Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 Think Tank Rankings - Cheat Sheet

The 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings are hot off the press.  Here is a cheat sheet:

Top Think Tanks Worldwide (US and Non-US):
  1. Brookings
  2. Chatham House
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP)
  4. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  5. Bruegel
  6. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
  7. RAND Corporation
  8. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  9. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
  10. Wilson Center
  11. Amnesty International (AI)
  12. Transparency International (TI)
  13. Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA)
  14. German Institute for International and Security Affairs
  15. Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE)
  16. Cato Institute
  17. Heritage Foundation
  18. Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV)
  19. Fraser Institute
  20. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)

Top Think Tanks in the US:
  1. Brookings
  2. CEIP
  3. CSIS
  4. CFR
  5. Wilson Center
  6. RAND Corporation
  7. Pew Research Center
  8. Cato Institute
  9. Heritage Foundation
  10. Center for American Progress (CAP) 
  11. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
  12. American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  13. PIIE
  14. Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
  15. World Resources Institute (WRI)
  16. Atlantic Council
  17. Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
  18. James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
  19. Hoover Institution
  20. Urban Institute

Top Think Tanks Worldwide (Non-US):
  1. Chatham House
  2. Bruegel
  3. SIPRI
  4. IISS
  5. Transparency International 
  6. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)
  7. Amnesty International (AI)
  8. Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)
  9. Korea Development Institute (KDI)
  10. Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS)

Top Think Tanks in Mexico and Canada:
  1.  Fraser Institute
  2. Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales (COMEXI)
  3. Fundar, Centro de Analisis e Investigacion
  4. Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE)
  5. C.D. Howe Institute 

Top Think Tanks in China, India, Japan, and Korea:
  1. Korea Development Institute (KDI)
  2. Japan Institute for International Affairs (JIIA)
  3. China Institute of International Studies (CIIS)
  4. Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KEIP)
  5. China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)

Top Think Tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific:
  1. Australian Institute for International Affairs (AIIA)
  2. Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  3. Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS)
  4. Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA)
  5. Lowy Institute for International Policy 

Top Think Tanks in Sub-Saharan Africa:
  1. Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA)
  2. IMANI Center for Policy and Education
  3. South Africa Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)
  4. Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)
  5. Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA)

Top Think Tanks in Central and South America:
  1. Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV)
  2. Comision Economica para America Latina (CEPAL)
  3. Centro de Implementacion de Politicas Publicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC)
  4. Centro Brasiliero de Relacoes Internacionais (CEBRI)
  5. Consejo Argentina para las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI) 

Top Think Tanks in Central Asia:
  1. Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD)
  2. Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies (KazISS)
  3. Caucuses Research Resource Center (CRRC)
  4. Armat Center for the Development of Democracy and Civil Society
  5. Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) 

Top Think Tanks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA):
  1. Carnegie Middle East Center
  2. Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS)
  3. Brookings Doha Center
  4. Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM)
  5. Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)

Top Think Tanks in Western Europe:
  1. Chatham House
  2. Bruegel
  3. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
  4. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)
  5. Amnesty International (AI)

Top Think Tanks in Central and Eastern Europe:
  1. Carnegie Moscow Center
  2. Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)
  3. Polish International of International Affairs (PISM)
  4. Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS)
  5. Razumkov Centre

Top Defense and Security Think Tanks:
  1. CSIS
  2. RAND Corp.
  3. IISS
  4. Brookings
  5. Chatham House 

Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs:
  1. Brookings
  2. Chatham House
  3. CEIP
  4. CFR
  5. CSIS

Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Brookings
  2. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
  3. Adam Smith Institute (ASI)
  4. PIIE
  5. Cato Institute 

Top Energy and Resource Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES)
  2. World Resources Institute (WRI)
  3. Institute of Energy Economics
  4. James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
  5. RAND Corp. 

Top Environment Think Tanks:
  1. World Resources Institute (WRI)
  2. Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
  3. Worldwatch Institute
  4. Brookings
  5. Center for Climate and Energy Studies (C2ES)

Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs Think Tanks:
  1. Brookings
  2. Chatham House
  3. CEIP
  4. CFR
  5. CSIS 

Best  For-Profit Think Tanks:
  1. Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
  2. McKinsey Global Institute
  3. Google Ideas
  4. Ernst and Young (EY)
  5. Deutsche Bank Research 

Top Education Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Urban Institute
  2. RAND Corporation
  3. Brookings
  4. Cato Institute
  5. National Institute for Educational Policy Research (NIER) 

Top Domestic Health Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research (CCHSR)
  2. RAND Corporation
  3. Brookings
  4. Bloomberg School of Public Health Research Centers (JHSPH)
  5. Fraser Institute
More coming shortly...

The full think tank report can be read here.  Also, here is a press release from UPenn on the think tank rankings.

