Outputs of S&E Research: Articles and Patents

Chapter 2 of this volume and the previous section of this chapter discuss the outputs of S&E research and education in terms of human capital. This section examines additional indicators of the output of academic S&E research: articles published in the world’s S&E literature and patents received by U.S. academic institutions. In addition, licensing activities, royalties, and startups associated with university research are also discussed.

Published, peer-reviewed articles have traditionally been the means by which scientists and engineers report the results of their research and gain status in their fields. According to sociologist Robert K. Merton,

The institutional conception of science as part of the public domain is linked with the imperative for communication of findings. Secrecy is the antithesis of this norm; full and open communication its enactment. The pressure for diffusion of results is reinforced by the institutional goal of advancing the boundaries of knowledge and by the incentive of recognition which is, of course, contingent upon publication. (Merton, 1973, p. 274; see also de Solla Price 1978)

This section uses data on S&E articles to indicate world S&E knowledge production by country and by selected regions and/or groupings of countries related by geography, cultural ties, language, or political factors. Coauthorship of articles by researchers in different departments, different institutions, and different countries and regions illustrates the increasing trend of collaboration in research, both within and across countries and regions.

Citation of research articles indicates, albeit imperfectly, the relative importance of previously published research findings to future research; consequently, patterns in citation are also discussed in this section. Citation patterns, including trends in highly cited research articles, are contrasted with trends in total publication of articles.

The discussion of research outputs concludes with indicators of the flow of knowledge from academically based research to intellectual capital embodied in patents awarded to academic institutions, along with related other indicators.

S&E Article Output

The number of S&E articles in the dataset analyzed in this chapter totaled 10.6 million for the period 1988–2005.[30] In the past 10 years, the total world S&E article output as contained in the Science Citation Index (SCI) and Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) (see sidebar, "Bibliometric Data and Terminology") grew at an average annual rate of 2.3% (table 5-19table.). This reflects increases in both the number of articles per journal (from 117 in 1988 to 139 in 2005) and the total number of journals (from 4,093 in 1988 to 4,906 in 2005). Scientists and engineers in institutions in the member states of the European Union authored or coauthored one-third of the world total in 2005,[31] followed by the United States with 29% and by 10 Asian countries (hereafter "Asia-10") with 20% (figure 5-27figure. ; table 5-19table.).[32]

Trends in Country and Regional Authorship

Although S&E authors from some 200 countries are represented among the articles discussed in this section, these authors are concentrated in a relatively small number of countries (see sidebar, "Distribution of Publication Data"). Authors from one country, the United States, dominated global article output in 2005 with 29% of the total, followed by Japan with 8% and the United Kingdom, Germany, and China with 6% each.

Previous editions of Indicators and other studies (e.g. NSF/SRS 2007a) reported steadily increasing investments in S&E education and research infrastructure, especially in Asia. As these investments matured and led to increased R&D in those countries, authorship by scientists and engineers in those countries also increased, as did their success in getting articles published in international peer-reviewed journals. Differences in recent rates of growth in article production are striking. Among Asian countries/economies that produce a major number of articles (defined here as more than 10,000 articles in 2005), average annual growth rates between 1995 and 2005 were highest in China, at 17%, and South Korea, at 16% (table 5-19table.). Taiwan’s article output grew rapidly as well, at 9% per year. These high rates of growth in S&E article authorship contrast with much slower rates for the world as a whole (2.3%) and for countries with mature S&E infrastructures such as the United States (0.6%) and the countries of the European Union (1.8%). Russia’s change in article output was negative over the 10-year period.

The 10-year change rate shown in table 5-19table. obscures changes in S&E article output trends that occurred within the period. The growth rate of world output increased from 2.2% on average annually between 1995 and 2000 to 2.4% between 2000 and 2005 (appendix table 5-34Excel.). Between 1995 and 2000, U.S. article output was flat at best. This flattening of U.S. article output was the focus of a special NSF study that explored the dimensions of this trend (Bell 2007; Hill et al. 2007; Javitz et al. 2007). Between 2000 and 2005, the U.S. output again turned positive, increasing to an average annual growth rate of 1.3%, more than the 1.1% annual rate of the European Union and less than the 6.3% of the Asia-10 for the same period.

