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Democracy, Complexity, and Science: Exploring Structural Sources of National Scientific Performance

Journal Title Science and Public Policy
Published Date January 01, 2021
Research Type


 Scholars have long hypothesized that democratic forms of government are more compatible with scientific advancement. However, empirical analysis testing the democracy–science compatibility hypothesis remains underdeveloped. This article explores the effect of democratic governance on scientific performance using panel data on 124 countries between 2007–2017. We find evidence supporting the democracy–science hypothesis. Further, using both internal and external measures of complexity, we estimate the effects of complexity as a moderating factor between the democracy–science connection. The results show differential main effects of economic complexity, globalization, and international collaboration on scientific performance, as well as significant interaction effects that moderate the effect of democracy on scientific performance. The findings show the significance of democratic governance and complex systems in national scientific performance.

TA Whetsell, AM Dimand, K Jonkers, J Baas, CS Wagner, 2021. Democracy, complexity, and science: exploring structural sources of national scientific performance, Science and Public Policy 48(5), 697-711.