In DepthBehind the Numbers

DATA CHECK: For innovation, no magic in 3% rule

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Science  26 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6276, pp. 900
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6276.900

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Science policy wonks use the ratio of research spending to overall economic activity to judge whether a country is investing enough in innovation. For decades 3% has been the magic number, and Israel and South Korea are seen as technological juggernauts because their investment ratio tops 4%. (The United States stands at roughly 2.8%.) But two new reports question the 3% target. One, from the latest Science & Engineering Indicators issued by the National Science Foundation, warns that no single number can capture the key variables in a country's research portfolio. The second salvo, from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, notes that research intensity is only a small component of a larger innovation ecosystem shaped by a nation's tax, intellectual property, human capital, and trade policies.