Friday, March 4, 2011

Measuring R&D: Challenges Faced by Developing Countries

Measuring R&D: Challenges Faced by Developing Countries

Published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics
Montreal, Canada: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2010.
ISBN 978-92-9189-094-1

The study of knowledge systems relies heavily on the use of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) indicators to establish cross-national comparisons and to follow their evolution over time. Of the different types of STI indicators, research and experimental development (R&D) statistics are probably the most important. To produce R&D statistics, the methodology proposed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in the Frascati Manual (FM) is used extensively in developing countries despite the fact that it was originally written for R&D surveys in OECD member countries. This confirms the FM as the most widely accepted international standard practice for R&D surveys. In addition, the involvement of UNESCO and other international organizations has only served to further its development and diffusion.

However, the characteristics of research systems in developing countries differ significantly from the ones that gave rise to the current statistical standard. When producing statistics and indicators, the tension between prioritizing international comparability – embodied in the frequently uncritical application of the FM by developing countries – and producing policy-relevant results that reflect the particular characteristics of these countries becomes evident. The main challenge is in obtaining cross-nationally comparable indicators while at the same time adequately reflecting the characteristics of developing countries.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) has taken on the task of preparing an Annex to the FM that will provide guidance to developing countries on how to use the standards proposed in the Manual for measuring R&D. The Annex will provide suggestions on how the concepts in the FM should be interpreted to ensure that data better reflect the particular characteristics of R&D activity in developing countries while still maintaining international comparability.

This Technical Paper is a stand-alone document on measuring R&D in developing countries and will serve as the basis for an Annex to the FM. In addition to providing guidance on how the concepts in the FM should be interpreted, this guide also offers suggestions on how to strengthen STI statistical systems in developing countries. This document will also address and provide recommendations for specific situations that fall outside the framework of the FM. In time, some of the recommendations in this guide could serve as input for future revisions of the Manual.

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