Even among nations with moderate S&E article production (defined as between 1,000 and 10,000 articles in 2005), a few stand out for increasing their publication over the past decade. In the Middle East, Iran’s article output grew at 25% a year, although its output was less than 3,000 in 2005 (table 5-20table.). In Europe, Turkey[33] and Portugal stand out for their rapid growth (16% and 11%, respectively), as do Thailand and Singapore in Asia (14% and 12%, respectively). Brazil stood out in South America with an 11% annual growth rate.

Trends in Country Rank by S&E Field

Figure 5-28figure. emphasizes that a few countries dominate the world’s authorship of S&E articles, and, as noted in the previous discussion, growth rates vary widely across countries. So which countries dominate article authorship by field of S&E, and how are these rankings changing as a result of countries’ different rates of growth in publishing?[34]

In a comparison of the top producers of S&E articles in 1995 and 2005, two patterns are evident: (1) U.S. scientists and engineers authored more S&E articles across all fields than authors in any other single country in both 1995 and 2005, and (2) overall, the top 20 article-producing countries were similar in both years (table 5-21table.). Four countries (the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany) were the leading countries across all of S&E in both 1995 and 2005, and their ranks did not change over the period. Three countries among the top 20 producers of S&E articles in 2005 were not in that rank in 1995: South Korea, Brazil, and Turkey. Other notable changes in the ranks of top- producing countries were as follows:

  • China’s high rates of annual growth in S&E article production resulted in its movement from 14th to 5th place in overall S&E article authorship, to 2nd place in engineering and chemistry, and to 3rd place in physics and mathematics. China moved up in rank of authorships in other fields as well.
  • South Korea improved its overall rank from 22nd in 1995 to 10th in 2005, with its highest rank (4th) in engineering. It made gains in other fields as well.
  • Taiwan moved up in rank overall and in all fields shown except mathematics.
  • India failed to demonstrate the fast growth of other Asia-10 countries and lost rank in some fields.
  • Brazil and Turkey gained rank across all fields shown.
  • Russia, whose growth rate was negative over the period, lost rank across all fields.

Coauthorship and Collaboration

In addition to the increasing volume of the world’s S&E published literature discussed in the previous section, another trend was an increase in the number of S&E articles with authors from different institutions. A related and even stronger trend, increases in the number of internationally coauthored S&E articles, was widely noted in previous editions of Indicators.[35] The following discussion begins with consideration of broad trends for the world as a whole, moves to regional patterns, and ends with a discussion of country-level trends, including selected country-to-country coauthorship patterns and indexes of international collaboration. (Indicators of cross-sector coauthorship, available only for the United States, are examined below in the section "Trends in Output and Collaboration Among U.S. Sectors.")

Indicators of world S&E article output discussed in the previous section show a growing world article output, with just a few dozen countries producing the predominant proportion of all articles. Within that trend lie three additional patterns of interest: a growing tendency for articles to list multiple authors, authors from more than one institution, and authors from more than one country.

Previous editions of Indicators used coauthorship data as an indicator of collaboration among scientists and discussed possible underlying drivers for increased collaboration, including scientific advantages of knowledge and instrument sharing, decreasing costs of travel and communication, national policies, and so forth (NSB 2006). Katz and Martin (1997) and Bordons and Gómez (2000) analyze limitations of coauthorship as an indicator of research collaboration, but other researchers have continued to conduct studies of S&E research collaboration using such data (Adams et al. 2005; Gómez, Fernández, and Sebastián 1999; Lundberg et al. 2006; Wuchty, Jones, and Uzzi 2007; Zitt, Bassecoulard, and Okubo 2000). The coauthorship data used in this section as indicators of collaboration in S&E research are presented with knowledge of neither the motive(s) underlying the collaboration nor the nature of the collaboration that actually occurred.[36] They should be seen as broad indicators of a secular trend in the S&E publishing record that reflects changes in the way S&E research is conducted and reported in today’s world.

Article Author Names and Institutions

Indicators of the extent of these changes are shown in figure 5-29figure., which depicts the annual number of S&E articles published worldwide relative to the number of author names[37] and different institutions that appear in article bylines. Between 1988 and 2005, the number of S&E articles, notes, and reviews grew by 60% and both the number of institutions and the number of author names more than doubled. The number of author names per article for S&E overall increased from 3.1 in 1988 to 4.5 in 2005, and this growth occurred in all of the broad S&E fields (table 5-22table.). Growth on this indicator was slower in mathematics and the social sciences, and more rapid in physics and the medical sciences.

