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Archive for September, 2010

Is America Really #1 in Innovation?

Last month the World Economic Forum released its 2010-2011 Global Competitiveness Report.  Among the 131 countries analyzed, the United States ranks fourth overall for global competitiveness (down from ranking second in 2009 and first in 2008) but ranks number one for innovation. Such a finding should comfort policy analysts and policy makers who have long augured America is losing its innovation edge. It seems, while we could do better in overall global competiveness, when it comes to innovation the United States is the gold standard.  All is well.

But what are studies like the Global Competitiveness Report actually measuring?  According the methodology section of the report, over two-thirds of the indicators are derived from what the WEF calls the “Executive Opinion Study.”  The survey asks business leaders throughout the world questions such as, “How would you rate the protection of property rights, including financial assets, in your country? [1 = very weak; 7 = very strong].”  For the report’s innovation subsection only one of the indicators—utility patents per million population—is based on hard data.

The WEF argues surveys help form qualitative data for metrics that hard data are otherwise unavailable. 

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