Scientific Research and GDP
A tweet about the estimated number of scientific papers published by country prompted thoughts about the relationship between science and national economies. Something like this has been previously considered. It’s undoubtedly a complex relationship with manifold causal parameters. But charting the ratio of GDP to number of papers would at least be interesting, as would the correlation between GDP and number of papers. Also curious is the comparison of GDP and population ratios and correlations, the former correlation strong and the latter weak. Here’s a look at 30 countries.
The GDP and population data are from 2012 and are supplied by The World Bank. The publications data were taken straight from the tweet. A .csv file of all the data used, along with the rudimentary computations, is available to review.
Top 40 countries by the number of scientific papers publishedpic.twitter.com/D5lSDwkele
Amazing Maps (@Amazing_Maps) March 14, 2014
The scaled ratios look like this. A higher ratio shows a greater publications-to-GDP multiplier, less bang per buck perhaps. For example, Portugal and Sweden could be efficiently producing science, whereas in Mexico and Russia perhaps the opposite is possibile.
As for correlation, the GDPs were scaled so that the GDP of the country with a ratio closest to the average scaled ratio (4.77), i.e. Egypt (4.70), closely matched its number of papers. Those countries towards the left of the chart are publishing more science relative to their GDPs than average, and to the right, less science relative to their GDPs than average, but nonetheless there’s a strong correlation going both ways, i.e. 0.97, where 1 represents perfectly positive, 0 represents no correlation, and -1 represents perfectly inverse.
Now take a look using population data. The countries have been reordered to show ascending scaled population-to-publication ratios. It’s a broader range. Those to the right have fewer publications per capita.
Now on correlation, it’s again positive and moving in tandem, but less so here for population size than for GDP – much less. The correlation figure here is 0.38. Here also the country with the ratio closest to the average ratio (4.50), i.e. Malaysia (4.64), was used to closely match a scaled population figure to the number of publications. Countries to the left have a better than average ratio, and vice versa.
It’s not surprising that there’s a strong correlation between GDP and the amount of science published. But what’s not clear is whether GDP is a chicken or an egg, though there’s some preexisting research on that issue, as well. It is a bit surprising how much less correlated the population size is to the amount of research published, however.