Foland and Shelton, “Why is Europe so efficient at producing scientific papers?”

The total number of Europe scientific papers in 2007 has resulted from an investment of only $1.1 million, but the same amount of papers will cost US about $1.8 million (and China about the same).  Why the EU is so efficient in paper publication? Defining “relative efficiency” simply as the number of papers published per $1 million investment in R&D, normalized by values for all countries with OECD data. The figure compares the relative efficiencies of the EU, US, and PRC.  In 1990 the US and EU had the same value, but the two curves diverged sharply in the 1990s; now the EU curve is over 60% higher. This caused the EU to pass the US to lead the world in publications in the mid-90s. From the paper by P. Foland and R. D. Shelton, entitled “Why is Europe so efficient at producing scientific papers, and does this explain the European Paradox?,” published in the STI 2010 Conference, September 9th-11th 2010 (Leiden, The Netherlands).

The more important findings of the paper are: (1) the government funding component and the university research spending component are much more effective in producing papers than other components (this is obviously as expected); (2) during the 1990s the EU sharpened its focus on funding of the components that are most effective, while the US did not; and (3) the 1990s surge of EU papers not only increased its share and relative efficiency, but also depressed those of the US, since shares are a zero-sum game.

The main conclusion of the paper is the European Paradox, which is the perception that Europe does not reap the full economic benefits of its leadership in research;  instead of outputs like patents that more quickly create jobs, Europe produces papers. While its efficiency remains high, the EU is now losing publication share to China, and may soon be overtaken.

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