Most nations have one or more governmental or non-profit agencies charged with collecting and analyzing science and technology data. These are sometimes referred to as science and technology observatories. Herman Jaramillo, in writing about science and technology observatories, has noted that an observatory, as an agency for collecting and processing indicators "helps society to understand science and technology development and the integration of science and technology variables with other measures of economic and social development. The resulting information becomes a public good and a necessary input for the development of society."
The mandate of science and technology ministers of government, government ministries and institutions everywhere is to harness science and technology to support the social and economic development of the nation. In practice, this means that the overriding question to be addressed by quantitative studies of science and technology activities is "What is the state of science and technology in the nation?" In the case of Caribbean nations this becomes two questions -"What is the state of science and technology in the nation?" and "What is the state of science and technology in the Caribbean?"
The measurement of indicators of science and technology that could inform policy decisions and measure or promote innovation is relatively new in the English-speaking Caribbean countries. The region is characterized by very small States ranging in populations of 40,000 to 2.2 million inhabitants on land masses from 262 sq. km to 10,969 sq. km, with limited technological capacity. Although some science and technology data
collection programmes exist in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and, to a lesser extent, Barbados and Guyana, the other islands have not yet developed a systematic approach to the collection of the data on science and technology. Given the state of infancy of the programmes it is also doubtful whether the data presently collected in Jamaica and in Trinidad and Tobago are used to influence or analyze policy. With the countries facing growing competition from a globalized market, issues such as innovation and competitiveness, too, have become recent discussion topics in the region. Approaches to these issues are still not fully defined, but will require well-developed policies based on sound information and data particularly in the sphere of science and technology.