Saturday, August 11, 2007

NSF's "Changing U.S. Output of Scientific Articles: 1988-2003"

As noted on IPBiz, the paper Changing U.S. Output of Scientific Articles: 1988-2003 by Derek Hill, Alan I. Rapoport, Rolf F. Lehming, and Robert K. Bell was discussed in 317 Science 582.

IPBiz notes that it is important to recognize what nsf07320 is about; as the first sentence of the executive summary states:

In an unexpected development in the early 1990s, the absolute number of science and engineering (S&E) articles published by U.S.-based authors in the world's major peer-reviewed journals plateaued.

As the fourth paragraph points out: The unprecedented plateau in the number of U.S. S&E articles should not be confused with a decades-long and familiar decline in the U.S. share of the world's S&E articles. As other states built up their S&E capabilities, the U.S. share of the world's articles in natural sciences and engineering dropped from 38% in 1973 to 28% in 2003.

IPBiz notes that the academic sector is the primary source of articles: The U.S. academic sector, which dominates U.S. article production, largely mirrored the overall U.S. trends, although its growth in article output over the entire period compared favorably with that of other sectors.

Elsewhere in the report: The academic sector dominates U.S. S&E article production, accounting for nearly three-quarters of U.S. output.

Furthermore, in certain areas, the academic fraction of articles was INCREASING: The combined pattern of the academic sector's rising share of articles and the for-profit sector's falling share was especially dramatic in engineering/technology, physics, the social sciences, and the earth/space sciences.

Note that the plateau in the NUMBER of publications appears against a backdrop of INCREASED research funding: The study was initiated in light of evidence that the growth in the number of U.S. articles, which had continued for more than two decades, began to slow in the 1990s even though R&D funds, research personnel, and similar research inputs continued to grow.

The NSF report made clear that it was not getting into certain details: This report is confined to a presentation of data derived from the most comprehensive database available on scientific publications. It makes no attempt to cover the large, dispersed literature bearing on various aspects of the changing environment for research and publication (e.g., Stephan et al. on faculty commercialization and publication activities; Stossel and Stossel on publication patterns in a single discipline; Cummings and Kiesler on multidisciplinary and multiinstitutional research; Tijssen on changes in publication practices in the industrial sector; Tenopir and King on the rise of electronic journals).[1] Nonetheless, these more targeted studies and others like them, which use other, more theoretically driven analytic models and less-comprehensive databases, suggest significant avenues for further research. In many cases, studies such as these prompted examination of the patterns presented in this report.

IPBiz notes that references within footnote [1] do discuss patenting/commercialization issues: Stephan, P.E., S. Gurmu, A.J. Sumell, and G. Black. Who's Patenting in the University? Evidence from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients. Forthcoming in Economics of Innovation and New Technology. Is the commercialisation of scientific research affecting the production of public knowledge? Global trends in the output of corporate research articles. Research Policy 33: 709-33.

IPBiz notes that the NSF study used papers indexed by ISI: The first issue is which articles to count. This report presents counts of S&E articles, notes, and reviews published in scientific and technical journals tracked by Thomson ISI[4] and indexed in the Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index. Counts exclude all letters to the editor, news pieces, editorials, and other content whose central purpose is not presentation or discussion of scientific data, theory, methods, apparatus, or experiments.

Electronic journals are included in ISI: Coverage extends to electronic journals, including print journals with electronic versions and electronic-only journals.

In the time period of the NSF study, the number of indexed journals INCREASED: The database grew from 4,460 journals in 1988 to 5,262 in 2001, and many of the journals indexed published more articles per issue and more issues per year toward the end of the period than they did in previous years.

The NSF report tackled issues of how to count journal articles with authors from more than one institution (country).

Under "trends," the NSF article noted: The flattening of U.S. article output occurred despite continued growth of both real R&D expenditures and the academic sector R&D workforce, which produces most U.S. S&E articles (figure 2). Article output of the three other major S&E publishing centers (the EU-15, Japan, and the East Asia-4) grew considerably faster than U.S. output between 1992 and 2003 (figure 1). The growth rates of the EU-15 and Japan during this period, however, were considerably slower than between 1988 and 1992, in a pattern similar to that of the United States. [IPBiz notes that Figure 2 is scary, in that the item that is growing MOST is "academic R&D expenditures", followed by academic R&D workforce, and trailed by publication output. Thus, publications per dollar and publications per researcher are GOING DOWN QUICKLY in the US.]

IPBiz notes that there is a forthcoming NSF report that will include a discussion of patenting activities:

U.S. Academic Scientific Publishing. Scheduled for release as an SRS working paper, this report will also have implications for causal analysis of the changing trends in S&E article output. By examining quantifiable relationships among publications, resource inputs, and institutional characteristics, this report will address how various institutional characteristics (e.g., quality, R&D funding, institutional control, availability of S&E graduate students and doctorate holders, and patenting activity) relate to article production, how changes over time in these institutional characteristics relate to changes in article production, and how the variables related to an institution's article production differ for various S&E fields.

***See also

an article by Kerry Grens in The Scientist.


Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

Note a blogpost with the text:

"Of all the lead industrial countries, Japan - the country investing least in science - was growing fastest. Japanese science grew spectacularly under laissez-faire. Its science was actually purer than that of the U.K. or the U.S. The countries with the next least investment were France and Germany, and were growing next fastest. And the countries with the maximum investment were the U.S., Canada and U.K., all of which were doing very badly at the time."

3:57 AM  

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