Recent Release | 10 Nov 2021

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

Thought Leadership Team

Oxford Economics

No broad-based slowdown in scientific research productivity

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

About the team

Our Thought Leadership team produces original, evidence-based research made accessible to decision-makers and opinion leaders. Principals for this project included:

Edward Cone
Edward Cone

Editorial Director, Thought Leadership

+1 (336) 337 3127

Edward Cone

Edward Cone

Editorial Director, Thought Leadership

New York, United States

Editorial Director Edward Cone oversees global research programs for our Thought Leadership group. As Technology Practice Lead he works with clients such as Google, Accenture, IBM, SAP, and many others. His areas of focus include Artificial Intelligence, the impact of technology on business performance, and healthcare organizations.

Edward joined the firm in 2012 after more than two decades as a business and technology journalist based in New York, Paris, and North Carolina, including stints as an editor and writer at various Ziff Davis magazines (CIO Insight, Baseline), a contributing editor at Wired, and a staff writer at Forbes.

Edward also wrote a weekly newspaper opinion column for many years in his hometown of Greensboro, NC and authored a semi-popular blog. He has contributed to a bewildering variety of magazines and papers on topics ranging from politics to rock climbing and was a frequent speaker and organizer at new media conferences across the country. Honors for his work include the 2020 Rybczynski Prize, awarded for the best essay on economics by Society of Professional Economists, and various awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the North Carolina Press Association. He has a BA from Haverford College.

Rob Harbron

Associate Director, Economic Impact

+44 (0) 203 910 8108

Rob Harbron

Associate Director, Economic Impact

London, United Kingdom

Rob is an Associate Director in the Applied Economic Consulting team within the Economic Impact department.

Since joining Oxford Economics in 2018, he has run many high-profile economic impact studies in the aerospace, defence and transport sectors, including for clients such as BAE Systems, Leonardo UK and the European Express Association.
He has also run environmental impact studies, such as looking at the socioeconomic contribution of the European Commission’s Clean Sky 2 aviation R&D programme, and the environmental impact of the German fashion industry.

Rob has previously worked for the economics advisory team of EY, for the macroeconomics team at the Centre of Economics and Business Research, and for marketing analytics company Gain Theory. Rob has an MSc in economics and econometrics from the University of Bristol.

Related Services

Post

Enabling North American Graphite Growth

This report explores the global graphite market, rationales for trade action on Chinese graphite, and the history of Section 301 tariffs on US imports of graphite anode material from China.

Find Out More

Post

Economic impacts of Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin in Germany

This study, commissioned by the Motion Picture Association (MPA), focuses on the show “Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin”, and analyses the production’s total economic impacts in Germany in 2022, when the series was filmed. The study also considers the wider impact on Germany’s economy.

Find Out More

Post

The Impact of the Longevity Workforce on the Resilience of Spain’s Economy

This study investigates how Spain’s ageing workforce should be seen as an antidote to financial shocks and an ingredient for future economic success.

Find Out More