The quality of Scottish research is improving, according to a new analysis. A study for the Scottish government found that Scotland produces 12,000 indexed papers a year, and increased its share of world citations from 1.6 to 1.8 per cent in the period 2006-08.
Neither the UK as a whole nor other small northern European countries such as Belgium or Denmark increased their percentage of world citations over this period.
However, while Scotland's research output has increased in volume along with citations, its share of world output has fallen from 1. per cent in 2000 to 1.06 per cent in 2008. This has coincided with the rapid growth of research activity in countries such as China and Brazil.
The analysis was commissioned by Anne Glover, Scotland's chief scientific adviser, and carried out by Evidence, a UK-based subsidiary of Thomson Reuters.
It suggests that the improvement in citation terms has come at a cost, as Scottish researchers are now excelling in a smaller number of academic disciplines than before.
Scotland accounted for about 2 per cent of the world's top 1 per cent of highly cited papers in 2008, and while health, medicine, mathematics and environmental research had an impact well above the world average, Scottish research in the social sciences and business fell below the world average for impact.
The report also says that global collaborations with Scottish academics are on the rise. Almost half of papers produced in Scotland were internationally co-authored in 2008, compared with just a third in 1999. Collaborations with the US were the most popular.
Professor Glover said that "being able to demonstrate the strength of Scottish research will help us to attract the best scientists from around the world, as well as acting as a magnet for international investment".
Alex Salmond, the First Minister, said the report illustrated the "great opportunities that exist for Scottish businesses to collaborate with our research community to exchange knowledge and design the products of the future. The commercialisation of knowledge is a key to unlock Scotland's economic potential".