By the way, you may want to be careful reading too much into think tank rankings.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Study: Think Tank Employees Extremely Partisan

Tom VanAntwerp, the Director of Information Technology (IT) at the Tax Foundation, has just written a new piece about think tank employees and the various biases they have.  The conclusion: think tank employees are extremely partisan.  Here are some of the key conclusions:
  • Think tank employees are extremely partisan. According to OpenSecrets, only 0.4% of Americans gave $200+ to partisan causes in 2012. The proportion of a think tanks’ employees who give at that level ranged from 2.9% to 8.7%.
  • Think tank employees overwhelmingly give to Democratic causes. Nearly 78% of all political contributions from think tank employees went to Democrats. 208 think tank employees gave a total of  $452,589 to Democrats in 2012; only 82 employees gave a total of $112,653 to Republicans. Predictably, no one at Heritage or Cato gave to a Democrat and no one at CAP gave to a Republican. The only donation to a Libertarian was $250 from Cato’s former president Ed Crane to the Gary Johnson campaign.
  • The libertarian Cato Institute doesn’t give to Libertarians. There are two possible reasons for this. The first, and probably the one advanced by people who oppose Cato’s policy positions, is that Cato isn’t really libertarian at all. I do suspect that some employees at Cato really are conservative rather than libertarian. The second explanation, and the one I find more likely from personal experience with many employees of Cato, is that they have no faith in the Libertarian Party as a vehicle for policy change.

The raw data from this analysis can be found here.  And here is a chart of the percentage of employees at top ten think tanks giving to political groups during the 2012 election cycle and the partisan division of the total contributions.  Here is a chart of total contributions of top ten think tanks giving to political groups during the 2012 election cycle.

Here is a previous think tank funding piece by Mr. VanAntwerp.  And here is a previous Think Tank Watch post essentially saying the same thing as above: think tank employees tend to support Democrats.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

China Preempts UPenn Think Tank Rankings


China has just released its own think tank report ranking the top think tanks in China, preempting the respected (but deeply flawed) University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings which will be announced this week (yes, Brookings is #1 again).  Here is more:
The "2014 Chinese Think Tank Influence Report" is the first think tank ranking based on objective influence indicators including professional influence, government influence, social influence and international influence, according to a press conference for the report's release in Beijing on Thursday.  In addition to compiling comprehensive rankings, the report also issues rankings on category and influence.  The project team interviewed over 100 experts in the think tank industry and gathered data on 300 major think tanks in China, according to a press release.
The "2014 Chinese Think Tank Influence Report" combines objective indicators with rankings determined by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences to create the final rankings.

The report was jointly issued by the Horizon Institute of Global Development Power, the Horizon Research Consulting Group, and state-run news website China.org.cn.

Here are the top 20 Chinese think tanks:
  1. Development Research Center of the State Council 
  2. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences 
  3. Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences 
  4. National School of Development, Peking University 
  5. Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC 
  6. Academy of Macroeconomic Research, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) 
  7. Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning 
  8. China Center for International Economic Exchange 
  9. Horizon Research Consultancy Group 
  10. Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China 
  11. Center for China Studies, School of Public Policy and Management 
  12. China Institute for Reform and Development 
  13. Center for China & Globalization 
  14. China Society for Economic Reform 
  15. Center for American Studies, Fudan University 
  16. Institute of Modern International Relations, Tsinghua University 
  17. China Finance 40 Forum 
  18. China Institute of International Studies 
  19. PLA National Defense University 
  20. Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation

In related news, China has just issued a detailed guide for a "new type of think tank with Chinese characteristics."  Among other things, Chinese think tanks should stick to Marxist ideology, according to the guidelines.

Think Tanks Slammed for Absence of Women in Middle East Debates

Think tanks were slammed today by two scholars for their absence of women in Middle East policy debates.  The authors in the Washington Post piece, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings and Marc Lynch of GWU, said that last year, six leading Washington think tanks held more than 150 events on the Middle East that included not a single woman speaker.  Here is more:
Fewer than one-quarter of all the speakers at the 232 events at those think tanks recorded in our newly compiled data-set were women. How is it possible that in 2014, not a single woman could be found to speak at 65 percent of these influential and high-profile D.C. events?
...As for the think tanks, women run the Middle East Institute, the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution (Tamara Cofman Wittes), the Middle East Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Center for the Middle East and Africa at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and play key roles at the Middle East programs of the Center for a New American Security and the Atlantic Council.
...The paucity of women’s voices in public discussion comes not just from thoughtless conveners, but also from long-standing problems in the professional “pipeline” that carries individuals to the top levels of the field. Inequities in hiring and promotion often reflect, and help perpetuate, the unconscious bias of a male-dominated field.

Tamara Cofman Wittes tells Think Tank Watch that the six think tanks studied were: Brookings, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Wilson Center, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Atlantic Council.

Here is what the two authors are proposing to address this issue:
First, we can commit to consistently drawing attention to the issue – all of us, whatever our level or role in the policy and academic community. Male scholars who are troubled by the ongoing imbalance in our field can take one concrete step that would have faster and more notable impact than any other: They can join colleagues, like the Center for Global Development’s Owen Barder and Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf, in a pledge not to appear on programs that do not include any women, at least not without a clear, satisfying and publicly articulated explanation from the organizers.
Another way we can all help to increase women’s participation in policy discussions and public panels is to highlight women experts, easing the path for busy organizers building media programs or events. Foreign Policy Interrupted, the brainchild of the journalists Lauren Bohn and Elmira Bayrasli, puts out a weekly newsletter of foreign policy writing by women. Women in International Security, founded by a group of women pioneers in national security in 1987, boasts a network of some 7,000 members and a robust Washington chapter including luminaries like Michèle Flournoy, former U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. After Foreign Policy’s 2012 Twitterati list was trashed for ignoring women, Twitter users crowdsourced a list of women Twitterati on a wide array of foreign policy topics (100 “FPwomerati;” a larger list is available on request). Tamara Cofman Wittes is building a searchable database of female foreign policy experts that will be publicly available, so that “I couldn’t think of any women to invite” becomes a practical impossibility.

