Eurovision block voting: does anything similar occur in research?

Data on international collaborations hint at importance of place, politics and history

May 12, 2016
Eurovision block voting infographic (12 May 2016)

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Countries from similar regions supporting each other in the Eurovision Song Contest, which takes place this week, is often a bugbear for many viewers, especially from the UK. 

But this map shows that certain European nations also have special research bonds above and beyond what would be expected given the size of their research base.  

Despite the supposedly fluid, international nature of modern research, the results appear to show the continued impact of geography, history and language in creating research relationships between countries.

The map was created using a measure called Salton’s Index, which controls for the size of each country’s research output, to analyse levels of co-authorship between nations.

For example, simply looking at how many co-authored papers one country has with another gives unsurprising results – on this measure, the UK’s top two partners are, predictably, Germany and France. But using Salton’s Index, Germany and the Netherlands emerge as the UK’s strongest partners.

The data, provided by Elsevier, are based on papers in the Scopus database from 2012-14, and cover all areas of academic research.


United Kingdom

The UK’s strongest links are with two northern European nations with high levels of English proficiency: Germany and the Netherlands. But there are also strong ties to other European regions as well: France and Italy are the third and fourth strongest partners. However, ties with Eastern Europe and Russia are on the whole far weaker than with other regions.

1. Germany
2. Netherlands
3. France
4. Italy
5. Switzerland


Germany

Germany’s closest academic ties are with smaller states on its southern border that also have German as a language: Switzerland and Austria. Bonds with the Netherlands and the UK are also strong. Neighbouring Poland and Denmark, however, have much lower levels of collaboration – less than Italy, Spain and Sweden.

1.Switzerland
2.Austria
=3. UK
=3. Netherlands
5. France


Russia

The lingering influence of the Soviet bloc looms large in Russian collaboration – Russia’s strongest links are with neighbouring Belarus, Ukraine and nearby Armenia. Despite the distance, it also has strong links with Germany, perhaps a relic of when the country was divided between East and West.

1. Belarus
2. Ukraine
3. Armenia
4. Germany
5. France


Sweden

In common with its neighbours, Sweden has particularly strong ties with other Scandinavian states. Yet, showing that research ties are about more than geographic proximity, Sweden has better links with distant Greece and Spain than it does with Russia.

1. Denmark
2. Norway
3. Finland
4. UK
5. Germany


Israel

Israel’s “special relationship” with Germany in the political sphere is mirrored in research, although it is less clear why it has better than expected links with Azerbaijan and Armenia.

1. Germany
2. Azerbaijan
3. Armenia
4. Italy
5. UK


Poland

Aside from relatively strong links with Germany, Polish research looks east: Armenia, Ukraine and Belarus are some of its top collaborators, perhaps a hangover from Soviet-era research links.

1. Armenia
2. Ukraine
3. Germany
4. Belarus
5. France

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