Researchers are the central element of the research and development system.
Researchers are professionals engaged in the conception and creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems, as well as those who are directly involved in the management of projects. They include researchers working in both civil and military research in government, universities and research institutes as well as in the business sector.
The number of researchers is measured in full-time equivalent (i.e. a person working half-time on R&D is counted as 0.5 person-year) and expressed per thousand people employed in each country. The number of researchers includes staff engaged in R&D during the course of one year.
The data on researchers have been compiled on the basis of the methodology of the Frascati Manual. Comparability over time is affected to some extent by improvements in the coverage of national R&D surveys and by the efforts of countries to improve the international comparability of their data.
For the United States beginning 2000, the total numbers of researchers are OECD estimates. Also, data for the United States since 1985 exclude military personnel.
Data for Brazil and India do not fully comply with the guidelines of the Frascati Manual, and were compiled from national sources. Data for Brazil and South Africa are likely to be underestimated, as are the data for China before 2000.
In the OECD area, around 4 million persons were employed in research and development in 2006. Approximately two-thirds of these were engaged in the business sector.
In 2006, there were about 7.6 researchers per thousand of employed people in the OECD area, compared with 5.9 per thousand employed in 1995. This indicator has steadily increased over the last two decades.
Among the major OECD areas, Japan has the highest number of researchers relative to total employment, followed by the United States and the European Union.
Finland, Iceland, Japan, and New Zealand have the highest number of research workers per thousand persons employed. Rates are also high in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the United States. Conversely, research workers per thousand of employed people are low in Mexico and Turkey.
Among the major non-member countries, growth in the number of researchers has been steady in China although the overall level, at 1.8 per thousand of people employed in 2007, still remains well below the OECD average. The number of researchers per thousand of people employed for the Russian Federation has been falling since 1994 but this level, at 6.4 researchers per thousand employed in 2008, is similar to that of EU countries.