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United States Science

U.S. Science and Engineering Research Flattens 273

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the height-of-the-golden-age dept.
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "The National Science Foundation is reporting that the number of published U.S. science and engineering articles plateaued in the 1990s, despite continued increases in funding and personnel for research and development. This came after two decades of continued growth. Since then, flattening has occurred in nearly all U.S. research disciplines and types of institutions. In contrast, Asian and EU research had significant increases in this period. They do point to one positive for the US, however: article quality. According to one of the researchers, 'the more often an article is cited by other publications, the higher quality it's believed to have. While citation is not a perfect indicator, U.S. publications are more highly cited than those from other countries.'"
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U.S. Science and Engineering Research Flattens

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  • Also (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Almost half of researchers working in US establishments are foreign. We just don't have the homegrown talent any more.
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:45AM (#19924617)
      Look at:

      nuclear weapons/research: Albert Einstein and many other exiles from Europe
      computers: John Von Neumann (Hungarian)
      rockets and space: America's space and rocket program was kickstarted by a nucleus of German scientists after the war bought here

      That is not to say we don't have our own home grown talent - just that science is an international activity and we have been lucky enough to be able to draw the best and brightest, foreign or domestic, to our country.

      Whether it remains so in the long run, I am not certain - it requires an open and free country (something we're losing) and enough wealth, of course, as cutting edge science often requires funds scientists usually don't have themselves and hence the US was a good place to find patronage.
      • by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Friday July 20, 2007 @07:02AM (#19925295)
        But that is definitely changing. Corporations don't value research now. Some do - biotech is probably now the best example - but by and large, US companies are obsessed with acquisitions, splits, layoffs and wage cuts in order to provide the fastest, greatest profits to shareholders.

        It is a short-sighted approach that is leading to the situation we are now finding ourselves in - Americans unable to do the work required in this technological society. As a culture we have made fun of scientists, valued the steroid-pumped athlete and the slash and burn executive. But innovators, researchers, teachers, etc - all of the professions that would have been able to prepare this country for the future - have been basically discarded.

        No child left behind? How about a whole country. We are quickly becoming a third-world entity with nothing but poor and uneducated immigrants flocking here for the vision of what used to be. The people who were/are here are now unable to think critically, innovate, etc.

        There are exceptions of course but this is the overall situation. Check any tech rag for an editorial - the critical shortage of US workers capable to do the jobs necessary to keep this country afloat. This is not a time to be like this. We are now dependent on foreign countries for manufacturing, energy, and a lot of raw materials. What do we bring to the table?

        It seems all we bring are consumers of the crap we have to import. And that is bankrupting this country fast.
        • by moeinvt (851793) on Friday July 20, 2007 @07:48AM (#19925607)
          "No child left behind?"

          I think a major part of the problem is that the U.S. public education system has an overwhelming focus on bringing the slow learning underachievers up to par. Far too little is done to accelerate and unleash the potential of the best and brightest. Raise your hand if you were in the public education system and got all 'A' and 'B' grades while rarely or never bringing a book home with you. I susepct that most of the readers here were taking AP or college prep classes as well.

          With idiotic programs like "No child left behind" the entire herd has to move at the pace of the slowest member. For example, I know an elementary school teacher that has a small group of students who are children of recent immigrants. They barely speak English, yet the school is supposed to make sure that they don't get "left behind"? Where do you think she needs to focus all of her extra effort? The phrase is emotionally pleasing, but the implementation has serious negative consequences (I HOPE they are unintended, but I'm not sure). I think that kids SHOULD be left behind a lot more frequently than they are.

          I'd be in favor of getting the Federal government out of the public education system entirely. We should eliminate the Dept.of Education and distribute the entire department budget as block grants to the states for the next couple of years.
          • by DarenN (411219) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:11AM (#19925815) Homepage
            I've no problem with the "no child left behind" but how about a "no child slowed down" program?

            Facilities in the US are good, but a lot of research seems to be funded by military sources, which some might have an objection to, and in the US the focus is far to narrow - it's on getting a marketable product ASAP. It's been reported here that because universities in the US are now responsible for their own IP, they have IP lawyers hanging around. This is not an atmosphere conducive to innovative research.

            Another problem, which is a problem in the EU also, is that funding from corporations is required for most research projects. This means that any research goals have to be watered down to make them acceptable to shareholders. This is also not conducive to innovative research. Neither is the simplistic "Paper Counting" which values number of publications over anything and everything else (it's very frustrating and slows down actual work a lot).

            Micheal Crichton, in a talk, suggested that companies who want to donate to research donate to an anonymous fund. They can specify in what areas it goes, but the researchers never know who donated, and the results are public. This makes more sense than the short-term profit view of companies influencing research.
          • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:35AM (#19926735)
            Actually, this demonstrates a key difference in the educational philosophies of China and many South American countries. In South America, the focus was on the best and the brightest. In China, the focus was on getting everyone the equivalent of a high school education.

