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UK continues to punch above its weight in world class research

18 August 2008

An analysis of 17 million papers and 22.5 million citations in 8000 of the world's leading scientific journals, found that the UK contributes 9% of papers produced annually and a 12% share of citations, placing it second only to the USA in world rankings.

UK continues to punch above its weight in world class research
UK continues to punch above its weight in world class research

The UK has also increased its share of citations in 'high impact' journals which make up only 1% of all journals - such as Nature, Science and Cell - to 13.4%, demonstrating a continued increase from 12.9% in 2004 and 13.2% in 2005.

Minister for Science and Innovation, Ian Pearson, said, "For a country of its size, the UK is widely acknowledged to be an extremely effective research performer. It is difficult to improve on this level of achievement, but we have done so despite ever increasing competition. With continued investment from the government and the outstanding research talents we possess I am confident that the UK can sustain its position as the world's most productive research nation.

"The quality of research undertaken in the UK and reported in journal papers is reflected by the fact the UK leads the other G8 nations. UK researchers receive on average two and a half times more citations compared with the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.”

The report also highlights a four fold increase in the number of papers produced by China over the last decade. Despite having a growing scientific economy however, China remains relatively unproductive in terms of paper output per unit of R&D investment.

Mr Pearson added, "Possibly the most relevant finding of the report is that the UK offers the best value for money. The UK is ranked top for the number of papers published and cited in relation to R&D investment. The UK's output of papers in relation to investment is almost twice that of France, Germany and America. China, despite having a growing scientific economy, remains relatively unproductive as does the USA, ranked 17th and 16th place respectively."

The report identified nations which have also substantially increased their share of world papers. This includes Brazil, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and most notably Iran - which has shown a ten-fold increase to almost 7,000 papers over the last year.

Mr Pearson continued, "Global benchmarks are affected by massive and rapid investment and growth in China and significant research and development in smaller countries, such as Iran. The competitive salaries and state of the art research environments offered by China will undoubtedly attract international researchers to its shores. And this in turn will increase China's output and research impact further.
"However the UK will not be left behind. As this report indicates, the UK already represents the best value for money in terms of investment made and research paper outputs. With a commitment to invest almost six billion in science research and innovation by 2011 I am confident the UK will continue to punch above its weight, retain its excellent research base and continue to be the destination of choice for leading international researchers. "

The report also identified an increase in the impact of UK papers (the number of UK papers that are published in the top one per cent of scientific journals) as a result of increased international collaboration. Collaborations with the USA, Germany and France specifically boosted the quality of research publications.

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