Study in European countries
Europe is a small continent populated by a range of small countries. Larger countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy understandably dominate research productivity in absolute and quantitative terms. Meanwhile, several of the smaller, high-income countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland are also rightly recognised for producing and exploiting their high quality research.
Other smaller countries, however, have tended to receive less attention despite being potentially as effective or even more so compared to their larger counterparts. They are nevertheless keen to demonstrate their standing relative to their size or resources. This can be achieved by linking a country’s research outputs to its relevant research inputs. In addition, further evaluation relies on normalised indicators of productivity and impact.
The trouble with many comparisons using simple input measures, such as funding, is that they do not fully capture the significant issues of research productivity, impact, and efficiency. Thus, to ensure fair comparisons, the differential levels of research intensity and research capacity between countries also need to be considered.
This is particularly relevant for a small country like Wales, with 3 million inhabitants, representing only 5% of the UK population. Of the four UK constituting countries, it has the lowest regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, one of the lowest levels of R&D investment—measured through the Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD)—and the lowest level of research intensity; which is measured in terms of GERD as share of GDP. Although an integral part of the UK’s research base, Wales, unlike Scotland, has lacked a formal appraisal of its own research base. Such independent assessments are important for small countries such as Wales, given that the quality of the research base is increasingly employed as an indication of a sector or country’s reputation and ability to compete successfully in the global economy.