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Responding to Pandemic, SIIA Climbs 16 Places in Global Think Tank Ranking

29 Jan Responding to Pandemic, SIIA Climbs 16 Places in Global Think Tank Ranking

Media Release
For Immediate Release

Singapore, Friday, 29 January 2021 – The SIIA’s timely response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 enabled the think tank to climb 16 notches in the 2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index (GGTTI) to be in the top 50 in the world as well as top 10 in Asia and first in ASEAN.

The results of the GGTTI, by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Programme (TTCSP), were released on Thursday, 28 January 2021. Into the 15th edition, the report ranks think tanks based on criteria such as the commitment of their leadership, quality and reputation of their staff as well as their research and analysis. Over 3,974 university faculty and administrators, journalists, policymakers, think tank scholars and executives, and donors worldwide participated in the latest ranking exercise.

“2020 was a challenging year for everyone. At the SIIA, we took this as a call to do what we can to try to help and make a difference. We are strong on ASEAN and Sustainability. Building on our strengths, we are trying to be relevant and useful in responding to the pandemic and its many impacts,” said Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the SIIA.

Associate Professor Tay continued, “Last year, we served as chair for the ASEAN network for think tanks, and worked to rally our colleagues. We were also heartened by companies and business leaders in Singapore who willingly came forward to join us in our dialogues about the situation, and discussions on ways to emerge stronger and better.”

Highlights for the GGTTI 2020 ranking for the SIIA are:

  • Top 30 in the “Top Think Tanks Worldwide (Non-US)” category, up 16 spots from the previous year. In the same category, the SIIA is first in ASEAN and seventh across all of Asia.
  • Top 50 in the “Top Think Tanks Worldwide (US & Non-US)” category, climbing 13 spots from the previous year. This is the first time the SIIA is ranked top 50 in the world.
  • First among “Top Think Tanks in the South, Southeast Asia and the Pacific (excluding India)” category. This is the second year in a row the SIIA has topped the list which includes ASEAN, Australia-New Zealand, and others including Taiwan.
  • In the “Best Independent Think Tank” category, the SIIA is ranked first in Asia for the fifth consecutive year. The SIIA was also ranked first in ASEAN across various categories including “Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks”, “Best New Idea or Paradigm Developed by a Think Tank”, and “Best External Relations/Public Engagement Programme”.
  • The SIIA was the only ASEAN think tank to be listed in the “Best Policy and Institutional Response to COVID-19” category.

In relation to the pandemic, highlights of the SIIA’s key research output in 2020 include:

  • Policy memo on “ASEAN cooperation in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, in regional and cross-border aspects” – From March to April 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic, the SIIA led the ASEAN-ISIS network of think tanks to submit this policy memo. This memo made specific recommendations on how the region could best cooperate to combat the pandemic. The memo was received by ministers of ASEAN and the ASEAN Secretary-General and conveyed to leaders at the ASEAN Summit.
  • Special Report: Renewed Concerns in Key ASEAN Economies – The SIIA published a regional and country-specific analysis, looking at how pre-existing economic and political challenges were either stabilised or else aggravated by the pandemic.
  • New Horizons Series – Serving as knowledge partner to the Singapore’s Emerging Stronger Taskforce (EST), the SIIA convened a series of closed-door roundtable dialogues among business leaders in Singapore on how the country’s economy can emerge stronger after the pandemic. These “New Horizon” dialogues discussed a broad range of emerging opportunities and needs, including in key ASEAN markets, infrastructure and sustainability. The SIIA has provided confidential report submitted to the EST and a public report is planned for 2021.
  • Sustainability: Haze Outlook and Report on Environment, Social and Governance Factors in the Resource Sector  The SIIA considered how the health and economic impacts from the pandemic would affect sustainability commitments and practice. It engaged large resource sector players and financial institutions, as well as key government policy makers across the region. As governments aim for a green recovery from the pandemic, the SIIA also engaged in dialogues with the European Union, regional experts and think tanks.


Ms. Seraphim Cheong, Director of Operations, the SIIA, had this to say about the results, “We have always adopted a bespoke approach in reaching out to our members, who are leading Singapore or Singapore-based businesses, to support and be part of our work. In the past year, we were even more heartened by how responsive they have been.”

The SIIA was also leading regional voice among global think tanks who convened to discuss on “The Future of Think Tank and Policy Advice Around the World” and how the pandemic as well as technological, political and social shifts are shaping the roles and contributions that think tanks can make.

“The pandemic has proven to be an unprecedented threat to the health, economic well-being, and general livelihood of people all over the globe. TTCSP has recognised the value that the think tank community can provide to policymakers and the public…,” said Dr. Jim McGann, Director of the TTCSP in the GGTTI report.

The full report is available for download at: 2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index

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About the Singapore Institute of International Affairs

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Established in 1962, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) is a non-profit and independent think tank committed to producing policy analysis, fostering in-depth dialogues and bridging gaps between policymakers, private sector decision-makers and experts to shape public policy and social responses. Centred around ASEAN focused themes, the institute aims to deliver policy analysis in international affairs and on issues driving environmental sustainability. The SIIA has been consistently ranked as one of the leading think tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in the Global Go To Think Tank Index by the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2017, the SIIA was ranked the No. 1 independent think tank in Asia. It was also recognised as one of the top 50 think tanks globally, excluding the United States of America. For two consecutive years since 2019, it was recognised as the No. 1 think tank in South, Southeast Asia and Pacific (excluding India).