A slightly different indicator, coauthored articles, has also increased steadily. Coauthored articles are defined as S&E articles with more than one institutional address in the byline. ("Institution" here may refer to different departments or units within the same institution; multiple listings of the same department or unit are counted as one institutional author.) Adams and colleagues (2005) offer several hypotheses that might explain growing collaboration, including specialization by researchers and a consequent increase in division of labor; decreases over time in the cost of collaboration (and of international collaboration) due to the Internet; and increases in the sharing of large research resources like instruments and large datasets. They also argue that increases in the division of labor of scientists on a team lead to increases in scientific productivity. On the other hand, Cummings and Kiesler (2005, 2007) report high coordination costs in studies of two large U.S. government programs that sought to foster collaboration.

Coauthored articles grew from 40% of the world’s S&E articles in 1988 to 61% in 2005 (figure 5-30figure.). This growth has two parts: (1) coauthored articles that list only domestic institutions in the byline, and (2) articles that list institutions from more than one country, that is, internationally coauthored articles, which may also have multiple domestic institutional authors as well. The remainder of this section focuses on these internationally coauthored articles.

Coauthorship From a Regional Perspective

Use of the same region/country categories as in "S&E Article Output" above shows changes in the patterns of interregional coauthorship.[38] Over the period 1995–2005, interregional coauthorship increased as a percentage of total article output for the United States (from 17% to 27%), the European Union (from 18% to 26%), and the Asia-10 (from 16% to 19%) (table 5-23table.). As a percentage of the world’s interregionally coauthored articles, the shares of articles with a U.S. or European Union institutional author declined slightly, giving way to a rise in the share of articles with an institutional author from the Asia-10 (from 22% in 1995 to 28% in 2005). The other regions identified in table 5-23 tend to have a less-developed S&E infrastructure, and scientists and engineers in those regions tend more often to coauthor articles with colleagues in the more scientifically advanced regions/countries. For example, 41% of all S&E articles with an institutional author from the Near East/North Africa (which includes Israel) had an author from another region, as did 59% of S&E articles with an institutional author from Sub-Saharan Africa (which includes South Africa). The following sections look more closely at coauthorship patterns of specific countries and country pairs.

Coauthorship Patterns From an International Perspective

When the region-level data discussed in the previous section are disaggregated to the country level, a richer picture of international S&E article coauthorship emerges. Table 5-24table. displays the international coauthorship rates of countries that had institutional authors on at least 1% or more of the world’s internationally coauthored S&E articles in 2005. The sheer number of U.S. coauthored articles dominates these measures, accounting for 44% of the world total. As discussed in the sidebar "Distribution of Publication Data," a relatively small number of countries account for a large proportion of the world’s internationally coauthored articles. But a country’s number of internationally coauthored articles (i.e., its "size") is not a reliable predictor of the propensity of that country’s scientists to engage in international coauthorship (Narin, Stevens, and Whitlow 1991). Countries of very different article output volumes (e.g., the United Kingdom with 28,000 internationally coauthored articles and Finland with 3,400) show similar rates of international coauthorship (44% and 48%, respectively). In contrast, the number of Japan’s internationally coauthored articles is similar to Italy’s, but Japan’s international coauthorship rate (23%) is well below Italy’s (43%).

Narin and colleagues (1991) concluded that "the direction of international coauthorship is heavily dependent on linguistic and historical factors." Coauthorship data suggest intriguing "preferences" at the national level (Glänzel and Schubert 2005; Schubert and Glänzel 2006) based on the geography, cultural relations, and language of particular pairs or sets of countries, and these preferences have been evolving over time (Glänzel 2001). Some researchers have focused on the growing S&E article output and international coauthorship of particular countries mentioned in the previous section, for example, Korea (Kim 2005), China (Zhou and Leydesdorff 2006), and Turkey (Uzun 2006).