So, are think tank panels generally biased towards the viewpoint of men?  Send your thoughts to Think Tank Watch.

Also, here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about the male-female divide at think tanks, which includes other links to similar pieces.  And here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about a 2014 event on advancing women in the think tank sector.

Think Tank Watch predicts many more women will be on think tank panels in 2015 and beyond.

By the way, is there also a lack of mid-level experts at think tanks?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lobbying Shifts Sharply to Think Tank Land

The culture of influence-peddling is changing rapidly, and more people are trying to influence policy through think tanks rather than directly through Congress.

A new piece in Time Magazine written by Erin Quinn and Chris Young of Center for Public Integrity says that Washington influencers are spending more on advertising and PR than lobbying.  Here is more:
The steady rise in public relations worldwide spending has been accompanied by an overall drop in lobbying spending, beyond the trade group sector.
Lobbying expenditures peaked in 2010, when special interests spent $3.6 billion on lobbying federal lawmakers. Since then, they have declined steadily, falling to $3.2 billion in 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The total number of registered lobbyists has also dropped.
Some say the change indicates a shift toward so-called “soft lobbying,” a strategy that enables industry groups and unions to influence public policy not only with public relations, but through think tanks, nonprofit organizations and grassroots groups that aren’t subject to federal disclosure rules.

The article goes on to note one example where American Petroleum Institute (API) hired PR firm Edelman to help with its so-called "Vote4Energy" campaign, and they worked together to organize a panel discussion targeting "key influencers" such as think tank scholars.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Heritage Foundation Issues Major New Policy Book, Changes Tone

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation has just released a major new policy book titled "Opportunity for All, Favoritism for None."

The nearly 200-page book has 12 chapters on: jobs, energy, k-12 education, college/university, healthcare, economy, bailouts, welfare reform, spending, taxes, society, and national security.

Town Hall notes that the book calls for Republicans to embrace "conservative populism" rather than "donorism."

The book was released during the Heritage Action Conservative Policy Conference taking place from January 12-13.  The agenda of that conference, which includes speeches from more than 20 lawmakers, can be found here.  And Heritage's legislative preview for the summit can be found here.

Attendees at the conference reportedly were not too excited about Mitt Romney running for president in 2016.

National Journal says that the Heritage Foundation isn't moderating its principles but is focusing more on reform over opposition in 2015.  Here is more:
Heritage Action for America spent the past two years as an obstructionist force within the Republican Party, hoping to pull the party to the right through a string of confrontations. But now, with Republicans running Congress, the group is changing its strategy toward a policy push, advocating an economic agenda aimed at appealing to middle-class voters. The rationale behind the shift comes from an understanding that constructive policy ideas sell better than instinctive opposition—even if Heritage Action's favored prescriptions are more conservative than what many party officials support.

The article questions whether the shift in tone for the think tank is more about rebranding its image, or a substantive shift.

In related Heritage Foundation news, Think Tank Watch recently reported that the think tank has received a major new gift.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sen. Jay Rockefeller Joins Top Foreign Affairs Think Tank

Former Sen. Jay Rockefeller (R-WV) will join the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) this month as a Distinguished Fellow.  Rockefeller's portfolio will include Japan, East Asia, and cybersecurity, and he will remain in CFR's Washington, DC office.

Rockefeller, the former Chairman of the US Select Committee on Intelligence, has been a member of CFR since 1978.

CFR was previously chaired by David Rockefeller (Jay's uncle), and CFR's David Rockefeller Studies Program (which is considered CFR's "think tank") is home to more than 70 full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners.

The Rockefeller Foundation was involved in the early financing of CFR.

In 2005 CFR held a special symposium in honor of David Rockefeller's 90th birthday.  And here is what Inside Philanthropy recently had to say about David Rockefeller and his funding.

Here is what The Hill has to say about the CFR-Rockefeller announcement.

Each year a number of former lawmakers join think tanks, and the trends seems to have picked up over the past few years as think tanks compete to land "big names" at their policy shops.

Here is a previous list from Think Tank Watch on members of Congress who have joined think tanks (or are affiliated with think tanks).  The list has been updated periodically and will be updated in the near future (it is by no means complete).

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#158)

  • The top Brookings infographics of 2014.
  • Chinese think tank launches recruitment after major reform.
  • "Research for rent and solutions for sale" at think tanks, via Scott Beauchamp.
  • Arvind Panagariya to chair Indian government think tank; wide think tank talent hunt.
  • Comic strip Frank and Ernest on the fate of think tanks in a zombie acopalpyse (h/t Tevi Troy).
  • New think tank on Japan-US diplomacy gives Okinawa a voice.
  • CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick on why air disasters keep on happening in and around Indonesia.
  • Anthony Weiss supporters touting his authorship of liberal think tank economic plan.
  • Heritage Foundation gets Laffer Curve wrong?
  • Think tank proposes shake-up of Taiwan defense.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New House Rules Go After Think Tank Funding

The movement to make think tank funding more transparent scored a big win today as the new US House rules will require think tank scholars testifying before Congress to disclose contracts or payments from foreign governments.

