UNESCO plays an important international role in enabling and encouraging the comparative analysis of national research systems. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics, for example, collects statistics from member nations on research and resources available for research. It provides advice to member nations on the collection of such data, and updates its S&T database every other year.
Periodically UNESCO issues its World Science Report which provides an overview of the global research system.
In January of this year, UNESCO held a Symposium on Comparative Analysis of National Research Systems. The website provides not only guidelines for such analysis, but also reports on the research systems of a large number of member states.
Currently UNESCO is seeking applications to present papers or attend a meeting of its Global Research Seminar at the end of November. That meeting will address the draft guidelines from the Symposium, and more generally will "discuss new and ongoing research, identify research gaps and suggest new research agendas on systems of higher education, research and knowledge."
The United States, in its effort to retain global leadership in research and development benefits from UNESCO's efforts to develop this global system of data which allows international comparisons of research systems. More importantly, the system encourages all the countries of the world to bear their fair shares of the burden of development of knowledge and technology, thereby supporting the rapid growth of the world's scientific knowledge. This knowledge is one of the more important "commons" benefiting us all.