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Brookings Tops Study of Most Influential Think Tanks

The Brookings Institution ranked once again as the world’s top think tank in an annual survey out today.

The influential policy shop surpassed more than 1,800 think tanks in the U.S. and about 400 that are based in Washington, D.C., to win the top spot in the fifth Global Go-To Think Tanks Rankings report. With $300 million in assets, Brookings is also a powerhouse among its peers.

“It is an institution that really has global recognition and market penetration. Given its longevity and the quality of its work, it’s not surprising to me,” lead author James McGann said at a news conference today. McGann directs the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania, which released the report in partnership with Diplomatic Courier magazine.

The results reflect input from hundreds of scholars, journalists and policymakers who interact with think tanks regularly. The report aims to recognize leading policy influencers and is frequently used by media outlets and donors to determine who is leading the sector.

Rounding out the top five on the U.S. list are the Council on Foreign Relations, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and RAND Corp.

Other Washington mainstays also ranked high on the domestic list. The conservative Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation made it in the top 10, and the liberal Center for American Progress came in 11th place.

The report also ranks think tanks by category. Cato and Heritage placed in the top five for economic policy. They joined CAP in the top five for social policy.

McGann said he did not consider institutions that engage primarily in advocacy work.

The think tank expert added that the sector overall could improve its ability to predict economic and policy trends, such as the recent global recession, and plan for those realities.

“We can do a much better job of preparing policymakers and the public,” he said.

Correction: Jan. 18, 2012

An earlier version of this article misidentified Diplomatic Courier magazine.

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