Measuring the outcome of scientific research and comparing it among different countries is a difficult task to accomplish. However, in order to do so, the number of publications and their impact in terms of citations is counted. One of the quantitative approaches to statistically analyze these scientific publications is the so called bibliometrics. The approach is limited by its restriction to articles published in scientific journals with an international readership, often written in English only.
According to the latest report on this data by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI entitled “Bibliometric analysis of scientific research in Switzerland 1981–2013”, Switzerland is one of the leading countries worldwide in terms of scientific research. The report compares the volume of publications, their impact measured in citations, the number of most cited publications (top 10%), and the level of cooperation among different research bodies, nationally and internationally.
Although Switzerland is but a small dot on the world map, it ranks 16th in absolute numbers of publications per year, which puts the country on the first rank when compared with the number of inhabitants! While the US publish 2189 articles per year per million inhabitants (rank 16; period 2009-2013), Switzerland produces an amazing number of 3892 publications.
Furthermore, not only the volume of publications but also their impact is excellent: Following the US and the Netherlands, Switzerland is ranked third. In six out of seven research categories, the country scores above world average in terms of impact. 1.6% of the world’s most cited publications (top 10%) are produced in Switzerland. Also, the country is at a top level considering international cooperation, with 78% of publications being the result of collaborations with institutions abroad.
Comparing the breakdown of publications by research field (period 2009-2013) of Switzerland (in red, world in blue) and Japan, one common trend is standing out: Both countries produce the largest share of publications in life sciences (30% in CH, 35% in J). Physics, chemistry and earth sciences rank second (25%, 34% resp.).
Although competition is increasing, Switzerland is still highly competitive in research on a global level. However, as others are catching up fast, the country should at least maintain its current efforts in research, if not increase them.