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UK Produces Most Impactful Research Despite Falling Research Investment, According to Thomson Reuters Study


Philadelphia, PA, London, UK – Despite a relative decrease in private-sector research investment, the average “impact” of research originating in the United Kingdom has risen, surpassing that of the United States, according to a study released by Thomson Reuters. At the same time, while the U.K. investment in R&D had risen by about one-third in real terms between 1991 and 2009, the U.K. has not kept pace with the increase in R&D investments on a global scale.

The study, Global Research Report: United Kingdom, highlights the exceptional performance of the U.K. research base in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and excellence, and suggests that with increased participation from industry, the innovative capacity and potential of the UK could be better matched by its engagement with economic competitiveness.

According to the study, although output as measured by published research has fallen over the past two decades, the impact of U.K. research, widely recognized as an indicator of research influence and quality, has in the past five years come to surpass that of the U.S. Until 2006, the U.S. had stood alone at the top of the research impact rankings.

The report also uses figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to show that research investment in the UK has not kept pace with rising global investment. The U.K.’s share of global spend on R&D, as recorded by the OECD, fell from 5.3 percent in 1991 to approximately 4.15 percent in 2008. By comparison, U.S. investment remained at approximately 42 percent over the same period. China has seen an extraordinary increase in research investment; its share of global spend on R&D grew from less than 2 percent to more than 15 percent over the same period.

“The Global Research Report illustrates the potential of the U.K. research base,” said Jonathan Adams, director of research evaluation at Thomson Reuters and author of the report. “The ratio of research output to research performance is a stunning indicator of the high-impact research coming from the U.K., made even more impressive by the falling trend in R&D investment.”

Beyond assessing the volume and impact of research, the Global Research Report details the growing research competency of the U.K. workforce, the rise in postgraduate education enrollment, and the lagging industrial application of research.

The study is part of the Global Research Report series from Thomson Reuters that illustrates the changing landscape and dynamics of scientific research around the world. These studies draw on data in the Web of Science, available on the Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge platform — containing the world’s largest citation databases.

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