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More on Think Tank Rankings

The Center for Global Development (CGD) t has developed a low-cost quantitative method for ranking think tanks based on a scoring system involving social media fans, web traffic, incoming links, media mentions, and scholarly citations. Here’s an alphabetical list of the U.S. think tanks in the top rankings [the rank order varied depending on whether an aggregate, budget-adjusted, or absolute scoring method was used]:

  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Brookings Institution
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Cato Institute
  • Center for New American Security
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • Heritage Foundation
  • Pew Research Center

The CGD-ranked think tanks all have a global development interest, but often, a focus on health care as well.

In another ranking of sorts for think tanks, Prospect magazine names an annual list of think tank awards for both U.S. and European Union organizations. In 2015, the US Economic and Financial Award went to the Bipartisan Policy Center, and the US Social Policy Award went to New America. Also nominated for the economic/financial award were the Peterson Institute and Reason. The Brookings Institution and RAND were other nominees in the social policy arena.

These are alternative rating methods to the best known and largest program for ranking think tanks, the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania annual Global Go To Think Tank Index Report. Generally, the same think tanks show up on multiple ranking lists. FAIR, the media watch group on fairness and accuracy in reporting, also ranks think tanks periodically on the number of media mentions.


Gelb A and others. Measuring think tank performance: updated with 2014 data. Center for Global Development essay, Mar. 17, 2015. http://www.cgdev.org/publication/ft/measuring-think-tank-performance-updated-2014-data

Clark J and Roodman D. Measuring think tank performance: an index of  public profile. Center for Global Development Policy Paper 025, June 2013. http://www.cgdev.org/publication/measuring-think-tank-performance-index-public-profile

Think tank awards 2015 winners. Prospect: the Leading Magazine of Ideas, online June 30, 2015, published in Aug. 2015 print issue. http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/features/think-tank-awards-2015-winners

Related resource: Think Tank Watch: The World’s Top Source for Think Tank News & Information at http://www.thinktankwatch.com/

Posted by AHA Resource Center, (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org

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