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Southern States Gain Ground In Producing Science Papers

Of the four major regions of the United States, only the South boosted its share of scientific papers during the last decade. According to data for the period 1980-89 obtained from the Philadelphia-based Institute for Scientific Information's on-line database, the Science Citation Index, the South mustered a 3 percent increase from the first half to the second half of the 1980s. The Southern region of the U.S. upped its share of U.S. science papers from 34 percent in the period 1980-84 to 37 p

By | April 30, 1990

Of the four major regions of the United States, only the South boosted its share of scientific papers during the last decade. According to data for the period 1980-89 obtained from the Philadelphia-based Institute for Scientific Information's on-line database, the Science Citation Index, the South mustered a 3 percent increase from the first half to the second half of the 1980s.

The Southern region of the U.S. upped its share of U.S. science papers from 34 percent in the period 1980-84 to 37 percent in 1985-89. Specifically, the East South Central region, which comprises Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, increased its share by 2 percent. The South Atlantic region, which includes West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, added 1 percent to its share. The other three regions - Northeast, West, and Midwest - more or less held their places in the second half of the decade as compared with the first half.

The South was the most heavily represented region in both periods, publishing about 391,500 of 1.14 million total papers, or 34 percent, in 1980-1984; and about 443,300 of 1.21 million papers, or 37 percent, in 1985-89. The Northeast was second in both five-year periods, with 31 percent. The West took third place, with 29 percent for the decade, and the Midwest was fourth with 25 percent.

The accompanying map depicts the four major areas of the nation - Northeast, Midwest, South, and West - and the nine subregions delineated by the U.S. Census Bureau. All 50 states are represented, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which are included in the Southern region. The numbers appearing in each subregion indicate the percentage share of U.S. papers for 1980-84 (first number) and for 1985-89 (second number).

The South contains the greatest number of states (16). Included in this region are three subregions: South Atlantic, East South Central, and West South Central. The second largest region, according to the number of states (13), is the West, which includes the Pacific region and the Mountain states. Midwestern states are the third largest group (12) and are divided into the East North Central region and the West North Central. The Northeast - the smallest grouping - contains the nine states of New England and the three of the Middle Atlantic subregion.

Only the South Atlantic, East South Central, and East North Central subregions showed an increase in their shares of the U.S. scientific literature during the last decade. As mentioned, the South Atlantic moved ahead 2 percent in its share, while the other two subregions added 1 percent to their shares. Unlike the situation in the South, however, the East North Central's increase was not enough to boost the overall output of the Midwest.

No region or subregion of the U.S. lost ground. One reason for this may be because of the increase in coauthorship nationwide (up 4 percent). Authors from across the country increasingly work together on research projects. As a result, one paper may fall under one, two, or even all four of the different geographic regions. Another reason the regions kept their footing is the way the percentage shares were calculated in this analysis: A paper was attributed to a state even if it listed only one author address from the state. Thus, the sum of the percentages given exceeds 100 percent.

The South was first in terms of the rate of growth of scientific papers, too. Its total number of papers for the second half of the decade was 13 percent more than for the first half. The Midwest grew by 10 percent, the West by 8 percent, and the Northeast by 7 percent. The rate of growth in the database between 1980-84 and 1985-89 was 6 percent. The growth figures for each region are higher because of increased coauthorship and the way the papers were assigned.

No major region or subregion of the country produced fewer papers in 1985-89 than it did in 1980-84, but two states did slip: North Dakota (2,828 versus 2,764) and West Virginia (4,035 versus 3,931). The District of Columbia also fell behind: 30,926 for 1980-84 versus 28,349 in 1985-89. Two states, Maine and South Dakota, increased the number of papers produced - but just barely. Maine produced 2,766 in the first half of the decade and 2,782 in the second half. South Dakota fielded 1,141 in 1980-84 and 1,163 in 1985-89.

A list of the big science states for the decade comes as no surprise: California (15 percent of the total number of papers in 1980-84 and in 1985-89) and New York (11 percent in both periods). Massachusetts (7 percent in both periods), Maryland (6 percent in 1980-84 and 7 percent in 1985-89), and Texas (6 percent in both periods) followed.

Abigail Grissom is a freelance science writer based in Philadelphia.

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