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Researchers analyse 15m scientific articles to design the most comprehensive ‘world map of research’ yet

Scientists from the University of Granada and the Spanish National Research Council—members of the SCImago research group—have found that, worldwide, there are three major ‘clusters’ of countries, defined by the thematic areas they investigate and that their governments invest in most

The study, published in Plos One, analysed the scientific production of more than 80 countries over more than 10 years (1996-2006)

Spanish scientists have designed the most comprehensive ‘world map of research’ to date. They have shown that worldwide there are three major groups, or clusters, of countries, as a function of the thematic areas that they research and that their governments invest in.

The study—conducted by researchers from the University of Granada and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), belonging to the SCImago research group—has recently been published in Plos One. They analysed the scientific production of over 80 countries spanning more than 10 years (1996-2006). The researchers dedicated more than 4 years to their task, using statistical techniques and multivariate analysis, and studying a sample of over 15 million documents and scientific articles.

They conclude that the first cluster is made up of Western Europe, together with the USA, Canada and the petrol-rich Arab Emirates. Together, they form the Biomedical cluster, which is characterized by its democratic regimes. The governments of these countries understand that research into health has electoral benefits because it improves the quality of life of their citizens, says Victor Herrero-Solana, Professor of Information and Communication at the University of Granada and one of the authors.

The second cluster

The second major block of countries researches in the field of what is termed ‘basic science’: physics, mathematics and engineering. This cluster is made up of Russia and the former Soviet countries, Eastern Europe, communist countries like China and Korea, together with Singapore, Taiwan and Japan. Here, research has developed around the model of the traditional scientific academies. For example Russia, Prof. Herrrero-Solana states, is much changed politically but from a scientific point of view it continues to be a communist country.

The third research block is made up of developing nations: most of Africa, south-east Asia and Latin America. “These countries have not yet developed a national research system and highlight agriculture and fisheries for the simple, practical reason that this enables them to improve GDP”.

In their article, the researchers also found a group of intermediate, heterogeneous countries «who have not yet opted for any one of these three research models because, although they are striving to develop a Science and Technology system, they remain socio-economically immature”. This group includes many Latin American countries like Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.

Moya-Anegón F, Herrero-Solana V (2013)
Worldwide Topology of the Scientific Subject Profile: A Macro Approach in the Country Level
. PLoS ONE 8(12): e83222.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083222 You can access the full text version of this article online at:

In the image, the ‘mapa de la investigación’ mundial elaborado por los autores.

Corresponding author:
Víctor Herrero-Solana
SCImago-University of Granada
Phone: +34 958 243 934
E-mail address: