A think tank is an interdisciplinary body of experts such as scholars or former politicians that crafts opinions on regional, national or international policy and strategic direction, typically related to areas such as commerce, the military, immigration or social welfare. Often independent, some think tanks are known for certain political leanings and their reports and findings are interpreted accordingly.
The word first came into the English language in 1905 when it was used as a colloquialism for "brain." It's first use in its current sense appeared in 1959 in a Times Literary Supplement article in reference to the "Center for Behavioral Sciences" in Palo Alto, California. Think tanks have also been referred to as "brain boxes,""idea factories," or "thinking cells."
One of the most well-known think tanks is the US-based RAND Corporation, which was established as a non-profit organization in 1948. The need for such an organization arose from the desire to maintain the momentum of research and development that had begun during World War II. Today, its studies address everything from obesity and substance abuse to public safety and international affairs.
Think tanks exist the world over, either as institutes attached to universities or as stand-alone organizations. In Canada, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Fraser Institute and the Conference Board of Canada are among the think tanks that have achieved national standing.