The OECD Secretariat collects statistical data and performs studies that receive serious attention by the senior officials of member states. However, only a small fraction of these are published. The new journal STI Review (Science Technology Industry) was created to increase the public availability of such reviews and analyses. Scheduled to appear twice yearly, it is designed to contain articles that will serve as background papers for discussions on important issues.
The first volume contains three essays, each on a different topic of major current interest: the effects of new technology on employment, recent trends in international technology flows, and the role of science and technology in international competitiveness. Each provides insight not generally available in non-technical discussions.
The essay on the effects of new technology on unemployment summarizes findings of recent studies and reaches two primary conclusions. First, technological change has not been a major factor in determining employment and unemployment in OECD countries. Second, the major effects of technological change involve redistribution of labor between manufacturing and services and among occupations.
The essay on technology flows examines three types of data groups: licensing or sale of intellectual property rights and know-how, R&D performed by foreign firms, and foreign direct investment. The statistical analysis shows that the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan are the major sources of supply of patents and know-how; R&D is rapidly becoming internationalized; and the United States is now the largest destination for foreign direct investment flows.
The final essay advances the conclusion that no one aspect of policy, firm or industry structure has a dominant influence on the effective creation or utilization of science and technology for national economic benefit. To obtain maximum benefits, private sector managers and public officials must pay attention to and make good decisions about many aspects of scientific, technological, social, economic and political conditions.
Although these essays provide non-technical, well-balanced summaries of data and analyses on important issues, there are several weak spots. One is the authors' reluctance to make informed judgments about their findings. This disinclination probably reflects on the fact that these articles were produced as background reports to facilitate political discussions among representatives of nations having different policy objectives and perceptions. Also, future issues should pay closer attention to the information transmitted by charts and tables. Too often, they confuse rather than clarify.
This series could be a valuable addition to the meager literature devoted to in-depth discussion of issues in science and technology policy. Succeeding issues could help scientists, scholars and public officials obtain more comprehensive information. But it is likely that one volume per year, instead of two, may be adequate.