Working Party of National Experts on Science and Technology Indicators

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1 For Official Use DSTI/EAS/STP/NESTI(2001)38 DSTI/EAS/STP/NESTI(2001)38 For Official Use Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Economiques Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 18-Oct-2001 English - Or. English DIRECTORATE FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INDUSTRY COMMITTEE FOR SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL POLICY Working Party of National Experts on Science and Technology Indicators BASIC RESEARCH: STATISTICAL ISSUES Holmenkollen Park Hotel, Oslo, Norway, October, 2001 Contact: Dominique Guellec, OECD: English - Or. English JT Document complet disponible sur OLIS dans son format d origine Complete document available on OLIS in its original format

2 BASIC RESEARCH: STATISTICAL ISSUES 1. Policy debate on basic research has risen over the recent years, as certain observers claimed that resources devoted to this activity were declining. As basic research results in filling the reservoir of technological opportunities that in turn give rise to innovation in the long run, such a decline would actually be worrying. 2. The issue was addressed in OECD reports, including the 1998 Technology, productivity and job creation: towards best policy practices. The analysis was based mainly on anecdotal evidence, and on the little data available. In fact, data is not available for many countries and years, and when it is, it does not seem to readily answer the question, as the very notion of basic research is not of common understanding. This document presents the available data and addresses the question of why so little is available. 1. Recent trends in expenditure on basic research as reflected in OECD statistics 3. The 2001 OECD STI Scoreboard presents figures on basic research in OECD Member countries (graphs 1 to 3 below). From this data, major trends are as follows. In the mid to late 1990s, OECD countries spend on average about of their GDP on basic research, as compared with 2.2 in total R&D. Switzerland and France have the highest level, the United States and Japan are at about. OECD wide, more than half of basic research is performed in the higher education sector. The business sector has a relatively high share (one quarter to one third) in Switzerland, the United States, Korea and Japan. Basic research as a share of GDP stabilised or increased in the second half of the 1990s in France, Italy and the United States, after a decline in the first half of the decade in the last two countries: these are the only countries for which series with no break are available for the whole 1990s. 2. Availability of data 4. Which countries do collect basic R&D data? Looking at (from the OECD Basic Science and Technology Statistics), 16 OECD Member countries reported data on basic research; they were 17 to do so in The decline is actually worse than that, as new members have entered the Organisation. The following table summarises the picture: 2

3 Reporting of basic research data in and in (number of countries): 1990 Reported in Did not report in Not OECD Total Member in 1990 Reported in Did not report in Total Actually, 6 Member countries that reported data on basic research in the early 1990s stopped doing so afterwards. Certain countries, among the 16 countries with basic research data, collect it for certain sectors only (e.g. the UK for business and government, Sweden for government). In addition, one country (the Netherlands) collects data on research personnel in basic research but not on expenditure. 6. The reason put forward by countries which don t collect the data is the insufficient clarity of the concept: the boundary between basic research and other types of research is too blurred for the distinction to be meaningful for respondents to R&D surveys. 3. Definitional and conceptual issues 7. The Frascati Manual (FM), in its 1993 edition (paragraph 223), distinguishes three types of activities : basic research, applied research, and experimental development. 8. Basic research is defined as follows (FM, paragraph 224): Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts without any particular application or use in view. 9. Collecting this data seems increasingly difficult as the distinction between basic and applied research, especially in the higher education sector, might have blurred in recent years with increasing links between this sector and business. In many countries, funders of academic research (mainly the government) want to see actually what the result is, notably in economic terms. In addition, universities themselves are turning to business for getting complementary funding. Although they probably focus on the more basic side of the research, these links impact on the topics addressed by university researchers, that become more applied. The extended possibility to patent university research changes the incentive given to researchers, as patents can be an important source of funding: and only inventions, not scientific discoveries, can be patented. 10. In addition, the FM goes on distinguishing two types of basic research (FM, paragraph 227): Such oriented basic research may be distinguished from pure basic research as follows: - Pure basic research which is carried out for the advancement of knowledge without working for long term economic or social benefits and with no positive efforts being made to apply the results to practical problems or to transfer the results to sectors responsible for its application. - Oriented basic research which is carried out with the expectation that it will produce a broad base of knowledge likely to form the background to the solution of recognised or expected current or future problems or possibilities. 3

4 11. It seems that only two countries (Australia and the United Kingdom) collect data on these two categories. Actually, the FM states (228) that it is recognised that such a subdivision may not be applicable to all OECD countries. Looking at figures from Australia in , it turns out that 43 of basic research is of the pure type, and 57 is strategic. Pure basic is about 15 of total basic in the business sector and the government sectors, and 57 in the higher education sector. On the other hand, the UK collects this data for the government sector only, in which pure basic is about one third of total basic research. 4. What could be done? 12. At its June 2000 meeting the NESTI discussed basic research data collection and decided not to address this issue in the current revision of the FM, as there is no readily available solution to some of the current shortcomings. NESTI delegates acknowledged however that the current situation is not satisfactory, and expressed interest in the outcomes and possible recommendations of the Oslo conference. The issue might be considered again in the future in view of new evidence of the sort the Oslo conference could produce. As more flexible ways of revising the FM in the future are being considered, it might be possible to adapt the paragraphs on basic research in the not too distant future. 4

5 Basic research (Figure A.6.4. of the 2001 STI Scoreboard) Basic research as a percentage of GDP by sector of performance, 1999 Breakdown of R&D expenditure by type of research as a percentage of GDP, 1999 Higher education Government Private non-profit No breakdown Business enterprise Basic research Applied research Experimental development Non-specified Switzerland (1996) Switzerland (1996) France (1998) France (1998) 28 Germany (1993) Germany (1993) Iceland Iceland Australia (1998) Australia (1998) United States (1998) United States (1998) Japan Japan Korea (1998) Korea (1998) Austria (1993) Austria (1993) 27 Czech Republic Czech Republic Norway Norway Italy (1998) Italy (1998) Poland Poland 9.62 Netherlands (1995) Netherlands (1995) Slovak Republic Slovak Republic Hungary (1997) Hungary (1997) Portugal (1997) Portugal (1997) Basic research as a percentage of all R&D activities Spain Ireland (1993) Spain Ireland (1993) Mexico (1995) Mexico (1995) of GDP A Basic research as a percentage of GDP in selected countries, France United States Japan 1 (not adjusted) 0.3 Italy

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