A think tank is basically a group of people whose sole job is to provide opinions on issues that are deemed to be of high importance to the human race. There are hundreds of such think tanks in the U.S. that focus on a wide range of subjects, like human rights, Internet freedom, gender equality, and nuclear disarmament. But there are four think tanks that are usually considered to be the most influential.
Established in 1995 at Columbia University, New York, the Earth Institute primarily focuses on the topic of sustainable development. It consists of about two dozen research centers, like the Earth Engineering Center, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Center for Rivers and Estuaries. The institute believes that existing technologies can be used in an efficient manner to improve the living conditions of the poor.
“At our largest research unit, the renowned Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, some of the world’s leading scientists study geology, oceans, freshwater systems, climate, and atmosphere to better understand the Earth’s systems. By bringing those physical scientists together with experts in economics, law, public health, and policy, the institute creates collaborations that help us learn how to best address issues of global sustainability,” according to Earth Institute.
Human Rights Watch
This organization was founded in 1978 out of a need to monitor whether the Soviet Union honored the Helsinki Accords. Later, it moved to monitoring human rights violations across the world and seeks to help the cause of refugees, political prisoners, children, and immigrants. HRW operates in more than 90 countries, employing over 275 staff that include academics, legal experts, and journalists. In recent times, the organization has been accused of being biased against some countries and ideologies. Billionaire George Soros pledged US$100 million to the organization in 2010 over a period of 10 years.
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
It was set up in 1973 as a means to provide advice on reducing the threat of nuclear weapons and implementing effective arms control policies. Over the years, the organization has expanded its focus areas to cover subjects like natural resources, environment, public policy, and technology. In 2018, it was ranked as the number one University Affiliated Think Tank by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program. It has a resident research community of over 150 scholars and a permanent research center that is located within the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
The Heritage Foundation is one of the most famous conservative think tanks in the U.S. Founded in 1973, the organization has played a key role in influencing American policymaking, right from the time of President Reagan. It has had a tremendous influence on President Trump’s transition and is a driving force behind his conservative policies. In partnership with The Wall Street Journal, it annually publishes the Index of Economic Freedom, which measures a country’s freedom in terms of government regulation and property rights.