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23/01/19 10:17

Leading the way in science

Major new report highlights global impact of Scottish research.

Scotland continues to punch above its weight in science and research, according to a new report published by the Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC).

The report compares how the Scottish science and research sector performed over the past decade against other similar sized countries and finds:

  • Scottish research is high quality: in terms of citations per researcher, Scotland is number one compared to the other UK nations and the ten other countries in the report
  • Scottish researchers are ‘very productive’: around 10% of the UK’s researchers are based in Scotland, producing 12% of the UK’s research
  • Scotland publishes more papers per researcher than the other UK nations and all other countries in the report.

Science Minister Richard Lochhead said:

'This report confirms Scotland’s place as a global leader in science and innovation.

'The strengths of our nation’s science and innovation and a reputation built up over generations are a credit to our people and institutions. Our researchers are at the heart of global networks working on some of the most urgent issues of our time, shaping the future and underpinning our economy.

'We can’t rest on our laurels or ignore the challenges we face but it is truly astonishing that a country the size of Scotland continues to lead the world in many areas of science and innovation.

'This report highlighting Scotland’s remarkable achievements in science comes at a time when Brexit means our research base now faces unprecedented risks. We know that Scotland’s research has been strengthened by EU citizens working in Scotland and our membership of the European Union.

'The Scottish Government will do all it can to protect research collaboration across Europe and will continue to be firm in the fact that Scotland’s research institutions will remain open and welcoming after Brexit.'

SSAC Chair Professor Paul Boyle said:

'There’s a lot to celebrate about the Scottish science base, with many indicators showing that Scotland punches above its weight in terms of the quality and quantity of research produced. However, other nations are emerging as major players in science, increasing their capability for quality research. Any changes to Scotland’s ability to attract the very best researchers from around the world is also likely to have an impact. There are therefore strategic issues that the Scottish Government needs to consider to help ensure that Scottish science and research maintains its leading position.'

Professor Sheila Rowan, Scotland’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said:

'Scotland is a great place to do science, and this report provides a useful snapshot of research activity over the past decade. I look forward to working with colleagues across the Scottish science base, and the Scottish Government, to do what we can to protect Scotland’s advantage in many areas of science.'

Background

The report was commissioned by the SSAC and funded by the SSAC, the Scottish Funding Council, Universities Scotland, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. These partners were joined on the project steering group by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise.

The SSAC supports the Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland in providing independent science advice to inform policy development and delivery across all policy areas.

Elsevier were commissioned to undertake a metrics-based assessment of Scotland’s science landscape 2007-2016. The full report is available on the SSAC website.

The report compares the Scottish research base to that of England, Wales, Northern Ireland (and the whole of the UK, including Scotland), selected EU countries of similar size and research base (Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden) and selected non-EU countries of similar size and research base (Israel, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland).

Key findings include:

 Scotland’s researchers are highly productive

  • Scotland has the highest number of publications per researcher amongst all UK nations and comparator countries, for which data was available
  • In 2015 Scotland accounted for 10% of the UK researcher population and produced 12% of the UK research output
  • Scotland’s researchers increased their output by 15% from 2007-11 to 2012-16.

Scotland’s research is high quality

  • Scotland has the highest number of citations per researcher out of UK and all other comparator nations, 27% higher than the nearest comparator (Wales) and 63% ahead of the UK average
  • Scotland’s share of the world’s top 1% most cited publications in the world over 2007-2016 is 1st of all UK nations, and 3rd in comparison to EU and non-EU comparator countries

Scotland is a global collaborator

  • Scotland’s citation impact arising from EU collaborations has increased from 2007-2011 to 2012-2016, and is second among UK nations to Wales
  • Scotland’s top global collaborators is the USA, followed by Germany, France, Italy and Australia over the 2007-16 period