Authors of Scientific Articles by Country

Posted on August 5, 2007  Comments (1)

The United States National Science Foundation published – Changing U.S. Output of Scientific Articles: 1988–2003.

In an unexpected development in the early 1990s, the absolute number of science and engineering (S&E) articles published by U.S.-based authors in the world’s major peer-reviewed journals plateaued.

The unprecedented plateau in the number of U.S. S&E articles should not be confused with a decades-long and familiar decline in the U.S. share of the world’s S&E articles. As other states built up their S&E capabilities, the U.S. share of the world’s articles in natural sciences and engineering dropped from 38% in 1973 to 28% in 2003. This decline in share is not surprising, nor has it been viewed as a cause for concern. By many measures, including articles published in peer-reviewed journals, the United States has been the world’s leading scientific nation for decades and remains the world’s leading scientific nation.

Although the U.S. share of the world’s influential articles dropped substantially, the United States remained dominant in this area. At the end of the period studied, U.S. institutions were at least partially responsible for half of the world’s influential articles; no other major publishing center approached this figure. Moreover, compared with other major publishing centers, a considerably higher percentage of total U.S. output was classified as influential.

NSF includes a great deal of interesting data along with commentary. One compelling area is that of the location of authors of the top 1% of the most cited papers. The USA leads with 64.6% in 1992 and 56.6% in 2003. European Union-15 (15 countries for this measure) 23.3% to 27.7% (interesting, not what I would have predicted – which would have been a decline, though a small one). Japan 4.2% to 5.3%. East Asia – 4 (China, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) from .1 to 1.1% (and rising rapidly – .5% in 2001 to .8% in 2002) – interesting but not so surprising, basically what I would expect – rapid gains. All other countries: 7.8% in 1992 and 9.3% in 2003. I predict these figures will have to break out India sometime in the next 10 years – I wish they did now though I expect it is a fairly low figure. China will also be reported separately, I believe.

The NSF data includes all sorts of great stuff. For the same top 1% of cited articles by topic East Asia – 4 in Engineering/Technology: 1992 .9% – 2003 7.2% in Social Sciences 0.0% to .6% in Mathematics 1.3% to 5.6%. In Engineering/Technology the USA dropped from 63.3% to 45.4%.

This is more data supporting what I have said before Science Excellence and Economic Benefits:

Will the United States be in as good a relative position as it was 20 years ago. I would say there is very little chance of that. The debate about what the future holds is really over how slowly we can lose the positive gap we currently possess or over how close we can stay to the new leader whether that be Europe, Japan, China, India or somewhere else.

I would say the most likely future is that no clear overall leader exists. I would guess that centers of excellence will emerge and for various fields in not only in the USA but in China, Europe, India, Japan, Korea and elsewhere. I also expect that in those cases the people working in those centers of excellence will be drawn from all over the world.

Related: Global Technology LeadershipAsia: Rising Stars of Science and EngineeringBasic Science Research FundingScience, Engineering and the Future of the American EconomyWorldwide Science and Engineering Doctoral Degree Data

One more interesting tidbit: for the top 10% of articles East Asia – 4 grows from .4% to 2.4% and all other grow from 10.6 to 12.2%. The USA drops from 56% to 46.5%. It is not surprising the USA is strongest in the top papers and the countries growing are first seeing gains at the less cited levels. But it is interesting to see those figures.

One Response to “Authors of Scientific Articles by Country”

  1. CuriousCat » Science Serving Society - Speech Austalian Minister for Innovation
    March 24th, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

    “When societies invest in science, they are investing in their own future.”

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