We characterize the temporal dynamics of Scientific Fitness, as defined by the Economic Fitness and Complexity (EFC) framework, and R&D expenditures at the geographic scale of nations. Our analysis highlights common patterns across similar research systems and shows how developing countries (China in particular) are quickly catching up with the developed world. This paints the picture of a general growth of scientific and technical capabilities of nations induced by the spreading of information typical of the scientific environment. Shifting the focus of the analysis to the regional level, we find that even developed countries display a considerable level of inequality in the Scientific Fitness of their internal regions. Further, we assess comparatively how the competitiveness of each geographic region is distributed over the spectrum of research sectors. Overall, Scientific Fitness represents the first high-quality estimation of the scientific strength of nations and regions, opening new policy-making applications for better-allocating resources, filling inequality gaps, and ultimately promoting innovation.

Geography of science: Competitiveness and inequality

Aurelio Patelli, Lorenzo Napolitano, Giulio Cimini, Andrea Gabrielli

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