Think tanks, defined as organizations engaged in public policy research and analysis, operate all over the world, study every imaginable topic, and exercise influence publicly and behind the scenes. Billions of dollars are spent each year in support of these tanks, and that level of spending raises questions of effectiveness. Such questions are difficult to answer because the influence a think tank may have on the thinking of communities and policymakers is inherently difficult to measure. But that has not stopped researchers from trying, with various methods. Each—quantitative metrics, qualitative assessments, and expert rankings—has advantages and limitations.
In this paper, Julia Clark and David Roodman investigate whether better ranking is possible by exploiting modern tools for measuring citations in both traditional and new media, as well as in academe. They do not claim to have a comprehensive or perfect method, but they do find that with modest effort the status quo of ranking the tanks can be improved.