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UK research quality has overtaken US, report says

The UK remains a global research heavyweight and has overtaken the United States on quality and relative output, according to a new report.

In research quality as measured by field-weighted citation impact the UK is ahead of the US and other comparator countries including China, Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada and France, says the report published by the  Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

While the UK represents just 0.9 per cent of the global population, it accounts for 3.2 per cent of R and D expenditure, 4.1 per cent of researchers, 6.4 per cent of research articles, 9.5 per cent of research article downloads, and 15.9 per cent of the world’s most highly-cited articles.

The International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base 2013, produced by Elsevier’s SciVal Analytics team, adds that the UK is the most productive research nation in terms of articles and citations relative to R and D expenditure, ranking first among comparator countries on these two indicators.
 
Compared with ten years ago, and relative to the world average, the UK has increased its emphasis on social science and business, but has produced proportionally fewer articles in biological, environmental and physical sciences, mathematics and engineering, the report says.
 
The UK occupies a central position in global networks of collaboration. Among its comparator countries, it has the second-highest rate of international co-authorship after France, and this rate continues to rise. International co-authorship is associated with high publication impact.
 
Although the number of UK researchers is broadly stable, increasing at just 0.9 per cent per year, there is a high degree of international mobility amongst active staff which means that the UK researcher population is constantly refreshing.
 
Commenting on the report, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "This report clearly demonstrates the continued strength of our science research base and that the UK continues to punch above its weight. I've often said that I want the UK to be the best place in the world to do science and this research shows that we are well on
our way to achieving this goal. An excellent research base contributes directly to economic growth and is keeping us at the forefront of the global science race."
 

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