In just under a decade, Brazil has seen the number of top-rated think tanks in the country more than triple. Back in 2008, there were just seven organizations included in the University of Pennsylvania’s “Go To Think Tanks Study.” Yet by last year, 23 institutions were featured in the rankings as high-quality institutions, capable of exerting considerable global influence.
Brazil also came in 12th globally in terms of the number of think tanks. The country is home to more than any other in Latin America, claiming over 30 percent more than Mexico, the region’s second highest on the list. According to the study’s lead researcher, Professor James G. McGann, the think tank boom in Brazil might just be taking off, as institutions learn how to communicate better with both with the public and policymakers.
The increase in numbers didn’t surprise McGann, who says that the total of 89 institutions taken into account for the 2016 report has now reached over 90. Though McGann doesn’t adhere to a theory sometimes floated by fellow researchers on the topic – that the number of think tanks is related to the size of the population – he does see indicators elsewhere. “There’s a strong correlation with GDP and higher education, in terms of quality colleges and university, and other factors in terms of civil society,” he told The Brazilian Report.
The marked increase in the caliber of Brazil’s think tanks has also seen the country climb to one of the study’s top positions. Last year’s study named Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV) as the world’s 12th most influential think tank and Brazil is expected to hover around 12th place for the 2017 study, which is to be released in January.
FGV was also rated as the most influential think tank in the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean, and occupied high positions in the rankings for domestic economic policy, social policy, and international development. Other top-rated institutions included the Institute for Applied Economics (IPEA), the BRICS Policy Centre, the Millennium Institute and the Brazilian Centre for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP).
Many of these institutions, McGann notes, have survived because of their “transpolitical” nature. However, he warns that political polarization, along with changes to technology and the ways in which we consume information, threatens that progress. “The most dangerous moment [that] I predict will happen in Latin America, and specifically in Brazil, is the raising of expectations,” he explained. “[When politicians promise to] move people out of poverty, into the lower-middle or middle classes, and those hopes are dashed, [it leads to a] particularly dangerous and volatile time. Think tanks will have to manage that, because it makes [the political scene] incredibly polarized.”
McGann warns that if think tanks and politicians are unable to voice unpopular opinions and solutions due to populism and polarization, the current social issues faced by populations across the planet – Brazil included – could grow worse.
“I’d suggest that we may go back to the highly disruptive and destructive periods of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. We have to emerge from this period because it’s wasted time and energy. We’re expressing opinions and arguments that are convenient and may play well with the public, but they do not address the fundamental challenges facing society.”
Here is a list of the 2016 study’s top Brazilian think tanks, and the issues they tackle best:
Best Brazilian Think Tanks (by sector)
Global – Defense and National Security
- Centro Brasileiro de Relacoes Internacionais (CEBRI): 48th
- FGV: 62nd
Global – Domestic Economic Policy
- FGV: 14th
- Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP): 32nd
- BRICS Policy Center: 37th
- Centro de Estudos de Integração e Desenvolvimento (CINDES): 107th
Global – Environmental Policy
- Centro Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais (CEBRI): 31st
- FGV: 55th
- Global – Foreign Policy and International Affairs
- Centro Brasileiro de Relacoes Internacionais (CEBRI): 82nd
Global – International Development
- FGV: 11th
- CEBRI: 40th
- Institute for International Trade Negotiations (ICONE): 112th
Global – International Economics
- FGV: 35th
- CEBRI: 37th
- ICONE: 53rd
Global – Science and Technology
- BRICS Policy Center: 60th
Global – Social Policy
- FGV: 9th
- Centro de Referencia em Seguranca Alimentar e Nutricional (CERESAN): 40th
- BRICS Policy Center: 62nd
Global – Transparency and Good Governance
- CEBRI: 13th
- Conectas Direitos Humanos (CDH): 43rd
- BRICS Policy Center: 76th
Global – Government Affiliated think tank
- IPEA: 23rd
- Fundação Alexandre de Gusmão (FUNAG): 44th
Global – Institutional Collaboration Involving Two or More Think Tanks
- FGV: 12th
In other metrics:
Instituto Atlantos, Instituto de Estudos Empresariais (IEE), Fundação Perseu Abramo (FPA), Instituto Fernando Henrique Cardoso (iFHC)