UK lags in research spending

March 24, 2006

UK spending on research continues to lag behind competitor countries, but British scientists have a disproportionately big impact, according to the Department of Trade and Industry, writes Anna Fazackerley.

The DTI's third report on the performance of UK research, published this week, confirms that the UK spends about 1.8 per cent of its gross domestic product on research, which places it 17th in a league table of 21 countries and seventh among the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations.

But the UK holds its own in many areas. It is ranked second, just behind the US, on the number of research publications.

And the UK trails only the US for citations of papers in ten key research fields. This year, it has even moved ahead of the US for citations of pre-clinical and health research papers and for biological sciences. The UK is in third place on citations for maths papers and fourth for physical sciences and engineering.

The UK also lags behind on the number of researchers. Some 0.3 per cent of the population are classified as researchers, the lowest number in the G8, and 15th in the world rankings.

Julia Goodfellow, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: "Biology and medicine are outstanding highlights, but across the board UK research is delivering high-impact results. We must make sure that we are not complacent. Germany has more PhD students, and we have to be aware of the obvious rise of China."

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