Tag Archives: academic and research libraries

Lessons from the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Global Innovation Index 2020

Last week the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) released the 13th edition of its Global Innovation Index (GII). This looks to bring together different indicators that can help governments and others understand how different countries are doing in promoting innovation, which is taken to be a key source of growth and progress towards wider development goals.

The index takes a wide perspective on innovation – not just specific activities such as patenting, but also evaluations of the innovation environment (institutions governing innovation, human capital, infrastructures, sources of finance and opportunities to sell innovative products, and businesses’ own behaviour), and a wider range of measures of outputs and their dissemination and use, including online.

The report as a whole – and the measures that underpin it – are worth exploring for anyone interested in how something as broad as innovation can be defined and measured. This is particularly true for the library field, given the role of our institutions in supporting and promoting basic research in particular, through their work with faculty in universities and other research centres.

It is also, clearly, a crucial moment to think about the way that innovation is encouraged and managed, given the impacts of COVID-19 on economies. The report includes various perspectives on funding, as well as insightful commentary on what the pandemic may mean more broadly.

This blog, as a starter, identifies five key points made in the GII 2020, which may be of particular relevance.


Spending on research and development is likely to fall – we will need to ensure what money is there is spent effectively: the most prominent graph in the report highlights that the first three months of 2019 have already seen a drop in spending on research and innovation, likely as companies became aware of the potential costs of the pandemic. Governments too are likely to look to reduce spending also in the coming months – and indeed, the latest proposal for the European Union’s Multi-year Financial Framework already (mistakenly, in the view of libraries) plans to do this.

Clearly, any decision to cut spending on innovation cannot be taken lightly. But where this is the case, it will be necessary to think hard about how to maximise efficiency. A clear way of doing this is through promoting openness in science, which has the potential to make research both faster and fairer. A wider analysis of the way research is shared can also help identify where money is being removed from the system unnecessarily, reducing that actually spent on creating and applying new ideas.


There is a positive trend towards international cooperation between researchers which should be encouraged: the report notes that despite the many stories of countries failing to coordinate around border controls or purchases of vaccines, the scientific community has proven itself readier to work across borders in order to share ideas, data and results. It underlines how much of a positive this is, echoing existing findings by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that cross-border collaborations tend to lead to higher impact research.

Support for research cooperation is a key focus for many academic libraries. Clearly encouraging openness (not only of publications, but also of science in general) will help with this by reducing (or removing) copyright-related barriers to collaboration. So too will progress towards an international legal instrument on copyright limitations and exceptions at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Yet libraries are also, through work around linked data and developing and updating standards, facilitating the sharing and use of information across borders to advance innovation.


Steps to remove red-tape have been welcome and can continue to contribute to supporting innovation: another positive underlined by the report is the effort made by many governments to simplify processes around innovation. These have focused in particular on financing, as well as on some rules around testing. Clearly it will be important in the longer term to assess which of these changes should be made permanent – rules are usually there for a reason – but this will allow for a re-evaluation.

Once again, the value of simplifying rules and processes around innovation will be positive for libraries. For example, in discussions around the copyright rules that should apply to text and data mining, it is clear that research is facilitated when there is no need to seek additional permissions, or buy additional licences in order to carry out mining – the right to read should be the right to mine. Similarly, the complexity that libraries face in giving access to digital resources, each subject to their own set of contract terms, could be easily removed by simply underlining that such terms should not be enforceable when they override copyright limitations and exceptions.


Countries with more flexible copyright regimes tend to top the tables for their regions: Once again, it is countries with flexible rules around copyright – namely fair use or fair dealing – which top the tables in five out of the seven regions highlighted by WIPO. The United States in North America, India in Southern and Central Asia, Singapore in South-East and Eastern Asia and Oceania, Israel in North Africa and Western Asia, and South Africa in Sub-Saharan Africa all have such rules.

The only exceptions are in Europe (Switzerland) and Latin America and the Caribbean (Chile). Nonetheless, both have recently updated their copyright laws to favour access to information in support of innovation. This provides a helpful argument in favour of greater flexibility as a means of supporting more innovation.