            Now, obviously there's lots of other factors, but note that China has a huge industrial base now. Basically anyone can work in a factory or business doing ordinary tasks. In South America, the poor continue to be poor and the well educated move to other countries.

            I'd like to think there's significant value in teaching nearly everyone to read and write well, basic math skills, and the ability to follow directions. Remember that these immigrant children are going to end up marrying your daughters, working in your office, and taking care of you in your old age. You get a pretty good return on investment spending a few thousand dollars in basic education per kid. Don't let prejudice derail common sense.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            I agree with you. Whatever happened to vocational schools? I understand not leaving a "child behind" in elementary school, as long as it does not detriment the rest of the class, as everyone should have a solid grasp of the basics. But once students hit middle school, and certainly high school, we should accept the reality that not everyone is headed for the corner office of a fortune 500 company, and I doubt my area is unique in the fact that it NEEDS more tradesman, especially honest ones. Instead, we hav
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by mh1997 (1065630)
            Actually, go to http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/ [johntaylorgatto.com] and you will see (very well referenced) that the American education system is designed to fail on purpose. John Gatto's book, Underground History of American Education is free at the site.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by vtcodger (957785)
            ***Far too little is done to accelerate and unleash the potential of the best and brightest.***

            Y'know what, That wasn't true in the 1950s when schools had to deal with the baby boom that caused huge classes and a relative shortage of classrooms and teachers and it's not true now in a lot of schools. I've actually worked recently in a rural school (K-8 -- 300 students). Yes, a lot of effort is expended on the low end. But the really exceptional kids on the high end aren't ignored. They get guidance, spec

        • A little balance (Score:3, Informative)

          by benhocking (724439)
          I happened to stumble on to the recent list of winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics [wikipedia.org]. Most of them seem to be from the US. This is not meant to come off as bragging about our country, just to point out that maybe we're not doing that bad.
    • Re:Also (Score:5, Funny)

      by arivanov (12034) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:02AM (#19924693) Homepage
      I recently heard a excellent joke from a friend of mine who still works in scientific research:

      Q: What is an American University?
      A: This is a strange place where Russian professors teach Chinese students in English.

      • Re:Also (Score:5, Interesting)

        by timeOday (582209) on Friday July 20, 2007 @10:07AM (#19927103)
        There's a lot of truth in that joke. I recently attended a conference in Atlanta where not one of the presenters was a native English speaker. I couldn't understand them and they couldn't understand each other, but it made me think about how much harder it will be for us Americans if we lose the "home team" advantage of having so many important conferences relatively nearby and the most prestigious conferences and journals in English. It's amazing how well non-native English speakers do despite the additional challenge of a language barrier. Could we do the same? I find getting published hard enough, what if I had to write in Chinese? Success is a self-reinforcing thing (I guess that's why we have words like "hegemony" and "monopoly") and this implies there is a tipping point - the leader won't fall behind until they're truly inferior, but then the fall will be quick. I hope we're not that close to the brink but this is no time to rest on our laurels.
    • by golodh (893453) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:20AM (#19924763)
      As everyone knows, an important means for the US to get hold of top scientists and researchers is to attract them ... often from abroad. Just look at the engineering faculties such as those at MIT; about half of the Ph.D students are from abroad (India, China, Europe), and about one third to one half of the faculty.

      The US continues to be attractive because it tends to offer the best facilities (laboratories, datasets, computers, funding) in the world. Plus it hosts some of the best researchers in the world. Taken together this of course attracts *other* very good researchers. This in turn results in articles that have a higher citation index than most. So far so good.

      I believe that the US cannot realistically expect to continue to lead the world in basic scientific research. As a matter of fact, it has lost that position already in a number of fields. What I believe it *can* expect to do is to continue to lead the world in applying research and turning up with innovative products.

      Why? Because part of it is cultural. People here are always willing to go out and build something for themselves, which is the essence of starting a business, and society as a whole is very much geared towards giving new ideas and new businesses a chance, weed out the failures, cherish the successes, and let those who failed try again. That's important. In e.g. Europe failure in a business venture attracts a heavy stigma. Not so in the US. In the US it's also relatively easy to hire people for a startup, and to fire them the minute things go wrong, or even if revenues are lower than expected. And last but not least ... in the US venture capitalists are thoroughly aware that they must sow ten potatoes to reap one truly outstanding venture, three reasonably ones, and perhaps six poor ones. Unless other countries can copy that, the US is at an advantage.

      Now both China and India are busily trying to imitate the US in this respect, and especially China has made a lot of headway. But the US still has the lead. And to be honest ... who would want to go the China and learn Chinese when they can also go the to US and use the English they learned in school? Excepting Chinese of course. Ever tried to find your way in China? The US has a big cultural advantage when it comes to competing as a destination of choice.

      The undertone of the article is a bit warning of course. Even if one were somehow able to revitalise the US primary and secondary school system *and* make it attractive for Americans to pursue a career in science and/or engineering instead of business management, law, marketing, the military, etc. etc., it would take about two decades for the results to become visible. Personally I would say that the best bet for the US is continue to do what it has traditionally been good at, which is to focus on first attracting and then absorbing those immigrant researchers and turning their research into products.

