In many countries there are scarcities of scientists, few and fragmented research projects, inadequate science education, and social structures discouraging to science. There is a lack of indigenous scientific groups to apply science to national development by converting information into suitable practical advice in the required form; and where there are groups, they may not be able to keep in touch with up-to-date developments nor are they equipped to modify findings from abroad to provide answers that are applicable to local requirements. National and local governmental budgeting for scientific education, applied research projects and laboratories, is low priority. Besides, the scale of research and development is likely to have been reduced in many countries as part of the response to the external financial stringency widely experienced during the 1980s. The result is that scientific consultants from aboard are employed to study problems immediately affecting the economy, such as key export crops, exported natural resources and critical intermediate and finished export products, while other scientific applications to the economic and social development of these countries are deferred or neglected.
In 1994, UNESCO estimated that more than 80% of world research and development is carried out in a handful of industrialized countries.
In the early 1970s only about 12% of the world's scientists and engineers engaged in research and development were in developing countries. Even this figure greatly overstated the capacity of most developing countries, as only a handful of the bigger nations, such as Brazil, India and Mexico, accounted for the bulk of the developing world's investment in science and technology. And they and their supporting technical staff were a small fraction of all scientists, engineers and technicians, typically less than 5%.
In the 1970s, the resources set aside in developing countries for research and development and the training of technical and scientific manpower for such work were small, not only in absolute terms but also in relation to national production and income. The exceptions were mainly large-sized to medium-sized, relatively advanced developing countries, such as India, Brazil and Thailand. Centrally planned and market developed countries spent 30 times more than developing countries on research and development. For the developing countries as a group, the share of gross domestic product allocated to research and development activities in the early 1970s came to around 0.3%; the shares in the developed market economies ranged between 1.5% and 2.5%, depending on region, and were still higher in centrally planned economies. At the beginning of the 1980s there appeared to be a widening of the gap measured as a percentage of GNP, from 8 : 1 (developed : developing) to 10 : 1. It seems that while spending in the more developed countries continued to grow, during the 1970s and 1980s the economic difficulties in many developing countries had pushed the task of promoting endogenous scientific and technological capabilities into the background.