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Lowy among world's top think tanks

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31 January 2012 15:16

The 2012 Global Go-To Think Tanks Rankings were released last week, ranking the Lowy Institute again in the top 30 Global think tanks outside the US and fifth in Asia – its highest-ever ranking.

The only survey of its kind, the University of Pennsylvania's rankings take on the unenviable and unwieldy task of trying to identify, and then rank, the 6000-odd think tanks in the world (nearly 2000 of which are in North America – hence the methodology of ranking think tanks outside the US separately).

Each year since the rankings began in 2008, the process has been refined. There are still some idiosyncrasies, though: for example, in the first of two overall ranking lists (the first excludes US institutions while the second includes them), European think tank SIPRI comes second, after only Chatham House, while in the next list it ranks behind Chatham House, Amnesty International, Transparency International, the International Crisis Group, the German SWP, IISS and Bruegel.

Quibbles aside, the Lowy Institute continues to build its reputation as one of the most globally influential think tanks. Aside from its top-30 ranking, it achieves fifth place in Asia (its highest ever ranking), behind much older and more established institutions such as the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Japan Institute of International Affairs.

The new media and communications continue to feature in the Lowy Institute's strengths. It placed in the top 30 globally in all three of the communications categories: the best use of the internet or social media to engage the public, the best use of the media (print/electronic), and the best external relations/public engagement programs. With the audience of this blog growing steadily, and a new, more dynamic and interactive website to be launched in late February, the Institute continues its drive to be at the leading edge of think tank communications.

This year's report highlights some of the stranger features of the policy-wonk world. Think tanks in the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, China) increased in number by over 100% between 2008 and 2011. China and India now have the second- and third-largest number of think tanks, after the US.

Australia is idiosyncratic: its strong economy, 13th largest GDP in the world and commensurately large expenditures on defence and aid suggests it could benefit from some external input into government policy, yet it has a miniscule number of think tanks (McGann puts it at 29, which tallies with our own estimates). The US, with an economy 15 times the size of ours and a population 14 times bigger, has 62 times as many think tanks. The numbers measured against the UK are similarly skewed. 

Photo by Flickr user BabyDinosaur

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