      This is precisely why the US takes such an agressive stance on "Intellectual Property", and does whatever it can to make every country in the world respect US copyrights. It's of strategic importance.

      This is also at the heart of the US immigration policy, which runs approximately as follows: "We want those of you if you are the best or one of the best in your field. Those we will welcome to stay, and offer the chance to join the club and become a citizen. Others will be required to enter as illegal immigrants."

      It's a bit parasitic, but it works.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Alomex (148003)
        The US continues to be attractive because it tends to offer the best facilities (laboratories, datasets, computers, funding) in the world.

        Actually with the latest cuts in funding this is no longer the case. Since GWB took office, the NSF funding per researcher has gone down and nowadays there are top notch american based scientists whose last n funding requests have been declined. In the past requests from such researchers had much higher rates of success.
      • US continues to lead Networking and Networked Systems research by a large margin.

        Take SIGCOMM for example. It is arguably the top conference in networking. It is the most reputable
        among computer networks researchers and it happens to be among the top 4 most cited conferences
        in computer science in general ( http://citeseer.ist.psu.edu/impact.html [psu.edu]
        http://libra.msra.cn/conf_category_24.htm [libra.msra.cn]).

        Out of the 33 papers in SIGCOMM 2007, there are 29 papers from American research centers
        (MIT, UCB, UCSD, Cornell, CMU, SDS
    • by iamacat (583406)
      US population is around 300 million people, world's is 6.6 billion. It seems reasonable to assume that the rest of the world has much more than 1/20th prevalence of talented individuals (who also get a chance to at least go to school) as US. Do you see anything wrong with some of them coming to work in famous american research facilities? Does it reflect badly on us that we don't overbreed and perhaps show a bit of ecological responsibility in an otherwise wasteful society?
    • Re:Also (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kripkenstein (913150) on Friday July 20, 2007 @06:23AM (#19925037) Homepage

      Almost half of researchers working in US establishments are foreign. We just don't have the homegrown talent any more.
      No, that's not it. The simple facts are
      • The top US academic institutions have the most money of any in the world, by far.
      • Money can facilitate research, and hence the top researchers tend to go where the money is (so they can accomplish the most they possibly can).
      • The US is a large country, but small compared to the entire world. Japan has almost half as many people as the US. The EU has more. Let's not forget Russia. And then there are China and India.
      • Speaking of China and India, education is rapidly increasing there, leading them to actually generate an 'industrialized nation' share of scientists proportional to their population.
      Given all these factors, you shouldn't be surprised at all that the faculty at top US academic institutions are diverse. It might have nothing to do with any 'decline' of US capabilities (I'm not saying there isn't such a thing, just that this particular observation doesn't really support it).
      • by Alomex (148003)
        The top US academic institutions have the most money of any in the world, by far.

        This gap has narrowed substantially with the last six years of NSF cuts, and in some areas a researcher is likely to obtain more funds overseas than at home.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:34AM (#19924573)
    In the US, research has first of all be "pleasant" to whoever funds it. Yes, that's true for most countries, but nowhere else you'll find as much industrial and political influence into research. Try to do a research on, say, climate change and watch the government go crazy over it should you dare to come up with results that point to us as the reason for an increase in temperature.

    Add the religious side and you'll see why Europe currently feels an influx of researchers, not only from "poor" countries where they can't get funding, but also a healthy dose of quite capable people from the US who prefer to ponder what their findings mean, not to ponder what they may write should they not want to be censored. It's Reneaissance all over again, where you can find whatever you want, but if you want to remain in the good standing and be respected as a researcher, you better find what government, industry and especially media want to hear, or you'll soon find yourself being attacked and badmouthed, and your reputation ruined.

    Would you want to do research in that kind of climate?
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:40AM (#19924599)
      Yes, that's true for most countries, but nowhere else you'll find as much industrial and political influence into research.

      Actually, the more that applies to a country, the more likely that country is to go down the drain. See history books for examples.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417)
        And here I was, trying to keep Godwin outta the argument for a change...:)

        Too true, actually. You have no idea how much "research" in Germany between 34 and 45 was tied to finding "proof" that they're the superior race. Especially in history, anthropology and related studies, trying to do sensible and unbiased research was a surefire way to not only getting no money, but also often losing whatever reputation you had, while coming up with "results" that defy or outright contradicted reality were praised and
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gtall (79522)
      In addition to those problems, science these days is funded by business school product who have understanding of science and don't ever expect to. They won't fund anything unless you can point to an application. That means pure research isn't being funded. The result, as the article points out, is that we are leveling off in publications. No pure research is being done at the high end and hence it never gets developed into the mid and low end where the applications are. To put it another way, the mid and lo
      • by 19061969 (939279) on Friday July 20, 2007 @06:14AM (#19924999)
        Excellent point, although I'm not sure it's just the business school types. Having to chase funding (many academics and scientists spend 40-50% of their time on this) doesn't help because grants are more likely to be awarded if an immediate and viable application can be demonstrated.