International Coauthorship With the United States

When authors of S&E articles from U.S. institutions collaborate with authors from abroad, in which countries are these authors likely to be located? Table 5-25table. lists the 30 countries whose institutions appeared on at least 1% or more of U.S. internationally coauthored articles in 2005. U.S. authors are most likely to coauthor with colleagues from Germany (13.5%), the United Kingdom (13.4%), and Canada (11.9%).

Readers may note the asymmetry between the columns of data in table 5-25table.: each country’s share of coauthorship in U.S. internationally coauthored articles is lower than the U.S. share of that country’s international articles.[39] To some extent, the asymmetry may simply reflect the dominating effect of the size of U.S. S&E across the globe, including the number of publishing scientists and engineers (see sidebar, "Distribution of Publication Data"). For example, scientists and engineers from Canada may relatively more often collaborate with scientists and engineers in the United States (52%) than the reverse (12%) simply because there are more scientists and engineers in the United States than in Canada.[40] Canada and the United States are also close geographically and linguistically, and these factors may reinforce the size effect of the United States. Likewise, the difference in the rates of coauthorship between the United States and Israel (53% for Israel with the United States versus 3% for the United States with Israel) may reflect historical and ethnic factors in addition to the size effect of the United States. The discussion in the next section shows how removing the effect of size identifies specific country pairs of strong coauthorship across the world.

International Collaboration in S&E

In developing indicators of international collaboration between countries and across regions, researchers have developed statistical techniques that account for unequal sizes in countries’ S&E article output and coauthorship patterns (Glänzel and Schubert 2004). One of the simplest of these techniques is used in calculating the index of international collaboration shown in table 5-26table.. A country-to-country index is calculated by dividing a country’s rate of collaboration with another country by the other country’s rate of international coauthorship (Narin, Stevens, and Whitlow 1991). For example, if 12% of country A’s coauthored articles are with country B, and country B produces 12% of internationally coauthored articles, the expected country-to-country collaboration index is 1 (12%/12%). Indexes greater than 1 represent greater than expected rates of coauthorship, and indexes less than 1 represent less than expected rates of coauthorship.

Table 5-26table. lists the international collaboration index for selected pairs of countries. The indexes for all pairs of countries that produced at least 1% of all internationally coauthored articles in 2005 can be calculated from the data in appendix table 5-35Excel.. In North America, the Canada-United States index of 1.19 shows a rate of collaboration that is slightly greater than would be expected based solely on the number of internationally coauthored articles produced by each of these two countries. The United States-Mexico index of 0.98 is just about as would be predicted, whereas Mexico’s collaboration with Argentina is much stronger than expected, at 3.06. In South America, the collaboration index of Argentina-Brazil, at 5.01, is one of the highest in the world.

None of the collaboration indexes between countries on opposite sides of the North Atlantic was as high as expected based on their total international collaboration. In Europe, collaboration patterns were mixed. Among the large publishing countries of Germany, the United Kingdom, and France, collaboration was less than expected. The indexes for France-Spain and Italy-Switzerland were somewhat higher than expected, and very strong rates of collaboration were evident throughout Scandinavia.

Cross-Pacific collaboration was rather weak between the United States and both China and Japan, but somewhat stronger than expected between the United States and both South Korea and Taiwan. Canada showed a lower tendency than the United States to coauthor with other Pacific Rim countries.

Collaboration indexes between the large article producers within the Asia-10 were generally higher than expected. Indexes for Japan-China and for Japan-South Korea were strong. Australia’s collaboration with Singapore (1.72) and New Zealand (4.23) was particularly strong. India collaborated more than would be expected with Japan (1.31) and South Korea (1.84).

Trends in Output and Collaboration Among U.S. Sectors

S&E articles authored at academic institutions have traditionally accounted for just under three-fourths of all U.S. articles (appendix table 5-36Excel.). This section takes a closer look at nonacademic authorship, including output trends by sector and the extent of coauthorship, both between U.S. sectors and between U.S. sectors and authors abroad. (For a more detailed discussion of industry authorship, see "Industry Collaboration in Publications" in chapter 6.)

