5. A Knowledge-based Europe

5.1 Raising Europe’s bar on scientific excellence

The EU is a powerhouse in science: it is a champion in scientific production and ranks second in excellence. New global developments, such as the UK’s exit from the EU, China’s sharp rise, digitalisation and a new focus on sustainability all impact the EU’s scientific performance.

The EU and China are the global leaders in terms of scientific output.

With 7% of the world population, the EU is responsible for 20% of global R&D expenditure and 21% of scientific publications worldwide. However, with the United Kingdom leaving the Union, the EU’s share has declined from 30% to 21%.

China has established itself as a major scientific player and a competitor in high-tech sectors: the country holds the pole position in scientific production in the global ranking, jointly with the EU.

The United States retains the lead in scientific quality, with Europe following behind.

The United States maintains its global leadership in terms of highly cited scientific publications, although it has seen a dramatic decline in its share. Europe remains in second place - with 23% of the global share in terms of the top 10% of highly cited publications- while China continues its sharp rise.

Although Europe has made some progress in raising the quality of its science, differences persist across the Member States.

To remain a leading global scientific player, the EU and its Member States must strengthen their efforts to enhance the effectiveness and performance of their public research systems through stronger R&I investments and policy reforms.

Digitalisation is a game-changer for science.

Digitalisation has the potential to increase science productivity, enable novel forms of discovery and enhance reproducibility. The development and use of big data, for example, and the application of artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly relevant across all scientific domains.

Digitalisation has the potential to promote collaboration as well as improve the efficiency of scientific research. The most significant potential – one that applies across all disciplines, including the humanities – concerns exploiting data and machine-learning techniques to support the research process.

To exploit the full potential of digitalisation for science, policies must be adapted to reinforce researchers’ digital skills, promote open science and enhance high-quality data infrastructures.

Science is key in addressing societal challenges: the EU is leading in high-quality scientific publications in the food/bioeconomy and climate/environment societal challenges.

Since science is key in addressing societal challenges, the EU must not only ensure scientific leadership in key areas but must also foster interdisciplinary research that is necessary to successfully deliver on the SDGs.

When comparing the EU to its major competitors, it leads in high-quality scientific publications related to food and the bioeconomy and climate and the environment.

Worldwide, the share of scientific publications remains the highest in the health, demographic change and well-being field. Scientific publications on food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine, maritime and inland water research, and the bioeconomy have the second highest share for all countries except China.

China has increased its share of high-quality scientific publications exponentially across all societal challenges, taking top position in the areas of energy and transport, while and United States has lost its overall leadership.

Source: DG Research and Innovation, Chief Economist - R&I Strategy & Foresight Unit
Notes: Data produced by Science-Metrix based on Scopus database. Fractional counting method used. BRIS includes Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. Developed Asian economies include Japan and South Korea.
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Source: DG Research and Innovation, Chief Economist - R&I Strategy & Foresight Unit
Notes: Data produced by Science-Metrix based on Scopus database. Scientific publications within the 10 % most-cited scientific publications worldwide as % of total scientific publications of the country; fractional counting method. BRIS includes Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. Developed Asian economies include Japan and South Korea.
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Shares of top 10 % of scientific publications by Societal Grand Challenges (%), 2016

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Source: DG Research and Innovation, Chief Economist - R&I Strategy & Foresight Unit
Notes: Data produced by Science-Metrix based on Scopus database. Health relates to ‘health, demographic change and well-being’ scientific publications identified in the study. Food and bioeconomy include ‘food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine, maritime and inland water research, and the bioeconomy’ scientific publications. Climate and environment include ‘scientific publications on climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials’. BRIS includes Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. Developed Asian economies include Japan and South Korea.
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5.2 More bang for the knowledge buck