Scottish Government
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Research world leader - First Minister

The First Minister has hailed as "inspirational" the publication of a new report which puts Scotland's science and research base as among the best in the world.

The report examines the research base in universities, research institutes, industry, the NHS and compares publication rates and impacts with competitor countries.

The key findings of the report, which was commissioned by Scotland's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Anne Glover, include:

  • Scotland has maintained its world leading position on research quality. Scotland's research is cited by other researchers around the world more often than any other country in comparison to its GDP.
  • Scotland achieved 1.8 per cent of world citations in 2008, up from an average of 1.6 per cent in 2003-07, with a population share of less than 0.1 per cent. Areas of particular strength are biological sciences (2.4 per cent), environment (2.2 per cent) and health and medical research (1.8 per cent).
  • The impact of Scottish research, as measured by citations per paper, has been well above world average in recent years and rose by a further 21 per cent in 2008, with only Switzerland being ranked higher.
  • Scotland's researchers are highly productive in terms of citations per researcher, with Scotland being ranked third in the world after Switzerland and the Netherlands, ahead of all the G8 countries.

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

"Scotland has made an immense contribution to shaping the modern world through innovation in science and research. This new report makes inspirational reading and reinforces Scotland's proud scientific reputation, with the infrastructure and people to deliver quality research and the solutions to problems that affect our world.

"The Scottish Government continues to work with universities, research institutes, industry and community partners to ensure Scotland continues to be a competitive hotbed of ideas and innovation.

"Scientists in Scotland have been responsible for innovations such as Dolly the sheep, keyhole surgery and renewable energy technologies and this new report shows how we have maintained our world leading position on research quality.

"This Government is working to capitalise on Scotland's competitive advantages to increase sustainable economic growth and create a smarter, greener, wealthier country. This report outlines the great opportunities that exist for Scottish businesses to collaborate with our research community to exchange knowledge and design the products of the future.

"The commercialisation of knowledge is a key to unlock Scotland's economic potential. As part of their ongoing work on productivity and innovation, the Council of Economic Advisers is examining new ways to support greater cooperation between academics and businesses to facilitate knowledge exchange and commercialisation, and to help Scotland capitalise on its quality research base.

"This new report supports the Government's work to attract new talent and investment to Scotland. It also strongly reinforces the message that Scotland is a world leader in technology, innovation and enterprise."

Scotland's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Anne Glover, said:

"This report confirms that Scotland is one of the best places in the world to do science. Our research base has the potential to offer our young people a very rewarding career, carrying out high quality work that has a global impact. Being able to demonstrate the strength of Scottish research will also help us to attract the best scientists from around the world to work here, as well as acting as a magnet for international investment. We need to ensure that we drive this research excellence through into innovation in our business community."

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Global collaborations are increasing, with almost half of Scotland's papers being internationally co-authored in 2008, compared with a third in 1999. Co-authorship with Germany, France, China and India is rising, although the USA remains the most popular, accounting for more than 31 per cent.
  • PhD awards in Scotland have grown with Scotland now producing around 60 PhDs per 1000 researchers. This places Scotland seventh in the world, up from ninth two years ago, but still below the UK average.
  • Scotland's research productivity in terms of papers remains first in the world and more than twice the average of competitor nations. As research gets more expensive, research productivity has declined sharply for many countries, although Scotland has maintained its high level of productivity.

The report is the second from Evidence Ltd consultants on the performance of Scotland's research base to be commissioned by the Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser in the Scottish Government. The first was published in February 2008 and included data up to 2005. It showed that Scotland ranked very highly internationally on many measures.

The current report uses data up to 2007 and where available, to 2008, and shows that in most areas Scotland continues to show a very strong performance internationally.

Many of the measures in the report are scaled to allow for the size and relative investment in research in different countries, so that fairer comparisons can be made.

A similar report, also by Evidence Ltd, on the whole of the UK has been published by the UK Government annually for several years, with the report for Scotland closely following the methodology and presentation used.

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