Thanks to a Facebook friend, I got to give a look today at a very interesting pair of graphs. The first one shows the number of researchers per million inhabitants divided by country, in a world map. The second shows the fraction of female researchers. The data comes from UNESCO, and is based on surveys dated 2011.

By looking at the first graph one notices several facts. First of all, who is on top ? It's Finland, with 0.7% of its inhabitants being researchers. Then, one notices an obvious correlation of the fraction of researchers with the economic status of the countries: Japan, England and northern European countries, the US and Canada, Australia and New Zealand lead the world rankings. It is no news to see how low is the fraction in Italy when compared with those countries: little more than a third, at 0.16%.

By hovering over the map one also learns that many states have basically no investment in research, with just tens or hundred of researchers per million inhabitants. It is not unexpected for third-world countries, of course, but there are surprises, like the 41 per million in Saudi Arabia, or the 81 per million in the Philippines. The lowest-scoring Niger, at 8 per million, is not so far away in this statistics.

The second map is a bit harder to read, because of the too coarse granularity of the color coding. But here too we discover some interesting facts. A few countries in South-east Asia (Burma, Thailand, and the Philippines) show a pocket of excellence in the employment of women as researchers. Other areas where women are engaged at least on par with men in research are most of Latin American countries and eastern Europe. In western Europe the female percentage is annoyingly low, with Germany at a mere 23% and the Netherlands at 17%.

The overall winner is Burma, surprisingly. One might argue that this is not something to boast about too much, since the high percentage of women in research there (85.5%) comes from just 18 researchers per million -  this means according to the UNESCO data that there are a total of 4038 women in research. A similarly populated country such as Italy of course beats that number by far even with the embarassingly small percentage of women (one third), given that their total is of 45,729.