China, India lead challenge to scientific superpowers

A report by the Royal Society science academy also found some rapidly emerging scientific nations not usually associated with a strong science base, including Iran, Tunisia and Turkey.

The report, entitled “Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century”, stressed the growing importance of international cooperation in the conduct and impact of science, and its ability to tackle global problems like energy security, climate change and loss of biodiversity.

“The landscape of science is changing. Science is increasing and new players are fast appearing,” Chris Llewellyn Smith, chair of the advisory group for the study, told a briefing. “Beyond the emergence of China, we see the rise of Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, North African and other nations.” Llewellyn Smith said in the five years from 2002 to 2007, global spending on research and development (R&D) had risen by almost 45 per cent—broadly in line with rising economic growth—but in developing countries it had risen by 100 per cent.

“The increase in the developing world is mainly driven by China,” he said. “But there are also others there.”

He said the growth in scientific research and collaboration should help the world find solutions to global challenges, and added: “No historically dominant nation can afford to rest on its laurels if it wants to retain the competitive economic advantage that being a scientific leader brings.”

Surprises

The publication data analysed by the report showed changes in the share of the world’s authorship of scientific research papers between the periods 1993-2003 and 2004-2008.
Although the US still leads the world, its share of global authorship has fallen to 21 per cent from 26 per cent and its closest rival is now China, which has risen from sixth to second place with a share of authorship rising to 10.2 per cent from 4.4 per cent.

Among big surprises in the report’s findings were a handful of countries whose scientific credentials have come almost from nowhere to feature far more prominently in world science. Iran is the fastest growing country in terms of numbers of scientific publications in the world, growing from just 736 papers in 1996 to 13,238 in 2008.

Turkey has also dramatically improved its scientific performance, at a rate to almost rival China, with R&D spending increasing nearly sixfold between 1995 and 2007.

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