Watching a Dream Come True: The Path to Implementing the Frascati Manual for Research & Development in Ukraine

February 21, 2024  • Nataliya Shulga, Ph.D.

It all started with a message, relayed around the world. 

On February 2, 2021, Aspen Institute Executive Vice President Elliot Gerson shared the idea for a groundbreaking initiative with the Aspen International Partners. This idea originated within the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program, created less than two years earlier. 

Based on discussions with colleagues and scientific leaders abroad, the Science & Society Program believed the Institute could be the hub of a new initiative that would bring great attention to the goal “to have country-specific, international discussion and activities centered on the status of, and opportunities for, ‘pure’ (also called ‘basic’ or ‘fundamental’) science research, in each of [the Aspen] countries and around the world.” This project would parallel the Institute’s larger strategic goal of merit-based dialogue.

Aspen Institute Kyiv CEO Yuliya Tychkivska later forwarded me the letter from Science & Society Program Director Aaron Mertz, asking if anything could be done to contribute a Ukranian perspective to the initiative. As an alumna of the Aspen Institute’s flagship Responsible Leadership Seminar and a member of the Aspen Institute Kyiv Society of Fellows, I was eager to help propel Science & Society’s idea forward.

I now serve as Senior Manager of Global Science at the Science & Society Program. Ever since my introduction to Aaron, Ukraine has become an essential part of Science & Society dialogues around global science. During our first exchanges, it was clear that Ukraine had not yet adopted international standards for monitoring research activity and that much of the essential data was missing or problematic. This situation was a real call for action.

The result of Science & Society’s proposed collaboration was In Favor of Pure Science, a report on the state of basic scientific research around the world, informed by contributions from each of the Aspen International Partners.

I had the pleasure of helping organize the panel discussion—an event with over 350 researchers, policymakers, and journalists in attendance—that would ultimately form the basis of Ukraine’s chapter. This discussion and report are worth noting not only for the rich reflection they fostered but also because of the tangible policy change they promoted, including the implementation of new standards for monitoring research and development (R&D) in Ukraine via the translated Frascati Manual.

Back to history

The scientific community has long been aware that there is no such thing as enough support for research—especially for basic research. Every year, when it comes time to put together a parliamentary, ministerial, or congressional budget for the next fiscal period, there stands the ever-present challenge to prove that a certain portion of the money should be invested into scientific activity. In other words, scientists are expected to present evidence that, without their work, there would be no economic development. 

This is not a trivial task. Pure scientific research is a risky business because it is a poorly predictable enterprise and rarely yields immediate results, yet depends on highly specialized skilled professionals, expensive equipment…and the list goes on.

Governmental officials and economists always have a thirst for numbers, data, and statistics. They also look for comparative trends in investments, including science. So, in the early 1960s, the scientific community responded with guidelines to fulfill such a demand.

Following a June 1963 conference in the Italian town of Frascati, a set of guidelines for the monitoring and measurement of R&D activities was developed and adopted under the umbrella of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Frascati Manual is meant to be a global tool and has undergone several revisions since its initial release to adapt to changes in the nature of scientific and technological (S&T) activities. The most recent version, updated in January 2022, is the Frascati Manual 2015, which reflects the latest international standards for R&D measurement.

What’s at stake?

The Frascati Manual holds incredible global importance in the realm of measuring and understanding R&D activities across countries. Its guidelines are significant in several key areas:

  • Standardization and International Comparison: The Frascati Manual offers a common framework for countries to collect and report R&D data. This uniformity allows for better comparisons and analysis within and across different regions and industries.
  • Policy Making: Governments and policymakers heavily rely on the Frascati Manual to assess the effectiveness of their R&D investments. It helps in shaping policies related to science, technology, and innovation (STI) by providing insights into R&D trends and their impacts on economic growth.
  • Resource Allocation: Organizations, both public and private, use the Frascati Manual principles to allocate resources effectively. It helps in evaluating the returns on R&D investments and directing funds towards areas with higher potential for innovation and growth.
  • Technological Progress Monitoring: As technological advancements continue to drive economies, the manual assists in tracking and understanding these changes. It aids in capturing emerging trends, such as the rise of new industries or disruptive technologies.

