The Objective

The objective of the Knowledge Production Project’s Think Tanks Database is to portray the ways in which think tanks in the United States and Europe perceive and analyze issues related to the Middle East. This database is unique among the KPP databases in the way it seeks to represent broader and more comprehensive kinds of data regarding think tanks and the knowledge they produce. The database represents research on fifty-three think tanks, primarily based in the United States.

The Sources

Sources for the database include think tank websites, the United States government publishing office, and IRS Form 990s, the forms used for nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations. The list of fifty-three think tanks was retrieved after reviewing multiple studies on the topic of think tanks and policy.

Logistics and Formatting

The Think Tanks Database is comprised of two Google spreadsheets. The first, older spreadsheet contains financial data mined from IRS Form 990s for US-based think tanks. These financial data pertain to the years 2002-2013.

The second spreadsheet is divided into three main tabs:
Papers – Collection of publications (policy papers, briefings, and reports) with a substantive focus on a Middle East country or countries listed by think tanks on their respective websites. These papers were published between 2002-2013. As of Fall 2016, the database contains nearly 8500 papers.
Congressional Testimonies – Collection of testimonies by think tank experts, military and government officials, legal professionals, businesspeople, and others before the United States Congress pertaining to the Middle East. These testimonies were delivered between 2002-2013. The tab organizes testimonies by committee, subcommittee, and hearing. As of Fall 2016, the database contains just over one thousand testimonies.

Connections – Inventory of government employment positions held by think tank experts who focus on the Middle East, seeking to portray the movement to and from policy analysis and policy implementation posts. Unlike the other tabs, which cover 2002-2013, this tab contains data regarding individuals employed by think tanks only during 2012-2013, and includes government positions they have held from any time prior to 2013. The tab lists experts employed at think tanks in 2012-2013, the titles and positions they have held in government, the MENA countries on which their research focuses, and the topics of their research.

The Caveats



The definition of the Middle East used by researchers of this database is the twenty-two member states of the Arab league, Iran, Israel, and Turkey.

Trends in Knowledge Production and Middle East Knowledge Over Time Visualizations

While the other databases that comprise these visualizations cover the years 1979-2012, the Think Tanks Database covers the years 2002-2013; the visual effect of a proliferation of think tank papers after 2002 in this visualization should not be misunderstood.

Think Tank Explorer Visualization

General: The different visualizations within this screen draw on different research periodizations: some portray data mined on the years 2002-2013, some on the years 2012-2013.

The data visualized does not represent the total output of these think tanks, but rather focuses exclusively on their publication outputs on the Middle East. So, for example, the “Regions of Focus” does not portray all regions that these think tanks focus on, but the regions of the Middle East they focus on; the “Most Associated Experts” visualization does not portray the most total experts of all kinds employed by the think tank, but rather the most experts whose research focuses on the Middle East.

Topics of Focus and Regions of Focus: This visualization draws on data in our Connections tab, meaning it represents the topics and country or countries focused on by experts employed at these think tanks in 2012-2013. It is not a comprehensive representation of all topics or countries on which these think tanks have produced knowledge.

The list of topics is an analytic categorization developed by the Think Tanks Database team, not a descriptive list of the terms individual experts use to describe their own research.

Most Associated Experts: As above, this represents the number of Middle East-focused experts employed at each think tank in 2012-2013.

Highest Average Revenue: This data is drawn from IRS Form 990s filed by each think tank between 2002-2013. As such, it only contains data on those think tanks in our list of 53 that are based in the United States and claim non-profit status. It does not contain European think tanks, think tanks based in larger institutions (for example the Belfer Center, a part of Harvard), or think tanks in other tax statuses.

Number of Publications: This data is drawn from the Papers tab, meaning it represents the number of papers published by the think tank between 2002-2013.

Connections Visualization

This visualization combines data from the Papers, Testimony, and Connections tabs. The data in these tabs cover different periods: Papers and Testimony cover 2002-2013, while Connections covers 2012-2013. Because this iteration of the visualization does not express change over time or indicate the duration or content of any given connection, this difference in research periodization is not visually evident.

Thus, when you click on a Think Tank (blue dot) in the visualization, you will see the following kinds of connections:
1) All individuals who published a Middle East-related paper with the think tank between 2002-2013.
2) All individuals who represented the think tank in a Middle East-related congressional testimony between 2002-2013.
3) All Middle East experts employed at the think tank in 2012-2013.
4) Connections between Middle East experts employed at the think tank in 2012-2013 and government institutions.


When you click on an Expert (orange dot) in the visualization, you will see the following kinds of connections:
1) Any think tank for whom the individual authored a Middle East-related paper between 2002-2013.
2) Any think tank, government office, agency, or other institution the individual represented in a Middle East-related congressional testimony between 2002-2013.
3) Any think tank where the individual was employed in 2012-2013.
4) Government or military bodies who employed the individual any time before 2013. 

When you click on an Other Org. (green dot, and to clarify, these are entities such as US government departments, offices, commissions, agencies, and committees, as well as law offices, consultancies, etc.) in the visualization, you will see the following kinds of connections:
1) Middle East experts who were employed by a think tank in 2012-2013 and also employed at the organization at some point prior to 2013.
2) The specific think tanks where the above experts were employed in 2012-2013.
2) Elected officials, civil servants, military personnel, or other employees who represented the organization in a Middle East-related testimony before congress between 2002-2013.