Measuring Knowledge

15 January 1998

The 1998 World Development Report (WDR) will address issues of “Knowledge and Information for Development”. The WDR is a multi-million dollar annual World Bank report which achieves a wide circulation.

The Bank intends to argue that the global stock of knowledge is increasing rapidly because of advances in understanding scientific principles. An econometric paper will examine the contribution of knowledge to economic growth and seek to quantify the use of knowledge looking at measures such as patenting, publishing and citation.

Economists view much knowledge as a “public good” because it cannot be sold or consumed, while some generates revenue through measures such as licenses. The Report will also look at intellectual property systems, at university funding and the use of genetic material from plants and animals.

The Report will almost certainly conclude that the World Bank should increase its role in marshalling and disseminating knowledge and that governments should be cautious in spending on research and development.

Analysing such topics is fraught with methodological difficulties, but the Bank has no plans for systematic peer review or broad external consultation.

An early outline of the WDR‘s key themes is available from Carl Dahlmann at the World Bank, or from the Bretton Woods Project.