US will no longer dominate science and research

February 18, 2011

A shift in the global research landscape will reposition the United States as a major partner, but not the dominant leader, in science and technology research in the coming decade, according to a Penn State researcher. However, the U.S. could benefit from this research shift if it adopts a policy of knowledge sharing with the growing global community of researchers.

"What is emerging is a global science system in which the U.S. will be one player among many," said Caroline Wagner, associate professor of international affairs, who presented her findings today (Feb. 18) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

The entrance of more nations into global science has changed the research landscape. From 1996 to 2008, the share of papers published by U.S. dropped 20 percent. Wagner attributes much of this output shift not to a drop in U.S. research efforts, but to the exponentially increasing research conducted in developing countries, such as China and India.

China has already surpassed the U.S. in the output of research papers in the fields of natural science and engineering. Based on current trends, China will publish more papers in all fields by 2015. Although China still lags in quality, according to Wagner, that gap is closing, too.

As enrollments in Chinese universities swell, there will also be more researchers in China than there are in the U.S., she noted.

Typical recommendations to spur U.S. research, such as spending more money on research, may not restore American preeminence in science and technology.

"Some consider America's loss in the 'numbers game' in research to be a scary scenario, but the answer may not be in spending more money," said Wagner. "The system may be operating at full capacity—and the law of diminishing returns exists in , just as it does in other sectors."

Instead of this low return-on-investment strategy, Wagner recommended that the U.S. rely on a more efficient knowledge-sharing strategy by tapping experts from other countries who have developed more knowledge and better skills than U.S. researchers in certain fields. Other nations would, in turn, have access to U.S. scientists to conduct research in fields where they are most proficient.

Wagner refers to the possibility of a global research community as the new "invisible college," a term coined in the 17th century to describe the connections among researchers from diverse disciplines and places who created the world's first scientific society.

One fallacy is that the Internet will naturally create this global research community, said Wagner. Despite the presence of global communication systems, such as the Internet and mobile phone technology, research remains a difficult network to navigate, especially for scientists in developing countries.

"The Internet helps speed up the rate of communication, but doesn't necessarily improve access for developing countries," Wagner said. "Since face-to-face contact is still the preferred way to connect with fellow researchers, participants can still be blocked by the cost of travel and access to research papers, for example."

Explore further: Nanomaterials researchers to study self-assembly by electrical and optical fields

Related Stories

Report: U.S. R&D publications decline

November 27, 2006

A science editor says the U.S. share of scientific papers published worldwide in peer-reviewed science and engineering journals is declining.

China to surpass U.S. emissions levels

November 7, 2006

The International Energy Agency says China will surpass the United States in carbon dioxide emissions by 2009, about a decade ahead of previous predictions.

Recommended for you

Plague likely a Stone Age arrival to central Europe

November 22, 2017

A team of researchers led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has sequenced the first six European genomes of the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis dating from the Late Neolithic ...

How to cut your lawn for grasshoppers

November 22, 2017

Picture a grasshopper landing randomly on a lawn of fixed area. If it then jumps a certain distance in a random direction, what shape should the lawn be to maximise the chance that the grasshopper stays on the lawn after ...

Ancient barley took high road to China

November 21, 2017

First domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, wheat and barley took vastly different routes to China, with barley switching from a winter to both a winter and summer crop during a thousand-year ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4 / 5 (4) Feb 18, 2011
I cannot use quotes or I will be filtered by phyorg. What we have here is failure to communicate. We must get our minds right.President Clinton stopped funding for the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas, thus assuring or mediocrity. Funding for our only working collider was stopped this year. He ignored Neil Armstrong about NASA. John Holdern said in April that the United States cannot expect to be number one in everything indefinitely. What more proof do we need that the fix is in? Americans are being told to stop the race and let the rest of the world lead us for a while. We have not done such a good job and so others may do it better goes the current thinking. Let the EU lead in experimental physics.
not rated yet Feb 19, 2011
inkreasing The amount oF The science and researching is The solution
1 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2011
The world can have all the basic research success it wants to invest in. When it comes to using the results of basic research to create usable and marketable products its USA all the way.
not rated yet Feb 19, 2011
The world can have all the basic research success it wants to invest in. When it comes to using the results of basic research to create usable and marketable products its USA all the way.

3 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2011
Oh well...the US will dominate ID science and research. USa is no.1 again, so no worry folks.
5 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2011
The world can have all the basic research success it wants to invest in. When it comes to using the results of basic research to create usable and marketable products its USA all the way.

That wont last long. I have watched the U.S. decline for many years now, in almost every way possible. Nothing lasts forever.
not rated yet Feb 19, 2011
If we didn't give everything away for free, we wouldn't be in this situation.

Don't expect everyone else to return the favor, 'cause they won't.
not rated yet Feb 19, 2011
Who cares as long as everyone benefits and the countries conducting the research are trustworthy? As long as US output and quality don't decrease; this global collaboration could stimulate new advances.
not rated yet Feb 22, 2011
trying spending a wee bit less on teaching the world the value of gunpowder - by focusing on war and bailing out banks who created their own problems you spend on the wrong things - keep it up and you will bankrupt yourselves and end up breaking up..............

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.