Science Report Cover

The race against time for smarter development

The UNESCO Science Report monitors trends in science governance and scientific endeavour worldwide to track which development path countries are following.
Published in June 2021, the seventh edition in the series explores how countries used science over the previous five years to realize a digitally and ecologically smart future.
This report is a masterpiece.
Lidia Borrell-Damian Secretary-General of Science Europe

Development priorities have aligned over the past five years

Countries of all income levels are prioritizing their transition to digital and green economies. On the one hand, countries have committed to reaching their ambitious Sustainable Development Goals by the 2030 deadline. In parallel, most countries are convinced that their future economic competitiveness will depend upon how quickly they manage to transition to digital societies. The UNESCO Science Report’s subtitle, ‘the race against time for smarter development’, is an allusion to these dual development priorities. Read more

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Development priorities have aligned over the past five years
From vaccines to ventilators:

how the world has turned to science during Covid-19

Surge in global research spending

19.2% increase between 2014 and 2018

More scientific collaboration but uneven research spending

More than 30 countries raised their research spending between 2014 and 2018. Despite this, many countries remain dependent on foreign technologies and expertise. Since the private sector will need to drive much of their dual digital and green transition, countries are striving to make it easier for the private sector to innovate. Some governments are also trying to attract or retain researchers through pay rises, greater international exposure and other measures. Both the global researcher population and the rate of international scientific collaboration have surged since 2014.

Gree digital
increase in researcher pool

in full-time equivalents between 2014 and 2018

of countries still spend less than 1% of GDP on research
of global research expenditure is accounted for by G20
of growth in global research spending

between 2014 and 2018 driven by China alone

Sustainability topics still a small share of global research

While there has been a global surge in research spending and an alignment of development priorities, an analysis by UNESCO of 56 research topics found that sustainability research was not yet mainstream in academic publishing at the global level. Some of the fastest growth in scientific publishing is occurring in artificial intelligence and robotics, including in developing countries. Read more 

Central Asia
of researchers in 2018 were women
of engineering graduates are women

Women still a minority in fields driving the digital revolution

Women remain a minority in digital information technology, computing, physics, mathematics and engineering. These are the fields that are driving the digital revolution and so, many of the jobs of tomorrow. This trend is even more problematic as there is a skills shortage in many of these fields, such as in artificial intelligence. To right this gender imbalance, strenuous efforts need to be made at government, academic and corporate levels not only to attract girls and women to these fields but, above all, to retain them. Read more

Inclusive women
Today’s challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, decline of ocean health and pandemics are all global. This is why we must mobilize scientists and researchers from all over the world.
Audrey Azoulay UNESCO Director General

The race against time for smarter development

We are in a race against time for smarter development. Are we using science to build the future we want?

This is the question asked by the latest UNESCO Science Report, released on 11 June 2021.