Number of Published Science and Engineering Articles Flattens, But U.S. Influence Remains Strong

July 19, 2007
Number of published science and engineering articles flattens, but US influence remains strong
The number of published U.S. science and technology articles plateaued in the 1990s despite continued increases in funding and personnel for research and development. © 2007 Jupiterimages Corporation

Number of published U.S. science and technology articles plateaued in the 1990s, despite continued increases in funding and personnel for research and development.

A new National Science Foundation (NSF) report finds the number of U.S. science and engineering (S&E) articles in major peer-reviewed journals flattened in the 1990s, after more than two decades of growth, but U.S. influence in world science and technology remains strong.

The report, Changing U.S. Output of Scientific Articles: 1988 - 2003, finds changes occurred despite continued increases in funding and personnel for research and development. Flattening occurred in nearly all U.S. research disciplines and types of institutions.

In contrast, emerging Asian nations had large increases in publication numbers, reflecting their growing expertise in science and technology. European Union totals also went up.

Numbers of articles published and their citation in S&E journals is a widely accepted indicator of research capability. When paired with trends in patenting, licensing, research and development expenditures and advanced training of personnel, publication trends may be viewed as a factor affecting a nation's ability to spur technological innovation.

Despite the leveling of articles published, researchers emphasize other evidence that indicates U.S. science and technology capability remains strong. They say the change in U.S. share of the world's S&E articles is not a surprise in view of growing S&E research capability around the world, nor do they view it as a cause for concern.

"In addition to numbers published, one should look at another very important indicator -- article quality," said Derek Hill, senior analyst and a coauthor of the report. "The more often an article is cited by other publications, the higher quality it's believed to have. While citation is not a perfect indicator, U.S. publications are more highly cited than those from other countries."

In raw numbers, the United States continues to publish far more articles than any other country and remains a major force in world S&E. However its overall share of published articles has declined while other nations produce more.

Four Asian societies--China, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan--out-distanced all others in the world between 1992 and 2003 with an average annual growth rate of 15.9 percent in publications.

According to the report, Japan's article output rose at an average annual rate of 3.1 percent, five times faster than the United States.

The European Union, which passed the U.S. several years ago in total numbers of articles published, posted an average annual growth rate of 2.8 percent during the same period, more than four times faster than the United States.

The report is part of a larger study of trends in scientific publication by NSF's Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS). Along with the report, SRS is releasing a workshop summary and working paper called "The Changing Research and Publication Environment in American Research Universities (SRS 07-204)."

These two reports explore the contexts and causes of the initial publication's findings and report on the perspectives of practitioners and experts regarding how S&E research and publication are changing.

A second working paper, "U.S. Academic Scientific Publishing," reporting statistical analysis of trends in the U.S. academic sector is scheduled to be released later this year.

Source: National Science Foundation

Explore further: Evidence of aliens? What to make of research and reporting on 'Oumuamua, our visitor from space

Related Stories

Scientists discover new way to prevent spacecraft errors

November 16, 2018

Scientists from the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (Russia) and the Scientific Research Institute of System Analysis of the Russian Academy of Sciences have recently developed components for designing fault-tolerant ...

Pressure helps to make better Li-ion batteries

November 14, 2018

Lithium titanium oxide (Li4Ti5O12, LTO), a "zero-strain" anode material for Li-ion batteries (LIBs), exhibits excellent cycling performance. However, it shows poor conductivity, which is the major drawback and limits its ...

Recommended for you

Excavators find tombs buried in Bolivia 500 years ago

November 17, 2018

Archaeologists say they found tombs at a Bolivian quarry containing remains from more than 500 years ago that give an insight into the interaction of various peoples with the expanding Inca empire.

Preventing chemical weapons as sciences converge

November 15, 2018

Alarming examples of the dangers from chemical weapons have been seen recently in the use of industrial chemicals and the nerve agent sarin against civilians in Syria, and in the targeted assassination operations using VX ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.