The Most Innovative Countries In Biology And Medicine

The Most Innovative Countries In Biology And Medicine
Very interesting paper published 2 years ago in forbes site:
Link:http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2011/03/23/the-most-innovative-countries-in-biology-and-medicine/

Matthew Herper, Forbes Staff

I cover science and medicine, and believe this is biology’s century.

It’s a threat deeply rooted in the American psyche, placed there sometime between Thomas Edison and Sputnik: the idea that we’re losing our scientific and technological edge over the rest of the world. Intel founder Andy Grove said it in 2003; Time Magazine said it in 2006; former Lockheed Martin chief executive Norm Augustine said it this year. Hardly a month goes by that we don’t hear that we’re losing this edge or that, falling behind in one way or another. Is it true? And if it is, why haven’t we fallen behind yet?

To delve into this a little bit, I decided to go to SciVal Analytics, a consulting group at the giant publisher Elsevier that has access to a database called Scopus, which contains more than 18,000 scientific journals — just about the entire scientific publishing universe. They ran three analyses for me: which countries produce the most publications in biology and medicine, which are tops in information technology, and which do the most in clean technology. I’m publishing the biology and medicine data today. Come back tomorrow for a look information tech, and Friday for clean tech. I’ll also wrap up what I’ve learned from the data dump.

Of almost 3,000 articles published in biomedical research in 2009, 1,169, or 40%, came from the United States. As the line graph below demonstrates (that’s the number of publications on the Y axis, and the year of publication on the X axis), the output of every other single country in the world is dwarfed by what America produces. The closest contender is Great Britain, which comes in at about 300 articles. (Per the comments below, I’m waiting for more explanation of these numbers.)

But aren’t the other countries catching up? Actually, the number of publications from the U.S. is grew about 7% between 2005 and 2009, which is a little above average. It’s true that countries like South Korea (annualized growth: 32%), China (26%), and Ireland (22%) are growing a lot faster, but they are also starting from a smaller base.

It’s certainly possible that the U.S. is publishing entirely low quality data, but another data point, the citation score, seems to indicate that isn’t true. The citation score is the number of times an average paper was referenced by other scientific papers. In the graph below, the Y axis is the citation score and the X axis is the number of publications in total. The U.S. doesn’t come through with flying colors – Switzerland and the Netherlands score higher on citation score – but that’s probably partly because it publishes so much more than other countries, with volume tending to bring down the average.

Another interesting stat: not only is the U.S. producing more research, it is producing a greater share of those publications with other countries. The bar chart below shows how many of the total papers produced over a five-year period involved co-authorship between different countries (for instance, between the U.S. and China, or Japan and Germany). Papers published by U.S. researchers were much more likely to have had foreign co-authors, which the SciVal analysts think means that the U.S. is more collaborative as well as being a bigger research force.

So when it comes to biology and medicine, U.S. researchers are publishing more than those in other countries. And this probably shouldn’t come as much of a shock. You can see the effect of the U.S. dominance in biology and medicine in the behavior of big drug companies.  Novartis, a Basel, Switzerland-based drug giant, nonetheless chose to place its research headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., near Harvard and MIT, and to put a Harvard doctor and biologist, Mark Fishman, in charge of R&D. Sanofi-Aventis gives nearness to the U.S. research hubs as one of the reasons behind its pending purchase of Genzyme, the U.S. biotechnology giant.

And pushes to establish other countries as research challengers to the U.S. in medicine have often proceeded with fits and starts. For a while, it appeared that South Korea was making a go of it when it came to stem cells and cloning, but then it turned out that one of its leading researchers, Hwang Woo Suk, had faked results. There is a big movement to move some drug research to China — Pfizer just moved its antibiotic research to Shanghai — but the bulk of the work is still very much U.S.-centered.  There may be threats to America’s position in biomedicine, but at best they are hoof beats in the distance, not imminent dangers.

Come back tomorrow, and we’ll see whether the same applies to information technology.

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