relevant and effective, and its campaign received name recognition that allowed for increased funds and further support.


Best Policy Study/Report:

The best policy study/report can most effectively be measured by both it’s quality and impact. The Best Policy Study/Report should either advocate for the continuation of an existing policy, the cessation of a current policy, the implementation of a new policy not currently in use, or present a combination of multiple functions. The research should be original and provide more than just an opinion but qualitatively or quantitatively support the argument. There should also be evidence that policy makers have consulted this report in decision-making processes. The greater the impact of a Policy Report/Study the better.


Best Think Tanks Affiliated With Political Parties:

The functional role of think tanks affiliated with political parties is to support, through research and advocacy, the goals of a particular party or group of parties in efforts to sway both the general public and government to adhere to the associated line of political thought. Model Think Tanks associated with political parties clearly identify their association. They then need to explain what their political party’s philosophy is in a succinct way that can be applied to research on a wide variety of issues, that is made publicly available. Think Tanks provide their support through research that justifies party policies and their long-term effects of implementation, forums that promote discussion of policies and interest areas, advocacy campaigns, training, scholarships, and networking programs aimed towards developing youth and adult leaders, and engagement with the media, the public, and political leaders. Think tanks may be officially sponsored, funded, or (in cases of non-democratic countries) controlled by one party.


Best Education Policy:

Education policy measures the laws and programs that govern educational institutions and systems. Its impetus is its concern for the government’s response to the existing capabilities of the educational systems and institutions in a given country. Education policy considers broader questions related to poverty, equality and civic participation that impact education quality and accessibility. Educational policy think tanks engage in a variety of activities related to developing and improving educational policies and institutions. Its research includes, but is not limited to: hosting academic conferences and teacher training, advocating policy changes, attention to improvements in technological integration in education, focus in ethnic and racial diversity and disparity in educational systems, and installing public programs for students, institutions and teachers.


Best External Relations and Public Engagement Programs:

The External Relations/Public Engagement category is twofold. External relations focus on an institution’s global presence. The primary goal of a think tank’s external relations program is to foster relationships beyond the organization itself and its country of origin in order to implement international agreements and partnerships. These programs attempt to link the resources of an institution with the demands of a given country or region. They can be strengthened by global communication, geographic diversification of research and aligning with international partners including NGOs, local think tanks, and governments. Public engagement is more specifically focused on creating a link between think tanks and their immediate and global communities. The goal of public engagement programs is to increase the participation of community members in dialogue initiated by think tanks and better awareness of international affairs. These initiatives typically incorporate proactive methods such as publications, social media, website subscriptions and public events to reach the widest possible audience. Top think tanks in this category have demonstrated their ability to utilize both of these related sectors to integrate themselves into the international community on both a public and institutional level.


Best Use of Internet or Social Media:

The best use of internet or social media honors those think tanks that utilize their website and social networks in a way that gets their views across to a broad, diverse, and international audience. The think tanks that best use the internet and social media are able to create a maneuverable and engaging website, consistently post user-friendly messages that garner a fair amount of viewers, and clearly promote their public policy ideas on their site.


Best Think Tank in Either Mexico or Canada:

This category is dedicated to the leading institutions in Mexico and Canada. These think tanks excel in research, analysis and public engagement on a wide range of policy issues with the aim of advancing debate, facilitating cooperation between relevant actors, maintaining public support and funding, and improving the overall quality of life in one of the two countries.


Outstanding Policy-Oriented Research Programs:

Outstanding policy research is conducted by expert scholars and practitioners and aims to influence government policy by focusing on solution-based research. The research identifies a specific policy issue and then offers a comprehensive, clearly-stated, practical solution. The think tanks that fall under these categories offer either regional variety on a clear policy issue (i.e. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute on conflict resolution), or issue variety in a specific region (i.e. Cato Institute on American politics).


Best Use of Media:

Media involves a variety of multimedia offerings including videos, podcasts, interactive timelines, books, reports, research publications, articles, congressional testimony, and op-eds. It provides the channel through which think tanks can present their work and supply high-quality coverage of political, economic, security, social, and cultural developments on a national and international scale. Given that media is a powerful tool for a think tank to disseminate information, top think tanks in this category make unparalleled use of media and rely on it as a tool to directly influence their clients, constituents, and major public policy makers.


