Report reveals key trends in ASEAN research performance and collaboration

Research shows high output, growth and impact in Energy, per Elsevier’s analysis for British Council and Foreign & Commonwealth Office

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Energy is a star area of research for Southeast Asian countries. Malaysia has consistently increased its research impact due to its high investment in scientific research. And the UK’s collaboration with selected ASEAN countries is greatest in the Life and Health Sciences.

Those were among the findings of a recent report by the British Council and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, which commissioned Elsevier Analytical Services to analyze the research performance of Southeast Asia as a whole as well as five of its countries.  

The report, titled Research Performance in South-East Asia, was introduced at the British Council’s Going Global conference in London and presented at the Elsevier APAC Research Intelligence Conference June 11-12 in Shanghai.

Read the executive summary

“Collaborations are at the core of science, and our data can support the British Council in their understanding of impactful collaborations, as well as to spot emerging areas in the ASEAN region,” said Dr. Anders Karlsson, VP of Academic Relations, APAC, for Elsevier. “We hope the analysis will be beneficial to the ASEAN countries as well in terms of the understanding of their research strengths, and thus be useful as an evidence base for policy decisions in the UK and Southeast Asia.”

The five countries selected by the British Council and Foreign & Commonwealth Office are the most prolific ASEAN countries in terms of output, excluding Singapore, as its research performance has different characteristics (e.g., a more established research system and strong research ties with UK institutions). The report provides insights on Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, in order to identify subject strengths at country and institute level. The study also covers collaboration between institutions, internationally overall and specifically with the UK, for 30 selected prolific and/or impactful ASEAN institutes.

Halima Begum, PhD, Director of Education East Asia at the British CouncilSoutheast Asia has a long history of collaborative research produced with both OECD countries and other Southeast Asian countries. With a population of 600 million people – 9 percent of the world population – and a combined GDP of $1.8 trillion, the ASEAN economy is ranked as the 9th largest economy in the world and the 3rd largest in Asia. The region has experienced strong economic growth with an average annual rate of 5 percent to 6 percent over the past two decades. ASEAN countries have increased their investment in science and technology to diversify from an agricultural to a knowledge-based economy. The results of this strategy are starting to take shape, especially for Malaysia, as the report finds.

Dr. Halima Begum, Director of Education East Asia at the British Council, highlighted the huge potential for creating important multinational research space and research investment opportunities to address global “grand challenges,” such as climate change, food security, disease control and poverty. She added:

The key findings in the report highlight Southeast Asia’s long history of collaborative research; ASEAN research is now reaching a citation impact of 19 percent above the world average. The UK is a key research collaborator with Southeast Asian institutions, particularly in the fields of Life and Health Sciences. However, selected institutions in Southeast Asia tend to have great collaborations with other regional or international partners especially in their high impact fields such as those in the Physical Sciences. This highlights that there is proportionally less research output achieved in collaboration with the UK in those fields.

ASEAN Research Output, Growth and Impact

ASEAN research output in share of world papers, annual growth and citation impact (Source: <em>Research Performance in South-East Asia,</em> based on Scopus data)

ASEAN output growth and impact by subject area

Chart 1 shows the 2013 ASEAN Relative Activity Index and Field-Weighted Citation Impact (Source: <em> Research Performance in South-East Asia </em>, data from Scopus)Chart 2 shows Share of World Papers, and Chart 3 shows Field-Weighted Citation Impact. (Source: <em> Research Performance in South-East Asia </em>, data from Scopus)

One of the key findings of the report is that the ASEAN region is most active in the areas of Physical Sciences, certain areas of the Social Sciences, and a couple of Life Sciences fields, as well as Computer Sciences. More specifically, the Southeast Asian countries have relatively high output and impact levels in Chemical Engineering, Engineering, Materials Science, and Energy. Energy is a star area for ASEAN as a whole with high output, growth, and impact. Engineering is the most common strength across the 30 institutions selected for the report. Chemical Engineering and Materials Science also
stand out as common strengths for a third of the institutions.

The study also discovered that UK collaboration with the selected ASEAN countries is greater within the Life and Health Sciences fields. This may be a reflection of the UK’s own activity by subject area, which shows higher proportions of its outputs in the Health, Life, and Social Sciences than the ASEAN region. The data also show high relative activity in high impact multidisciplinary journals.

Research performance of ASEAN countries

Over time, Malaysia has consistently increased its impact as well as shown strong output growth, reaching to a 1 percent share of the world’s scholarly output in 2013. This increasing impact can be attributed to the country’s policy of investing aggressively into science and academic research. In terms of citation impact, the Philippines remains significantly above the world average but has seen some decreases through time. Vietnam and Thailand’s citation impacts are both approximately around the world average, due to stability over the past few years, while Indonesia has seen decreases in citation impact, remaining under and distancing itself further from the world average.

Related resources

Relative Activity Index

The Relative Activity Index (RAI) is defined as a country’s share of publications across subject fields relative to the global share of publications in the same subject field. As such it is an indication of the research activity of a particular country in specific subject areas, relative to the world. It can therefore be used to evaluate the concentration and specialisation of a country in a particular subject.

Field-weighted citation impact

Citations accrue to published papers over time, as they are first read and subsequently cited by other authors in their own publications. Citation practices, such as the number, type, and age of articles cited in the reference list, may also differ by research field. As such, in comparative assessments of research outputs citations must be counted over consistent time windows, and publication and field-specific differences in citation frequencies must be accounted for.

Field-Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) is an indicator of mean citation impact, and compares the actual number of citations received by an article with the expected number of citations for articles of the same document type (article, review, or conference proceeding paper), publication year, and subject field. If the article is classified in two or more subject fields, the harmonic mean of the actual and expected citation rates is used. The indicator is therefore always defined with reference to a global baseline of 1.0 and intrinsically accounts for differences in citation accrual over time, differences in citation rates for different document types (reviews typically attract more citations than research articles, for example), as well as subject-specific differences in citation frequencies. FWCI is one of the most sophisticated indicators in the modern bibliometric toolkit.

Elsevier Connect Contributors

Sarah HuggettSarah Huggett is Analytical Services Product Manager with Elsevier, which involves preparing reports on research performance. Sarah’s first job at Elsevier in Research & Academic Relations gave her an understanding of how bibliometrics can be used to inform strategic planning. She has a particular interest in new developments in research evaluation, such as measures of attention and engagement. After completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Grenoble in France, she moved to the UK to teach French at the University of Oxford prior to joining Elsevier in 2006. Last year, she relocated to Singapore to focus on the APAC region.

Shereen Hanafi

As Head of Marketing of Research Management at Elsevier, Shereen Hanafi (@shanafi_ELS) leads a global team responsible for the marketing efforts of the Research Intelligenceportfolio of technology solutions, including SciVal, Pure and Analytical Services. Shereen has two decades of experience in product management, marketing and corporate communications at a number of leading global technology companies. Prior to joining Elsevier in Amsterdam, she held several senior level marketing and communication roles at global satellite operators Thuraya and SES and product marketing roles at the independent software vendor Fenestrae and the Dutch telecom operator KPN.

Born and raised in Canada to Syrian parents and married to a Dutchman, Shereen is a true global citizen, holding citizenships from three countries and speaking four languages. She received an Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Ottawa.

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