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Factors that Influence Stem Cell Research Essay


Gross Domestic Product

Gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the measures of a country’s economic growth or performance. GDP is defined as “the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time” (Mankiw, 2008, p. 510). The use of the market price reflects the willingness of people to purchase the goods and services in question.

The definition of GDP has several implications. First and foremost, GDP measures the value of all goods and services irrespective of whether they are tangible or intangible. Secondly, GDP takes into account only the final goods and services and eliminates the intermediate goods. Intermediate goods are goods used in the production of final goods.

Final goods on the other hand are goods which are meant for final consumption. By not taking into account the intermediate goods, GDP as a measure of an economy’s growth progress avoids double counting. This is because the value of intermediate goods is always included in the value of the final goods.

Third, GDP is geographically bound. It only measures the value of goods and services produced within a country, irrespective of the producer. For instance, the GDP of the United States measures the value of goods and services produced within the boundaries of the United States, by people living in the U.S. even if they are not American citizens.

A Japanese automotive company located in the U.S. would contribute towards U.S. GDP. On the other hand, an American company located in Japan or elsewhere does not contribute towards the GDP of the U.S. Lastly, GDP as a measure is time-bound. GDP is always measured within a period of one year. It is important to note that GDP can be measured as an income flow or expenditure.

Households use their income to purchase goods and services. The income received by firms from the sale of goods and services is then used to pay the factors of production, which then becomes their incomes. Hence, the expenditures in the economy end up as incomes to economic agents, implying that incomes equal the expenditures in the economy (Mankiw, 2008).

Relationship between gross domestic product and research

Gross domestic product is a reflection of not only the level of incomes earned by economic agents but also the level of expenditures by the same economic agents. Research in general is an expensive undertaking that requires heavy financial investments, mainly from big organizations, firms and the government.

A country with a high GDP growth rate is more likely to undertake research studies in various fields as compared to countries with low GDP growth rates. The relationship between GDP and gross domestic product has been examined by Spitzmueller et al. (2010). Spitzmueller et al. (2010) argued that research undertakings require adequate financial resources, especially if the research is highly technical in nature.

Spitzmueller et al. (2000) found a positive and strong relationship between gross domestic product and research activity (p. 277). This implies that high GDP growth rates translate into increased research activity. Other studies have also found a positive relationship between GDP and research activity.

For instance, Rosmarakis et al. (2005) found a positive relationship between GDP and research on cardiovascular diseases.

Falagas, Karavasiou and Bliziotis (2005) found a close relationship between GDP and virology research, while Vergidis et al. (2005) found a positive relationship between GDP and research in microbiology. The justification given for this outcome is that increased and productive research activity requires a stable and strong economy with high levels of investments in the research field.

Speculation on the relationship between gross domestic product and stem cell research

Given the positive relationship between GDP and conventional research, the speculation is a positive relationship between GDP and stem cells research. Stem cell research is an expensive but valuable undertaking due to its potential of developing treatments for a wide range of degenerative conditions.

The speculative positive relationship between GDP and stem cell research implies that countries with high GDP growth rates are more likely to engage in stem cell research than their counterparts with low GDP growth rates.

Gross Domestic Product per Capita

Gross domestic product per capita (GDP per capita) is a better measure of a country’s development progress. It is the measure of the income per person measured within a certain period of time, normally one year (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2009, p. 54). It is therefore obtained by dividing the gross domestic product by the total population of a country.

It is a reflection of a country’s standard of living because it takes into account the country’s population. A country may record high GDP growth rate but low GDP per capita if its population size is big. Therefore, such a country may have low standards of living. On the other hand, a second country may record lower GDP growth rate but still have higher standards of living if its population size is small.

GDP per capita therefore tells how the economic growth of country is distributed among the country’s population and whether or not such a growth has any significant impact on the country’s population. GDP per capita is composed of two parts. The first part is GDP per capita resulting from growth in labor productivity. This is measured as GDP per hour worked.

The second part is GDP per capita resulting from growth in labor utilization. This component is measured as hours worked per person. Increase in labor utilization can have significant effects on the growth of GDP per capita. For instance, a low rate of labor utilization combined with high growth of labor productivity indicates that an economy is using more of capital and less of labor.

Relationship between gross domestic product per capita and research

Gross domestic product per capita, as earlier discussed, reflects the level of income per person in a country. Countries with high per capita GDP have higher standards of living, as measured by their high educational level, high employment levels, better health status, and higher acquisition of technical and scientific skills.

