Consulting Report
10 Nov 2021

The State of Scientific Research Productivity: How To Sustain A Critical Engine of Human Progress

In collaboration with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

New study challenges conventional wisdom about declining productivity but identifies meaningful issues across sectors and stages of research

All is not well in the world of scientific research. A new report from Oxford Economics and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, identifies common issues linked to lagging research productivity, along with some practical steps for improving performance across the research ecosystem.

The report indicates that the productivity rate of scientific research is not declining on a global basis, contrary to some earlier reports. Yet challenges abound. Among the major obstacles to scientific productivity – defined as the amount of output driven by a given level of investment – are pressure for quick results, technical and organizational complexity, and poor collaboration habits. Issues with government funding are another problem that often drags on research performance.

Key findings

Among the key findings, based on a 2021 survey of subject matter experts around the world, along with in-depth interviews and econometric modeling:

Public funding, which is generally beyond the control of research organizations, is growing slowly in Western economies and could be better allocated with more rigorous prioritization and clearer goals.

“Few subjects are of greater importance than the productivity of scientific research. Our study shows reasons for concern, but also for optimism.”

Adrian Cooper, CEO, Oxford Economics
The experts behind the research

Our Economic Consulting and Thought Leadership teams are world leaders in quantitative economic analysis and original, evidence-based research, working with clients around the globe and across sectors to build models, forecast markets, run extensive surveys, and evaluate interventions using state-of-the art techniques. Lead consultants on this project were:

Edward Cone

Editorial Director, Thought Leadership

Rob Harbron

Associate Director, Economic Impact

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