The disclosure requirement covers payments received during the current calendar year or either of the two previous calendar years by the witness (i.e., a think tank expert) or by an entity represented by the witness (i.e., a think tank).

The disclosure must include the amount that the think tank or think tanker has received from that foreign source.

The new rules can be found here (h/t Eric Lipton of New York Times).

The issue of think tank funding policies became a huge issue after last year's New York Times investigative report titled "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks."

After that piece was published, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) drafted a proposal requiring think tank scholars testifying before Congress to disclose foreign government support.

Think Tank Watch predicts that many think tanks scholars who receive foreign government funding will refuse invitations to testify before Congress, as many to not want to disclose such information.

Much more coming soon...

2 Inches of Snow Shuts Down Think Tank Row

Two inches of snow in Washington, DC has brought think tank row to its knees, shutting down many of the powerful think tanks along Massachusetts Avenue.

The snow has caused power outages in the Dupont Circle area, leaving many think tanks without power.  For example, the Brookings Institution is closed today, and its email server had been down as of early this morning.  Here is a sign in front of Brookings announcing the closure.

Prolific think tanker Justin Wolfers jokes that the closings will lead "American democracy to grind to a halt."  And reporter Laura Rozen says that the world will have to "muddle through without" the assistance of most of Washington's think tanks for a bit...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Heritage Foundation Gets Major Gift for New Office Building

The Heritage Foundation recently said that it has received an "eight-digit" gift (i.e., $10+ million) from a retired radiologist and several members of her family.  Here is more:
Retired Austin, Texas, radiologist Patrice K. Richardson, M.D., and several members of her family will honor her late father, E.W. “Rich” Richardson, with an eight-figure gift to The Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC, the prominent think tank announced today.
The gift will be used to advance the missions of both Heritage and its sister organization, Heritage Action for America.
The gift also will help finance the purchase and renovation of a new office building and conference center – to be named the E.W. Richardson American Leadership Building – in the 200 block of Massachusetts Ave., NE, on Capitol Hill, where The Heritage Foundation has had its headquarters since the 1980s. 
A long-time supporter of The Heritage Foundation, Dr. Richardson previously had established a Heritage fellowship in her father’s honor. James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., Heritage's vice president of foreign and defense policy studies, serves as the E.W. Richardson Fellow.

It is still unclear exactly how much will be given to the conservative think tank, and it may break Heritage Foundation's record donation receipt of $26 million in 2013 from the family of the late Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis

2015 UPenn Think Tank Rankings to be Announced Jan. 22

The University of Pennsylvania's annual think tank rankings will be announced on January 22, 2015.  The main launch events will take place in Washington, DC and New York, with a pre-launch event taking place in Philadelphia.

There will also be launches in more than 55 cities around the world.

The UPenn think tank report is considered the most comprehensive think tanks ranking in the world, but it has many flaws and many detractors. 

Here is a link to the 2013 report, which was released in early 2014, as well as a "cheat sheet" put together by Think Tank Watch.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#157)

  • Richard Branson and Amory Lovins create mega think tank for clean energy. 
  • Three pages of Sen. Rand Paul's book apparently plagiarized from Heritage, Cato.
  • What role can think tanks play in Washington's policymaking, via Global Times.
  • Indian PM Modi met with CAP president during his DC visit (Indian Embassy is a client of the lobbying firm that CAP founder Podesta co-founded with his brother).
  • George Will: A "fixture in the right-ring think tank infrastructure," serves on board of Bradley Foundation, which funds Heritage, Hudson, and AEI.
  • New group, Distinguished Executives Alumni Network (DEAN) to act as de facto think tank to advise policymakers and to serve as a resource for improving federal government.
  • Diplomat and think tank-circuit figure Robin Raphel, under investigation by FBI, is defended by lontime friend Ellen Laipson, head of the Stimson Center; former college boyfriend shared house with Strobe Talbott, who is now head of Brookings.
  • The role of think tanks in the EU policy process remains largely uncharted territory for political scientists.
  • Via Jamestown Foundation: Building think tanks with Chinese characteristics.
  • Linking think tank performance, decisions, and context.

Monday, December 22, 2014

TTW Exclusive: Google Trends Shows Think Tanks in Decline

Something to ponder during the holiday season: Are think tanks in decline? A search from Google Trends shows a rapidly declining interest in think tanks since 2004. Ironically, every year brings more and more think tanks and more and more reports and studies. But is less attention being paid to the big think tank players? And does anyone actually read think tank reports these days?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sony Reached Out to Think Tanks for North Korea Advice


Sony reached out to various think tanks for advice and intelligence when it learned that North Korea was angry about its film "The Interview," according to Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, who was interviewed by CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

RAND Corporation Senior Defense Analyst Bruce Bennett said that he was asked by Mr. Lynton to look at "The Interview," and Mr. Bennett said that the film should be released.  Mr. Lynton is on the Board of Trustees of RAND.  Here are some more Bennett comments, from Deadline:
Bennett says Sony chief Michael Lynton...asked him, as a favor, to look at the movie. “I told him I thought it was coarse, that it was over the top in some areas, but that I thought the depiction of Kim Jong Un was a picture that needed to get into North Korea. There are a lot of people in prison camps in North Korea who need to take advantage of a change of thinking in the north.”