People with higher personal incomes can afford to advance their educational and skill levels to the point where they become competent in scientific and technical research. According to the study conducted by Spitzmueller et al. (2010), there is a positive and significant correlation between per capita GDP and research activity.

This finding is also supported by the study conducted by Guerin et al. (2008). Guerin et al. (2008) found a significant correlation between GDP per capita of greater than $20,000 and research activity.

Speculation on the relationship between gross domestic product per capita and stem cell research

The speculation is a positive relationship between GDP per capita and stem cell research. Countries recording high GDP growth rates but having smaller populations are likely to have higher stem cell research than countries with high GDP growth rates but having larger population sizes. Thus, there should be a difference in the output of stem cell research among the developed countries based on their population sizes.

Gross National Expenditures

Gross national expenditure is the total amount of spending by households and firms on goods and services in an economy (Hoover, 1970, p. 257). Gross national expenditure is identical to gross national income and gross national product. This is because the incomes received by economic agents are spending by other economic agents. For instance, the wage received as an income by an employee is expenditure to a firm.

Similarly, the gross national expenditure is equal to the value of all goods and services produced; the gross national product. Gross national expenditures are therefore an indicator of the economic progress of a country. Countries with high gross national expenditures record high economic growth rate and vice versa, because expenditures stimulate economic growth.

Nevertheless, the object on which the expenditures are made is as important as the level of expenditure. Countries with impressive economic growth track spend their national incomes on productive sectors, which stimulate economic growth rather than on redundant sectors, which hinder growth.

Gross national expenditures on research give an indication of the amount of money that is channeled into research activity (Godin, 2003). Besides this, the gross national expenditures on education, vocational training, scientific and technical training, building of infrastructure that supports research, human capital development, and capacity building are all good indicators of the emphasis a country places on research activity.

The relationship between gross national expenditure and research

A positive relationship has been found between gross national expenditure and research. Spitzmueller et al. (2010) found that research activity increases with an increase in expenditure on public education and health.

Speculation on the relationship between gross national expenditure and stem cell research

The speculative relationship between gross national expenditure and stem cell research is a positive correlation. Stem cell research should increase with an increase in gross national expenditures. However, this relationship may not hold. The direction of this relationship depends to a large extent on which sectors of the economy experience high levels of expenditures.

If high levels of expenditures are witnessed in the education and health sectors, then the positive relationship will hold. However, if the country spends much of its income on non-productive sectors such as the military and spends less on the education and health sectors, the relationship between gross national expenditure and stem cell research could be negative.

Population

The total number of population and its growth rate is important to any economy. Of significant importance to any country is the composition of its population. This refers to whether the population has more males and fewer females or more females and fewer males. In addition, the structure of the population matter a lot.

This refers to the number of population in the child age bracket (0-15 years), the number of persons in the productive age bracket (15-65 years) and the number of persons in the aged bracket (65 years and above).

The number of persons in the child age bracket and those in the aged bracket make up the number of dependent persons in the country because people in this age brackets have to rely on others for support, be it financial, emotional or physical support. As a result, a country with a high dependency ratio would fair poorly than one with a high proportion of population in the productive age bracket.

This is because the country would be forced to channel its resources towards the welfare of the dependent population by providing social services such as free or subsidized child care and services for the elderly (Katsumata, 2000). These resources could have been used in more productive sectors of the economy thus driving the country’s economic growth.

A country with a high proportion of its population in the productive age bracket has an abundant of labor force which is a key driver of economic growth and development. However, this can only be positive if the country has policies that increase employment opportunities for this population age bracket.

If the employment level is high, then a high population in the productive age bracket would have a positive impact on the growth of a country. On the other hand, if the country has low employment levels and high unemployment levels, a high population in the productive age bracket would have adverse effects on the country’s economic growth.

This is because the idleness of these energetic people would force them into vices such as crimes, drug dealing and trafficking.

In the end, the country would have a heavy burden of not only trying to control the vices but also trying to redeem the young people and the society through services such as rehabilitation and imprisonment of criminals. All these activities require heavy investment by the state, which could have been used in more productive sectors of the economy.

The issue of population cannot be mentioned without taking into account the aspect of human capital. Human capital entails building up the knowledge, skills and technical know-how of the population so as to increase its productivity (Fu, Dietzenbacher & Los, 2007).

Human capital is built through educational systems especially in higher learning institutions, vocational training, industrial training, scientific and technical training (Murphy & Traistaru-Siedschlag, 2007). Human capital is one of the major reasons behind the economic success of the developed countries as well as the newly industrializing countries of Asia.

