The world according to maps

The Spatial and Social Inequalities Research Group of the Geography Department at the University of Sheffield have created an interesting website. Worldmapper: the world as you’ve never seen it before. It is a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest.

I played around a bit, creating maps reflecting the participation in higher education, the amount higher education spending and the scientific research in terms of the number of scientific articles. Unsurprisingly, this creates maps where the US, Europe and East Asia is dominating. However, if you compare it with a population map, it’s clear that the dominance is especially in North America, Europe and Japan.

However, if we look at the maps (click for enlargements) that show the growth in higher education spending…

…and the growth in scientific research over the period 1990-2001, we see some interesting things.

  • Australia has basically vanished from the face of the earth, in terms of the growth in spending on higher ed. It looks like it has to illustrate a negative value. Some other countries where growth is not keeping up are the Netherlands and the UK.
  • The map on higher education spending already shows that Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore already spent relatively much on higher education. The map on the growth of spending shows that these countries’ increasingly see higher education as a priority.
  • Singapore’s fixation with the emerging knowledge economy seems to bear fruit. Singapore had the greatest per person increase in scientific publications.
  • In terms of scientific growth, nearly the whole continent of Africa seems to be swept of the map. But also a populous country like Indonesia has turned from a string of islands into a nearly invisible line.

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