scientific publishing

Malaysia and Iran’s scientific growth compared

In the previous posts I compared South Korea’s scientific output per capita with China’s, then with Iran’s. In this post, I will compare Iran and Malaysia, to see how far behind Iran is compared to Malaysia. It took Iran until 2003 to reach the same scientific output level as Malaysia had in 1996, meaning that it was 6 years behind. But by 2006 Iran had achieved parity with Malaysia, both countries were publishing the same amount of scientific research per capita. But the two countries started diverging in 2008, with Malaysia far outpacing Iran’s growth (perhaps due to the sanctions on Iran reducing its ability to fund research). It took Iran until 2014 to reach Malaysia’s level of 2010. As late as 2017, Iran had not reached Malaysia’s levels of 2011. Besides sanctions, another reason might be Iran’s much larger geographical size making scaling scientific research costlier in time and money, as is also the case in China.

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

Comparing Iran’s scientific growth to South Korea’s

In the previous post I compared China’s scientific growth to South Korea’s. In this post I do the same for Iran. Iran’s gap with South Korea is narrower than China’s gap. In 2017 it was only 13 years behind South Korea when it came to scientific research output per capita. This gap might continue growing due to Iran being larger and more difficult to industrialize. But now that South Korea’s per-citizen scientific output is in decline, Iran (and China) have a good chance of catching up with it within the next decade.

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

Comparing China’s scientific output to South Korea’s

It has been said that China is twenty years behind South Korea in development, and that South Korea is or was twenty years behind Japan. A measure of development that I like to use for comparing the development level of different countries is PPMC, which stands for Papers Published Per Million Citizens, referring to the number of scientific and scholarly papers a country publishes per a million citizens in a year. In 2017, that number was 1491 for South Korea while it was 349 for China, meaning that South Korea produced more than four times more scientific research per capita than China, which means that South Korea’s infrastructure, institutions and educational attainment on average are four times more advanced than China’s. The reason for this is that besides the fact that China started industrializing later than South Korea, China is a much larger country and requires far more investment and work to where South Korea is. China’s coastal cities likely already far outpace South Korea technologically, but China’s interior is going to be dragging down the country’s averages for decades to come.

Below we have South Korea’s scientific output per capita compared to China’s. It took China until 2009 to reach the same scientific output per capita as South Korea had in 1996, meaning that on this measure China was 13 years behind South Korea. This lag only increased with time, so that by 2014 the gap was 15 years. By 2018, the gap was 18 years because China’s output per capita hadn’t risen significantly.

It is natural for this gap to grow with time because due to China’s much larger size, it is going to take it far more time to raise the country’s scientific production compared to the much smaller South Korea. The good news for China is that this gap is probably not going to be getting much larger because South Korea’s output has started falling (likely due to an aging population, i.e. fewer young people available to become scientists and scholars) while China’s continues to rise.

Data from the United Nations and Scimago.

Indonesia’s unlocked scientific potential?

The Scimago Journal & Country Rank is one of the things I look forward to most to seeing every year. The rankings show each country’s scientific output, a very important measure of a country’s present level of development and its speed of development. The biggest surprise in the 2017 rankings was from Indonesia, whose cited paper count jumped from 11,765 in 2016 to 18,683 in 2017:

Source: Scimago Journal & Country Rank

In 2016, Indonesia was number 45 on world rankings for scientific output. Thanks to the 2017 jump, in 2017 it was number 35.

Indonesia has been a great laggard in scientific output due to its lack of development. Its papers per million capita (PPMC) is 71 compared to Malaysia’s 925. Only 16 years before 2017, in 2002, Malaysia’s PPMC was 72, comparable to Indonesia today. If Indonesia follows the same development trajectory as Malaysia (the way South Korea followed Japan), by 2032 Indonesia will be one of the world’s top scientific powerhouses. Due to Indonesia’s vastness compared to Malaysia, their development will likely take longer; however, the availability of newer and cheaper technologies may speed development up so that they end up following Malaysia’s trajectory despite their handicaps.

If Indonesia ever catches up to Malaysia’s present level of scientific output, it would be publishing 241,000 papers per year, making it the world’s third largest science hub after the US and China.

Almost all of the world’s countries are seeing a great increase in scientific output, caused by adopting Western methods of scientific research and publishing. Pakistan’s output doubled between 2010 and 2017. Egypt did similarly. Iran publishes more papers per capita than Russia. I believe we are in for some very interesting times.