Here’s How Much the World Is Skimping on Science

The world is massively shortchanging investments in science and technology, impacting the abilities of countries to escape poverty and address urgent crises such as climate change. That’s according to new recommendations from scientific advisers to the United Nations.

For most countries, investing 1 percent of total economic output into research and development is considered a high target. The UN’s Scientific Advisory Board, a group of two dozen scientists who advise Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, says governments should aim much higher: According to the panel, “up to” 3.5 percent is a better goal. “If countries wish to break the poverty cycle … they will have to set up ambitious national minimum target investments” for science and technology, the report reads.

The chart below shows both private and public R&D spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, based on World Bank data. The numbers are an average from 2007 to 2012, though not all countries have data for each year.

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