        That means that pure research is harder to pursue because of grant competitions. It's very sad because applied research may end up only being relevant to very specific groups. Pure research can also provide some of the most startling insights into the world and create real leaps in knowledge.

        I had this argument with my father: he said that a lot of scientific research is pointless and doesn't help anybody ("research for its own sake") until I pointed out the number of things that we take for granted these days that were based on theoretical research.
        • That's exactly what's wrong today. Try to get a grant in optic theory. The same branch of science that came up with lasers. Sure, we did't have an application for the theory of amplified light emission, but today we have lasers as targeting devices in the military and in the reading system of optical devices, i.d. CDs and DVDs. If it wasn't for the theory behind it, which had no immediate use, we'd probably still use plasic records or we'd have come up with an inferior medium to CD/DVDs.

          Applied research can
        • by gtall (79522) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:47AM (#19926173)
          "a lot of scientific research is pointless and doesn't help anybody"

          Bingo, that kind of attitude would have prevented Einstein from getting funding today for "gravity studies". He and many others started quantum theory, they had no application they could point to. Biology is replete with these examples; modern drugs would be impossible without the previous theoretical work that was "pointless", not to mention all the advances in other disciplines that no one in those disciplines had any idea would be of use in the technology behind biology or medicine.

          And you are right, many scientists do spend 40-50% of their time on begging for money, I and my fellow scientists here do as well. It's an insane way to fund scientists. I'm good at doing science, not writing goddamn grant proposals for some business school product to wonder about. I mostly do logic and math, try making a claim for money without tying it to some feature (security, reliability, etc.) that not only pollutes the grant proposal, but will waste gobs of my time both in feeding some application I was pushed into supporting and making it hard to do because I haven't the time to get the theory correct before I must somehow apply it.

          Also, science progresses as much by its failures as its successes. In an atmosphere that only rewards applications, by definition it pisses on anything that might fail. The consequence is that scientists are pushed into small incremental steps that only extend established theory in a minor way rather than thinking far outside the box. Thinking outside the box can be abused, but so too can forcing us to only think inside the box.

          Gerry
    • by wikinerd (809585)

      Just a thought... The fact that unpopular research is underfunded or censored may give rise to new gentleman scientists [wikipedia.org]: people who have a passion for research and possess the necessary wealth to pursue it independently. I personally believe that the best research is done when you have the means to do it independently, not as an professional researcher in a company, the government, or a university. When you research while being effectively an employee you end up focusing more on sustaining the paycheck an

      • by Jamu (852752)

        There are some fields where I doubt this would work, as you'd be looking for talent in too small a pool. Astronomy is a good example of amateurs doing good science, but no one would want the situation where there were only amateur astronomers. Particle physics would be dead. Theoretical physics wouldn't have the experimental results it needs, and would just be an exercise in mathematics. A lot of other pure science would die or be limited. All that would be left would be some slowly progressing pure science

        • by wikinerd (809585)

          Speaking theoretically, it would be possible to start a mailing list for the purpose of creating a group capable of building an amateur particle accelerator (or deaccelerator), spreading the word and waiting until enough smart people got interested in the project, then secure the necessary land, materials, and perhaps a government permit, and start making it. Of course there are many *practical* difficulties (there aren't enough smart people out there, the governments would probably distrust amateur mad sc

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jcgf (688310)
          I don't think he meant uneducated amateurs but rather people that have their PhD AND enough money to pursue their research without need of grants and such.
      • While I'd love the idea, I doubt it can fly.

        Let's first of all see how you get rich today. Let's for a moment assume that you didn't inherit it. Inherited money often causes lazyness and a general lack of drive to actually do something productive. For reference, see Paris Hilton.

        To get rich today, being a researcher is probably not the best venue. A researcher's get-rich-quick scheme would probably be that of a patent, and patents rarely if ever go to researchers anymore, they belong to the company or insti
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) *
      It's not only the research that is under political attack in the US. Science itself is under attack in this country like never before.

      You can hear, every single day, "Science" sneered at in the same dismissive tone as "The Media" on talk radio and blogs of a certain political stripe. When someone doesn't like the results of research, they just go find some hungry grad of Regent U. who'll gin up a paper that says the opposite. The same way that when someone doesn't like what's happening in their world, th
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by exultavit (988075)

        When I was a little kid, being a scientist was one of the coolest things you could be. Hell, I used to play with chemistry sets so I could pretend to be a scientist. No, today "Science" is under such constant attack I'm not surprised that people would rather become consultants to some corporation or move overseas to work.

        If chemistry sets, model rockets, and amateur astronomy have truly become unfashionable to kids, I think it would much more to do with Steve Urkel than with anything that creationists have ever done.

