Think tanks have a horrible reputation everywhere by in the media. The reputation is because they are often very biased and sell out to their funders. The media is because think tank staff are willing to provide the expected sound bites to journalists, no matter what the topic. All this would be OK if think tanks were good at conducting independent research. It turns out the most prominent ones, do not do much of it on the hot topics they talk about, according to Dan Farber, who finds that they do not publish much of relevance (and this is not even considering peer reviewed research).
Interestingly, the picture is very different with respect to consulting. Looking at academics across all fields from five Spanish niversities, Pablo D'Este, Francesco Rentocchini, Liney Manjarrés-Henrìquez and Rosa Grimaldi find that getting grant money is positively associated with getting consulting contracts. In other words, good researchers also get consulting gigs. And in some fields, consulting is where the financial rewards of research really lie, especially in social sciences where grants are usually relatively small.