Which countries and universities are leading on AI research?

Elsevier data show that China produces vast quantities of papers in field but lags on quality

May 22, 2017
AI robot at a shop in China
Source: Getty

China has been producing almost twice as many papers on artificial intelligence as the next highest-placed country in terms of publication volume for the field, a data analysis for Times Higher Education has shown.

Data from Elsevier’s Scopus database provided to THE illustrate China’s huge drive on research in the area, with researchers in the nation notching up just over 41,000 publications from 2011 to 2015.

In terms of publication volume, the US was second during the period with almost 25,500 publications while Japan was in third place (about 11,700) and the UK in fourth (about 10,100).   

 

Publications in AI research, 2011 to 2015
Source: 
Elsevier/Scopus

However, although China scored high in terms of volume, it was only 34th in terms of field-weighted citation impact (which allows for differences in citations according to subject and year), suggesting that most of the papers were not of the same quality as those coming from the US (fourth for citation impact), for instance.

Country Publications Field-weighted citation impact
Switzerland 1,685 2.71
Singapore 2,432 2.24
Hong Kong 2,205 2.00
United States 25,471 1.79
Italy 6,221 1.74
Netherlands 2,458 1.71
Australia 5,227 1.69
Germany 7,957 1.66
Belgium 1,537 1.64
United Kingdom 10,120 1.63

Source: Elsevier/Scopus


Leading the world on this measure was Switzerland, with a citation impact score of 2.71, followed by Singapore (2.24) and Hong Kong (2.00), although all three of these produced fewer than 2,500 publications on AI over the time frame.

Looking at individual institutions that published more than 500 times on AI shows that only one in China – the Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences – had a citation impact above the world average of 1. 

The list ranked by citation impact is topped by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a score of 3.57. This is way ahead of the rest of the chasing pack, including Carnegie Mellon University and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Institution Country  Publications  Field-Weighted Citation Impact
Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States                  1,011 3.57
Carnegie Mellon University United States                  1,311 2.53
Nanyang Technological University Singapore                  1,197 2.51
University of Granada Spain                      587 2.46
University of Southern California United States                      627 2.35
Technical University of Munich Germany                      656 2.27
Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences China                      588 2.26
Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hong Kong                      602 2.20
National University of Singapore Singapore                      807 2.14
Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong                      530 2.09

Source: Elsevier/Scopus


In recent years, it has been industry – in emerging tech areas such as self-driving cars – that has been the driving force behind the explosion in AI research, both in the West and in China, according to Alexander Wong, Canada research chair and professor in systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo.

Waterloo, the first university in Canada to receive government approval to test a self-driving car on public roads in the country, comes 11th in terms of citation impact for AI research. 

“Before the recent revolutions in AI, industry had been very slow in adopting and embracing [the field], but now they…are rapidly adapting their businesses to push the frontiers of AI, and more importantly working closer to researchers and universities to support them in pushing advances in AI at an incredible pace,” Professor Wong said. 

Sean Holden, a senior lecturer in computer science at the University of Cambridge, said a key factor in the current growth of AI research was that recent advances “have been in areas that can obviously be monetised” in a manner different from “traditional” uses of AI.

“The assorted boxes that you can talk to in your house – that try to assist you – have only more recently been feasible and represent a completely different way of making revenue. Such avenues are opened when notable advances are made, of which there have recently been several,” he said.

However, he warned that there was a “cycle of hype” surrounding AI which was currently “at its peak”, leading to companies and governments showing more interest. In the long term it was universities that would still have impact in driving the field forward, he said, because they were “more interested in science than generating return for shareholders”. 

simon.baker@timeshighereducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments