Global Scientific trends – a new report

The UK’s Royal Society has just published Knowledge, Nations and Networks, a major new report on the “Global Scientific Landscape”.

This is a long report (114 pages) in two sections, setting out the global scientific landscape and the state of international scientific collaboration.

Several aspects have grabbed the media’s attention:

China ’to overtake US on science’ in two years reads the headline on the BBC news website, with Brazil, India and Korea are not far behind.

Quantity does not mean quality though and China still lags behind in the important measure of how many times a paper is cited.

The fastest growing scientific output over the last decade is from Iran, highlighted in New Scientist magazine. The total rose from 736 published papers in 1996 to 13,238 in 2008. And it seems despite the political difference between the USA and Iran, scientists are showing the way forward through a five-fold increase in collaborative papers.

The report also outlines the importance of “blue skies” research, and allowing scientists to follow their own research agenda. This is picked up in the Daily Telegraph under the headline “Would Einstein get  funded today?”.

”Science at the margins, where great discoveries are made, is in a total mess,” says Don Braben a physicist and honorary professor at UCL. ”Many of the scientists like Einstein and Planck who made the major discoveries of the 20th century wouldn’t have got funding under today’s rules,” he says.

Over in the USA, Science Insider reflects America is still doing well in science, and suggest “China’s impending ascension should be “viewed as a good thing”.

Sweden is also highlighted in the report for its high spending on research and development:

“In 2007, Sweden spent nearly 3.7% GDP on research and development, Canada spent 2%, ‘emerging’ India spent 0.8%, and oil rich Saudi Arabia 0.04%”

Read the full report (if you have time!) here.


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