The governments of these countries invest heavily in their education systems and in the after-school training of their population. This helps to equip the populations with knowledge, skills and expertise needed in running industries, creating new industries, creating new innovations and inventions and engaging in high technical research fields.

The relationship between population and research

According to existing literature, there is a negative significant correlation between population size and research activity.

For instance, Spitzmueller et al. (2010) found that even though the United States published more articles in radiological research than other developed countries, the research output was higher among small European countries such as Switzerland and the Netherlands than among the developed countries with large population sizes such as the United States.

Fritzsche et al. (2008) studied the contributions made by European Union members and non-members towards research in pathology between 2000 and 2005. They found that the small countries, mainly in northern Europe had higher efficiency in research output than the large European countries in the western part.

Oelrich, Peters and Jung (2007) carried out a bibliometric study of studies published by European Union countries in radiology between 2000 and 2005. They found that without making population adjustments, the large countries of United Kingdom, Germany and Italy had the highest number of published work.

However, when population adjustments were made, the small countries of Austria, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands and Sweden had a higher research output than the large countries. Similar results were also found by Ramos et al. (2009) who found Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands to have the highest research activity in infectious diseases after taking into account the population sizes of the sample countries.

Speculation on the relationship between population and stem cell research

The relationship between population size and stem cell research is likely to be negative. This implies that countries with smaller population sizes are likely to have higher activity in stem cell research than countries with larger population sizes.

Number of Scientific and Technical Journal Articles

The number of scientific and technical journal articles in a country is a reflection of the intensity of research activity. Countries with high numbers of published scientific and technical articles have higher research activity compared to countries with few published articles.

The reason behind this is that any scientific or technical article written for publication undergoes a long and stringent process of review, fact-checking, and assessment before it can be accepted for publication (Spitzmueller et al., 2010). Published articles are also of high quality.

Publication drives the research process in a number of ways. To begin with, they provide readers with information on what has been researched on and what has not been researched on in a particular field; that is, the literature gap.

Second, publication of scientific articles provide the basis upon which future research activities can be conducted either to improve on the current findings or to research on an area that has not been touched on. As a result, publication helps to improve not only research but also the output.

For instance, if an article focuses on a new treatment for an illness but identifies the weaknesses of the drug, future studies can be done to help overcome the identified weaknesses so as to enhance the efficacy of the treatment.

Relationship between the number of scientific and technical journal articles and stem cell research

There is a positive relationship between the number of scientific and technical journal articles and stem cell research. Countries with high numbers of published articles engage in more research activity than countries with low numbers of published articles. Publishing is expensive and requires heavy financial and human resources investments.

Therefore, it is no wonder that countries with high national and per capita incomes have high numbers of published articles and engage more in scientific and technical research than low-income countries.

The relationship between the number of scientific and technical journal articles and stem cell research has been examined by various researchers. Mela et al. (2003) examined the proportion of published scientific articles by European scientists as well as scientists from other parts of the world.

They found that the number of published scientific articles is highest in Western European countries and in the United States, and low in other parts of Europe and the world. Soteriades et al. (2001) found that the United States is the leader in the number of articles published in the topmost 50 biomedical journals. Closely following the U.S. is Canada and Western Europe.

The other regions of the world such as Asia, Africa, Latin America, Oceania, Caribbean and Japan lag far behind.

Contrary to the studies, the study by Bliziotis et al. (2005) showed that although the United States and Western Europe had the highest number of published scientific articles, the rate of increase in published articles between 1995 and 2000 was higher among the other regions of the world than in the U.S. and Western Europe.

The study by Bliziotis et al. (2005) was contradicted by the study by Michalopoulos and Falagas (2005) who found that the number of published articles and the rate of increase in published articles were higher in the United States and Western Europe between 1995 and 2003 whereas the number of publications was low in other parts of the world.

In critical care research, Michalopoulos et al. (2005) found that the number of published articles increased significantly in Canada and Japan between 1995 and 2003, even though the United States and Western Europe had the highest number of published articles in the field.

Speculation on the relationship between the number of scientific and technical journal articles and stem cell research

The relationship between the number of scientific and technical journal articles and stem cell research is likely to be positive. This implies that countries with high numbers of scientific and technical articles are more likely to engage in stem cell research than countries with low numbers of scientific and technical articles.

Patents

A patent is a right given to owners of innovation or invention to prevent others from misusing the innovation/invention or claiming it as their own without the owners’ permission. The issuing of patents began with the Great Britain and the United States from as early as 1630 and 1790 respectively, through the enactment of patent laws in these countries (Mansfield, 1986).

Patent rights have been granted in different industries such as the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. Since then, adjustments have been continuously made and other countries, both in developed and developing worlds, have joined the U.S. and Great Britain in providing patent protection.

