Wednesday, December 2, 2009

U.S. Share of World Research Community Declines

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics released a study on research last week. It provides new evidence of the global distribution of science capacity. According to the report, the number of individuals engaged in research worldwide grew from 5.8 million in 2002 to 7.1 million in 2007. As much of this growth was in developing countries, the U.S. share of the total declined from 23.2% to 20.3% and Europe's from 28.1% to 25.8%. China's share, meanwhile, grew from 14.0% to 20.1%. As a fraction of each nation's population, however, the U.S. still has more than 4.5 times as many researchers as China. The number of researchers in the developing world grew by a remarkable 56% between 2002 and 2007, while those in developed nations rose by 8.6%.

R&D investment in countries below 1.5%

At the same time, expenditure on research and development (R&D) is increasing. Globally, the percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) devoted to R&D has gone up significantly in most countries. In 2007, 1.74% of the world’s GDP was devoted to R&D (1.71% in 2002). While most developing countries invest less than 1% of their GDP in R&D, there are certain exceptions such as China (1.5%) and Tunisia (1%). The average rate of expenditure in Asia reached 1.6% in 2007, influenced by the top investors: Japan (3.4%), the Republic of Korea (3.5%) and Singapore (2.6%). In contrast, India invested only 0.8% of its GDP in R&D in 2007.

These results indicate that many countries are now recognizing the importance of innovation, in the broader sense. “Policy makers seem to realize more and more that innovation is key for economic growth, to the point of setting R&D investment targets,” notes Martin Schaaper, program specialist at the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, one of the authors of the study. “China is the foremost example of a country setting a target: 2% by 2010 and 2.5% or more by 2020."

More information on the UIS study