R & D personnel


Data extracted in February 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: January 2018.
Figure 1: Researchers in full-time equivalents (FTE), 2005 and 2015
(thousand FTE)
Source: Eurostat (tsc00004)
Figure 2: Researchers in full-time equivalents (FTE), by sector, 2015
(% of total)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_persocc)
Figure 3: Gender analysis of researchers, 2014
(% of total researchers, based on head count)
Source: Eurostat (rd_p_femres)
Figure 4: Proportion of R & D personnel in full-time equivalents (FTE), by sector, 2015
(% of labour force)
Source: Eurostat (tsc00002)
Figure 5: Human resources in science and technology, 2015
(% of labour force)
Source: Eurostat (hrst_st_ncat)
Figure 6: People who have a tertiary education and work in a science and technology occupation, 2011 and 2015
(% of labour force)
Source: Eurostat (hrst_st_ncat)
Figure 7: Science and technology graduates, 2013 and 2014
(tertiary graduates in science and technology per 1 000 persons aged 20–29 years)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_grad04)
Figure 8: Science and technology graduates, 2014
(tertiary graduates in science and technology per 1 000 persons aged 20–29 years)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_grad04)
Figure 9: PhD students (ISCED level 8), 2015
(thousands)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt01)
Figure 10: PhD students (ISCED level 8), 2014
(% of total PhD students)
Source: Eurostat (educ_uoe_enrt03)

This article analyses data on research and development (R & D) personnel, researchers, human resources in science and technology (HRST) and doctorate/PhD students in the European Union (EU). Statistics on science and technology personnel are key indicators for measuring the knowledge-based economy and its developments, for example, providing information on the supply of, and demand for, highly qualified science and technology specialists.

Main statistical findings

Researchers and R & D personnel

The number of researchers in the EU-28 has increased in recent years: there were 1.82 million researchers (in full-time equivalents (FTE)) employed in the EU-28 in 2015 (see Figure 1), which marked an increase of 443 thousand (or 32.2 %) when compared with 2005. The number of researchers almost doubled between 2005 and 2015 in Portugal, Ireland and Greece, while the number fell in Finland and Romania; note that there is a break in series for several of the countries shown in Figure 1.

Among the non-member countries, the number of researchers in China (excluding Hong Kong) reached 1.52 million in 2014, which was slightly higher than in the United States (1.27 million; 2012 data); both of these values were below the total number of researchers in the EU-28 in 2014. During the period 2005 and 2014, the number of researchers in Turkey more than doubled, while the number almost doubled in South Korea. The only non-member countries among those for which data are shown in Figure 1 to report a reduction in their number of researchers between 2005 and 2015 were Russia and Iceland.

An analysis of R & D personnel by sector in 2015 shows that in the EU-28 there was a high concentration of researchers in the business enterprise sector (49 %) and the higher education sector (39 %), while 12 % of the total number of researchers were working in the government sector. The relative importance of the different sectors varied considerably across the EU Member States, with business enterprises accounting for three fifths or more of all researchers in Sweden, Austria and France (2014 data). By contrast, the government sector employed the highest share of researchers in Romania (38 %). A majority of researchers working in Portugal (66 %), Greece (65 %), Latvia (64 %), Cyprus (61 %), Lithuania (59 %), Slovakia (59 %), the United Kingdom (58 %), Estonia (58 %) and Croatia (56 %) were employed within the higher education sector, and this sector also accounted for the highest share (although less than 50 %) of all researchers in Spain, Italy and Luxembourg. In terms of its number of researchers, the private non-profit sector was the smallest in all EU Member States; its highest share (8 % of all researchers) was recorded in Cyprus, while the next highest share of researchers employed in the private non-profit sector was in Italy (4 %).

An analysis by sex shows that men accounted for 67 % of the EU-28’s workforce of researchers in 2014. Women accounted for at least half of the total number of researchers in 2014 in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia (where their share peaked at 52 %), while the share of women in the total number of researchers was also close to parity in Croatia (see Figure 3). The gender gap in terms of the number of researchers was largest in the Netherlands and France where at least three quarters of all researchers were men.

R & D personnel from all sectors together accounted for a share of 2.0 % or more of the labour force in Denmark and Luxembourg in 2015, compared with an EU-28 average of 1.2 %. Aside from these two EU Member States, the share of R & D personnel in the labour force ranged from 0.3 % in Cyprus and 0.4 % in Romania up to 1.7 % in Sweden and 1.9 % in Finland (see Figure 4).

Human resources in science and technology

Human resources in science and technology (HRST) provide information concerning the demand for and the supply of people with high qualifications in science and technology. More than 76 million people in the EU-28 were employed in science and technology (S and T) occupations in 2015; this made up almost one third (31.5 %) of the total labour force (see Figure 5). Persons in S and T occupations accounted for over half (50.8 %) of the total labour force in Luxembourg in 2015 and for two fifths or more of the total in Sweden (41.5 %) and Denmark (40.0 %), as well as in Switzerland (42.3 %) and Norway (42.1 %). The lowest share was recorded in Romania, which was the only EU Member State where less than one fifth (19.1 %) of the labour force was employed in an S and T occupation; the share in Greece was just above this threshold, at 20.1 %, while Spain, Bulgaria and Slovakia each recorded shares that were below one quarter.

