Malaysia’s R&D investment paying off with higher research productivity and improved University Ranking

New report suggests that with 150,000 recent research articles in Scopus, Malaysia is proving itself to be an attractive knowledge destination for international students, faculty and researchers

Kuala Lumpur, November 5, 2019

A joint report by Malaysia’s Ministry of Education, Department of Higher Education, Elsevier, a global information analytics business specializing in science and health, and QS Quacquarelli Symonds shows that Malaysia’s Gross Expenditure on Research & Development (GERD) has increased by nearly $4 billion USD to reach over $12 billion in 2018, representing 1.4 percent of the country’s GDP in that year.

From 2014 to 2018, Malaysian researchers produced a cumulative research output of over 150,000 publications – articles and reviews – which grew at a five-year CAGR1 of 4.9 percent.

The volume of Malaysia’s top 10 percent most-cited publications grew at an even faster pace – with a five-year CAGR of 12.7 percent – accounting for a relatively high number of top 10 percent publications produced per million of GERD dollars.

Taken together, the findings suggest that Malaysia is realizing a return-on-research investment dollars and is one of the most productive nations in comparison to five other Asian nations and territories analyzed in the report.2

In the QS World University Rankings (WUR), Malaysian universities have registered improvement in academic performance: one university is ranked amongst the world top 100; four amongst the top 200; and seven amongst the top 500. Overall, Malaysia’s higher education institutions have shown positive trends across all indicators in the three recent editions of the QS WUR.

“Malaysia’s research achievements from the analyses of the report bear testimony to the vision and foundation we’ve laid down for the country’s future,” said Datuk Ir. Dr. Siti Hamisah binti Tapsir, Director General, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education, Malaysia. “We have set milestone benchmarks to measure ourselves against and the results have been encouraging. The Ministry is committed to taking Malaysia’s research endeavors to the next level of excellence.”

Saurabh Sharma, Vice President of Research Solutions Sales, Asia Pacific, Elsevier, said, “It’s clear that Malaysia’s tenacious and focused investment into academic research has paid off and generated positive research output, impact, and productivity.

“Given the steady upward trajectory, Malaysia will certainly continue to enjoy the fruits of a well-designed academic, science and technology framework as well as from continued investments to support it.”

Dr. David Reggio, FRSA, Global Head of QS Consulting, said: “Over the past five years rankings results have progressively reflected Malaysia’s strategic focus on high-impact research and international collaboration. In building the necessary frameworks to enable such growth, and by supporting its universities to build out global research alliances and networks, Malaysia has become a destination for scientific innovation and academic excellence. These are tremendously exciting times for the country, for the ASEAN region, and for science.”

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Malaysia excels in the Top 10 percent of cited publications volume for each full-time research, second only to India among comparators analyzed in the report.
  • Malaysia’s research impact has increased in recent years for all publication types, reaching close to the global average in 2018, on par with South Korea.
  • Malaysia’s shows high research focus in the following areas:
    - Engineering
    - Energy
    - Computer Science
    - Environmental Science
    - Business Management and Accounting
    - Economics
    - Econometrics
    - Finance
  • High citation-impact areas include:
    - Medicine  
    - Physics & Astronomy
    - Earth & Planetary Science
    - Psychology
    - Veterinary Science.

Along with the high percentage of international students and faculty at the universities, Malaysia is showing itself as an attractive research destination for high impact international researchers visiting the country. These foreign talent help facilitate knowledge transfer and raise the research output and impact of Malaysia’s research base.


Note for editors
1 Compound Annual Growth Rate.
2 Malaysia, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.

Journalists who wish to receive a copy of the full report can download from this link:

In this report, Malaysia’s research performance is presented in a regional context through benchmarking against the research performance of India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan (Republic of China). Scholarly output for each country is defined as the number of research publications (articles and reviews compiled in the Scopus® database) with at least one author from that country.

Because the comparators vary in economic size, it is challenging to directly compare their scholarly output and impact. The Field-Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) indicator can control for differences in citation activity by subject area, document type, and publication year. Normalizing publication data by GERD or number of researchers facilitate cross-territory comparisons.

Sources used for this report include Elsevier’s Scopus, QS Intelligence Unit (a division of QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd), UNESCO, the World Bank.

About QS Quacquarelli Symonds
Founded in 1990 by CEO Nunzio Quacquarelli (MBA Wharton, MA Cambridge), QS is a global think tank and the most trusted partner and data ecosystem for higher education institutions and students worldwide. Headquartered in London, QS has offices in the US, France, Germany, Romania, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia and employs a talented and diverse team of over 550 individuals who collectively speak 35 languages. QS is renown globally for publishing the most consulted World University Rankings and, the leading site for internationally minded student.

QS produces the International Student Survey, world's largest survey of pre-enrolled international students. QS is also the co-founder of the Reimagine Education Awards, the “Oscars” of Education.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps scientists and clinicians to find new answers, reshape human knowledge, and tackle the most urgent human crises. For 140 years, we have partnered with the research world to curate and verify scientific knowledge. Today, we’re committed to bringing that rigor to a new generation of platforms. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, 39,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.

Media contacts

Jason Chan, Global Communications
+65 6349 0240

Prof. Madya Dr. Zuraidah Abd. Manaf
Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education Malaysia
+6 3 8870 6812

Prof. Dato Dr. Muhammad Fauzi Mohd Zain
Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education Malaysia
+60 3 8879 6960

Simona Bizzozero, Communications Director
QS Quacquarelli Symonds
+44 78 8062 0856