Regional growth and more political stability in the Asia region, allowing for greater investment in education and research, have reduced brain drain of researchers and academics and led to a rapid rise in research output from South and East Asia.
From 12,000 papers annually, research output in the region increased tenfold since 2000, accounting for 8% of global publications, says the Global Research Report – South and East Asia by the Web of Science’s Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). It notes there is still “unused potential” in the region’s research base.
The region has enormous resources, and vast potential for innovation and achievement, but Asian nations cannot afford to under-invest in scientific and technological education and research – they need to devote resources to research to keep pace with other nations that are expanding their research economies, said the report released on 3 October.
It looks at research in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.
India led regional research producers with 75,000 papers per year. Singapore, Pakistan, Malaysia and Thailand followed, each with more than 5,000 publications per year – this is double the research output over the past decade. Vietnam emerges with the fastest research publications’ growth in the region. It has increased its indexed publication volume more than five-fold since 2009.
Factors behind research growth
Several factors have led to research growth in South and East Asia from 2000, said Jonathan Adams, director of the Institute for Scientific Information and co-author of the report.
As the region has become much more stable, combined with economic growth, it has enabled greater investment in education and other public services, and the expanding higher education environment has encouraged talented researchers to return and to stay within Asia, rather than moving to universities elsewhere, Adams explained.
“As economies expand, so governments can afford to look at factors like innovation investment that increase their competitiveness, so that results in a very healthy beneficial spiral upwards,” he told University World News.
Research growth has, however, slowed down in Thailand, the second-largest economy in the region.
The reasons are unclear but political instability and economic uncertainty must play a role, said Adams, adding that the level of investment in research and development (R&D) has not been sustained – and there is weak private-sector demand for skills and innovation.
Pakistan has one of the lowest levels in the region of gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) – 0.25% as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product.
Medium-sized research economies like Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Sri Lanka reached 1,000-5,000 papers per year. Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Brunei have fewer than 500 papers per year.
While the data demonstrates the extent of research development across the region, it also reflects the disparities between population,