Article Output by Sector

Total annual publications by authors in U.S. nonacademic sectors changed little over the past decade (appendix table 5-36Excel.). Authorship by scientists and engineers in the federal government and in industry declined overall (figure 5-31figure.). Articles with nonprofit institutional authors have trended upward, primarily due to increases in the medical sciences. State and local government authorship, dominated by articles in the medical and biological sciences, remained constant across the decade. The article output of federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) remained flat until 2002 but has recently shown increases. (See sidebar "S&E Articles From Federally Funded Research and Development Centers.")

Trends in Sector Coauthorship

The previous section on "Coauthorship and Collaboration" presented coauthorship data as an indicator of collaboration between and among U.S. and foreign scientists and engineers. This section considers coauthorship data as an indicator of collaboration at the sectoral level between U.S. institutional authors and between U.S. sectors and foreign institutions.[41] These data show that the growing integration of R&D activities, as measured by coauthorship, is occurring across the full range of R&D-performing institutions.

Between 1995 and 2005, coauthorship increased in all U.S. sectors and, most notably, between U.S. institutional authors in all sectors and non-U.S. authors. Authors in FFRDCs, industry, and private nonprofit institutions increased their coauthorship with foreign authors by 10 percentage points between 1995 and 2005 (table 5-27table.). Authors at FFRDCs reached the highest rate of collaboration with foreign authors, at 38%, followed by industry at 26%. Coauthorship with foreign authors increased by 9 percentage points for authors in the federal government and academia and by 5.5 percentage points for authors in state/local government.

The extent of coauthorship between U.S. sectors and authors from another country varied by broad field of science. Astronomy had the highest rate of international coauthorship in 2005, at 58%, well above the U.S. national average of 27% across all fields and all sectors (appendix table 5-37Excel.). Within astronomy, authors at FFRDCs, in the federal government, in academia, and in private nonprofit institutions increased their international coauthorship over the decade 1995–2005 at some of the highest rates compared with other S&E fields. The geosciences, mathematics, and physics also experienced higher than average growth in international coauthorship in most sectors.

U.S. cross-sectoral coauthorship increased between all sectors except FFRDCs and industry. The largest gains in all sectors were with coauthors in academia (by far the largest sector with the largest pool of potential S&E coauthors). State/local government, the sector with the highest percentage of articles with coauthors from academia in 1995, at 63%, also had the highest percentage in 2005, at 71%, followed by private nonprofit institutions at 62% and the federal government at 59% (table 5-27table.).

Within-sector coauthorship (e.g., FFRDC authors with authors from other FFRDCs) increased as well.[42] Starting from the highest base of within-sector coauthorship in 1995, at 36%, academic authors increased their coauthorship with authors from other academic institutions to 43% in 2005. FFRDC-FFRDC coauthorship, and private nonprofit/private nonprofit coauthorship both increased by more than 4 percentage points over the decade.

Except for the decline in coauthorship between FFRDCs and industry, the indicators presented in this section show steadily increasing integration between and among the different types of U.S. institutions that publish the results of R&D in the scientific and technical literature. The data in table 5-27table. indicate that more of these coauthors have been from another department within an institution,[43] from another institution within the same sector, or from an institution in another sector. Growth in coauthorship has been particularly strong between U.S. authors in all sectors and authors in foreign institutions.

Trends in Citation of S&E Articles

When scientists and engineers cite the published results of previous research, they are formally crediting the influence of that research on their own work. Previous editions of Indicators presented data on the growing number of worldwide citations to foreign S&E literature. Like the indicators of international coauthorship discussed above, cross-national citations are evidence that S&E research is increasingly international in scope.

The indicators discussed here present a coherent picture of a world S&E literature dominated by the United States. At the same time, a decade of increases in the publication of research articles by a few dozen countries in Asia and Europe has chipped away at the U.S. share on a number of publication indicators. The following sections continue to explore this theme by contrasting worldwide research output trends with worldwide trends in highly cited S&E literature by field.

Citation Trends in a Global Context

Much of the world’s S&E research literature is never cited in another article, although citation rates vary by field (appendix table 5-38Excel.).[44] Concomitant with changing shares of the world total of S&E research articles, shares of the world total of citations to these articles have also been changing. Appendix table 5-38 shows, for example, that between 1991–93 and 2001–03, the U.S. world share of S&E articles declined from 36% to 30%, while the European Union share grew from 33% to 35% and the Asia-10 share grew from 13% to 18%. Table 5-28table. provides the parallel percentages for share of citations, showing a largely similar pattern: a decline for the United States from 50% to 41%, an increase for the European Union from 31% to 34%, and an increase for the Asia-10 from 8% to 13%. Figure 5-33figure. illustrates these changes. Other regions of the world remained relatively unchanged on these indicators during the period.