Here is a biography of Bruce Bennett, who has written extensively about Korean security issues.  Here is a December 11 piece by Mr. Bennett titled "Did North Korea Hack Sony?"

Interestingly, Mr. Lynton of Sony moderated a panel at RAND titled "How Hollywood Affects Global Policy" in which the topic of playing real-life characters and the legal/moral obligations to living subjects was brought up.  A video of that 2012 event can be watched here.

Many other South Korea and North Korea experts at think tanks have weighed in on the Sony film issue, including Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Katharine H.S. Moon of Brookings, and Scott Snyder of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

In related think tank-Hollywood news, think tankers from all over the world traveled to Santa Monica, California for a three-day Lights, Camera, Liberty conference focused on helping think tanks create and distribute high-impact videos online.  That event is sponsored by the Atlas Network.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Brookings Alum Starts as VP Biden's Chief Economist

Benjamin Harris, who previously worked as Policy Director at the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, is starting this week as Vice President Joe Biden's chief economist.  His work can be read here.

Vice President Biden has tapped his chief economist from the think tank world in the past, namely Jared Bernstein, who came from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and now works as a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

In related news, Karen Aderson, the Managing Director of The Hamilton Project, is launching an independent consulting firm called KLA Strategies.  Kriston McIntosh will be the new Managing Director.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on The Hamilton Project and the heavy-hitters that are affiliated with it, including former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#156)

  • Government borrowing more ideas from private sector, think tanks?
  • Think tanks: Why aren't millenials spending?  They're broke.
  • A "fake" Eurasian strategy think tank?
  • AEI President = new spiritual guru?  Pens "abundance without attachment."
  • Ben Judah suggests investigative piece on think tank "consulting" policies, says former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky planning to build a new think tank.
  • New think tank head Allen West already caught plagiarizing?
  • Pic: AEI holiday party at Per Se.
  • Heritage Foundation promotes Jack Spencer to serve as VP for the Institute of Economic Freedom and Opportunity, as Derrick Morgan returns to Capitol Hill after 4-year Heritage stint.
  • Citigroup Global Chief Economist William Buiter joins CFR as Senior Fellow; CFR releases 7th annual Preventive Priorities Survey, with ISIS a top priority.
  • CFR honors Kissinger critic.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Think Tank-Connected Duo Make Big Money Moves

Capital Business has a piece out today on a Maryland-based firm called Enlightenment Capital that is making some big money moves, and the co-founders happen to have ties to the think tank world.

One co-founder of the $80 million fund is Devin Talbott, the son of Brookings President Strobe Talbott.  The other co-founder is Pierre Chao, a former Senior Fellow and Director of Defense-Industrial Initiatives at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  He joined the defense-oriented think tank in 2003.

Talbott is on the Advisory Board of the Aspen Security Group, and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Interestingly, the advisors to the firm read like an advisory board at a high-level Washington think tank.

Here is more about what Enlightenment Capital does.

Carnegie Scholar Blocked From Entering Egypt

On Friday (Dec. 12) Michele Dunne, a Senior Associate in the Carnegie Middle East Program, was refused entry into Egypt.  Here is a statement from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP):
Egyptian authorities refused to allow Michele Dunne, senior associate in the Carnegie Middle East Program, to enter Egypt on December 12, 2014. She was held for six hours at Cairo’s airport before being put on a plane to Frankfurt. Dunne was traveling to Cairo to speak at a conference organized by the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

Condemning the Egyptian authorities’ decision, Carnegie President Jessica T. Mathews said, “Michele Dunne is a scholar of unimpeachable integrity who has devoted her professional life to analyzing Egyptian politics and improving U.S.-Egyptian relations. She is enormously respected throughout the Middle East, as well as in the United States and Europe, for the rigor and fairness of her work.”

Marwan Muasher, vice president for studies for Carnegie’s Middle East Program, added, “We are deeply disappointed by the Egyptian government’s action, which undermines the important need for open dialogue about the difficult challenges facing Egyptians today and further isolates Egypt from the international community.”

Dunne’s research focuses on political and economic change in Arab countries, particularly Egypt, as well as U.S. policy in the Middle East. She was previously a Middle East specialist at the U.S. Department of State, where she served in assignments that included the National Security Council, the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff, and the U.S. embassy in Cairo.  

It is the first time a Carnegie scholar has been denied entry into Egypt.

The New York Times notes that Ms. Dunne is critical of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.  Much of her work can be read here.

She was also the Founding Director of Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Google Drops Sponsorship for Conservative Think Tank

This is from CQ:
In 2013 Google sponsored a lavish dessert buffet for those attending the Competitive Enterprise Institute's (CEI) annual dinner in Washington.  The libertarian group had defended Google from charges that its dominant position in the Internet search market violated antitrust laws.  Still, Google took flak from environmentalists - and from many of its own employees - because CEI also opposes environmental regulations and government actions to stop climate change.  Google didn't sponsor the think tank's 2014 dinner.