Most Innovative Policy Ideas/Proposals:

Rankings of think tanks with the most innovative policy ideas and proposals address the development and widespread incorporation of a range of new technologies in a variety of activities that will ensure improvement in research, policy advice, and public affairs. These proposals offer a fresh take on a prominent global or local issue, opening up new avenues for debate and research.


Best For-Profit Think Tank:

For-profit think tanks are classified as private sector consulting firms or independent research arms of corporations. These think tanks have different missions and structures that vary with industry and expertise; but generally, all provide consulting to clients and conduct business and economic forecasts. The analyses and research produced are used to create social and macroeconomic policies and develop solutions to problems.
Missions of for-profit think tanks include:

1) Providing clients with knowledge and insight into challenging issues

2) Cultivating ideas for the future and formulating new business models

3) Sustaining a country’s development strategies

4) Analyzing current global trends in markets and social policies

5) Publishing in-depth analyses of industries, markets, and policy initiatives.

Expertise in research analysis ranges from traditional business solutions to geopolitical intelligence to IT infrastructure to scientific research.


Best New Think Tank:

New think tanks are less than 48 months old, but surpass their competitors in rigorous research, high standards of scientific objectivity, influence in political domain, incorporation of innovative technologies and publications for the communication of their ideas. These think tanks redefine traditional roles by actively creating informative summits, cross-perspectives discussions, and training sessions. They engage in these activities in order to initiate dialogue among citizens and strengthen civil society. The best of new think tanks spark discussion between opposing philosophies to enrich possible suggestions for policy reform. Some are distinguished by their advocacy focus on a particular policy issue – such as human rights, education, development, etc. – while others such as the Arab Thought Forum, a top new think tank in the 2012 Global Go-To Think Tank Report, focus on a wide range of issues in the region. These new think tanks are characterized by their broader global interconnectedness, and have consciously expanded their audience from academic scholars and policy actors to society as a whole. As mostly non-partisan institutions, they stress their independent affiliation and sources of neutral funding as positive features that allow them to impartially assess, critique, and advise on issues while drawing on the expertise of practitioners, policymakers, and academics.


Top Think Tank (Worldwide):

A top think tank is one that demonstrates the following characteristics to a greater and more superb extent than its competitors. These think tanks possess resources including high quality research experts and analysts, in addition to access to policy makers, sufficient funding levels, and contacts in the government, academic, and media realms. It has a highly regarded reputation by policy makers, academics, and the media; has common appearances in the media and governments; includes citations and references in prestigious publications, web hits, and publications sold. The top think tanks have higher quantity and quality of outputs produced, including publications, briefings, conferences, seminars, and staff hired to the policymaking realm. The designated impact of a top think tank’s outputs includes recommendations considered or implemented by policymakers and research that informs the understanding and choices of policy makers, diplomats, journalists or other experts. Other impacts include challenging previous knowledge bases through findings, and dominance in its advisory role to government and public audiences. These think tanks strive and succeed in being indispensable sources on international affairs nationally and globally.


Best University-Affiliated Think Tank:

A university-affiliated think tank is a research center dedicated to public policy analysis with the support of a major university, though the degree of this support fluctuates. These think tanks are often part of a specialized school of a university. Alumni networks often function as sources for key contacts in the policymaking community. The degree of affiliation between think tanks and their respective universities can be measured by analyzing the overlap of certain factors. Most are comprised of professors, researchers and fellows hailing from their respective universities, but may also include visiting scholars and visiting fellows. They involve student research through research fellowships and internships, as well as undergraduate and graduate programs. While some of these think tanks rely on facilities and staff of their respective universities to conduct research, the majority of them determine the research to be conducted independently. Most of these think tanks raise funds specific to their research through grants from individuals, foundations, organizations and governments, while they may also receive financial support from their respective university. Buildings housing these think tanks tend to be located on their respective universities’ campuses. They also have access to other university facilities, such as libraries and research labs, and many of the organizations also have facilities in additional locations.


Most Significant Impact on Foreign Policy:

Think tanks traditionally aim, among other goals, to influence government public policy decision-making through providing scholarship, novel ideas, and policy proposals. Think tanks that conduct research on foreign policy strive to understand the challenges of world affairs, and their effects on the international community. The two larger frameworks through which think tanks influence foreign policy are:

1) issue articulation, or publication of information through dissemination of research in media, support of high profile individuals and experts, and cooperation with the government to raise awareness about an issue

2) policy formulation, or more direct and detailed communications with channels of government through briefings, testimonies, consultations, and studies.

Think tanks with the most significant impact on foreign policy will thus demonstrate exceptional success within these two domains. Their success can be measured through extent of research materials and their usage by elites, media references, relationships between politicians and the institution, and the degree of consultation through parliamentary testimonies and governmental briefings.

Functional Issues:

Top Think Tanks in Transparency and Good Governance:

The study of transparency and good governance analyzes the extent to which governments adhere to democratic standards while creating mechanisms of accountability for the society at large. Transparency addresses the universal need for governments to be held accountable for their actions, the need for the internal policy-making process to be conducted democratically and with scrutiny, and the need for identifying individual and collective wrongdoings and prosecuting them accordingly. Good governance research focuses on public participation in electoral and political processes, human rights, and governments’ ability to provide for citizen’s rights.Underlying this study of good governance and transparency is an emphasis on the ability of governments to successfully build and maintain democratic institutions of governance.

Think tanks with outstanding research in this category clearly emphasize the importance of:

1) Fighting corruption and bribery

2) Protecting human rights violations

3) Advocating tolerance and equal protection of the law for all people

4) The establishment of functional, uncorrupted, and open democratic institutions

5) Preventing international conflict and the promotion of peace.

6) Prosecuting corrupt leaders and organizations and seizing illicitly gained riches


Top Think Tanks in Security and International Affairs:

The topics of security and international affairs are inevitably intertwined. States use a variety of methods to maintain security through diplomacy, military strength, political maneuvering, and economic statecraft. These, in turn, have effects on interactions with other countries around the world. New actors in conflict, technological advancements, and new modes of warfare have transformed the global view of security in the 21st century. Because of this, security and international affairs think tanks dedicate many resources to research on terrorist organizations (both domestically and abroad), weapons of mass destruction programs,
the potential threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, and cyber and information security. Beyond evaluation of conflicts and threats, security and international affairs think tanks devote time to fostering good relations between nations and implementing peace-keeping efforts.

The goals of peace programs are:

1) To create mutual understanding between governments, scholars, and peoples of different countries

2) To develop inspiring visions that encourage a coevolutionary mindset and lead to the formation of innovative public policy

3) To overcome historical tensions and support diversity, tolerance, accountability, and transparency

Non-traditional threats to security also account for areas of study in security and international affairs. Non-traditional threats include:

1) Environmental deterioration

2) Energy and climate change

3) Global health and education issues

4) Human rights abuses

5) Transnational organized crimes


Top Think Tanks in Science and Technology:

Think tanks in this sector seek to understand the challenges of society and find tools and methods to overcome them. Such think tanks endeavor to support policies that are aligned with advancements in fields relating to the public such as: the environment, space exploration, energy/natural resources, education, infrastructure and public health. This area integrates multiple areas of study in order to solve problems at optimal efficiency. Three major functions of these organizations include:

1) Advancements in the science/technology field: focuses on innovative solutions to national problems in science and technology, education, economy and industry, and social development (http://www.neaman.org.il/en/).

2) Promotion of public policy that advocates increased research in these areas: leading organizations in this area demonstrate the value that scientific research offers global society through publications and advocacy efforts

3) Changes in public policy based on the findings of scientific research: deals with the convocation of both scientific experts and public officials. Think tanks such as the Research Center for Policy Sciences in Japan use experts to debate current issues, and then introduce them to Japanese policymakers (http://www.ifeng.or.jp/center/rcps/english/index.html).


Top Think Tanks in Health Policy:

Think tanks in health policy engage in research that informs policy makers, members of the public, and relevant industries concerning health care, public health, and global health of the potential threats, risks, challenges, and opportunities which relate to human health and health policies. Major subsections of the health policy functional area include:

1) Health care finance and economicsReviews the methods in which costs can be shared and care can be delivered while also optimizing outcomes, increasing quality and coverage, and reducing costs. Additionally, this area of research tends to look at the roles of government and markets in supplying demand for healthcare services efficiently and equitably. For example, the Center for Health System Research in Vietnam declares its mission to be a holistic scrutiny of the healthcare system including policy-makers, healthcare personnel and the general public for the sake of having a “responsive [and] affordable” health system (http://who.int/alliance-hpsr/partners/full_list/hanoi_meduniversity/en/)

2) Comparative studies of health care systems- primarily examine the systems of different countries to identify the best practices that can be adopted. Best practices are established through criteria such as affordability, accessibility and overall efficiency based on the quality of life of the public.

