Scientific publishing stagnates in the US

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US scientists and engineers have not increased the rate at which they publish papers in peer-reviewed journals since the 1990s despite rising research and development funding, reports the National Scientific Foundation (NSF).

Meanwhile, the total number of papers published across Asian nations and the European Union has increased.

NSF findings reveal that China, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan experienced an incredible average annual growth rate of 15.9 percent in publications between 1992 and 2003.

At the same time, Japan's article output rose at an average annual rate of 3.1 percent. And with an average annual growth rate of 2.8 percent during the same time, the EU surpassed the US in total number of articles published.

Publication numbers and their citation in journals is a widely accepted indicator of research capability. So do NSF’s findings signal a growing weakness in US technological innovation?

According to report co-author Derek Hill, the answer is no. He points to the fact that in raw numbers, the US still publishes more articles than any single nation. 

'In addition to numbers published, one should [also] look at… article quality,' he says. 'The more often an article is cited by other publications, the higher quality it's believed to be. While citation is not a perfect indicator, US publications are more highly cited than those from other countries.'

The findings are published in 'Changing US Output of Scientific Articles: 1988 – 2003' and is part of a larger study of trends in scientific publication by NSF's Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS).