Globalization of Science

Evidence from authors in academic journals
by country of origin

Vít Macháček and Martin Srholec

Think-tank IDEA of the Economic Institute of Czech Academy of Sciences

Study No. 6/2019

May 2019


Science knows no limits or borders. Scientific inquiry has therefore gone global long before the economy or culture. Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean that science is global to the same extent everywhere.

To what extent are scientific outputs published in global as opposed to local journals? How does this differ across countries and disciplines? How much has this changed over the last decade?

The aim of this study is to show that. We provide new evidence on the globalization of science that allows us to compare over space, fields and time. Specifically, we compare 174 countries and various country groups in 4 broad and 27 narrow disciplines over the period from 2005 to 2017.

The study is based on six journal-level indicators of globalization. The benchmark indicators are derived from the data on authors by the country of origin. For comparison, we also use data on documents by the country of origin and English-written documents.

The journal-level indicators are then aggregated to countries and disciplines. These results are standardized between 0 and 1, in which 0 refers to the lowest and 1 to the highest globalization.

The analysis is based on data from the Scopus citation database. The list of journals and assigned disciplines is obtained from the Scopus Source List.

Globalization of science should not be confused with quality (or relevance) of science; they are likely to be related in many ways, depending on the discipline, but they are different phenomena.

The results are presented in an interactive manner that allows readers to customize the analysis. Further, the results should be of interest not only to academics, but also to policy-makers and to a broader audience across the globe.

Please see this link here for earlier studies by the IDEA think tank on related topics, including on local journals, predatory publishing, and quantity vs. influence of academic publications.

How to use the application

Each point depicts the globalization index $G^S_{c,d,y,i}$ of a respective country and discipline in a given year and indicator. For more details see the definition of the journal-level indicators and aggregation procedure.

Use the upper dropdown menus to customize the output. One can compare either:

The main dimension is fixed by the button . Up to 10 items can be included in the comparison.

You may move the text windows by dragging the button in the top-left corner.

Bear in mind while using

  • The globalization indexes are standardized between 0 and 1 across all countries (174), narrow disciplines (27) and years (13).
  • Large year-by-year jumps in some series can be driven by adding (or removing) important journals in Scopus.
  • Results for country groups are computed as simple averages of member countries. Germany has the same weight as Luxembourg, etc.
  • Results for broad and narrow disciplines are calculated separately from scratch; the former are not simply aggregations of the latter.
  • Only data on the following document types are taken into account: journal articles, reviews, and conference papers.
  • Journals are fully counted in each discipline to which they are assigned. Large interdisciplinary journals may affect the results for smaller disciplines.
  • Comparison of indicators within a country or a discipline could be misleading, hence not provided.
  • The Gini-Simpson and Local Authors indicators do not take into account the research sector size in the estimation.
  • For the sake of robustness, only journals with at least 30 documents in the given year are included in the calculation.
  • Only results of the aggregation to countries and disciplines based on data from at least 30 journals are reported.
  • Smaller countries and disciplines suffer from gaps in the displayed results due to insufficient data.
  • Results for smaller countries and disciplines based on relatively thin data should be interpreted with caution.

Broad picture

Transition outsiders

Science in advanced countries has traditionally been globalized.

In contrast, transition countries continue to be relatively isolated.

Developing countries remain in the middle and close to the world average.

Interestingly, there does not seem to be much change here.

Tip: Display the discipline of your interest using the upper menu. For the definition of country groups see the note below the figure.

Big 7

The contrast of China and Russia

Not surprisingly, the Unites States, jointly with the EU-28, set the upper standard, followed by Japan.

China scores last initially, but then globalizes its science base enormously, eventually converging to a similar level as Brazil and India.

Russia starts and remains low, lagging increasingly behind the rest of the pack.

Tip: Add (or remove) countries (or country groups) using the upper menu. Replace the EU-28 average by individual member countries of your interest.

Bottom 10

The least globalized (period average)

Not only Russia, but also other former members of the Soviet bloc, cluster at the bottom of the worldwide ranking.

Chinese science in fact turns out to be the least globalized in the whole world initially.

Tip: Replace China by other former members of the Soviet bloc to see how they fare in comparison to the world average.

Advanced countries by disciplines

Consistently global

In advanced countries, science is, on average, highly globalized across disciplines.

Physical and Life Sciences are the most globalized. Health Sciences rank even below Social Sciences, though the differences are very small.

In fact, it is difficult to find a sub-discipline that deviates significantly from this narrow corridor.

Tip: Add the sub-disciplines of your interest using the upper menu. For the definition of disciplines, see the note below the figure.

Russia by disciplines

Science of its own

Russian science does not ever break from its inward-looking Soviet past, regardless of the discipline.

Russian Physical and Life Sciences remain significantly less globalized than elsewhere in the world.

The only major exception is the sub-discipline of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics.

Interestingly, in many disciplines this is in a sharp contrast to the relatively high share of documents published in English.

In fact, about four-fifths of documents with at least one author from Russia were written in English over this period.

Tip: Display results for a different indicator using the upper menu.

China by disciplines

From zero to hero

China has profoundly globalized its science system, gradually moving from the lowest globalization rates to prominence on the world stage.

Chinese Social Sciences have become even more globalized than other broad disciplines and have already caught up with the EU-28 and the world average.

In some sub-disciplines, China has already surpassed the United States and is steaming forward to the top ranking.

If the trend continues, China will soon eliminate the gap with advanced countries in most of the sub-disciplines.

Tip: Compare the results for Hong Kong using the upper menu (the results for China do not include Hong Kong, which continues to be reported separately by Scopus).

Social Sciences in Central and Western Europe

Social Sciences in question

In Western Europe, Social Sciences are highly globalized, as are Natural Sciences.

In Central (and Eastern) Europe, however, Social Sciences continue to maintain their own local publication silos.

The prime exception is Hungary, where Social Sciences used to be more oriented to the West even before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Tip: Add other transition countries (or the group average) to the comparison using the upper menu.

Czechia by disciplines

Czechia in the spotlight

Czechia is a prime example of a formerly advanced country that have been tarnished during the communist era.

Physical and Life Sciences have continued to be connected to the global arena.

Social Sciences have been locked behind the Berlin Wall; they steadily globalize, but from a low base, and there is still a long way to go.

Tip: Explore other countries of the former Soviet bloc using the upper menu. Note, for instance, the development in Ukraine.


Concluding remarks

Globalization of science provides a new perspective on the scientific landscape, which deepens what we know from standard bibliometrics in many respects.

The traditional science powerhouses in the North and West remain strong and at the core of the global system; highly interconnected and as globalized as ever.

In many countries of the former Soviet block, the low globalization of science is a symptom of a systemic failure; of science that is out of sync with the rest of the world and is inefficient.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was understandable that science in transition countries would need time to catch up. In many disciplines, new infrastructure had to be built from scratch. However, three decades on, there is no longer any excuse.

China shows that where there is a will, there is a way. In little more than a decade, Chinese science has moved from relative isolation to the front pages of global journals amid an enormous expansion in size.

Other developing countries also allocate increasing resources to science and run the risk of creating ecosystems of local publishing similar to transition countries, or worse, e.g. falling for predatory journals.

Globalization of science that is pervasively lower than in similar countries should be a cause for concern, as it suggests that the science system has gone astray and needs an overhaul of its evaluation and funding framework.

More research is needed to better understand globalization of science. Does globalization of the national science system go hand in hand with quality and impact? Are there spillovers outside of the realm of science? What can be done about it?

Tip: Spend more time with the interactive app to explore the position of the country and discipline of your interest.

Thanks for your attention!

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See full list of references

Please cite as: Macháček, V. and Srholec, M. (2019) Globalization of Science: Evidence from Authors in Academic Journals by Country of Origin. 6/2019. Institute for Democracy and Economic Analysis (IDEA).

Acknowledgement: Financial support from the research programme Strategy AV21 of the Czech Academy of Sciences is gratefully acknowledged. All usual caveats apply.

Note: This study represents only the views of the authors and not the official position of the Economics Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences or the Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education (CERGE), Charles University.