In the University of Pennsylvania's annual rankings of the world's top think thanks, released yesterday, the Lowy Institute achieved its highest-ever ranking: 27th in the top 50 think tanks worldwide (which excludes US institutions). The only other Asia-based think tank in the top 30 is the highly respected Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The Brookings Institution in the US was ranked highest in the world, and the UK's Chatham House topped the list of worldwide (non-US) think tanks.

In what we see as a major achievement, the Lowy Institute was ranked in the top 10 in the world for its use of the internet to engage the public. We credit this to the Institute's creative use of the web through this blog (now with an iphone app), as well as with our newer Facebook and Twitter activities.

The survey is the only one of its kind, and while suffering in the past from some teething problems (some of them still evident – for example, while the Institute was one of only two Asian think tanks ranked in the worldwide category, we were eighth in the Asian category), it has increased in rigour and credibility.

The survey has a long list of questions, and a huge range (over 6000) of think tanks to choose from. Around 1500 policy makers, donors, researchers, journalists and NGO representatives participated in the survey. The earlier questions in the survey (top think tank in the US, top think tank worldwide) probably have a higher participation rate than those further down in the list (such as that regarding think tanks in the Asia region).

In a mark of its increasing renown and authority, this year's survey was launched at the UN in New York, with the cooperation of the United Nations University Office. In releasing the results, the University of Pennsylvania described the rise of think tanks in Asia:

This year's rankings reflect the increased recognition of think tanks in Asia and the Pacific, including the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Japan Institute of International Affairs, Lowy Institute for International Policy in Australia, Korea Development Institute in South Korea and Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in India.

Image by Flickr user h.koppdelaney.