The move to offer patent protections was partly driven by U.S. pressure on other countries to do so and partly by organizations such as World Trade Organization (WTO) whose membership mandated patenting of innovative and inventive products and processes.

For instance, the U.S. enacted the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 which included Special 301 provision that directs the U.S. to carry out investigations of the protection of U.S. intellectual property holders by foreign countries.

Such investigations forced many developing countries in Asia and Latin America to either introduce or strengthen their existing patent laws.

In addition, the implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement of 1995 WTO Agreement mandated all member countries to give patents to innovative products and processes. Thus majority of the countries that do not provide patent protection are either least-developed countries or not members of WTO (La Croix & Liu, 2009).

Relationship between patents and research

The relationship between patents and research has attracted much attention from scholars. The reason behind this is that innovation by firms is crucial in enhancing their productivity and is one of the major driving forces of economic growth in developed countries.

Gurmu and Perez-Sebastian (2007) carried out a study to examine the relationship between patents and research and development at the firm level in the United States manufacturing sector in the 1982-1992-period. The researchers found a strong and significant correlation between patents and research and development. This implies that high number of patents is positively related with research activity.

Thus, countries with strong patent protection rights have higher research output than countries with lenient patent rights. Rassenfosse and Potterie (2008) also examined the degree to which the number of patents reflect the propensity to patent and research output.

They argue that research productivity is highly influenced by education policies and science and technology policies. The researchers found that although the number of patents has a significant effect on research output, such an effect is dependent on the patent practices adopted by countries.

Jaffe and Lerner (1999) examined the impact of changes in patenting laws in the United States on state-owned research institutes. They argued that while universities make up a smaller percentage of research institutions and government-owned researcher institutes make up a bigger portion of all research institutes, little attention has been given to the latter.

From their study, the researchers found that the policy changes of the 1980s had a significant and positive impact on technology transfer through increased patenting activities. This shows a positive relationship between patents and research activity.

Speculation on the relationship between patents and stem cell research

The relationship between patents and stem cell research is likely to be positive. This implies that the intensity of stem cell research is likely to be higher in countries with high number of patents than in countries with low number of patents.

Biotechnology Patents

Biotechnology is viewed as one of the most promising technologies. However, this technological field is highly capital-intensive (Forsyth, 2000). As a result, investors of biotechnologies need to be assured that their investments would earn them rewards. In a competitive market, this is difficult to achieve because of the free rider problem, which would entail the use of the technology by others who have not invested in it.

Competitors can easily imitate the technology without incurring costs of the inventor and then bring it to the market at a lower price than that which would be charged by the inventor.

This situation is discouraging to inventors of such technologies. This is where patenting comes into play not only to prevent free-riding problems but also to encourage more people to undertake biotechnological inventions and innovations (Bostyn, 2004).

The positive impact of biotechnology patents on innovation is not an issue of controversy. What is controversial is the extent of the patentee’s rights. Patents provide monopolistic rights to the inventor of a technology. However, a patent is only functional if the rights granted to the patent holder are proportional to what the patent holder was willing to give to the public or the man skilled in the art.

If the patent holder is given a wider protection for a small invention, the patent system would be unfair. However, there would be no problem in giving a broad protection to a person who has made a valuable and far-reaching innovation (Westerlund, 2009).

The relationship between biotechnology patents and research

The European Patent Office (EPO) receives approximately 30 biotechnology applications every year from countries such as Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium (Felix, 2007). It is interesting to note that these countries are ranked among the top countries in the European region as far as research is concerned.

This shows a positive relationship between biotechnology patents and conventional research. Nicol and Nielsen (2003) make reference to the biotechnology industry in Australia and observe that the goals of the Australian government to enhance the benefits of biotechnology for the Australian community can only be achieved if the government provides adequate protection to its intellectual property, through patents.

This would encourage more research in the field which would in turn promote more innovations and inventions in the industry. Nicol and Nielsen (2003) further argue that patent protection should be justified on utilitarian grounds in that they offer the required incentive for innovation which is good for the society.

Although biotechnology patents are generally said to have a positive effect on research, some scholars are of the view that such a relationship is highly dependent on the manner in which the patents are used. For instance, patent holders who abuse their monopoly rights create more harm than good to other socially important values of the patents (Nicol & Nielsen, 2003).

Speculation on the relationship between biotechnology patents and stem cell research

The relationship between biotechnology patents and stem cell research is likely to be positive, implying that countries with high numbers of biotech patents have more research activity in stem cell research.

References

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