Number and variety of publications reveal strengths and weaknesses in EU scientific research, says report

March 20, 2003

Brussels, 19 Mar 2003

Analysing the number and variety of scientific publications in Europe can help pinpoint the scientific strengths and weaknesses of individual countries. This is one of the methods used to measure scientific performance in the latest report on science and technology (S&T) indicators.

According to the report, investing in people and their ability to retain and then generate knowledge is vital if Europe is to meet the Lisbon goal of becoming the most competitive knowledge based society by the end of the decade.

One way of estimating the progress of EU countries towards this goal is by looking at the quantity of scientific publications, and according to the report, Europe is ahead of the US and Japan in terms of scientific publications.

Within the EU, figures show that the largest producers of publications are the UK and Germany, contributing 22.5 percent and 20.8 per cent respectively of the European share of publications.

In terms of specialisation in particular fields, the report finds that in Denmark Sweden and Finland, the scientific trend is towards life sciences. Similarly, Ireland, Belgium and Austria are also relatively specialised in the life sciences.

Spain and the Netherlands appear to have a very diverse scientific output, specialising across the board from life sciences to physics and mathematics. In contrast, France and Italy show considerable preference for physics, although they are also represented in other fields.

The UK is, however, much more specialised in life and engineering sciences while Greece displays strengths in engineering sciences, mathematics, statistics and computer sciences. Germany and Portugal are shown to specialise in engineering sciences and the natural sciences.

While measuring publications can indicate scientific activity in each country, the report warns against basing scientific performance in Europe solely on such indicators. Although countries might not be specialised in certain fields, the report suggests that they can still be very active and be highly qualified to work in a specific scientific area.

Furthermore, while high publication performance may reflect Europe's scientific excellence, the report suggests that one of the keys to obtaining a competitive knowledge-based economy is knowing how to viably commercialise this scientific knowledge.

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CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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