How the G7 nations compare in research performance

Data provided by Thomson Reuters from its National Science Indicators, 2005-2009. Table shows the strength of G7 countries in different fields, comparing them against each other (top line) and by relative citation impact against the world average in the field

June 10, 2010

 CanadaFrance GermanyItalyJapanUKUS
Agricultural sciences2465713
 +16+ 4+19- 6-13+35+41
 +23+14+30+14+ 4+34+60
Clinical medicine1654732
Computer sciences4526731
 +12- 3+24- 9-+21+48
 + 6-20-18-23-51+ 9+35
 + 8+15+17+ 5-16+15+25
 +25+22+31- 2-16+45+29
 +17+38+42+ 5+ 6+52+46
 + 3+ 8+ 6- 1+10+20+30
Materials science6435721
 +19+21+23- 7-14+38+44
Molecular biology5436712
 +11+14+18- 5- 6+35+30
 +13+ 4+16- 4-19+34+31
 ++20+17+ 8-18+48+33
 +40+26+47+25+ 5+48+54
Plant/animal sciences5327614
 +23+44+48- 2+ 8+63+30
 +11-20- 5- 2-40+18+19
Space sciences1536724
Average rank4.004.453.455.756.701.851.75
John Holdren, the White House science adviser, told a recent meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science: “We can’t expect to be number one in everything indefinitely.” The comment sparked controversy among some who interpreted this view as a lowering of aspirations for research by US government leaders. Others saw the remark as nothing more than an acknowledgement of reality, especially in light of the increasing globalisation of research and the rise of many nations now competing at the frontiers of science.

In fact, the assumption that the US is currently number one in all fields is demonstrably wrong. In terms of output, the US does lead other nations, but in terms of citation impact (citations per paper), it is not always in the lead.

The table above presents data on research competitiveness among the industrialised G7 nations in terms of research papers published from 2005 to 2009 and their relative citation impact over the same period. The top line in each box provides the rank among the G7 in impact, whereas the second line gives the relative citation impact for the nation in the specified field. This figure (citations per paper for the nation in a field compared with the world average) is expressed as above or below the world average in percentage terms. The last row in the table supplies the average rank over the 20 fields listed.

The UK and the US rank virtually identically when one considers their average ranks across all fields. Then follow Germany, Canada, France, Italy and Japan. The UK beats the US in eight out of 20 fields: agricultural sciences, ecology and environment, geosciences, molecular biology and genetics, neuro­sciences, pharmacology and toxicology, plant and animal sciences and space sciences.

Economics and business, chemistry and materials science are exceptionally strong areas for the US, according to relative citation impact.

For more information on Thomson Reuters’ National Science Indicators database, see:

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