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Wall, war, wealth: 30 years of science

Montreal, QC (CNW) February 17, 2010 A Discussion Paper released today by Science-Metrix Inc. examines geopolitical shifts in knowledge creation over the past three decades in the ex-USSR, the Middle East and Asia.

Using information extracted from the Web of Science (Thomson Reuters) database of scientific publications spanning the last 30 years (1980 to 2009), the paper examines the effects of geopolitical change on scientific production.

"When we started this research, we expected to find Asian countries growing rapidly," says Eric Archambault, author of the Discussion Paper and president of Science-Metrix. "But we were both awed and pleasantly surprised. Asia is catching up even more rapidly than previously thought, Europe is holding its position more than most would expect, and the Middle East is a region to watch."

As one example of geopolitical change and its effects, the study cites the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. While the levels of scientific output of most of the ex-Soviet republics (with the exception of Lithuania and Estonia) have yet to recover, those of other ex-members of the Warsaw Pact surged very shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

The paper also discusses the Middle East, where constant political tensions and armed conflict have led to substantially different responses in the development of national scientific systems. Iraq's system is still shattered, and Kuwait's still hasn't fully recovered. Importantly, Iran has exhibited one of the fastest growth rates in scientific production the world over. The growth and specific efforts in strategic subfields indicate that this may be the result of Iran's highly controversial nuclear technology development program.

The paper concludes with an examination of global trends in scientific production and highlights Asia's rising dominance on the research front. Over the last 30 years, Asia's share of world scientific output grew by 155% and, as of 2009, surpassed that of Northern America. China, in particular, has shown spectacular progressits output of peer-reviewed scientific papers grew more than five times faster than that of the US, and it is set to meet the US level of output in natural sciences and engineering in 2010, and in 2015 overall.

"These data provide a lot of food for thought," says Dr. Archambault. "Science is growing in importance, but we don't know much about how politics affects science and not even how science affects policy."


Contact: Trina L. Foster

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