Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark Rank Highest In High-Impact Science

A trio of relatively small Western European nations heads a recently published list of countries that produce high-quality basic research. The study, undertaken by the Information Science and Scientometrics Research Unit (ISSRU) of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, found that the scientists of Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark produced papers having significantly greater impact than expected, based on the average citation rates of the journals in which each paper was published. By t

Aug 8, 1988
The Scientist Staff
A trio of relatively small Western European nations heads a recently published list of countries that produce high-quality basic research. The study, undertaken by the Information Science and Scientometrics Research Unit (ISSRU) of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, found that the scientists of Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark produced papers having significantly greater impact than expected, based on the average citation rates of the journals in which each paper was published. By the same measure, West Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Belgium also recorded better-than-expected performances, but not as great as those of Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark. France, Japan, the Soviet Union, and nine other countries rounding out of the top 20 showed lower-than-expected performances.

The ISSRU, using the data of the Institute for Scientific Information’s Science Citation Index for the period from 1981 to 1985, compared the actual number of citations per paper received by publications from a particular nation to the expected number of citations per paper. Citations were counted from 1981 to 1985, so that the effective citation period varies from zero to five years.

“The indicators so obtained,” write the study’s authors, “provide a complex measure of medium range citation impact and citation immediacy for a considerably large population of papers’ even for small countries” (T. Braun, W. Glänzel, A. Schubert, “The newest version of the facts and figures on publication output and relative citation impact of 100 countries, 1981-1985,” Scientometrics, 13 (5- 6), 181-8, May 1988).

The accompanying table lists the top 20 nations in the ISSRU’s ranked list of relative citation performance. The relative citation tation impact of 100 countries, 1981-1985,” Scientometrics, 13 (5-6), 181-8, May 1988).

The accompanying table lists the top 20 nations in the ISSRU’s ranked list of relative citation performance. The relative citation rate for each is the ratio of actual to expected citations. A score of 1.0 would mean that a nation’s publications received exactly the number of expected citations. A score above 1.0 signifies a higher than expected citation performance; below 1.0, underperformance.

Ranking seventeenth and eighteenth, respectively, Japan and the Soviet Union are somewhat handicapped in this analysis by the relative inaccessibility and lower citation rates of articles written in Japanese or Russian.

“The most striking feature of this study is the outstanding position of a series of small West-European countries (Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway),” observe the authors. They noticed a similar phenomenon in their previous study of the period 1978 to 1980.