According to the latest Unesco report on the state of science worldwide, global research spending has been given a tremendous boost by the coronavirus crisis and spending growth has been unprecedented in the developing world. But the United States and China remain the dominant forces.
In a report published Friday, Unesco, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, says global spending on research and development increased by 19 percent between 2014 and 2018.
These reports are published every five years and review scientific research policy in more than 190 countries.
The upward trend has clearly increased since the coronavirus crisis.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused severe human and economic damage, but has also activated knowledge production systems, Unesco concludes.
New money or diverted money?
According to project director Susan Schneegans, we have seen more channeled investments in the biomedical industry … what we do not know yet is how much extra money is in the research budget instead of coming from somewhere else.
“Twenty years ago, it was difficult to persuade governments to invest in science and technology,” Schneegans continues. “Today, virtually everyone has accepted that such investments are a way to boost economic growth.”
But investments remain extremely unbalanced.
Among them, the US and China account for nearly two-thirds of global research spending growth. China alone is responsible for 44 percent of global research spending growth,
At the other end of the spectrum, four nations out of every five still spend less than 1 percent of their GDP on research. And the slowest countries include Canada, Australia and India.
The boom in digital technology, plans are burning
Artificial intelligence and robotics are the two main growth areas for research funding, the report says. And some countries are making great strides in digital technology, says Susan Schneegans, “without having to make massive investments.”
Overall investment in green technologies appears to be declining, however, Canada, France and Germany report all static or reduced investment in sectors such as wind and solar energy, carbon reduction and biofuels.
Once again, the Unesco report notes, some emerging economies are showing way forward in promoting research aimed at helping the planetary environment.
Finally, he says Unesco General Director, Audrey Azoulay“we need more coherence … less inequality, more cooperation, more openness.”
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