        However, I doubt that science activities are actually strictly uncool to kids these days. The problem is that they are competing against video games, cable TV, and the internet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Otter (3800)
        You should hear what scientists have to say when their work is linked here and you idiots helpfully "critique" it...
    • by drsquare (530038)

      Add the religious side and you'll see why Europe currently feels an influx of researchers, not only from "poor" countries where they can't get funding, but also a healthy dose of quite capable people from the US who prefer to ponder what their findings mean, not to ponder what they may write should they not want to be censored.

      Try getting the funding in Europe for research to prove that global warming isn't caused by carbon emissions.

      In America, climate change is something to be censored. In Europe, climate

  • by ejito (700826) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:42AM (#19924607)
    There's still growth, the article just doesn't state exactly how much - probably ~0.65% annually, from the information given..

    Anyways, as the article states, papers aren't always the best indication of actual information output. It's common practice for researchers to "recycle" papers, adding a bit of new information on top of the bulk of previous published work. It's in a researcher's best interest to limit the amount of both papers AND information, as to keep a steady stream of output (and keep their job). Tracking citation count seems more accurate in representing useful information output. It'd be even more accurate if we could somehow track actual implementation and use of the information.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Silver Sloth (770927)
      Whether or not the output of papers is a useful measure the underlying changes in output must have some significance in the changing international achedemic climate.

      The bit I found most interesting is the emergence of the four asian countries. The US will always have it's place at the top table but it's total pre-eminence cannot be guaranteed forever.
      • by pubjames (468013) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:13AM (#19924735)
        The US will always have it's place at the top table

        Why is that? You're chosen by God?

        This kind of attitude has been heard many times before going back through history. Ask the Brits. Or the Spanish. Or the French. Or the Chinese. Or the Iranians (yes, they too where once "at the top table"). I could go on, but you get the point I hope...

        When my great grandmother was alive the Brits dominated the world as comprehensively as the USA does today.
        • Exactly my point. I'm a Brit and we're still proud of Oxford and Cambridge being world class universities - we've still got a place at the top table - and with the US's powerful economy they're not going to be shifted anytime soon - but, as we Brits had to learn, our pre-eminence was not God ordained (although we thought so at the time) and we lost out to the new economies.
          • by Alomex (148003)
            we're still proud of Oxford and Cambridge being world class universities

            Actually Oxford has nearly dropped out of the top ten, courtesy of Lady Thatcher's cuts to education funding.
            • by mikael (484)
              Only because at the time (20 years ago) she was annoyed that students who had studied pure science subjects (mainly the sciences) were claiming to be unable to find employment. Although they had not considered teaching as a career.

              She closed down one of the local institutions in my home city - the idea was that by closing it down, that would save the taxpayer money. All the researchers who had families to feed and kids at school, could only find employment as teachers and lecturers. At least they got a pay
            • by drsquare (530038)
              Damn right. Why should I pay taxes to support a stuffy old elitest Old Boys' institution that I'm never going to benefit from anyway?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 15Bit (940730)
      Citations aren't really a great way to monitor quality either, cos each of those "recycled papers" will cite previous ones. So you should look carefully and see WHO is citing the paper, as often it will be the authors themselves citing earlier work. This is not necessarily a problem (it may be that there are very few people working in a field, and self-citation is unavoidable), but some scepticism is required.

      A much better indicator of paper quality would be a weighted combination of the Journal quality

  • by moosesocks (264553) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:53AM (#19924655) Homepage
    I wonder what it would look like if we also plotted the funding allocated to the NSF alongside the number of papers published.

    The NSF has had some serious funding woes since the 90s that very well may be causing this "draught" -- I wouldn't even go as far as to completely blame it on the Bush administration either (although they certainly did contribute).

    As far as physics research goes, Clinton's cancellation of the already partially-constructed SSC easily set the entire field of particle physics back by 20 or so years. The LHC, which is being constructed in Europe as its "substitute" isn't even remotely as big or powerful as the SSC was originally planned to be.
    • I wonder what it would look like if we also plotted the funding allocated to the NSF alongside the number of papers published.

      The NSF has had some serious funding woes since the 90s that very well may be causing this "draught"
      The academes that I know frequently complain that they're drowning in paperwork, in comparison to a decade ago.
      • by frdmfghtr (603968)
        I think you may have confused "published papers" with "paperwork." The drought being discussed by the poster refers to published, peer-reviewed scientific papers, not the reams of bureaucratic-red-tape paperwork that one goes through to apply for funding.

        I associate "paperwork" with the latter, but perhaps you meant the former.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gatzke (2977)
      I love big physics as much as anyone, but I doubt the SSC would have significantly increased publications overall. Sure, they may find out some great fundamental information about the creation of the universe, but overall impact on society would probably be minimal. Unless the SSC could sort out time travel or make some sort of super-duper uber nuke... I doubt that anything practical or useful would come from the SSC (although some of the support technology would be practical and useful, similar to NASA
      • I love big physics as much as anyone, but I doubt the SSC would have significantly increased publications overall. Sure, they may find out some great fundamental information about the creation of the universe, but overall impact on society would probably be minimal.
        You don't need an "overall impact on society" to increase publications. A wealth of new experimental data would do so as well.

