New knowledge on Nordic research revealed in Copenhagen seminar

New knowledge about Nordic research was revealed at a NordForsk seminar in Copenhagen earlier this week, focusing on ”Research performance in the Nordic Countries”. Close to 80 persons from the five Nordic countries were present when two publications were presented and discussed, both of them from the NORIA-net “The use of bibliometrics in research policy and evaluation acitivities”.
Researchers and representatives of research institutes and government bodies agreed that the findings of the two new reports will contribute to more knowledge-based research policies and funding in the future. There was also consensus among the participants that the use of bibliometric methods has led to some interesting, even surprising, new discoveries about research in the Nordic countries

The Nordic network on bibliometrics was established in 2008 and has concentrated on cross-country comparisons of research performance in bibliometric terms. The seminar in Copenhagen on 7th of June 2010 was the first occasion for a broader audience to take part in the conclusions of the NORIA-net. The great interest and attendance at the seminar is according to NordForsk a sign that the topic is both important and politically relevant.

The Danish wonder
Jesper Schneider of the Royal School of Library & Informations Science in Denmark presented the conclusions and findings of the report on bibliometric research performance indicators. These were some of his main points:

• The production of scientific articles by Nordic researchers and scientists during the last 20 years has increased significantly in all five countries.
• Sweden has by far the largest publication output of the Nordic countries, also when measured on a per capita basis.
• Norway and Iceland have a significantly higher growth in their publication output during the last 5 years, compared to the other Nordic countries.
• During the last period studied, 2004 – 2007, all the Nordic countries were among the world’s most cited countries, ranging from Denmark in fourth place to Finland in eleventh place.
• It is remarkable that Denmark has taken a major leap. In all research fields Denmark is among the world’s leading nations when it comes to citation impact. At the Copenhagen seminar, however, no-one could explain concretely what was called “the Danish wonder”.

International research cooperation
Magnus Gunnarsson, who until recently worked at the Swedish Research Council, now a senior analyst at the University of Gothenburg, presented the report on international research cooperation in the Nordic countries. International collaboration, defined by co-authorship of scientific articles, has been studied using bibliometric methods for the period 1984 through 2008. These were some of the main points in Gunnarson’s presentation:

• The proportion of articles resulting from international cooperation has increased dramatically in all countries. About half of all articles from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden are published in international cooperation. In Iceland, two thirds of all articles are based on international cooperation.
• In Finland, Estonia is on top of the list of the most important cooperating countries, whereas the other four Nordic countries have another Nordic country on top of the list.
• Intra-Nordic cooperation has increased during the period, but not quite as much as cooperation with countries outside the Nordic region.
• The 3 most important arenas for international research cooperation, according to relative size 1) within the Nordic region, 2) between Nordic and North-American researchers, and 3) between Nordic and other European researchers.

Surprisingly Nordic
“Research is becoming more important as a political tool, and we want to base politics on evidence”, stated Hans Müller Pedersen, who is deputy director general at the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

“This report is very important. It is one of our aims to internationalize Danish research, and this report shows that we are moving in the right direction. When I talk to researchers, they often say that European partners are far more important than Nordic ones. I was therefore surprised to learn that there is such a heavy overweight of Nordic cooperation. Furthermore, I was pleased to see that Danish researchers cooperate with such a variety of countries,” said Müller Pedersen.

Comparing Nordic universities
At the same time as the two reports were presented, a second NORIA-net project was announced. “Bibliometric indicators for Nordic Universities” will be coordinated by Fredrik Piro of the Norwegian Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU STEP). Gunnar Sivertsen, also from NIFU STEP, presented the aims of this new project.

The background for this study is the lack of universally accepted methods and standards for comparing universities.

“We aim to find a common Nordic methodology and a new system which is more transparent and gives more information than is currently available,” said Sivertsen, who pointed out that the purpose is not to create a Nordic ranking list but to describe the universities according to a number of indicators

The aims of the projects are:
• to serve the Nordic universities and the national research authorities
• to provide a better understanding of the benefits of bibliometrics
• to introduce adequate indicators

The new NORIA-net starts up this week and aims to publish a report by the end of this year. An open seminar is scheduled for the first half of 2011.

Download or order the reports here:

International Research Cooperation in the Nordic Countries

Bibliometric Research Performance Indicators in the Nordic Countries

Text and photo: Dag Inge Danielsen

1) Karen Knudsen Christen, Danish Agency for Science, Techology and Innovation and Gunnar Sivertsen, NIFU STEP, both members of the NORIA net “The use of bibliometrics in research policy and evaluation acitivities”, and Karen Hostens, NordForsk.
2) Jesper Schneider, the Royal School of Library & Informations Science, Denmark
3) Magnus Gunnarsson, University of Gothenburg
4) Hans Müller Pedersen, deputy director general at the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation
5) Gunnar Sivertsen, Norwegian Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, NIFU STEP