Top 20 nations in output and world share for the sciences and social sciences

Data provided by Thomson Reuters National Science Indicators (ESI fields) database, 1981-2008 (table based on data from 2004-08 only)

June 25, 2009

 NationNo of papers 2004-08% world outputRelative impact as % +/- world average
1United States1,513,79731.11+46
3United Kingdom401,6498.25+36
12South Korea141,3172.90–30
14The Netherlands123,4562.54+49
The data above were extracted from the National Science Indicators database of Thomson Reuters. This database surveys only journal articles (original research reports and review articles) indexed by Thomson Reuters. Both articles tabulated and citation counts to those articles are for the period indicated.

Here, the ranking is by output, which is also expressed as world share in percentage terms. The number of indexed original research reports and review articles, for 2004-08, amounted to 4,865,868 items. For articles with multiple authors from different nations, each nation receives full, not fractional, publication credit. Noteworthy is China’s ranking in second place, resulting from a steep increase in output over the past decade.

Of interest, too, is the presence of Turkey and Poland at 19th and 20th positions; both now surpass in output Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Israel, to name a few.

The column at the far right provides a rough indicator of relative impact, meaning citations per paper for the nation in the sciences and social sciences as compared with the world average. Readers should view these figures, which are expressed as a percentage above or below the world average, with caution because individual nations show greater concentration of output in some fields than in others, and different fields, as shown in this space previously, exhibit the very different rates of citations per paper. To the degree a nation skews its output to fields with high rates of citation, such as molecular biology, it would score a higher number in this analysis. Also, if a nation focused its output in lower impact fields, its score would be dampened. On the other hand, because the numbers dealt with here are large and all 20 nations publish across all fields in the sciences and social sciences, there seemed some insight to be gained.

The US certainly stands out in relative impact, with a score 46 per cent higher than the world average. But that is not the highest among the 20: Switzerland and the Netherlands tally higher scores, at 63 per cent and 49 per cent more than the world average, respectively. Sweden, the UK and Germany follow according to this measure, at fourth, fifth and sixth places. Although China now ranks second in output, its relative citation score stands at 38 per cent below the world average. China’s output does, in fact, tilt more towards the physical sciences than the biological sciences, so this measure may be somewhat depressed. Still, China’s score, about that of Brazil, is higher than those of India, Russia and Turkey.

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

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