A link to CEI can be found here.

Think Tank Quickies (#155)

  • Atlantic Council announces new Art of Future Warfare (AFW) project; VP Biden headlines the think tank's Energy and Economic Summit in Istanbul, Turkey; has new Global Energy Center.
  • How DC became irrelevant, by Bruce Katz of Brookings.
  • Meet Jerry Brito, head of the new think tank Coin Center.
  • CNAS: To end hacking, US must make China pay.
  • Heritage Action losing grip on the Hill.
  • Turkcell and Turkish Infomatics Foundation partner with Brookings.
  • Think tankers visiting Austin to grill Gov. Rick Perry on a variety of topics for 2016 run.
  • Think tanks in UAE playing key role as country seeks to become the world's most innovative state.
  • Constance Berry Newman, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, becomes Nonresident Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council's Africa Center.
  • Ed Rogers, fmr. Deputy Assistant to President George H.W. Bush, joins CNAS Board of Advisors.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Report Shows Think Tanking is Big Business

Santa has delivered a nice present to think tank land.

A new report released by today by Transparify shows that the US's 21 top think tanks broke the billion-dollar spending barrier in 2013, highlighting how massive the think tank industry has become.

Here is more from Transparify:
The 21 think tanks in the sample collectively spent over one billion dollars in 2013, probably for the first time in history, and employed a total of 7,333 people, including part-time employees. Their total net assets grew 8% to USD 2.65 billion.
Many individual think tanks in the U.S. are larger than the entire sector in most other countries of the world. The median think tank in our sample had a revenue of USD 39m, expenditures of USD 32m, held assets worth USD 87m, and had 211 employees.

The full report can be read here.  And some cool visualizations can be found here.

According to the new report, the ten largest think tanks by expenditure in 2013 are:
  1. RAND: $275 million
  2. Brookings: $97 million
  3. Heritage: $82 million
  4. Urban Institute: $75 million
  5. Council on Foreign Relations: $62 million
  6. World Resources Institute: $48 million
  7. German Marshall Fund: $38 million
  8. National Bureau of Economic Research: $36 million
  9. Center for American Progress: $34 million
  10. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: $33 million

According to the report, the ten largest think tanks by assets in 2013 are:
  1. Brookings: $404 million
  2. Council on Foreign Relations: $377 million
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: $275 million
  4. RAND: $239 million
  5. AEI: $178 million
  6. German Marshall Fund: $176 million
  7. Heritage: $154 million
  8. Urban Institute: $120 million
  9. National Bureau of Economic Research: $102 million
  10. Wilson Center: $98 million

The report also has a section that compares revenue from 2012 to 2013.  It shows that several think tanks had more than a 25% drop in revenue during that one-year period, including the Peterson Institute for International Economics (-27%), Council on Foreign Relations (-28%), Cato Institute (-34), and Center for Global Development, which had a 50% decline in revenue.

Think tanks that had more than a 25% increase in revenue from 2012 to 2013 include: New America Foundation (+29%), German Marshall Fund (+41%), Atlantic Council and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (both at +45%).

But as Transparify points out, it is important to note that year-to-year revenue changes may be the result of fluctuations, such as inflow or draw-down of multi-year funding.  Thus, one should take single-year revenue increases and decreases with a grain of salt.

The report also includes a nice chart of the ten largest think tanks by number of employees.

Here is more from Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Senate CIA Report to Harm CIA Relationship With Think Tanks?

Here is more from the Washington Post:
The CIA’s operational activities go together with a less publicly notorious, but arguably more effective community of analysts. These analysts are often loosely involved in broader networks of relationships with policy experts in academia and think tanks (many of them political scientists). Most of the work of the CIA is in analyzing information that is relevant to U.S. interests, and ever more of the information that is useful to the intelligence community is “open source” or publicly available, rather than clandestine. The CIA, like other government agencies, has only limited resources, and often supplements its internal expertise with frequent outreach to academic and non-academic experts who might have useful things to say. Finally, the CIA needs to recruit highly skilled analysts, who often have a lot of specialized experience, and could typically earn much more money in the private sector.

The article argues that the recently released Senate CIA torture report will impact the CIA's relationship with the think tank community, and says that academics (and think tankers) will be less likely to want to talk to or with the CIA.  [For the record, Think Tank Watch does not think this will be the case, and the CIA will still rely heavily on think tank reports.]

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on former spies who now work at think tanks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Breaking: Top US Think Tanks Spent $1 Billion in 2013

Think tanking is a billion dollar industry with millionaires and billionaires throwing money left and right at powerful policy shops.

Think Tank Watch has just learned that top US think tanks spent (and received) more than $1 billion in 2013.  Transparify, which has compiled the data, will publish a report this Thursday.

More coming soon...

Think Tanks Most Followed by World Leaders

How influential are think tanks to the world's 647 heads of state and government and ministers of foreign affairs?

