Research produces new knowledge, products, or processes. Research publications reflect contributions to knowledge, patents indicate useful inventions, and citations on patents to the scientific and technical literature indicate linkages between research and practical application.
The number of research articles published in a set of international, peer-reviewed journals has grown from about 460,200 in 1988 to an estimated 788,300 in 2009. The geographical distribution of the authors provides an indication of the size of a country's or region's research enterprise and its production of research results (figure
Researchers in the EU and the United States have long dominated world article production, but their combined share of published articles decreased steadily from 69% in 1995 to 58% in 2009. In little more than a decade, Asia's world article share expanded from 14% to 24%, driven by China's 16% average annual growth. By 2007, China surpassed Japan's article output and moved into second place behind the United States—up from 14th place in 1995. By 2009, China accounted for about 9% of world article output.
India's output of scientific and technical articles, stagnating through the late 1990s, began to rise after 2000, but India's ranking hardly changed from 12th to 11th place in 2009. Japan's output declined in volume and global share. Russia's article output flattened after 2005, following a decade-long decline that resulted in a drop from 7th to 13th place in global output ranking.
The distribution of a country's research publications across different fields is a broad reflection of its research priorities. A large portion of U.S. articles focused on the biomedical and other life sciences; scientists in Asia and some major European countries published a preponderance of articles in the physical sciences and engineering. Recent shifts in emphasis include China's growing focus on chemistry R&D and South Korea's growing output in biological and medical sciences. These changes reflect government policy choices as China is building up its chemicals industry, and South Korea is trying to develop a world-class reputation in health sciences.
Worldwide, the number of engineering research articles have increased substantially faster than total S&E article production, particularly in Asia outside Japan (figure
Consequently, the production of engineering research articles has shifted away from established S&T nations. In 1995, the U.S. share of engineering articles was 25%, by 2009, 13%. Japan's share declined from 10% to 5% during the same period. The EU's share dipped from 25% to 19%. Asia's share, excluding Japan, increased from 9% to 23%, with China producing nearly half of these articles by 2009.
The relative preponderance of engineering articles in developing Asian economies reflects the region's emphasis on building high-technology manufacturing capabilities. In the United States and the EU, 7%–8% of all articles are in engineering, in Asia, 11%–20% (figure
Patents list the prior scientific and technological knowledge on which they are built. Increasingly, U.S. patents have cited scientific articles as one such source. The foreign share of such patent-to-article citations is rising, indicating growing utilization of published research in foreign inventions.