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Research Outputs: Journal Articles and Patents

Research produces new knowledge, products, or processes. Research publications reflect contributions to knowledge, patents indicate useful inventions, and citations on patent applications to the scientific and technical literature indicate the linkage between research and practical application.

The number of research articles published in a set of international, peer-reviewed journals has grown from about 460,000 in 1988 to an estimated 760,000 in 2008.[11] The geographical distribution of the authors provides yet another indication of the size of a country's or region's research enterprise and its ability to produce research results that can pass peer review.

Researchers in the EU and the United States have long dominated world article production, but their combined world share of published articles decreased steadily from 69% in 1995 to 59% in 2008 as Asia's output increased. In little more than a decade, Asia's world article share expanded from 14% to 23%. The increase principally reflected China's output volume, which expanded by about 14% annually over the period. In 2008, China produced about 8% of world article output, up from 1% in 1988. By 2007, China's publication volume exceeded Japan's, moving it into 2nd place behind the United States—a distant 2nd place, but up from 14th place in 1995. In contrast, India's output of scientific and technical articles stagnated through the late 1990s before beginning to increase, and India's ranking hardly moved, changing from 12th place in 1995 to 11th place in 2008 (figure O-13 ).

The distribution of a country's research publications across different fields broadly reflects its research priorities. In 2007, more than half of the articles published by U.S. researchers reported on work in the biomedical and other life sciences, whereas scientists in Asia and some major European countries published a preponderance of articles in the physical sciences[12] and engineering (figure O-14 ). Priority shifts not evident in figure O-14 include China's growing focus on chemistry R&D (related articles increased as a share of China's S&E articles from 13% in 1988 to 24% in 2008) and declining share of other physical sciences articles (from 39% to 28%) as well as South Korea's shift toward greater output in biological and medical sciences (from a combined 17% to 38%). These changes in research portfolios reflect government policy choices: China is building up its chemicals industry; South Korea is trying to develop a reputation in health sciences.

Worldwide, the number of engineering research articles increased substantially faster over the past 20 years than total S&E article production, particularly in Asia, where the growth rate (7.8%) in engineering article output exceeded that of total S&E article output (6.1%). Growth in the United States and Japan averaged less than 2%; in the EU, about 4.4%. China's engineering article output grew by close to 16% annually, and the Asia-8 economies expanded their combined output by 10% a year.

Consequently, the production of engineering research articles has shifted away from established S&T nations. In 1988, the U.S. share of engineering articles was 36%; by 2008, it was 20%. Japan's share declined from 12% to 7% during the same period. Only the EU managed to maintain its share at 28%. Asia's share, excluding Japan, increased from 7% to 30%, with China producing nearly half (14%) of these articles by 2008 (figure O-15 ).

This strong and rapidly growing preponderance of engineering articles produced in developing Asian economies (figure O-16 ) is consistent with the region's emphasis on developing high-technology manufacturing capabilities. The Asia-10 region produced more engineering articles than the United States starting in 1999 and overtook the EU in 2003. In 2005, China overtook Japan in engineering article output and moved from ninth place in 1988 to second place. India's relative strength in engineering allowed it to move from seventh place to fifth place in the past 10 years.


[11] The database used is Thomson Scientific, Science and Social Science Citation Indexes; IpIQ, Inc.; and NSF tabulations.
[12] The physical sciences are physics; chemistry; earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; and astronomy.

Science and Engineering Indicators 2010   Arlington, VA (NSB 10-01) | January 2010