UK Continues to Punch Above its Weight in the Research Arena

Most productive relative to R&D spend compared to the world's major research nations

London, December 6, 2013

The UK remains a global research heavyweight according to a new report launched today by the UK's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The 'International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base 2013' report has been produced by Elsevier's SciVal Analytics team and is based on Scopus data and numerous other sources.

The report shows that while the UK represents just 0.9% of the global population, it accounts for 3.2% of R&D expenditure, 4.1% of researchers, 6.4% of research articles, 9.5% of research article downloads and 15.9% of the world’s most highly-cited articles.  In terms of research quality, as measured by field-weighted citation impact, the UK has overtaken the US and now ranks first amongst the comparator countries used in the report. These include the world’s most research-intensive nations - the US, China, Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada and France. UK research also clearly drives global innovation: its research is the second most frequently cited in global patents after Germany. The UK is the most productive research nation in terms of articles and citations per unit R&D expenditure ranking first amongst comparator countries on these two indicators.

The report shows that by volume of articles published the UK is a well-rounded research nation. Compared to ten years ago, and relative to the world average, the UK has increased its emphasis on social science and business but has produced proportionally fewer articles in biological, environmental and physical sciences, mathematics and engineering. Several of the comparator countries, including China, Japan and Russia, focus more strongly on those areas than the UK.

The UK occupies a central position in global networks of collaboration. Amongst its comparator countries, it has the second-highest rate of international co-authorship, after France, and this rate continues to rise. International co-authorship is associated with high publication impact.

Researchers are the engine that drives the progress of research, and a country’s research base is critically dependent on the individual contributions of the researchers affiliated with its research institutions. Although the UK researcher count is broadly stable (increasing at just 0.9% per year), this figure masks greater underlying increases in researcher numbers in the Higher Education sector, and the high degree of international mobility amongst active UK researchers which means that the UK researcher population is constantly refreshing.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said, "This report clearly demonstrates the continued strength of our science research base and that the UK continues to punch above its weight. I've often said that I want the UK to be the best place in the world to do science and this research shows that we are well on our way to achieving this goal. An excellent research base contributes directly to economic growth and is keeping us at the forefront of the global science race."

“We consider it a privilege to have been engaged by BIS to deliver this report,” said Nick Fowler, Managing Director of Academic and Government Institutions for Elsevier. We hope that the metrics that we have generated using SciVal’s big data technology and the insights that our SciVal Analytics team have drawn from them will provide a useful and objective basis upon which to formulate future UK research policy.”

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About Department of Business Innovation and Skills
The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) is the department for economic growth. The department invests in skills and education to promote trade, boost innovation and help people to start and grow a business. BIS also protects consumers and reduces the impact of regulation.

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.

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