3) Public and global health- broadly characterized by medical, mental, and emotional human health, and includes the analysis of the impact that social and cultural trends have on healthcare systems (http://www.philips-thecenter.org/about-the-center/)

4) Global health and security– looks at the intersection of global health and national security. Research focuses on public health risk that could potentially threaten national security including: pandemics, bioterrorism, global infectious disease, food & drug safety, and food & water security. One such organization is the Japan-based Health and Global Policy Institute, which emphasizes the cultivation of an educated citizenry and long-term philosophical perspective to grapple with these universal health issues (http://www.hgpi.org/en/mission.html).

5) The US health care system explores health care reform including threats to the fiscal health of the US government and US households, being posed by the unsustainable rise in health care costs. Think tanks such as health system change in the US work to publish reports that influence local and national healthcare reform policies “with the ultimate goal of improving the health of the American public” (http://www.hschange.com/index.cgi?file=about)

6) Technology in Health Care– This subsection revolves around research involving technological innovation within the medical devices and services in terms of creating new treatments and enhancing accessibility to existing treatments.


Top Think Tanks in the Environment:

The environment refers to the surrounding circumstances, objects or conditions, including physical, chemical and biotic factors as well as socio-cultural conditions. Environmental issues result from environmental degradation, or the decreased capacity of the environment to meet ecological, social and economic needs. These issues include: climate change, energy quality, water and food availability, pollution, loss of biodiversity, sanitation, and quality/accessibility of natural resources. Environment think tanks seek a balance between globalization and preservation of the natural world. Environmental policy issues primarily focus on:

1) Environmental responsibility and sustainability– seeks to integrate sustainable development, development that meets the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ abilities to satisfy their own needs, and policies which reverse the loss of environmental resources. The Institute for Rural Studies from the Columbian Facultad de Estudios Ambientales y Rurales demonstrates this attempt to fuse the investigative reporting on ecological conditions with governmental influence for the purposes of environmental outreach and guardianship(http://puj-portal.javeriana.edu.co).

2) The impact of globalization on current natural conditions– seeks to accommodate the increasing demand of domestic economic development and the international concern regarding its environmental impact. Additionally, think tanks such as the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research not only focus on conservation efforts, but also on the reform of pertinent external industries by investigating those who “depend on forests for their livelihoods”(http://www.cifor.org/about-us/science-for-forests-and-people.html).

3) The impact of climate change– seeks to make society adaptable to the fluctuations in the environment and to preserve the natural world to the hilt. Organizations such as Chatham House work with both private and public sector parties to analyze specific and overarching instances of climate change and global warming, leading to new ideas and strategies to cope with it in the near and long-term (http://www.chathamhouse.org/about-us/about-chatham-house).


Top Think Tanks in Domestic Economic Policy:

The study of domestic economic policy provides policy recommendations for sustainable economic growth. Whether adhering to the ideologies of Keynesianism, Neoliberalism, or neither, the goal of domestic economic policy research is to provide suggestions and calls to action on generating and maintaining economic growth within one’s respective country.

Concentrations of research include:

1) Monetary and fiscal policy

2) Government and consumer spending

3) Job creation

4) Structural issues within economies

5) Innovation and productivity in key firms

In addition to inward-looking research, domestic economic policy studies also analyze international economics. Other countries’ economies can have a large impact on domestic well-being in an increasingly globalized world. This is especially true for states without already developed economies.

Areas of international focus include:

1) Trade policy

2) Global strategies of transnational corporations

3) Scientific and technological competition

4) Poverty and its effect on the global environment

5) Public policy development aimed at global integration


Top Think Tanks in Development:

Development (policy) addresses the socio-economic and political root causes of state instability by promoting strategies that seek common ailments found in developing states and ultimately encourage economic growth. Think tanks that address development issues influence policy through quantitative and qualitative research, consultations, and advocacy. In order to encourage domestic policy improvements in development, think tanks focus their efforts on promoting:

1) Good governance – as ty seek to establish stability and reduce corruption

2) Poverty alleviation – as they seek to increase education opportunities, access to employment, and sustainable growth

3) Social Justice – as they seek to promote better public health, gender equality, and environmental health.





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Science & Tech:

“About”, http://www.neaman.org.il/about

“Our Work”, http://www.ifeng.or.jp/center/rcps/english/index.html


Health Policy:

“Global Themes we’ll be discussing”,

“Scope and mission of the institution”,

“Mission statement”,

“Mission”, http://www.hgpi.org/en/mission.html



“Science for forests and people”,

“About Chatham House”,