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These are the 10 smartest countries in the world when it comes to science

If we are to solve the greatest challenges of our time, from climate change and food production to nuclear containment, then we need more scientists.

This is one of the reasons the Organization for Economic and Development (OECD) has reviewed college degrees in the 40 most advanced countries.

The group has now published a report that includes all data up to 2012.

The ranking is based on the percentage of scientific, technological or mathematical (STEM) degrees achieved per capita, so that a fair comparison can be made with countries that have fewer inhabitants. Spain, for example, came eleventh because 24 percent of degrees were in science or engineering.

Here's how the world's 10 smartest countries fared when it comes to academic degrees:

These are the 10 smartest countries in the world when it comes to science

These are the 10 smartest countries in the world when it comes to science

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  • 10. Portugal: 25 percent of graduate students have completed a STEM degree. The country has the highest proportion of doctoral students of all 40 countries that were examined, at 72 percent.

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    Jose Manuel Ribeiro / Reuters

  • 9. Austria: Austria has the second highest proportion of working doctors, with 6.7 female and 9.1 male doctors per 1,000 people.

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  • 8. Mexico: Mexico rose 1 percentage point from 24 percent to 25 percent despite the government's abolition of tax breaks for business investments in research and development.

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  • 7. Estonia: Estonia has the highest proportion of female STEM graduates at 26 percent. In 2012, the proportion was even 41 percent.

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  • 6. Greece: Greece spent only 0.08 percent of its gross domestic product on research in 2013, which was only one of the last places in comparison to other developed countries. That could be the reason why the STEM graduation rate fell from 28 percent in 2002 to 26 percent in 2012.

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  • 5. France: In France (27 percent), most researchers are employed by industry, not government or universities.

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  • 4. Finland: Finland (28 percent) publishes more medical research than any other research area.

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    Bob Strong / Reuters

  • 3. Sweden: Sweden (28 percent) lags behind Norway when it comes to using computers at work, such as programming applications. Over three quarters of workers use a computer at work.

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  • 2. Germany: Germany (31 percent) had the highest average annual number of STEM graduates with around 10,000 and is thus just behind the USA and China, even though these countries have significantly more inhabitants.

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  • 1. South Korea: South Korea (32 percent) posted the largest loss in the top 10 countries (39 percent in 2002). Nevertheless, the country was able to keep its position at the top of the OECD list.

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    Lee Jae-Won / Reuters

  • All in all, STEM degrees fell 1 percent in a decade to 22 percent in 2012. The US rounded the list at number 39, with 16 percent STEM degrees in 2002 and 2012.

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    OECD