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Since R&D statistics largely disregard the issue of characterising the allocation channels of public money, ENID members devised a specific methodology based on the collection of data from public budgets and funding agencies, and then their elaboration to provide comparative indicators. At the same time, project participants had to provide systematic and standard descriptions of the funding instruments, because previous work had shown that the lack of this information in a usable form greatly impaired comparative work. This methodological work took almost two years and is presented in detail in the article published in Research Evaluation (Lepori et al, 2007)[1].

This project illustrates the notion of ‘positioning indicators’ that ENID has developed (see Research Evaluation, Lepori et al. 2008).

Positioning indicators aim at providing, through the ad hoc elaboration of existing data, the answer to some very specific and localised questions, such as comparing across countries the portfolio of public funding or measuring the evolution over time of its share of total public funding. Hence the indicators proposed aim at characterising the position and linkages of the different actors in the national innovation systems.

A second relevant feature of these indicators is that they are not meant to provide complete descriptions of the reality on their own, nor are they to be used directly for analytical purposes (for example, through mathematical models), but rather as descriptors to support largely qualitative analysis using more conventional sources in science policy studies. In this case the set of indicators developed clearly highlight the growing importance of project funding in all 6 initial countries examined. The level however varies enormously (from 20% in France to 42% in Norway). There are also differences concerning the channels (that is the relative importance of professional intermediary bodies such as research councils or funding agencies, from nearly zero in Italy to over 60% in Austria), the orientation (more academic in Switzerland, and innovation-oriented in the Netherlands) or the beneficiaries (mostly higher education in Switzerland, mostly the private sector in France). 

The fact that the categories for the analysis depend critically on the underlying interpretation of the reality and hence that it is perfectly legitimate to revise them for producing alternative descriptions is an important characteristic of ‘positioning indicators’. This is nicely described in the article of Thèves et al. (2007), where the authors show that the image of a very specific French research system, based on strong public research organisations, weak public universities and direct public funding of private companies, depends largely on the blind acceptance of categories that do not reflect the profound changes in the system during the last two decades. Accordingly, the authors show that considering differently the position of the joint laboratories and the role of CNRS in their funding provides an image of the French system much nearer to the practice of other European countries.

After these initial results, the project was enlarged to cover a wider set of countries. Following the recommendations of the PRIME reviewers a specific search was conducted in new member states that succeeded in attracting 3 new partners beyond Hungary – namely Poland, Estonia and the Czech Republic. This gave rise to a new special section of Science and Public Policy (2009), but, even more importantly, convinced OECD specialists in science, technology and innovation of the potential of such an approach. In 2009, following a proposal by the OECD secretariat[2] , NESTI decided to launch a first round of ‘official statistics’ which has been joined by more than 20 countries.


Science and Public Policy 2007 special issue The Power of indicators : introduction to the special issue on public project funding of research, SPP, 34(6), July 2007

The power of indicators : introduction to special issue on public project funding of research, Lepori B.

Comparing the evolution of national research policies : what patterns of change ?, Lepori B., van den Besselaar P., Dinges M., Potì B., Reale E., Slipersæter S., Thèves J. and van der Meulen B.

Monitoring sector specialisation of public and private funded business research and development, Dinges M., Berger M., Frietsch R. and Kaloudis A.

Between policy and science : research councils’ responsiveness in Austria, Norway and Switzerland, Slipersæter S., Lepori B. and Dinges M. 

Changing patterns of public research funding in France, Thèves J., Lepori B. and Larédo P.

Changing allocation models for public research funding : an empirical exploration based on project funding data, Potì B. and Reale E.

Research Evaluation 2008 Special issue (volume 17, Issue 1)

New perspectives on science, technology and innovation indicators : introduction to special section, Lepori B

New perspectives and challenges for the design and production of S&T indicators, Lepori B., Barré R. and Filliatreau G.

Measuring and assessing researcher mobility from CV analysis : the case of the Ramón y Cajal programme in Spain, Cañibano C., Otamendi J. and Andújar I.

Positioning indicators for cross-disciplinary challenges : the Dutch coastal defense research case, Merkx F. and van den Besselaar P.


Science and Public Policy 2009 special section on public research funding systems in central and eastern Europe edited by Slavo Radosevic and Benedetto Lepori (volume 36, number 9.

Public research funding systems in central and eastern Europe : between excellence and relevance : introduction to special section, S. Radosevic and B. Lepori.

Comparing the organization of public research funding in central and eastern European countries, B. Lepori, J. Masso, J. Jabłecka, K. Sima, K. Ukrainski.

Competition for public project funding in a small research system : the case of Estonia, J. Masso and K. Ukrainski.

Between historical heritage and policy learning : the reform of public research funding systems in Poland, 1989-2007, J. Jabłecka, Julita and B. Lepori.



[1] Lepori B. et al. (2007), Indicators for comparative analysis of Public Project Funding : Concepts, Implementation and Evaluation, Research Evaluation 16 (4)

[2] OECD NESTI launch of a group for internationally comprable indicators on public funding of R&D (cf proposal NESTI 2009-8)



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