Researchers in Asian Countries Raise Their Scientific Profiles Worldwide

Scientists in many Asian nations are translating huge investments in research and development into impressive gains in research output.

Lab-BeakersKUALA LUMPUR — While researchers at universities and institutes in many Western countries fret about budget pressures, scientists in many Asian nations are translating huge investments in research and development into impressive gains in research output.

The Asia-Pacific region increased its global share of published science articles from 13 percent in the early 1980s to just over 30 percent in 2009, according to the Thomson Reuters National Science Indicators, an annual database that records the number of articles published in about 12,000 internationally recognized journals. Meanwhile, the proportion of articles from the United States dropped to 28 percent in 2009, down from 40 percent in the early 1980s.

China is leading the way, having increased its share of articles to 11 percent in 2009 from just 0.4 percent in the early 1980s. Japan is next, accounting for 6.7 percent, followed by India with 3.4 percent. While its overall percentage remains small, Singapore — with a population of just under five million — has increased its number of indexed articles from 200 in 1981 to 8,500 in 2009.

Singapore, which currently devotes 3 percent of gross domestic product to research and development, has plans to further bolster its research standing, with the government’s Economic Strategy Committee setting the target of reaching 3.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2015.

The increase in research output, particularly in East Asian countries, reflects a “phenomenal” increase in funding, said Simon Marginson, a professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne. Mr. Marginson said the increase in research output was driven by governments that were committed to building knowledge-intensive economies. “It’s very much not simply about knowledge itself — it’s about its usefulness throughout the economy,” he said. “I think that that economic vision is really the principal driver.”

Academics also say that the increasing influence of world rankings has spurred competition among Asian universities. Some of the most widely recognized rankings use the number of published journal articles and highly cited researchers as indicators, including the recently released rankings by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

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Source: Liz Gooch | The New York Times