Although the letters S and T in the official definition of HRST in the Canberra manual refer to science and technology, the definition is not restricted to science and technology in the strict sense. HRST by education covers all fields of study, in other words anybody who successfully completed a tertiary level education. The HRST ‘core’ (HRSTC) — which is made up of people who possess a tertiary level education and are employed in science and technology occupations — amounted to 49 million persons in 2015 across the whole of the EU-28, or just over one fifth (20.1 %) of the total labour force. Concerning the HRST ‘core’, the range between countries was similar to that observed for HRST occupations. Slovakia, Romania and Italy were the only EU Member States to report that less than 15.0 % of their labour force were HRST ‘core’ in 2015, while at the other end of the scale this share rose to 28.8 % in Finland and 36.2 % in Luxembourg (see Figure 5).

Between 2011 and 2015 there was a considerable increase in the relative importance of people classified as HRST ‘core’ within the EU-28’s labour force, as their share rose by 1.6 percentage points (see Figure 6). In fact, this share increased in all EU Member States except for Germany (where it fell by 1.0 percentage points) and Greece (down 0.1 points). The largest increases in the relative importance of the HRST core workforce were recorded in Portugal (up 4.0 percentage points) and Austria (up 6.9 points); note that there is a break in series for all countries.

Science and technology graduates

Moving away from the broad definitions of HRST, Figures 7 and 8 look at science and technology fields of education: these include science, maths, computing, engineering, manufacturing and construction. Within the EU-28 there were 18.7 graduates from science and technology fields of education per 1 000 persons aged 20 to 29 years in 2014. Among the EU Member States, particularly high ratios — above 20.0 graduates per 1 000 persons aged 20 to 29 years — were recorded in Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Austria, the United Kingdom, France and Ireland (where this ratio peaked at 24.7 graduates). Note this ratio should be interpreted with care as some graduates reported by a country may be foreigners who return home following their studies and so push up the ratio in the country where they studied and pull down the ratio for their country of origin; this may explain to a large extent the very low ratio recorded in one of the smallest EU Member States, namely Luxembourg (3.5 graduates from science and technology fields of education per 1 000 persons aged 20 to 29) and also the relatively low ratio recorded for Cyprus (9.2 %).

An analysis of science and technology graduates by sex shows that men (aged 20–29) were more likely to graduate in these fields than women: in 2014, the EU-28 registered 24.5 male tertiary graduates in these fields per 1 000 men aged 20–29 and 12.7 female tertiary graduates per 1 000 women of the same age, a difference of 11.8 per 1 000. A gender gap was observed in all EU Member States in 2014, ranging from 3.0 per 1 000 in Luxembourg to 21.4 per 1 000 in Austria and 24.1 per 1 000 in Ireland. Among the non-member countries shown in Figure 8, Liechtenstein stood out as the share of women aged 20–29 who were science and technology graduates (10.7 per 1 000 women aged 20–29) was slightly higher than the equivalent share for men (10.0).

Doctoral students

A similar but more specific measure of a country’s potential research capability is provided by the number of doctoral (PhD) students (see Figure 9). There were an estimated 738 thousand doctoral students in the EU-28 in 2014.

Women accounted for slightly less than half (an estimated 46 %) of doctoral students in the EU-28 in 2014. The gender split of doctoral students across the EU Member States was typically quite balanced: women accounted for more than half of all the doctoral students in 14 of the Member States in 2014 or 2015, their share peaking at 59.7 % in Lithuania and 60.8 % in Latvia in 2015. In the remaining 14 Member States, where men were in a majority, the share of women was generally 44 % or higher, with just Malta (38.9 %; 2015 data) below this level. In Norway and Serbia (both 2015 data), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2014 data) and Iceland (2013 data), more than half of all doctoral students were also women, although in Japan (33.0 %; 2014 data) and Liechtenstein (29.8 %; 2015 data) their share was below one third of the total.

In relative terms, the broad group covering the fields of science, maths, computing, engineering, manufacturing and construction accounted for 43.7 % of the doctoral students in the EU-28 in 2014, a proportion that was higher than in any of the non-member countries shown in Figure 10; in the United States the share was 42.2 % while in Japan it was 30.8 %. Among the EU Member States, this group of education fields accounted for more than half of all doctoral studies in Slovenia, Germany and Luxembourg, while the lowest share was 29.9 % in Austria. The next most common fields in the EU-28 for doctoral studies were social science, business and law (20.6%) and education, humanities and arts (19.7 %).

Data sources and availability

R & D personnel

Statistics on R & D personnel are compiled using guidelines laid out in the 6th edition of the Frascati manual, published in 2002 by the OECD. R & D personnel include all persons employed directly within R & D, as well as persons supplying direct services (such as managers, administrative staff and clerical staff). For statistical purposes, indicators on R & D personnel are compiled as both head counts (HC) and as full-time equivalents (FTEs). Researchers are a subcategory of R & D personnel and are professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems, and in the management of the projects concerned.