Twiplomacy has just released a study on the Twitter habits of world leaders, and it includes a list of which Twitter feeds are most heavily followed by them.  Think Tank Watch went through the list and found which think tanks are most followed by these top leaders.  Here is the conclusion:

  1. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): 57
  2. Chatham House: 40
  3. European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR): 30
  4. Atlantic Council: 28
  5. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS): 25
  6. Brookings Foreign Policy (FP): 25
  7. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS): 24
  8. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP): 23
  9. Brookings Institution: 22
  10. RAND Corp: 19
  11. German Marshall Fund (GMF): 19
  12. US Institute of Peace (USIP): 17
  13. Carnegie Europe: 14

Please note that the list does not include individuals at think tanks, some of which scored very high (even higher than many top think tanks).

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Onion Invents "Father-in-Law" Think Tank

News satire organization The Onion has invented a new think tank - a Washington, DC-based think tank of fathers-in-law.  The think tank, however, was not given a name.  Here is what The Onion is reporting:
In its most sweeping policy statement to date, a Washington-based think tank of leading fathers-in-law issued a comprehensive single-sentence solution to the nation’s immigration, unemployment, and crime problems Tuesday. “All you gotta do is round ’em up and send ’em back,” read the one-line report, which the interdisciplinary team of middle-aged men affirmed would resolve all three difficult issues if the government was not, as long-term observational data suggested, blinded by political correctness. “Simple as that.” The new report from the father-in-law think tank comes on the heels of last year’s five-word white paper on how to handle unrest in the African-American community.

This is not the first time that The Onion has invented a think tank.  Last year, Think Tank Watch reported on another think tank it invented: the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gov. Perry Using Think Tanks for 2016 Presidential Run

Here is what recent reporting is saying about Texas Governor Rick Perry, who may run for president in 2016:
Perry is logging hours in a downtown office building, engaging in lengthy, informal policy discussions with experts, mostly from conservative think tanks.

Last Monday, he discussed health care policy with a group including Joseph Antos, the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.
Antos said the freewheeling session lasted about four hours, and was "a good starting point" for a discussion focused on the principles of health policy. But he said he had no sense of specific policy proposals Perry might ultimately choose to advance. "We have no clue whatsoever about that, and it was none of our business, frankly," he said. "We did not discuss what happens the day after tomorrow."
Of the governor, Antos said: "He was actively engaged the entire time. He asked good questions. This is a man who is genuinely interested in what we’re doing in health policy, and genuinely concerned."
Other participants included Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute; Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the opinion editor at Forbes; and Thomas Miller, a resident fellow at AEI who studies alternatives to the Affordable Care Act.
"Sometimes you meet with the principle and their advisers, and they're mostly selling you on what they're thinking and what they already have," Miller said. "The governor showed that it was a real conversation. It was an extended period of time with no fuss, no frills, no filters."

In August, Gov. Perry gave a major policy speech at the Heritage Foundation.

Former Senator Jim Talent Joins AEI

With the acquisition of yet another former Members of Congress, the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is becoming the go-to think tank for former GOP legislative talent.

AEI announced this week that former Senator Jim Talent (R-MO) is joining the think tank as a Senior Fellow and will serve as Director of the National Security 2020 project, a new program from AEI's Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies.

Last year Talent, who is 2007 joined the Heritage Foundation as a Distinguished Fellow specializing in military affairs and conservative solutions to poverty, wrote a report with former Sen. Jon Kyl, now a Visiting Fellow at AEI, titled "A Strong and Focused National Security Strategy."

Last year, Kyl joined AEI along with former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). 

Will Eric Cantor become the next former congressman to join AEI?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#154)

  • Court case pushed by Cato could leave uninsured out in the cold?
  • South Asian think tank summit begins.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has built his own mini-think tank of policy experts. 
  • AEI has redesigned its website; Michael Strain named Deputy Director of Economic Policy Studies; Thomas Stossel, MD joins AEI as Visiting Scholar for health care policy.
  • Flashback: Historicizing the conservative think tank.
  • CNAS largely funded by defense contractors.
  • How to think about "think" tanks by Miles Corak.
  • CFR launches online education hub for teaching and learning about foreign policy.
  • Jan Sokolovsky asks: Do major think tanks violate US law? 
  • RAND Corp. announces collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Lab on high-performance computing and decisionmaking; James Dobbins and Katherine Kahn receive Distinguished Chairs at RAND.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rothkopf: Little Bold Thinking Goes On At US Think Tanks

Here is what David Rothkopf is saying in his latest Foreign Policy Piece titled "Dis Town: The Dumbing Down of Smart -- and Washington."
...Far too little bold thinking goes on in the country's think tanks.  It is safer to write an article that doesn't offend than it is to write one that actually breaks new ground.  It is safer to write an article that doesn't offend than it is to write one that actually breaks new ground. The result? Journals that are exercises in reputation management. The bland leading the bland.
In researching my book National Insecurity, I looked at 10 of the most prominent think tanks in Washington over a period of a decade. These organizations produced almost 12,000 events, papers, and research reports over that time. Of these, the vast majority concentrated on just a few topics -- such as the Middle East, the war on terror, and China -- linked closely to whatever was in the headlines at the time. Other areas, deserving of focus but outside the "buzz zone," got much less attention. The areas that got by far the least coverage? Science and technology -- never mind that they are responsible for most of the changes redefining life on the planet and many of the emerging threats with which humanity is grappling.

