Productivity in physical and chemical science predicts the future economic growth of developing countries better than other popular indices

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 12;8(6):e66239. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066239. Print 2013.


Scientific productivity of middle income countries correlates stronger with present and future wealth than indices reflecting its financial, social, economic or technological sophistication. We identify the contribution of the relative productivity of different scientific disciplines in predicting the future economic growth of a nation. Results show that rich and poor countries differ in the relative proportion of their scientific output in the different disciplines: countries with higher relative productivity in basic sciences such as physics and chemistry had the highest economic growth in the following five years compared to countries with a higher relative productivity in applied sciences such as medicine and pharmacy. Results suggest that the economies of middle income countries that focus their academic efforts in selected areas of applied knowledge grow slower than countries which invest in general basic sciences.

MeSH terms

  • Chemistry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Developing Countries / economics*
  • Economic Development / statistics & numerical data*
  • Models, Econometric*
  • Physics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.