The publication of journal articles worldwide follows a consistent pattern associated with the number of researchers based in a particular country. Unsurprisingly, the share of world articles is dominated by those countries with the most researchers, with countries such as the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany ranked highest. The geographical distribution of citations shows a similar pattern, with the same four countries appearing in the top four places according to citations received, albeit in a slightly different order. The growth in Chinese researcher numbers and research output has been previously discussed in Research Trends.

Table 1 illustrates the rank of countries according to their share of world articles and indicates the equivalent rank for each country according to citations received.

In the original article on Geographical trends of research output Table 1 had an incorrect year range label which stated 2004 -2007. The data portrayed in this table actually pertains to 1996 - 2007. We apologies for this oversight in this label.

Rank by articles Rank by citations Country Articles Cites Researchers % docs % cites
1 1 United States 3,437,213 43,436,526 7,442,000 25.9% 37.6%
2 4 Japan 983,020 7,167,200 896,211 7.4% 6.2%
3 2 United Kingdom 962,640 9,895,817 313,848 7.3% 8.6%
4 3 Germany 888,287 8,377,298 470,729 6.7% 7.2%
5 13 China, Peoples’ Republic of 758,042 1,629,993 1,152,617 5.7% 1.4%
6 5 France 640,163 5,795,531 348,714 4.8% 5.0%
7 6 Canada 473,763 4,728,874 199,060 3.6% 4.1%
8 7 Italy 461,292 3,821,440 164,026 3.5% 3.3%
9 11 Spain 330,399 2,350,185 161,932 2.5% 2.0%
10 17 Russian Federation 330,020 1,064,077 951,569 2.5% 0.9%
11 9 Australia 295,977 2,566,649 118,145 2.2% 2.2%
12 19 India 286,109 994,561 N/A 2.2% 0.9%
13 8 Netherlands 264,565 3,012,291 915,65 2.0% 2.6%
14 18 Korea, Republic of 217,879 1,018,532 194,055 1.6% 0.9%
15 12 Sweden 194,921 2,188,026 72,459 1.5% 1.9%
16 10 Switzerland 188,134 2,384,981 52,250 1.4% 2.1%
17 22 Taiwan 164,823 769,206 138,604 1.2% 0.7%
18 23 Brazil 163,550 752,658 N/A 1.2% 0.7%
19 24 Poland 159,536 682,354 78,362 1.2% 0.6%
20 14 Belgium 141,737 1,347,624 52,252 1.1% 1.2%

Table 1 – Geographical distribution of world articles 1996 – 2007 – top 20 countries. Source: Scopus. Researcher data taken from OECD Main Science & Technology Indicators, 2008 edition; data is for 2004 FTE researchers. US Researcher Data taken from Science & Engineering Indicators 2008, Table 3.1.

Table 2 illustrates that if the 2004 output of articles in Scopus is compared to researcher numbers in 2004 for these countries, some interesting trends develop. For instance, the number of researchers per research article published varies remarkably. It is important to note that this is different to authors per published article; in this case we are calculating the ratio of total researchers in a country to the publication output of the country. In many cases, there are researchers who never appear on articles as authors, and this is an important distinction to consider.

In Russia, there are 30 researchers for each research article published, while in the US there are 23 researchers. Switzerland has the lowest number of researchers per article at 2.5, followed by the UK at 3.2.

Country Number of researchers (2004) Number of articles (2004) Ratio of researchers per article
Russian Federation 951,569 31,134 30.6
United States 7,442,000 315,161 23.6
China, Peoples’ Republic of 1,152,617 101,685 11.3
Japan 896,211 97,579 9.2
Taiwan 138,604 20,054 6.9
Korea, Republic of 194,055 28,943 6.7
France 348,714 64,909 5.4
Germany 470,729 91,881 5.1
Spain 161,932 36,849 4.4
Poland 78,362 18,524 4.2
Canada 199,060 50,904 3.9
Australia 118,145 32,837 3.6
Sweden 72,459 20,057 3.6
Belgium 52,252 15,451 3.4
Italy 164,026 49,592 3.3
United Kingdom 313,848 97,671 3.2
Netherlands 91,565 28,309 3.2
Switzerland 52,250 20,623 2.5

Table 2 – Researcher numbers for 2004 (source: OECD, US Data from NSF Science & Engineering Indicators 2008, table 3.1) and articles published in 2004 (source: Scopus).

The question follows, why do these countries have such differences in the researcher per article ratio?

Of course this is a difficult question to answer and has many dimensions, all of which will contribute in different amounts in different countries.

Fundamentally, overall population density, economic factors such as GDP and per capita expenditure and infrastructure will be significant factors in the ability to support research, but we are quick to point out that the countries that have the lower ratios, such as the UK and Switzerland, have some of the highest economic capabilities and strongest infrastructures in the world – this illustrates the issues in trying to understand these differences. Certainly, research funding from both governmental and private sources will affect the maintenance of research institutions and the ability to recruit research personnel. In the US, many research institutions have huge programs that require a substantial amount of staff members, which will increase the researcher numbers in our ratio.

In addition, the ability of a country to actually encourage students to follow a research path can often be problematic – in recent times in the UK there has been commentary on the problems of filling university places in subjects such as chemistry and physics and a study by Olivieri & Rowlands (2006) indicated that acquiring research staff was one of biggest barriers to research performance, which could be a significant factor to understand these interesting ratios between articles and researchers.

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