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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 12:21 EDT

Europe And Asia Catching Up To US Scientific Research

November 12, 2010

According to a Thomson Reuters report, the U.S. still leads the world with its scientific power, but Europe and Asia are catching up.

The report said that U.S. focus on biological and medical sciences leaves the fields of physical sciences and engineering open to the competition.

“The United States is no longer the Colossus of Science, dominating the research landscape in its production of scientific papers, that it was 30 years ago,” the report states.

The report added that “It now shares this realm, on an increasingly equal basis, with the EU27 (the 27 European Union members) and Asia-Pacific.”

Scientists and engineers make their work public in scholarly journals by sharing ideas and making them available to be critiqued, copied or replicated.  The top research is used as the basis of other work more often.

“The current state of scientific research in the United States remains strong, with significant funding (some 2.8 percent of GDP, relatively more than key competitors), excellent academic institutions that are a magnet for the best minds worldwide, and a talented workforce that leads the globe in the quality of its collective research efforts, innovations, and results,” the report reads.

However, Thomson’s Jonathan Adams and David Pendlebury said that U.S. influence is declining because other countries are doing more.

“In 1981, U.S. scientists fielded nearly 40 percent of research papers in the most influential journals,” the report said.

“By 2009, that figure was down to 29 percent. During the same period, European nations increased their share of research papers from 33 percent to 36 percent, while research contributed by nations in the Asia-Pacific region increased from 13 percent to 31 percent.”

They found that China is now the second-largest producer of scientific papers with about 11 percent of the world’s total.

Asian nations as a group passed the U.S. with $387 billion in research and development spending in 2008, compared with $384 billion in the U.S. and $280 billion in Europe.

The report notes that half of U.S. research focuses on biological sciences “just at the time when Asian nations are focusing on and investing substantial sums in engineering, physical sciences, and technology.”

According to the report, in the U.S., the Massachusetts Institute for Technology and California Institute led in research and development.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a similar report earlier this week. 

UNESCO said that in 2002, about 83 percent of research and development was carried out in developed countries but this dropped to 76 percent by 2007.  It found China was leading the emerging nations with 1.4 million researchers.

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