January 2011

UNESCO releases 2010 science report

This past November, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization published its most recent global science report, analyzing the trends and developments that have shaped scientific research, education and industry during the past five years.


Like the tectonic plates that comprise our planet, the global science landscape is constantly shifting. And this past Nov. 10 (to coincide with World Science Day), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization published its most recent global science report to examine these dramatic shifts in detail.

Composed by a team of independent experts who cover all corners of the global scientific community, the UNESCO Science Report 2010 analyzes the trends and developments that have shaped scientific research, education and industry during the past five years, including taking stock of how the recent global economic recession has affected research and development.

Want to learn more?

Download and read the full UNESCO report.

The 2010 report offers many insights, though one of the main findings crystallizes what many in the science world already have known: that the United States, European Union and Japan, countries which have dominated research and development during the past few decades, had better start looking over their shoulders.

For example, since the last UNESCO report in 2005, China’s contribution of scientific publications has more than doubled, going to 10.6 percent from a 5.2 percent share – overtaking Japan (whose publication share dropped to 7.6 percent from 10.0 percent) in the process.

And, although China has played a significant role in Asia’s growing scientific influence, it is not alone in trending upward; other emerging nations, including India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey, also experienced increases in key parameters, such as publications, total number of researchers and gross domestic expenditure on R&D. Iran, for example, experienced a five-fold increase in science publications.

The report notes that the expansion of the Internet this past decade has been one key element in these countries’ growth; more researchers than ever are connecting to the online world, creating new networks, collaborations and partnerships.

But, when some go up, others must come down, and, indeed, the power trio of the U.S., EU and Japan is seeing its overall shares decrease. And, while the emergence of developing nations is creating a more diverse and competitive scientific atmosphere, there is cause for worry among highly developed nations in this tough economic market.

Interestingly, though, some of the new powers may step in to help; the report noted that China and India, for instance, have been using their newfound economic might to invest in high-tech companies in Europe and elsewhere to acquire additional technological expertise, thus maintaining a circulation of scientific resources.

At nearly 400 pages, the UNESCO Science Report 2010 offers something for everyone, from dedicated scientific analysts to curious researchers who want to see how their countries stack up globally. The report features a general introduction that goes over the main developments in science since the previous report in 2005 and then follows with sections that offer detailed regional perspectives. There are chapters devoted to Latin America, the Caribbean, EU, Southeast Europe, the Arab States, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia/Oceania. The report also features chapters on individual nations of interest, which include Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, India, Iran, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Turkey and the United States.

Nick Zagorski (nzagorsi@asbmb.org) is a science writer at ASBMB.

UNESCO report
Global comparison of the share of gross domestic expenditure toward research and development in 2007 versus 2002 (2002 within parentheses). © UNESCO Science Report 2010/UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

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