Monday, October 31, 2011

U.K. Scientific Papers Rank First in Citations

British scientists have long taken pride in “punching above their weight,” as former U.K. science adviser David King once said, achieving a wide impact with a relatively modest use of public funds. Two reports out last week confirm that reputation. In the first of a planned biennial look at the international standing of British science, the U.K. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) released a citation analysis it commissioned from Elsevier, the scientific publishing company. The analysis, according to a BIS statement, found that the United Kingdom “attracts more citations per pound spent in overall research and development than any other country.” A similar analysis, independently produced by Thomson Reuters, supports that basic theme: Scientific papers from Britain have the greatest impact in the world when the six most prolific nations are ranked by average number of citations. The Thomson Reuters report says Britain produced 8% of the world’s research articles and reviews but 17% of the world’s research papers with more than 500 citations and 20% of those with more than 1000 citations.
            The U.K. performance surpasses even that of the United States, which has the world’s best-funded research system, according to Thomson Reuters, which examined trends from 1991 to 2010. Adjusting raw citation data to norms in each field and year of publication, analyst Jonathan Adams found that Britain crossed from second to first rank in 2007. Germany went from fourth place in 1991 to second place in 2010 (knocking the United States down to third place last year). France, Japan, and China follow.
The Thomson Reuters report says that the “rising trajectory” of U.K. research stands in contrast to the U.S. record, which “has at best plateaued in performance and—according to some estimates—is now in decline.” It traces the starting point of the U.K. rise to 1986, when Britain undertook a quality review known as the Research Assessment Exercise. Today, the report says, biological sciences are the strongest area of U.K. research, including “exceptionally high achievements in organismal biology, where the USA suffers.”



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