Innovation will be essential for the recovery from COVID-19: an overall point – and one that could be expected from a report with this title – is that innovation is likely to be essential for any future recovery from COVID-19. This was already the case before of course, with limits on the world’s resources meaning that ‘doing better’ has to replace ‘doing more’ as a driver of growth. Faced with COVID-19, we need to innovate both in order to find ways of carrying on with lives and services, and to create new opportunities for work and earning.

As a key part of the innovation infrastructure of any country – in particular the basic research that makes major breakthroughs possible – libraries will certainly be able to agree with the importance of a focus on encouraging the development and spread of new ideas. It is only to be hoped that governments, when taking decisions about the future, will do the same.

Library Stat of the Week #30: Countries with more librarians per student tend to have higher completion rates

In last week’s Library Stat of the Week, we explored in more depth the relationship between numbers of students and researchers as a share of the population, and numbers of academic and research librarians available to support them.

This helped to highlight the variation that exists between countries, and in particular which ones manage to combine a strong student or research sector with adequate librarian support.

Having figures for the number of students and researchers allows us to look at potential relationships between the level of library support they receive (calculated in terms of the number of students or researchers an individual academic or research librarian serves) and outcomes.

Therefore, in this week’s Library Stat of the Week, we will be using, for the first time, OECD data on tertiary education completion rates (as a measure of whether students receive the support necessary to finish their courses), and publishing and patenting data, as used in previous editions.

Graph 1: Academic/Research Library Workers per Student and Student Completion Rates

Graph 1 looks at completion rates (from OECD data, for students at all levels) and compares these with previously calculated figures about the number of students each librarian serves on average.

It finds a small, negative correlation between the two – in other words, the more students an academic/research librarian needs to serve, the lower the likelihood of the student completing their studies.

Clearly, other factors also play out – the OECD itself notes that where courses are shorter, completion rates are higher, and of course student financing also plays a role.

Nonetheless, while of course this sort of analysis cannot show causation, it does indicate that where students have greater access to librarians, they are more likely to complete their courses.


Turning to research, our previous posts looking at the relationship between libraries and innovation were based on numbers of academic/research library workers in the population as a whole.

This, while showing that more librarians tended to mean more publications and more patents, had the weakness of neglecting indicators of the strength of the research field as a whole.

To remedy this, we can now use figures from the last two weeks which calculate the number of researchers each academic/research library worker has to serve, giving a much better idea of whether more (or less) library support for research correlates with outcomes in terms of publications and patents.

Graph 2: Academic/Research Library Workers per Researcher and Publications per Researcher

Graph 2 does this for publications, looking at whether researchers with more academic library support tend to publish more. To do this, we created a measure of number of publications per researcher by dividing figures for numbers of publications (World Bank) by those for the number of researchers (OECD).

The graph does indeed show this – when each academic/research library worker has fewer researchers to serve, the researchers tend to publish more articles each.

Graph 3: Academic/Research Library Workers per Researcher and Patents per Researcher

Graph 3 performs the same exercise for patents, using a figure for patents per researcher calculated again using World Bank and OECD data.

As with publications, this again shows a correlation, with countries where each academic or research library worker needs to serve fewer researchers each, on average, having higher rates of patenting per researcher.


As ever, correlation is not causation, although the analysis here does allow us to focus more precisely on the relationship between the strength of the academic and research library field and innovation performance per country.

While further research would be needed in order to demonstrate direct causality, these figures do allow us to say that those countries which provide stronger library support to students and researchers (as measured by numbers of students or researchers per academic and research library worker) tend to have higher student completion rates, and higher rates of publishing and patenting per researcher.


Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.


Library Stat of the Week #28: On average, there are 305 students and 20 researchers per academic library worker

In recent weeks, we have looked at how numbers of academic libraries and library workers stand around the world, and what correlations there are between these, in relation to total populations, and indicators of innovation such as publishing and patenting.

Another angle worth exploring is the relationship between numbers of academic library workers, and those who benefit most directly from their services – students in tertiary education and people working in the research sector.

We can start to explore this by looking at data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics on numbers of people working in research, and OECD data on the number of people registered in tertiary education, combined with data from IFLA’s Library Map of the World.

In each case, there is not data available for every country. In particular, OECD data is focused on its own members, with a few additional countries, meaning that averages offered are only relative to a part of the world.

