Science, Science and Society

Geopolitics and science activity: 30 years' worth

I just boggled.  Quite a lot.


I’ve just started skimming through an extremely interesting paper entitled 30 Years in Science: Secular Movements in Knowledge Creation.

It takes global publication data from the Web of Science (Thomson Reuters) database over the last 30 years, and then plots the change in papers published against geopolitical events that have happened.  Why published papers, you ask?  Well, it’s a proxy for scientific activity…

I’ve embedded the document below for your full perusal (it seems unfair to try to reduce something this interesting to a couple of pithy paragraphs), but a couple of interesting things did come out of it.  For example, while one would expect that the rise in China’s activity would be pretty spectacular, it’s apparently surpassed expectations!   Also, the Middle East is definitely on the up and up as well* (which can only be a good thing) - its output grew at almost 4 times the worldwide level.  I find it interesting that Iran and Turkey are the Middle East countries leading the pack, though…

Basically, Asia is fast catching up with the Western world in terms of scientific output, having already surpasses North America.  Happily for those of us who identify with Europe, Europe’s still in the lead, with a full third of the global output.

I’d really encourage you all, though, to scan through the document - it’s cogent, concise, and also has pretty graphs.  Yay!

[slideshare id=3212839&doc=30yearsinscience-100217215435-phpapp02&type=d]

There’s also a brilliant interactive presentation where you can plot the activity of countries against each other.  New Zealand’s.  For example (and just by inspection), New Zealand and Denmark have a similar number of papers published, and a similar rise therein.  However, plot the two of us against, say, the US and Canada, and you’ll see much sharper rises.  Then, just for fun, add China.  Wow.

*I spent a few weeks in Doha a couple of years back on a consulting project.  What they’re doing there with the university ‘city’ they’re building is quite stunning.