Over the course of several decades, new innovations in science and technology development have highlighted the need for more detailed and specific instructions on recording and monitoring. Today, the original Frascati Manual is part of a broader family of manuals developed by the OECD to provide guidelines for the collection and interpretation of STI data. The key manuals within the Frascati Family, which each focus on specific aspects of STI, include:

  • Frascati Manual: The Frascati Manual itself primarily deals with the measurement of research and experimental development activities. It provides guidelines for the collection of R&D data, defining R&D concepts, and classifying R&D activities.
  • Oslo Manual: The Oslo Manual focuses on the measurement of innovation. It provides guidelines for collecting and interpreting data on innovation activities in businesses. This includes product and process innovation, as well as organizational and marketing innovations.
  • OECD Patent Statistics Manual: The OECD Patent Statistics Manual provides guiding principles for the use of patent data in the context of S&T measurement, along with recommendations for the compilation and interpretation of patent indicators in this context. It aims to show the purposes that patent statistics can and cannot be used for, and explains how to count patents in order to maximize information on S&T activities while minimizing statistical noise and biases. It describes a wide array of topics related to technical change and patenting activity including industry-science linkages, patenting strategies by companies, internationalization of research, and indicators on the value of patents.
  • Canberra Manual (Manual on the Measurement of Human Resources Devoted to S&T): The Canberra Manual was prepared in close cooperation between the OECD and the DGXII/Eurostat of the European Commission, other OECD Directorates, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the International Labour Office (ILO), with the support of national experts. It provides definitions of human resources devoted to science and technology in terms of qualification (levels and fields of study) and occupation, as well as discusses a number of variables of policy interest.

Where was Ukraine, and where are we today?

In 2021, Ukraine was missing all of these precious tools! We couldn’t wait any longer. 

Following the lead of the Science & Society Program, I set about mobilizing Aspen Institute Kyiv. On July 5, 2021, a discussion was held wherein leading representatives of public and private scientific institutions presented their views and plans for supporting pure science in Ukraine. Among the key topics was a conversation around the importance of implementing the standardized approaches developed in the Frascati family of guidelines developed by the OECD. 

This momentum influenced the development of an initial plan and budget by the Directorate for Science and Innovation at the Ministry of Education and Science, led by Aspen Kyiv Alumnus Yulia Bezvershenko (former Director General of the Directorate). These initiatives were adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and were reflected in the 2022 budget year and the annual report as one of the important outcomes for STI. 

The license agreement with OECD was signed and translation of the manuals began.

The escalation of the war with Russia in February 2022 proved tremendously difficult for science and education in Ukraine. Accordingly, the Frascati project was put on hold. However, staff members at the Ministry continued their work on translations without compensation. There was a significant risk of losing the OECD license, or that the new Minister and his new team might forget about the project.  Nevertheless, the members of the Aspen Kyiv Society of Fellows continued their efforts in reminding and informing new leadership of the Ministry about the importance of the Frascati Manual for Ukraine. 

Persistence and perseverance of the joint work brought the feeling of great satisfaction when on November 21, 2023, Deputy Minister of Education and Science Denys Kurbatov sent me a text message with a proud statement that the first three manuals had been translated into the Ukrainian language and are publicly available on the official site of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine.

Looking ahead

Continuous efforts from stakeholders in Ukraine, coupled with institutional support from the Aspen Institute Science and Society Program and Aspen International Partners, transformed vision to reality, putting Ukraine on a brighter path for future R&D and STI activities.   

By following the best practices outlined in these manuals, Ukrainian organizations can enhance the quality and comparability of their data, leading to better-informed decision-making and contributing to policy development in the fields of research, development, and innovation within the country and on the international stage.

While it is just the first of many steps, it is a significant action to ensure a standardized approach to the collection and interpretation of STI data in Ukraine. It is also one of the fundamental steps toward the goal of Euro-Atlantic integration for Ukraine.

Thank you, Aspen Institute, for driving impact on global science!

Nataliya Shulga, Ph.D. is Senior Manager for Global Science at the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program. Dr. Shulga is a molecular biologist by training with extensive experience as a scientist, educator, policymaker, and non-profit leader in Ukraine.