Trends in Highly Cited S&E Literature

Another indicator of performance of a national or regional S&E system is the share of its articles that are highly cited. High citation rates can indicate that an article has a greater impact on subsequent research than articles with lower citation rates.

Citation percentiles for 1995, 2000, and 2005 are shown by field and region/country in appendix table 5-38Excel..[45] In appendix table 5-38, a region/country whose research influence is disproportionate to its output would have higher numbers of articles at higher citation percentiles, whereas a country whose influence was less than its output would suggest would have higher numbers of articles at lower citation percentiles. In other words, a country whose research has high influence would have higher shares of its articles in higher citation percentiles.

This is the case in every field for U.S. articles. Across the 11 years displayed in appendix table 5-38Excel., the U.S. share of articles in the 99th percentile was higher than its share in the 95th percentile, and these were higher than its share in the 90th percentile, and so forth, even while the U.S. share of all articles was decreasing. In contrast, in every field shown in appendix table 5-38, the shares of European Union and Asia-10 articles in each percentile were inversely proportional to the citation percentiles, even as their share of all articles was increasing. Figure 5-34figure. displays these relationships for the United States, European Union, and Asia-10; only U.S. publications display the ideal relationship of consistently higher proportions of articles in the higher percentiles of article citations across the period.

These data are summarized in appendix table 5-39Excel., which focuses only on the 99th percentile of article citations. As the U.S. share of all articles produced declined between 1995 and 2005, its share of articles in the 99th percentile (i.e., the top 1%) of cited articles also declined, particularly in some fields. The share of articles produced by the European Union and the Asia-10 increased over the same period, as did their shares of articles in the 99th percentile of cited articles.

However, when citation rates are normalized by the share of articles during the citation period to produce an index of highly cited articles, the influence of U.S. articles is shown to increase. Between 1995 and 2005, the U.S. index of highly cited articles increased from 1.73 to 1.83 (figure 5-35figure.). During the same period, the European Union’s index increased from 0.75 to 0.84 and the Asia-10’s increased from 0.39 to 0.41. In other words, the United States had 83% more articles than expected in the 99th percentile of cited articles in 2005, while the European Union had 16% fewer than expected and the Asia-10 had 59% fewer than expected.[46]

The United States experienced notable gains on the index of highly cited articles in engineering, mathematics, and computer sciences (although with relatively low counts in the latter) and declines in chemistry and geosciences (appendix table 5-39Excel.). The European Union experienced gains on the index in astronomy, chemistry, and geosciences and reached expectation only in agricultural sciences. The Asia-10 achieved increases in a number of fields, including engineering, chemistry, physics, and geosciences, but did not progress in the biological or medical sciences. The Asia-10’s index score nearest expectation was in mathematics, at 0.79.

Academic Patents, Licenses, Royalties, and Startups

Other indicators of academic R&D outputs reflect universities’ efforts to capitalize on their intellectual property in the form of patents and associated activities.[47] Although some U.S. universities were granted patents much earlier, the majority did not become actively involved in the management of their own intellectual property until late in the 20th century.[48] The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 gave colleges and universities ownership of income streams from patented discoveries that resulted from their federally funded research. To facilitate the conversion of new knowledge produced in their laboratories to patent-protected public knowledge that can be potentially licensed by others or form the basis for a startup firm, more and more research institutions established technology management/transfer offices.

Efforts to encourage links between university-based research and commercial exploitation of the results of that research have been widely studied by researchers. Mowery (2002) notes the strong growth in funding by NIH and the predominance of biomedical-related patenting by universities in the 1990s. Branstetter and Ogura (2005) identify a "bio-nexus" in patent-to-paper citations, and Owen-Smith and Powell (2003) explore the effects of an academic medical center as part of the "scientific capacity" of a research university. In a qualitative study of two research universities that would appear to have similar capacities, Owen-Smith and Powell (2001) examine the very different rates of invention disclosure of the two campuses. Stephan and colleagues (2007) found strong differences in patenting activity among university scientists by field of science; a strong relationship between publication activity and patenting by individual researchers; and patenting among university researchers restricted to a small set of the potential population.