Graph 1: Number of Students per Academic and Research Library Worker

Graph 1 looks at students. Students can benefit strongly from well-supported academic libraries, in order to help them benefit from well-designed collections, find resources effectively, and develop key skills.

The data available indicates that on average, each full-time academic library worker serves 207.7 students. The smallest number of students per librarian was in Germany – 157.6, with eight countries in total coming below the global average, of which seven are European, and the other is Canada.

Among other regions for which data is available, Colombia had the smallest number of students per librarian in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Japan in Asia-Oceania. There are some very high figures for numbers of students in some countries, which may be due to under-counting.

Graph 2a: Number of Researchers per Academic and Research Library Worker


Graph 2b: Number of Researchers per Academic and Research Library Worker

Graphs 2a and 2b look at research personnel (to note different scales on the vertical axis). As has been underlined in previous posts, libraries are a key part of the research infrastructure for any country, not only ensuring that researchers can access knowledge and ideas from elsewhere, but also increasing helping to ensure effective dissemination and management of data.

Globally, the data indicates that there are on average 20 research workers for every worker in an academic or research library.

The smallest number of academic and research library workers per researcher was in Colombia, with 0.6. Eight countries in total have fewer than five researchers per academic and research library worker – as well as Colombia, Panama, Kazakhstan, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico and Mauritius.

Meanwhile, a number of countries had figures of more than 100 researchers per academic or research librarian, although this may be down to under-reporting of numbers of librarians.


Clearly the profile of academic libraries themselves varies strongly, depending on institutions themselves. Some will focus much more on educating undergraduates, others much more on supporting more advanced research work.

As a result, a low number of researchers per librarian can be an indicator as much of a large number of librarians (because of strong investment in research libraries) as of a small number of researchers (because a institutions has relatively little focus on research, and more on teaching in general).

A similar reflection can apply to numbers of students. A system more focused on research may therefore employ more research librarians, raising the ratio of library workers to students, but so too could a smaller number of students.

We will explore these issues further next week.


Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.

Library Stat of the Week #25: At Similar Levels of GDP, Countries with More Academic Librarians See Higher Numbers of Publications

In the past two weeks, we have explored the figures that IFLA’s Library Map of the World offers us on the subject of academic libraries and library workers. We have looked at how many there are in different parts of the world, including relative to population, and last week, as correlations between numbers of libraries and librarians, and scientific publications and patents.

In the third and final post of this mini series, we take the analysis of the last point a little further, in order to see whether the positive correlation seen in particular between numbers of academic library workers per head and publishing survives when another key factor is taken into account – the overall strength of an economy.

There is a strong reason for doing this. Graph 1 compares numbers of scientific and technical publications per 100 000 people (based on World Bank data) with calculations of Gross Domestic Product per person (adjusted for purchasing power) (also based on World Bank data).

Graph 1: GDP per capita (PPPs) and Publications per 100K People

There is a very strong correlation here. This is perhaps not surprising, given that richer economies are better able to allocate resources to support higher education and research, and of course also offer a larger market.

Nonetheless, the correlation isn’t perfect, suggesting that other factors may affect numbers of publications, other than GDP.

Interestingly, in addition, the correlation between GDP per capita and publications per 100 000 people is much stronger than that between total government spending on research and development and publications.

Secondly, we can look at the relationship between numbers of academic library workers and levels of GDP. Graph 2 does this, showing, again, a positive correlation, but this time a less strong one.

Graph 2: Academic Librarians per 100 K People and GDP Per Capita (PPPs)In other words, while in general, richer countries tend to have more academic library workers, this is not always the case. Some very rich countries have relatively few, while some poorer countries have relatively many.

This opens up the question of whether there may be any positive connection between numbers of academic library workers and publications, even when we hold GDP constant. We do this, in Graph 3, by calculating how many more or fewer publications a country is producing in relation to the overall trend, and comparing this with figures for academic library workers.

Graph 2: At Constant GDP. Do More Librarians Mean More Publications?In this graph, a negative figure on the vertical axis indicates that they are producing relatively few publications for their level of GDP per person, while a positive one indicates higher publishing rates.

