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Asia Leads Research Output in Materials Science, According to Study from Thomson Reuters


Rapidly growing research fields have potential to transform 21st century manufacturing and innovation

Philadelphia, PA, London, UK, – The volume of research papers published in the field of materials science is currently being driven by Asia and in particular China, which has overtaken the U.S. and Japan to become the largest single-country producer in the world, according to a study released today by Thomson Reuters.

The study, Global Research Report: Materials Science and Technology, uses data from Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge™ to examine the most productive and influential countries, research institutes and universities, and topics in the field of materials science and technology – a core area of research for many economies due to its potential contributions to manufacturing processes and innovative products.

The findings show that much of Asia’s dramatic rise in materials science and technology comes from China, which produced more than 55,000 papers over the last five years after publishing fewer than 50 papers in 1981. By comparison, the U.S. produced 38,189 over the same period but since the early 1980s, its world share in this field has fallen by nearly half. A similar decline is also reflected in the European Union.

“Although research output from the U.S. has dwindled, its materials science papers are on average still cited twice as often as those from China, a reasonable indicator of their influence and significance,” says Jonathan Adams, director of research evaluation at Thomson Reuters. “But as experience creates expertise among thousands of new materials researchers in Asia, the gap in citation impact between Asia, on the one hand, and Europe and North America, on the other, is starting to close.”

In terms of the number of papers produced and by number of citations, Asian institutions in China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea dominate those in other countries.

Distinct research fronts, denoted by citations, exist within materials science. Included in the study’s list of the top 20 research fronts from 2006-2010 are the electronic properties of graphene, polymer solar cells, and multiferroic and magnetoelectric materials. These specialty areas and others in the list illustrate the multidisciplinary nature of the field, which extends into chemistry, physics, engineering, and biomedicine.

While research fronts represent areas of quality in materials science research, the study also analyzes three special topics that have recently seen explosive growth in volume of output: graphene, metal-organic frameworks and electrospun nanofibrous scaffolds. The use and development of these materials offers the potential for revolutions in electronics, energy storage, and biomedical engineering.

Global Research Report: Materials Science and Technology is one in a series of Thomson Reuters Global Research Reports that illustrate the changing landscape and dynamics of scientific research around the world. In recognition of the close ties between materials science and chemistry, the study was released to coincide with the International Year of Chemistry and is the first of the series to have a topical focus rather than a geographical one.

The Global Research Reports draw on data found in the Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge platform — the world’s largest publication and citation environment of the highest quality scholarly literature.

Thomson Reuters
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