News story

UK research base most productive in the world

The ‘International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base 2011’ report was compiled by Elsevier and published by the Department for…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The ‘International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base 2011’ report was compiled by Elsevier and published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It shows that UK research attracts more citations per pound spent in overall research and development than any other country. It has also found that the UK research base is highly mobile, internationally competitive and diverse.

In his Gareth Roberts Memorial Lecture at the Royal Society of Medicine, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts will say:

“A strong research base is vital to driving growth and innovation. This report highlights both the quality of our researchers and also the ability of our world-class institutions to attract the very best talent to this country.

“We are committed to maintaining this leading position and building on the UK’s fantastic record of academic and scientific achievement. That’s exactly why we protected the £4.6 billion science and research budget and have invested nearly an additional £300 million in science capital projects over the past year.”

The main findings of the report are:

  • UK** research is high quality and efficient**

UK research attracts more citations per pound spent in overall research and development than any other large country. UK research is top quality, accounting for 14 per cent of the world’s highly-cited articles, the second largest share after the USA. The UK also has more articles per researcher, more citations per researcher, and more usage per article authored than researchers in US, China, Japan and Germany.

  • UK** researchers are highly mobile and internationally competitive **

Between 1996 and 2010, 63 per cent of UK researchers were also affiliated to a non-UK institution, showing that their knowledge and expertise is valued worldwide. Those who went away for less than a year and returned were 24 per cent more productive than the average, and others who spent longer periods abroad were 66 per cent more productive. These combined patterns of mobility and research excellence demonstrate that the efficient nature of UK research is underpinned by its ability to attract highly productive and internationally mobile researchers to work in the UK.

  • UK** researchers are driving research performance **

International collaboration is sizeable in the UK with half of all articles attributable to the UK in the five years since 2006 having also at least one non-UK author. New research nations like China or Brazil collaborate internationally much less, 15 per cent of their publications in this period. International collaboration underpins research excellence since having non-UK authors doubles the level of citation per article. International collaboration and international mobility reinforce each other as drivers of UK research performance.

  • UK** research is diverse**

The range of UK research is broad with particular strengths in the clinical sciences, health and medical sciences, social sciences, business and humanities, with high publishing activity and high citation impact in these areas. Even in areas where the publishing activity is not high, like engineering and mathematics, citation impact is higher than the world average, which means research is concentrated in small areas of high influence.

  • UK** researchers are driving innovation**

The proportion of moves to the private sector from university in the UK is around 66 per cent, which is similar to other large countries and has been shown to boost innovative activity in firms. There are also strong cross-sector knowledge flows, with more than 70 per cent of all downloads of corporate authored articles coming from users in the academic sector.

Niels Weertman, Vice President of SciVal at Elsevier said:

“We’ve analysed metrics and benchmarks derived from, among other things, Scopus data, patent information, SciVal Spotlight and usage of authored articles. We have also added case studies covering some of the 400+ areas where UK research is distinctively strong. We’re proud that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills granted us the opportunity to provide them with this report. We’re confident that our method has provided the department with the facts, analytics and insights needed to properly benchmark the UK research performance.”

The report also contains detailed case studies of UK research strengths in cognitive neuroscience, computer science, ecology, education and language. These reflect the views of leading academics in these fields and confirm why researchers value the UK environment so highly. Reasons include the availability of state of the art technology and the ability of UK institutions to attract the very best talent from around the world.

Notes to editors

  1. The ‘International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base 2011’ report was produced by Elsevier for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It can be viewed at

  1. The 2011 report on the International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base is the first of a new biennial enquiry into the international standing of UK research. It is more comprehensive annual review of research performance than previously produced.

  2. The evidence gathered under this report evaluates the effectiveness of the Science and Research Budget, currently £4.6 billion, in achieving high international standards of research performance.

4.The new version of the report takes place every other year and expands the remit of the previous to consider wider areas of influence of UK research and reasons why areas of influence are widening or shrinking where appropriate. There was an explicit interest from BIS in expanding our knowledge of knowledge transfer across countries and sectors and the extent and impact of collaboration in research performance.

  1. This first report was awarded to Elsevier Ltd after a European-wide fully competitive process.

  2. BIS’s online newsroom contains the latest press notices, speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See for more information.**

Notes to Editors

Contact Information

Name BIS Press Office Job Title

Division COI Phone




Name Sally Catmull Job Title

Division Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Phone 020 7215 6577 Fax



Published 19 October 2011