The following sections discuss overall trends in university patenting through 2005 and related indicators.

University Patenting Trends

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) data show that patent grants to universities and colleges increased sharply from 1995 to about 2002, when they peaked at just under 3,300 patents per year, and then fell to about 2,700 in 2005 (appendix table 5-40Excel.).[49] (However, this decline contrasts with recent increases in the related indicators of invention disclosures and patent applications filed by academic institutions, which are discussed in the next section, "Patent-related activities and income.") The top R&D-performing institutions, with 95% of the total, dominate among universities and university systems receiving patent protection.[50] College and university patenting as a percentage of U.S. nongovernmental patents grew in the 1980s and 1990s from less than 2% to just under 5%, and then declined to about 4.2% by 2005 (figure 5-36figure.).

The previous edition of Indicators noted that three biomedically related utility classes dominated university patenting in the 1980s and 1990s (NSB 2006, pp. 5-54 and 5-55). In 2005, these same three classes together accounted for more than one-third of all utility patents awarded to U.S. academic institutions: drug, bio-affecting and body treating compositions (15.4%); chemistry: molecular biology and microbiology (13.8%); and organic compounds (5.6%) (appendix table 5-41Excel.). Other medical and life sciences-related classes of patents, although smaller than the top three in number of patents awarded, also ranked high on the list of top patent utility classes awarded to universities.

Patent-Related Activities and Income

In contrast to the USPTO-reported decline in the total number of patents awarded to U.S. universities and colleges in 2004 and 2005 (appendix table 5-40Excel.), data from the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) indicate continuing growth in a number of related activities. Invention disclosures filed with university technology management offices describe prospective inventions and are submitted before a patent application is filed. These grew from 13,700 in 2003 to 15,400 in 2005 (notwithstanding a small decline in respondent institutions to the AUTM survey over the same period) (appendix table 5-42Excel.). Likewise, new U.S. patent applications filed by the AUTM respondents also increased, from 7,200 in 2003 to 9,500 in 2004 and 9,300 in 2005 (appendix table 5-42).

Most royalties from licensing agreements accrue to relatively few patents and relatively few of the universities that hold them, and many of the AUTM respondent offices report negative income. (Thursby and colleagues [2001] note that the objectives of university technology management offices include more than royalty income.) At the same time, one-time payments to one university can complicate analysis of the overall trend in university income due to patenting. The median net royalty per university respondent to the AUTM surveys has both risen and fallen since 1996 but overall climbed from $440,000 in 1996 to $950,000 in 2005 (figure 5-37figure.).

During the same period, the inventory of revenue-generating licenses and options across all AUTM respondent institutions increased, from 5,000 in 1996 to more than 10,200 in 2005 (appendix table 5-42Excel.). New licenses and options executed grew steadily to more than 4,000/year in both 2004 and 2005. The annual number of startup companies established as a result of university-based inventions rebounded after 2 years of downturns in 2002 and 2003 to more than 400 in both 2004 and 2005.


[30] The data in this edition of Indicators do not include articles from journals in professional fields. Thus the article counts reported here for past years will be slightly lower than counts reported in previous editions. See sidebar, "Bibliometric Data and Terminology."

[31] European Union (EU) data include all member states as of 2007 (see appendix table 5-33 for a list of member countries); previous editions of Indicators considered a smaller set. Thus the larger world share of S&E articles accounted for by the European Union is in no small part a result of the expanded EU membership. However, see the discussion of growth rates by region and country later in this section.

[32] The Asia-10 includes China (including Hong Kong), Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan.

[33] Uzun (2006) describes 20 years of Turkish science and technology policies that underlie the expansion of its article output.

[34] Another use of these data, showing within-country/within-region S&E article field distributions as an indicator of the region/country portfolio of S&E research, has been discussed in past editions of Indicators. Although countries and regions display somewhat different emphases in their research portfolios, these patterns are stable and change only slowly over time. See, for example, Science and Engineering Indicators 2006, figure 5-38 and appendix tables 5-44 and 5-45 (NSB 2006).

