What is this metric and why is it important?
Researchers play an important role in the innovation economy. Measuring the number and labour market intensity of researchers provides an indication of an economy’s innovation capacity and activity. This metric is expressed as the number of researchers per 1,000 people employed in a country.
How is Canada doing?
- In 2017 Canada had 8.4 researchers per 1,000 people employed, which was slightly lower than the OECD average of 8.6, but well behind leaders like Denmark (15.7), Korea (15.3), and Sweden (14.8).
- Between 2001 and 2011, Canada experienced growth in researchers (from 7.5 per 1,000 to 9.4), but since then has experienced a steady decline to 8.4, while most other G7 countries continued to increase the number of researchers.
- Canada’s relatively average but declining researcher count is largely attributable to its low business and government research and development spending relative to global peers, as opposed to its competitive higher education spending.
Researchers are defined as scientists and engineers “engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems” and include managers “engaged in the planning and management of the scientific and technical aspects of a researcher’s work.” We exclude those classified as “technicians” and “other R&D personnel.” The measurement itself is the number of full-time equivalent researchers for every 1,000 individuals employed in a jurisdiction (whether province or country).
Measuring the number and labour market intensity of researchers provides an indication of an economy’s innovation capacity and activity. At a minimum, having researchers is a necessary capacity for innovation. And the more researchers employed and engaged in research and development (R&D), the more likely it is that research that supports innovation is occurring in an economy.
In order to get a more accurate picture of not only how many researchers there are, but also who is participating in the research economy, we need data on the demographic make-up of researchers, which is currently not available.