The (Scientific) Wealth of Nations

A recent feature article in Nature examined the scientific impact of nations using the metrics of total publications and citations.1 For decision-making purposes, the article appears to be misleading, because critical and noncritical technologies, with high-tech and low-tech components, are country-aggregated in these numbers. Most important for potential users are critical technologies that impact strongly defense and civilian commerce.For example, in the 1997–2001 time frame, China is li

Ronald Kostoff
Sep 26, 2004

A recent feature article in Nature examined the scientific impact of nations using the metrics of total publications and citations.1 For decision-making purposes, the article appears to be misleading, because critical and noncritical technologies, with high-tech and low-tech components, are country-aggregated in these numbers. Most important for potential users are critical technologies that impact strongly defense and civilian commerce.

For example, in the 1997–2001 time frame, China is listed as ninth in numbers of total publications1 and does not even show up on the footprint charts in the article. Yet a search of the Science Citation Index for the first eight months of 2004, using a comprehensive and precise 92-term query for the highly critical field of nanotechnology, retrieved the following results for the 20 countries reporting the most research papers:

China ranks first, 14% higher than the United States in this crucial technology. In the top six...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?