Human resources in science and technology (HRST)

Statistics on human resources in science and technology (HRST) are compiled using guidelines laid out in the Canberra manual, prepared in cooperation between the OECD, European Commission, UNESCO and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and published in 1995. HRST data can be analysed by sex, age, region, sector of activity, occupation, educational attainment and fields of education (although not all combinations are possible). Data relating to stocks of HRST provide information on the number of HRST at a particular point in time. For HRST statistics, stock data relate to the employment status as well as the occupational and educational profiles of individuals.

HRST based on education (HRSTE) are persons having successfully completed tertiary education which is defined as levels 5, 6, 7 or 8 of the 2011 version of the international standard classification of education (ISCED). Previously it was defined as levels 5 (a or b) or 6 of the 1997 version of ISCED.

HRST based on occupation (HRSTO) are persons who are employed in science and technology occupations as ‘professionals’ or ‘technicians and associate professionals’ within the international standard classification of occupations (ISCO-08).

Persons who fulfil both education and occupation criteria are classified as the HRST ‘core’ (HRSTC).

Information on HRST flows from education are obtained from a UNESCO/OECD/Eurostat questionnaire on education and can be used to provide a measure of the current and future supply of HRST from the education system, in terms of actual inflows (graduates from the reference period) and potential inflows (students participating in higher education during the reference period).

Science, technology and innovation

Statistics on science, technology and innovation are based on Decision No 1608/2003/EC of the European Parliament and the Council concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology. The Decision was implemented through European Commission Regulation (EC) No 753/2004 on statistics on science and technology which was adopted in 2004. In 2012, a new European Commission Regulation (EU) No 995/2012 concerning the production and development of Community statistics on science and technology was adopted.

Science and technology graduates are defined as the number of new graduates from all public and private institutions completing science and technology-related graduate and postgraduate studies in the reference year. To facilitate comparisons, the number of graduates may be expressed relative to the total number of persons aged 20–29 years and 25–29 years.

Doctoral students

Indicators based on the number of doctoral (PhD) students give an idea of the extent to which countries will have researchers at the highest level of education in the future. The data relate to the number of students in the reference year; they do not refer to the number of new graduates or to the total number (stock) of graduates in the labour market that year. The number of doctoral students is measured as students enrolled in ISCED 2011 level 8: this level concerns tertiary programmes which lead to the award of an advanced research qualification. Programmes at this ISCED level are devoted to advanced study and original research and are typically offered only by research-oriented tertiary educational institutions such as universities. Doctoral programmes exist in both academic and professional fields.

Context

The European Research Area (ERA) is composed of all research and development activities, programmes and policies in Europe which involve a transnational perspective. In May 2008, the European Commission adopted a Communication to launch an initiative titled, ‘Better careers and more mobility: a European partnership for researchers’ (COM(2008) 317 final). The goal of this initiative is to improve the mobility of researchers and to enhance the diffusion of knowledge throughout Europe, by: balancing demand and supply for researchers at a European level; helping create centres of excellence; and improving the skills of researchers in Europe.

With this in mind, the EU and its Member States set-up a pan-European initiative — EURAXESS: researchers in motion — which is designed to deliver information and support researcher mobility and career development, while enhancing scientific collaboration between Europe and the world. The same gateway is also used to promote the European Commission’s initiative titled Science4Refugees, which is designed to help refugee researchers find jobs and to support refugee scientists in finding European researchers with whom they may discuss problems, find solutions and study together.

In December 2008, the Competitiveness Council adopted a definition for a 2020 vision for the ERA. According to the opening statement of this vision, all players should benefit from: the ‘fifth freedom’, introducing the free circulation of researchers, knowledge and technology across the ERA; attractive conditions for carrying out research and investing in R & D intensive sectors; Europe-wide scientific competition, together with the appropriate level of cooperation and coordination. This vision is part of the wider goals contained within the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

In November 2011, the European Commission presented a successor for the 7th framework programme for research and technological development by announcing Horizon 2020, a programme for investing nearly EUR 80 billion in research and innovation, implementing the innovation union. The Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions, under the ‘excellent science’ pillar of Horizon 2020, aim to support the career development and training of researchers — with a focus on innovation skills — in all scientific disciplines through worldwide and cross-sector mobility.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Research and development (t_research)
Statistics on research and development (t_rd)
Human resources in Science & Technology (t_hrst)
Education and training outcomes (t_educ_outc)
Science and technology graduates by sex (tps00188)

Database

Research and development (research)
Statistics on research and development (rd)
R&D personnel at national and regional level (rd_p)
Human Resources in Science &Technology (hrst)
Stocks of HRST at national and regional levels (hrst_st)
Flows of HRST at national level (hrst_fl)
Participation in education and training (educ_part)
Pupils and students - enrolments (educ_uoe_enr)
Tertiary education (educ_uoe_enrt)
Education and training outcomes (educ_outc)
Graduates (educ_uoe_grad)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Other information

External links