Citations not restricted to university sector

December 10, 2004

Martin Ince dissects the data to identify centres of science-based excellence

How good a researcher would you be if you did not have all those students to worry about?

One answer comes from The Times Higher 's analysis of the citations impact of the top non-university institutions in engineering and information technology. It shows that the top 100 producers of highly cited papers include 18 from outside the university sector.

In particular, the Max Planck Society in Germany and CNRS, the National Centre for Scientific Research, in France, appear as large and productive networks of state research centres.

But the table is dominated by the big national laboratories in the US and offers no comfort to the critics who doubt their role in contemporary innovation. They take up six of the 18 places. Many of these labs - including Los Alamos, birthplace of the atomic bomb - have a continuing heavy commitment to nuclear research. This is also true of the Italian and Japanese nuclear laboratories that appear here.

Also notable is the appearance of Cern, the world's leading particle physics centre. Most of the science performed there is published by the university academics who use its machines. But this table shows that its own staff are also highly productive when it comes to original research, underlining the value of such international collaboration.

The private sector shows up less well in this setting. The likes of Microsoft and Intel prefer patents to papers as the means of articulating their discoveries.

The exceptions are IBM and AT&T in the US and NTT in Japan. NTT has a strong role in Japanese technology because it spans telecommunications and computer hardware and software.

IBM, AT&T and NTT are joined here by Inria, the French state's research organisation for automation and communications.

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