U.S. Drops in Share of Publications

New analysis reveals increased globalization of science, leading to a greater proportion of patents and papers coming out of developing countries.

By | September 12, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, TOMWSULCERU.S. researchers continue to produce plenty of academic papers—to the tune of around 350,000 each year, making up nearly 28 percent of the world's share of manuscripts indexed in Thomson Reuters's Web of Science. No other individual country comes close; the entire European Union comprises another 35.5 percent of the pie. But according to Thomson Reuters's latest analysis of G20 countries, released this month, those percentages have been sliding in recent years—despite the absolute numbers of papers holding steady—thanks to upticks in output from China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea, among others.

“In general, world shares for nations with mature scientific enterprises have declined and those of developing nations have risen,” the authors wrote in their report. China, for instance, has surged from producing around 6 percent of the world's scientific papers in 2003 to 14 percent in 2012.

The study also looked at the number of patents coming out of these countries. “The clearest thing to come out of the study is the shrinking in-country share of patents in 2012 despite the rise in overall number of patents,” Thomson Reuters analyst David Pendlebury told Wired. In other words, the proportion of inventions originating from residents of a country shrunk, while innovations coming from non-resident companies or individuals increased. This was true for the U.S., Japan, Russia, Canada and some other countries. “We’re seeing that countries are more connected to each other than ever before,” Pendlebury added.

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