UK think tanks in 2024

Think tank: Smart Thinking

Author(s): Smart Thinking

March 11, 2024

This report from Smart Thinking is the conclusion of our recent survey of those working in UK think tanks in 2024.

For the first time we have merged our two previous surveys – one looking at the general think tank sector and our employee survey. This new survey received responses from those working across the UK think tank sector in organisations ranging in size from 50+ employees to under 10; those working in research roles as well as events, operations and communications; and those with over 10 years experience to those with less than 1.

The report looked at how those working in the sector viewed their personal employment as well as the wider workplace environment. We also asked questions on impact, the wider policy environment, how the upcoming General Election might be affecting the sector and transparency over funding.

Key findings:

  • The sector is an overwhelmingly positive place to work – 84% would recommend their workplace to a friend;
  • While just under half were satisfied with their overall compensation, 58% believed that they were compensated fairly, relative to the sector;
  • A staggering 92% were satisfied with the workplace flexibility offered by their think tank although when asked about work-life balance only 66% reported being satisfied;
  • Good job security has ticked up slightly from 2022 to 79% but this is still far behind the 2021 figure of 91%;
  • Independence and engagement at work is also very positive – 85% agreed that they were able to take decisions affecting their work and 59% of researchers were encouraged to explore new research methods;
  • The numbers reporting bullying or harassment at work were down for the third survey in a row, to 11%;
  • 79% believe that the current political environment is having a negative impact on public policy discussion, slightly up from 2022 but much lower than the 85% reported in 2019;
  • 60% of those surveyed said their think tank had already committed resources to planning for the General Election;
  • The main challenges facing think tanks in the next 12 months were political uncertainty, the quality of public debate and a lack of funding;
  • Lack of funding has jumped up the rankings since 2022 to be one of the main challenges, going from 33% in 2022 to 51% today;
  • Less than half are excited about the potential uses of AI for the sector.