The number of people working in research at universities in China more than doubled between 1996 and 2014, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The new data reveal that the number of researchers working at Malaysian higher education institutions rose almost 15-fold between 2002 and 2014 and universities in Singapore saw an almost six-fold increase in researchers between 1996 and 2013.
By contrast the number of research in Japan has not grown significantly, remaining at between180,000 and 227,000 during the period.
Unesco's data tool, entitled "How much does your country invest in R&D?", shows the full time researcher head count in higher education for more than 100 countries.