    • by Alomex (148003)
      In terms of bang for the buck particle accelerators are one of the worse places in which to invest money. They often goble up the same amount as the entire funding dedicated to biology, engineering, computer science and mathematics combined.
    • by Otter (3800)
      I wonder what it would look like if we also plotted the funding allocated to the NSF alongside the number of papers published.

      As the second sentence of the link says, this happened at a time when the NSF and NIH budgets were receiving steep *increases*! Subsequent funding caps and cuts haven't helped, I'm sure, but certainly aren't an issue for these numbers.

      Also not an issue: the various bogeymen of politics and climate change. Putting aside that we're talking about the Clinton era, the overwhelming major

  • by clickety6 (141178) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:57AM (#19924675)
    I wonder if the higher citation rate of US articles is due to the fact they are written in English and therefore more accessible to a higher percentage of the scientific community? Presumably a lot of a country's scientific publications will be in the language of that country and it would be reasonable to assume that an article published solely in, of example, Russian or German, would be less widely cited outside the Russian or German speaking communities...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "I wonder if the higher citation rate of US articles is due to the fact they are written in English and therefore more accessible to a higher percentage of the scientific community?"

      In most fields, that does not matter much. All good scientists in e.g. physics publish in english. What IMO matters more is that both American and European authors tend to cite american authors. The reason for that may be any of "American author did a better study", "American author did it earlier", "American author bragged

    • by brarrr (99867)
      very much so untrue. any and every journal of merit is published in english, it is extremely rare for there to be a journal that is published in anything but. an easy example is "Japanese Journal of Applied Physics"... is in english.

      pre-end of cold war was another story with plenty of russian journals.

      this comes from my experience in the world of physics/condmat/matsci but appears to be true throughout the other hard sciences
  • Whilst the US indeed produces many a good paper, it should not be forgotten that many of the reviewers for papers hint that inclusion of their papers in the citation list of an article might be beneficial to further the goal of acceptance of the paper. What nationality the reviewers have is something that I do not know, but the distribution might be skewed given that many good journals are published from the US.

    B.
    • Whilst the US indeed produces many a good paper, it should not be forgotten that many of the reviewers for papers hint that inclusion of their papers in the citation list of an article might be beneficial to further the goal of acceptance of the paper
      Speaking of citations, you need one for that claim.

      Review is almost always done anonymously, and by reviewers who aren't assigned until the paper is received. How would you know who to suck up to?
      • by toQDuj (806112)
        I only know what my colleagues in the field of chemical engineering tell me. They know the reviewers most of the time, sometimes can even make suggestions to the journal which reviewers they might want. It might be different in other fields though.

        One thing I have heard from colleagues, is that they would like to have the names of the reviewers on the final published article as well, so that the reviewers might put an extra effort in reviewing. They (colleagues) complain about badly reviewed papers.

        sorry, n
      • by Xrikcus (207545)
        Easy, you look through the list of people on the conference programme committee, and see if any of them can be usefully cited.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Carewolf (581105)
        Maybe in a perfect world. In the real world you know who is going to review it, simply because there is a limited number of people capable of reviewing your article, and the journals reuse the same reviewers all the time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        Review is almost always done anonymously, and by reviewers who aren't assigned until the paper is received. How would you know who to suck up to?

        Typically, there are only a dozen or so people who are qualified to review a given paper. Each conference or journal will be for a particular area within a broader field, and each paper will be within a narrow specialty within this area. There will usually be one reviewer doing a general 'is this interesting to the community at large?' review, and one doing a specific 'is this novel?' review. The latter will be one of the dozen who is qualified to know the answer. Of this dozen, you can usually narrow

      • by timeOday (582209)

        Review is almost always done anonymously, and by reviewers who aren't assigned until the paper is received. How would you know who to suck up to?
        One thing you're assuming is that the author chooses whom to cite. In practice, the reviewers - who are in a position of power - often "ask" the author to add citations to specific papers. This is perfectly valid on one level, but I think you can see the conflict of interest as well.
  • Creationism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:59AM (#19924685) Homepage Journal
    is flattening American brains!
    That'd be why!
  • Enforce the broken US patent system in the rest of the world ;-) I just wonder how long it will take until the USA has to pay a lot for foreign patents. I personally give it 10 years!
  • Citations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jsse (254124) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:25AM (#19924785) Homepage Journal
    We love to cite US research paper because they can be searched electronically, while the others might be required getting down to the microfilms, or worse, papers.

    And yes, this is the quality that counts - the quality of storing and indexing research papers.
  • by pieterh (196118) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:36AM (#19924829) Homepage
    The patent system is poison for research publication. I heard a remarkable comment from the EU Commission (DG Research) who were boasting that they were collecting a great patent portfolio, and only had one problem: the tendency of their researchers to publish articles, thus sabotaging the patent collection process. But, they have a solution, namely to educate researchers to publish less.

    The horrid irony of it all is that the only valid basis for the patent system is to encourage people to publish in cases where they would otherwise keep precious designs secret.