[35] The reader is reminded that the data on which these indicators are based give the nationality of the institutional addresses listed on the article. Authors are not associated with a particular institution and may be of any nationality. Therefore the discussion in this section is based on the nationality of the institutions, not authors themselves and, for practical purposes, makes no distinction between nationality of institutions and nationality of authors.

[36] Merton (1973, p. 409) points out the tension between the norms of priority and of allocating credit in science: "Although the facts are far from conclusive, this continuing change in the social structure of research, as registered by publications, seems to make for a greater concern among scientists with the question of 'how will my contribution be identified' in collaborative work than with the historically dominant pattern of wanting to ensure their priority over others in the field…It may be that institutionally induced concern with priority is becoming overshadowed by the structurally induced concern with the allocation of credit among collaborators."

[37] In this section only, author names refer to counts of individually listed authors of articles, not institutional authors. Since authors may appear on more than one article per year, they may be counted more than once. However, because NSF does not analyze individual author names, the extent of such multiple counting is unknown.

[38] The coauthorship data discussed in this paragraph are restricted to coauthorship across the regions/countries identified in table 5-23; i.e., collaboration between or among countries of the European Union, for example, is ignored. Intraregional coauthorship is discussed in the following sections.

[39] Readers are reminded that each country participating in an international coauthorship receives one full count for the article; i.e., for an article coauthored by the United States and Canada, both the United States and Canada receive a count of one. In the percentages discussed in this paragraph, the numerators for the country pairs are the same. The denominators vary, accounting for the different rates of coauthorship.

[40] Readers are reminded that the number of coauthored articles between any pair of countries is the same; each country is counted once per article in these data. However, countries other than the pairs discussed here may also appear on the article.

[41] Identification of the sector of the non-U.S. institution is not possible with the current data set.

[42] Readers are reminded that coauthors from different departments in an institution are coded as different institutions.

[43] See note 42.

[44] This chapter uses the convention of a 3-year citation window with a 2-year lag, e.g., 2005 citation rates are from references in articles in the 2005 tape year to articles on the 2001, 2002, and 2003 tapes of the Thomson Scientific Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index databases. Analysis of the citation data shows that, in general, the 2-year citing lag captures the 3 peak cited years for most fields, with the following exceptions: in astronomy and physics the peak cited years are generally captured with a 1-year lag, and in computer sciences, psychology, and social sciences with a 3-year lag.

[45] Percentiles are specified percentages below which the remainder of the articles falls, for example, the 99th percentile identifies the number of citations 99% of the articles failed to receive. Across all fields of science, 99% of articles failed to receive at least 21 citations. Matching numbers of citations with a citation percentile is not precise because all articles with a specified number of citations must be counted the same. Therefore, the citation percentiles discussed in this section and used in appendix table 5-38 have all been conservatively counted, and the identified percentile is in every case higher than specified, i.e., the 99th percentile is always >99%, the 95th percentile is always >95%, etc. Actual citations/percentiles per field vary widely because counts were cut off to remain in the identified percentile. Using this method of counting, for example, the 75th percentile for engineering contained articles with two citations, whereas the 75th percentile for biological sciences contained articles with 5–8 citations.

[46] This pattern holds for even lower citation percentiles (e.g., the 95th or 90th).

[47] The previous edition of Indicators discussed various factors that may have contributed to the rise in university patenting, including federal statutes and court decisions (see NSB 2006, p 5-51 through 5-53).

[48] For an overview of these developments in the 20th century, see Mowery (2002).

[49] It is unclear whether the recent downturn in patents granted to universities/colleges is a result of changes in processing at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). For example, in its Performance and Accountability Report Fiscal Year 2006, USPTO reported an increase in overall applications from 2002 to 2006; a decrease in "allowed" patent applications; and an increase in average processing time from 24 to 31 months (USPTO 2006).

[50] The institutions listed in appendix table 5-40 have been reported consistently by USPTO since 1982. Nevertheless some imprecision is present in the data. Several university systems are counted as one institution, medical schools may be counted with their home institution, and universities are credited for patents only if they are the first-name assignee on a patent; other assignees are not counted. Universities also vary in how they assign patents, e.g., to boards of regents, individual campuses, or entities with or without affiliation with the university.

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