As we can see, there is a gentle positive correlation here. While it is not a dramatic one, this does provide a suggestion that investing more in libraries (as a key part of the research and education infrastructure) may help drive numbers of publications.

Finally, we can go a step further and look not only at relative numbers of publications compared to what would be expected at a given level of GDP per capita, but also at which countries have a relatively high number of academic librarians given their GDP per capita.

Graph 4: Numbers of Academic Library Workers and Publications, Relative to GDP Per Capita Expectations

Graph 4 does this, taking the numbers already used for the vertical axis in Graph 3, and making new calculations, based on the average trend found in Graph 2, in order to work out whether countries have more or fewer academic library workers than expected at their level of GDP per capita.

This exercise reinforces the conclusion in Graph 3, suggesting that in two countries with the same level of GDP per capita, the one which has more academic librarians will tend to out-perform one with fewer, in terms of number of scientific publications.

Clearly, this is a point that would need further analysis in order to come to any firm conclusions of course, including study at a more detailed level, in order to see to what extent correlation could mean causality. Nonetheless, it is a welcome piece of evidence for use in advocacy.


Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.

Library Stat of the Week #24: Where there are more academic librarians, there is more publishing and patenting

As highlighted in last week’s post, academic libraries are central to any country’s infrastructure for learning and innovation. Through giving learners and researchers access to existing knowledge, and support to make the most of it, they enable work to happen that leads to social and economic progress.

Last week’s post offered an initial overview of data about academic libraries and library workers in IFLA’s Library Map of the World database, suggesting that there are, on average, 1.32 academic libraries and 10.63 academic library workers per 100 000 people.

Within this, there is strong variation across countries, with, for example, there being 26.25 academic library workers per 100 000 people in the United States, but fewer than 0.1 elsewhere.

What might this mean for the ability of countries to innovate?

In this week’s Library Stat of the Week, we’ll take a first look at data on some common metrics of innovation performance – numbers of scientific publications, and numbers of patents – in order to look for potential correlations.

For this, we can cross data from the Library Map of the World (using figures for numbers of librarians and libraries per 100 000 people), and World Bank data on scientific and technical journal articles, and on patent applications by residents, also translated into figures for numbers per 100 people.

Graph 1: Academic Libraries and Publications

Graphs 1 and 2 do this in the case of publications. The link between the strength of the academic library network and the number of scientific and technical publication is relatively clear, and makes sense intuitively.

Researchers with better access to books, journals and other resources, through libraries, are better placed to write high-quality articles themselves, likely to be accepted in good quality journals.

Graph 2: Academic Library Workers and PublicationsInterestingly, the correlation is stronger in the case of academic library workers (Graph 2) than in that of academic libraries (Graph 1).

It is likely that numbers of library workers is a better indicator of the strength of the field, both given the importance of staff in helping researchers, but also potential variation from country to country in how academic libraries are organised and counted.

While, as always, correlation does not mean causality (a point we will return to below), the graph does at least seem to back up the argument that a stronger library field will tend to support a higher publications output.

The next stage is to look at patents. These are often treated as a key indicator of the innovation performance of countries, given that they can be associated with new products, services and so business.

Graph 3 Academic Libraries and Patent ApplicationsGraphs 3 and 4 therefore repeat the exercise with patent application data, comparing numbers of academic libraries and library workers per 100 000 people.

In this, in order to avoid distortion, some countries with outlying data (notably the extremely high patenting figures for China and South Korea) have been excluded in order to allow for a better look at others.

It is clear that the relationships are less clear with patents than they are with publications. This is perhaps understandable – much patenting activity comes from businesses, while publications tend to come from universities and research centres

It is already clear that correlations are weaker here – indeed, there seems to be little correlation at all between the number of academic libraries and patents at all (Graph 3).

Graph 4: Academic Library Workers and Patent ApplicationsNonetheless, on the stronger indicator of the strength of academic library fields – the number of academic library workers per 100 000 people (Graph 4) – the correlation does reappear, although is still slightly weaker than with publications.


Overall, these results do support the conclusion that countries which perform better on traditional metrics of innovativeness are also the ones that have a stronger academic library field.

As mentioned above, this is not necessarily the same as causality. In next week’s Library Stat of the Week, we will therefore try to control for some of the other potential factors which might influence this connection.


Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.