    There is absolutely no justification for patents in areas where people publish spontaneously. Except, of course, greed, and the lust for money above all.

    Time for reform of the global patent system.
    • Unfortunatelly, there is not only greed (and not many researchers choosed that job for the money, it would have been very silly). Most of the time, even the researchers who want their work to be available to everyone desperately need fundings to work and too many of them spend more time looking for money than to actually work because they simply couldn't work without that money, so they have to live in the grey area between selling themself and not selling their soul.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MobyDisk (75490)
      Except you can still patent after you publish. You have 1 year in the US, and I believe that rule applies to the EU as well. It's actually better to publish ASAP so that you establish your claim before anyone else.
    • The US patent system is better for this, since unlike much of the rest of the world a US patent does not have to be first disclosure. In the USA, you have a year after first disclosure to file the patent. The problem with this is that you can read something that is not patented in a journal, use it, and then find that it has been patented in the interim.
  • The truth is ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jopet (538074) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:52AM (#19924901) Journal
    that there is no objective way to measure the quality of research. For this, one would have to know what "quality" means and already there, opinions are highly divergent. But of course the beancounters of the money-giving institutions need some yardstick and so there are and have been different yardsticks in different countries and at different times. Scientists will quickly adapt to any yardstick: if you get money and jobs by publishing a lot, they will publish a lot. If you get it by getting cited, they will get cited. If you get it by not publishing and having lots of patents or company cooperations instead, this is what will happen. None of this will ensure research though, that will advance the state of the art. Most of these regulations and rules imposed by beancounters will simply take the time and energy away from scientists who want to do research.

    Ultimately, science, like art, often has to be useless to be good. In many cases however, useless science might eventually and surprisingly turn out to be quite useful indeed, practically. Take number theory: what beancounter of the world would have guessed that this esoteric branch of pure matematics would once become the fundamental force behind e-commerce, authentification and authorization systems and other applications of electronic cryptography?
  • "U.S. publications are more highly cited than those from other countries". Because they are in English and it's "the language" of science currently? I'm not saying it's main reason, but it may have some meaning. And any day I would like better publications over more publications.
    • I suspect that you have a very good point there... and add to that if what you pointed out is true then it's most probably a self-propagating phenomenon. Consider the following
      1. You want the widest dissemination of your research (for funding, career opportunities etc).
      2. You therefor write it in english and target the largest publications which of course would be found in the largest english speaking industrialised countries.
      3. You then need to convince those doing the peer review that your paper is good enough
  • This assumes that the quality of research in all papers are average. The only indicator of quality being used is citation. But the visible technological impact is derived from application of research rather than quantity or quality of research. For e.g. the country that first creates a quantum computer is going to obsolete lot of the research that is going on in the silicon world. A 1000 papers on current computer hardware might not be worth the one paper that explores application of quantum computing. How
  • by vorlich (972710) on Friday July 20, 2007 @06:25AM (#19925049) Homepage Journal
    altruistic ideals (in the main). Young people are very practical when there own self-interest is involved. Students, especially in the USA where, according to Dr Gil Grissom, the degree is worth $1 million and almost costs $1 million, tend to choose course that will provide a cost benefit appropriate to their needs. They need to pass a course and be awarded a degree worth having (in relative terms).
    In the past a degree in law was the opportunity to earn high salaries. Now of course there are far too many lawyers and not enough cases to supply them. Science and engineering degrees are not as popular, perhaps because some work involving measurement, assesment and being able to look up a book or a dictionary using all of the letters of the alphabet is a requisite.
    Degree courses go through fads, witness the number of marketing graduates in the late 80's early 90's most of whom are not employed with a stone's throw of any marketing activity. Science is presently akin to magic and prospective students are surprised to discover that membership of Slytherin, is not part of the enrolment procedure. Nor are they given a magic wand or a tricorder along with the university calendar. The necessity to provide some evidence of achievement in the form of science papers and test results is a pale shadow to the ease of making an extended exposition on man's obsession with himself in lawyer school. Thank goodness there is no stand alone course concept in Web Design - lecturing staff would be crushed in the stampede as so many students (when asked to express a preference) often suggest that they intend a career in PR (the discipline of mixing a rather tasty Bucks Fizz.) or Web design. When you are paying for your education by working in The Golden Arches or as an exotic dancer, it becomes rather important to you, to choose a career path that you expect to be rewarding, at least in the financial sense if nothing else.
  • Immigration Issues (Score:2, Interesting)

    by widman (1107617)
    Even the 50s were better on treating foreign teachers and researchers. Now you get, with a lot of luck, a non-citizen Green Card. You are constantly bullied by random uneducated locals. And, if you are lucky there are many others in your same situation around you, you end up in a virtual ghetto. F*** that. Europe has it's priorities better now. USA lost it. Go build your racist and unfair wall to keep off the real native North Americans from their own land (check the "Mexican War".) Mod me down if it touc
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday July 20, 2007 @07:34AM (#19925523) Journal
    I am surprised most sloshdotters assume the reduction of science and engg research in USA can be explained in purely Darwinian terms like scientists migrating to where they like to work, competition to get name recognition, commercial rewards, the weeding out and selection based on such rewards. Nothing could be farther from the Truth, (capitalization is intentional).