Mr. Rothkopf, who is CEO and Editor of Foreign Policy magazine, has a deep connection to a variety of think tanks.  For example, he is a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP),and he is on the International Advisory Council of US Institute of Peace (USIP).  He is also on the Advisory Committee of the Center for Global Development (CGD).

USAID's Nancy Lindborg Named as President of USIP

The US Institute of Peace (USIP) recently announced that Nancy Lindborg will become the new president of the think tank.  She will officially start on February 2, 2015.  In the meantime, Ambassador Bill Taylor will continue to serve as Acting President.  He previously served as Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions in the State Department, and was US Ambassador to Ukraine.

Lindborg, the current Assistant Administrator of the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, will replace former congressman Jim Marshall, who left the think tank in January.  Since then, Kristin Lord had been serving as acting president for much of the time, but she left on October 3, 2014 to head the NGO IREX.

Here is more about USIP:
Created by an act of Congress in 1984, the U.S. Institute of Peace is a Congressionally-funded, independent, nonpartisan institution whose mission is to prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflicts around the world. USIP fulfills this mission by engaging directly in conflict zones and providing analysis, education, and resources to those working for peace. The Institute’s staff of nearly 350 work in Washington and in some of the world’s most volatile regions, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Sudan and South Sudan.

A biography of Lindborg can be found here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Liberal Think Tanks Taking Over National Security Policy?

From Defense One:
...A tight network of well more than 1,000 national-security-minded progressives—mostly in their 20s, 30s, and 40s—has succeeded in infiltrating the U.S. foreign policy machine. The group of wonks is loosely connected by two center-left organizations that sprang up in the mid-2000s—the Truman National Security Project and the Center for a New American Security—as well as organizations such as the Center for American Progress, the National Security Network, and Third Way. Like the conservative groups they sought to emulate, they have cultivated a farm league that has groomed and handpicked individuals for key leadership posts at the Pentagon, the State Department, and Capitol Hill.

More can be found here.  It is from earlier in the year, but still an interesting read...

And for some more updated news, CNAS CEO Michele Flournoy has reportedly pulled herself out of the running to replace Chuck Hagel as the head of the Defense Department.  More can be read here.  Guess the idea that Hagel could become the new CEO of CNAS is a bust...

Although Flournoy is out, a variety of other CNAS-connected folks could still snag the SecDef spot.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#153)

  • Billionaire Peter Peterson announces new $200 million think tank: Peterson Center on Healthcare.
  • Jeb Bush's education think tank: Foundation for Excellence in Education.
  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) speaks about missile defense at AEI on November 19.
  • Free-market think tank NCPA back in sex scandal spotlight with lawsuit.
  • Canadian think tank ideology: Top 25 Canadian think tanks ranked by Twitter followers.
  • Manhattan Institute scholar: Democratic think tank (CAP) published a chart that would "get laughed out of Econ 101."
  • Manila think tank rebrands as Albert Del Rosario Institute and partners with CSIS.
  • Brookings guest scholar and former Member of Congress Bill Frenzel dies.
  • Former DoD official Daniel Chiu named Deputy Director of Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.
  • Ilan Goldenberg, former Chief of Staff to Special Envoy for Israel-Palestinian Negotiations and Iran Team Chief of OSD-Policy, named CNAS Middle East Security Program Director.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Will Chuck Hagel Head Another Think Tank?

Could there be a big think tank head swap in the cards?

With the announcement that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down from his post, word on the street is that Michele Flournoy, the co-founder and CEO of Center for a New American Security (CNAS), is among those that could be tapped by President Obama for the SecDef position.

Hagel is the former Chairman of Atlantic Council, a think tank that is now chaired by Jon Hunstman.  With that post already taken, it may be a perfect swap if Flournoy moves to head DoD and Hagel becomes CEO of CNAS.

After all, Hagel is not devoted to just one think tank.  For example, during the June 27, 2007 official launch of CNAS, then-Senator Hagel delivered a keynote address for the think tank.

Hagel also has close ties to the defense-oriented think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where Flournoy used to work.  Hagel delivered the keynote address last year at CSIS's Global Security Forum.  [And CSIS head John Hamre's name has been floated as a possible Hagel replacement.]

In May, Hagel spoke about NATO expansion and European Security at the Wilson Center, and he has previously spoken at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) a number of times.

Robert Work, the current Deputy Secretary of Defense, and a former CEO of CNAS, is another name being floated as a potential Hagel replacement.  So is CNAS co-founder Kurt Campbell and CNAS board member Richard Danzig (who is also Vice Chair of the Board of Rand Corp.).

Ashton Carter, another name being floated for the top DoD spot, is a member of CFR and has spoken a variety of times at CNAS.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Former Think Tank Exec Gary Palmer Headed to US Congress

Republican Gary Palmer recently won a seat in the US House of Representatives, becoming what we believe to be the first think tank founder to win a Congressional seat.

Mr. Palmer of Georgia founded the Alabama Policy Institute (API) about 25 years ago.  The conservative state think tank supports limited government, free markets, and strong families.  API will be holding its 25th anniversary dinner with Speaker Bobby Jindal on December 4.

API was attacked during Mr. Palmer's campaign because the think tank would not reveal its donors.

Also, another incoming member of Congress has strong ties to the think tank world.