Dr. Lorena Rivera Leon

Unveiling the determinants of scientific productivity in middle-income countries: An economics of science perspective

Year: 2021

Robin Cowan, Jacques Mairesse and Moritz Müller


The thesis aims to understand the role of scientists and scientific communities in the process of knowledge creation by looking at scientific productivity, its determinants, and effects at the individual level, and the macro level, in the context of Middle-Income Countries (MICs). 

Using a quantitative econometric approach anchored in the economics of science literature and making use of social network theory, the results of the four empirical chapters on Mexico and South Africa point to a complex picture of determinants in the context of MICs: one where personal and cognitive characteristics –notably gender, ethnicity and age, organizational and social structures, and collaboration practices, all interact and affect the productivity of researchers.

The thesis provides tools for informing policy discussions on how best to implement science policies in MICs. Notably, the results point to the need for policy intervention to address the promotion of women to senior academic positions and promote cross-race and cross-gender interactions and diversity in academic networks. 

Selected publications by Lorena Rivera Leon

Articles (journal, professional, popular)
Rivera Leon, Lorena, A. Muscio & A. Reid, 2015, `An empirical test of the regional innovation paradox: can smart specialisation overcome the paradox in Central and Eastern Europe?, Journal of Economic Policy Reform, 18, More information

UNU-MERIT Working Papers
Rivera Leon, Lorena, Jacques Mairesse & Robin Cowan, 2016, An econometric investigation of the productivity gender gap in Mexican research, and a simulation study of the effects on scientific performance of policy scenarios to promote gender equality, UNU-MERIT Working Paper 2016-072

External working papers
Rivera Leon, Lorena, Kyle Bergquist, Sacha Wunsch-Vincent, Ning Xu & Kunihiko Fushimi, 2018, Measuring innovation in energy technologies: green patents as captured by WIPO's International Patent Classification (IPC) green inventory, More information
Mairesse, Jacques & Lorena Rivera Leon, 2017, Gender Gaps and Scientific Productivity in Middle-Income Countries: Evidence from Mexico, Inter-American Development Bank working Paper, More information

Research reports
Hollanders, Hugo, Nordine Es-Sadki, Lorena Rivera Leon, E. Griniece & L. Roman, 2014, Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2014, Commissioned by the European Commission, DG for Enterprise and Industry, More information

Conference contributions
Cowan, Robin & Lorena Rivera Leon, 2017, 3. Formation and persistence of research communities in Middle Income Countries: the case of South Africa, Workshop on Academic Science in South Africa” CREST and STIAS, Stellenbosch, South Africa, April 2016

Rivera Leon, Lorena, 2021, Unveiling the determinants of scientific productivity in middle-income countries: An economics of science perspective, PhD dissertation Maastricht University / United Nations University

Other (editorship, media appearance, keynote, etc.)
Rivera Leon, Lorena (ed.), 2017, Puntos sobre la i: un blog del Banco Interamericano del Desarrollo para conversar sobre innovación en América Latina y el Caribe, More information
Rivera Leon, Lorena (ed.), 2017, The Conversation UK, More information