The shifting landscape for researchers 

The shifting landscape for researchers 

The research environment has evolved considerably in the past five years or so. According to the UNESCO Science Report (2021), between 2014 and 2018, the researcher pool grew three times faster (13.7%) than the global population (4.6%) between 2014 and 2018. 

Some governments faced with brain drain and an ageing researcher population are introducing measures to attract and retain more researchers, such as pay rises, competitive research grants and greater contact with international partners abroad. 

The share of women among researchers rose from 29% to 33% between 2014 and 2018. However, women remain a minority in Industry 4.0 fields such as computer science (40% of tertiary graduates) and engineering (28% of tertiary graduates), read more.

At the global level, the rate of international scientific collaboration rose from 22% to 24% between 2015 and 2019, with wide variations between countries (see map below). This trend is being driven by research on sustainability topics such as environmental management, climate-ready crops and help for smallholder food producers. It is also being driven by the growing diaspora, including scientists fleeing conflict situations at home. 

No entity is keeping track of precisely how many refugee and displaced scientists there are in the world and their whereabouts. Support structures for refugee and displaced scientists do exist, however, often in parallel with support structures for scientists and other academics suffering from persecution. The integration of refugee and displaced scientists creates a win–win situation for scientist and host country. 

See Figure 1.4

The Covid-19 pandemic has showcased the benefits of the scientific community’s culture of sharing both within and beyond borders. From the outset, scientists shared information and data with one another, beginning with the sequenced genome of the coronavirus in early January 2020.  

There has also been an epidemic of misleading information, or ‘infodemic’ pandemic has also undermined the efforts of the scientific community to combat the pandemic (read more).  

In the private sector, leading tech companies like IBM are donating some of their patents to open-source initiatives, following the global trend towards more open knowledge-sharing. UNESCO is submitting a Recommendation on Open Science to its member states for adoption in November 2021. 

Global standards now exist for a healthy ecosystem of research and innovation, thanks to the adoption of the UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers in 2017. 

The race against time for smarter development (sustainability)

According to the UNESCO Science Report, released on 11 June 2021, it is developing countries that are publishing most, proportionately, on sustainability science They also happen to be the ones most affected by climate change. Scientific publications on 56 sustainability topics analysed by UNESCO form only a small share of global scientific output.  

Which sustainability topics are researchers in your country focusing on?