    It is best explained in Intelligent Design paradigm. We the clergy have been intelligently molding the public opinion against all knowledge in general and science in particular. Let us not forget that we were banished from the Garden of Eden because we tasted the Fruit of Knowledge. We have already convinced 55% of America that Evolution is a hoax. Pretty soon we will have the other 45% too. Then it is party party party time for us. We will tell everyone what they should do and how they should live and we get 10% of their paychecks. And much more than 10% from the sinners, by selling them indulgences!

    The pagan, nature worshipping, Linux running, Open Standards promoting, Microsoft bashing, Apple fanboiing slashdotters might think it is a bad thing. But they are the minority. We are the majority. We will use their own Democracy to steal the nation from them! That will teach them.

  • While citation is not a perfect indicator, U.S. publications are more highly cited than those from other countries.

    What language base are they using to determine such a value? English no doubt. Are they counting papers in Spanish, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, French or Chinese? English is the third most spoken language on Earth after Spanish. America, where this research was performed, is the largest English speaking country. Go figure.

    There are many more people in Europe than in America and each coun

  • by budGibson (18631) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:22AM (#19925905)
    The statistic they're citing, number of citations, is the same statistic that underlies page rank. As we've discovered from the industry that has grown up trying to game google search rankings, being well connected by citations is really only a sign that you are well connected.

    In a system where your prestige depends on being connected to well connected others, being among the first to be connected has its advantages. Others will want to be connected to you in order to show that they are also connected. It should be noted that after WWII, the US was really alone in the western research world. It's still accruing benefits from that.

    I wouldn't be soothed by the citation statistic. At this juncture, it's an historical artifact.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:27AM (#19925949) Homepage
    ...they'll find another self-serving dubious metric to avoid facing the truth.

    "U. S. research articles consistently rated higher than European articles on the Flesch Reading Ease scale."

    "U. S. research articles have been shown to be higher in 'eyeball stickiness.' Readers spend more time per page, go back and read each page more often, and 'click through' to generate more reprint requests than European articles."

    "The NAS reported that although U. S. research failed to meet all eighteen of its benchmarks, it had made satisfactory progress toward achieving eight of them."
  • by chipotlehero (982154) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:32AM (#19926009)
    I go to a top 5 engineering school. Even there the emphasis is less and less on the actual science and more on business and so called leadership skills. People are being trained less in hard science and more in corporate ways. If you take an engineering class, from my experience, half the people don't care about being an engineer and want to get their MBA and be a manager and "make money".

    Until we get rid of this crap that "The business of America is business" this will not change and we will continue to lose ground on the science front.
  • Citing US articles is not a measure of how good they are, it's a measure of who's citing: US researchers and those non-US researchers who want their work to find its way into US journals.

    The 'flattening' has been going on for 20 years now, and it's due primarily to enormous cost increases. Many US journals are pricing themselves out of existence because even major university libraries can't afford to keep all of them. Plus, access to electronic versions of articles makes subscribing to the entire journal a
  • There is an underlying assumption that technology is a US comparative advantage. However, this is not necessarily the case. It has been taken as an article of faith, but it is only that. As we all know from H1B/outsourcing issues, labor costs in the US are higher than much of the world. Brains are simply cheaper per neuron overseas. This does not mean that all technology research will go abroad, but much of it will. The 3rd world is nibbling around the edges. Our comparative advantage may lie in marketing a
  • by grumpygrodyguy (603716) on Friday July 20, 2007 @12:10PM (#19929099)
    According to the report, Japan's article output rose at an average annual rate of 3.1 percent, five times faster than the United States.

    The European Union, which passed the U.S. several years ago in total numbers of articles published, posted an average annual growth rate of 2.8 percent during the same period, more than four times faster than the United States.

    Law of diminishing returns my ass. And this plateu began to occur in the 90s? Would that be the late 90s? Would that be right before the Fundy/faux-Conservative/Anti-Intellectual revolution in politics occurred in the US? Massive sweeping tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% (most importantly corporations) does tend to dampen scientific development; so does cutting the programs that rely on those tax dollars for funding. Unbridled, shameless bedsharing between corporations and educational institutions resulting in patents instead of universally accessible scientific results also tends to suffocate collaboration (i.e. scientific progress).

    If anything, the rapid proliferation of computer, network, and storage technologies should have made the 200X years a blockbuster decade for science and technology in the US. But sadly my friends, when you ignore politics...or live in a country ignorant enough to vote extremists into office...you will see very real effects down the road. The only bright side to having that clown in the whitehouse and his cronies in power is that a great deal of money (read massive debt that you and your children will have the responsibility of paying down over decades) went into defense related research and development. Historically, those technologies will eventually migrate back into civilian hands.

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