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  • South-East Asian nations publish more science

[HANOI] South-East Asian science papers have proliferated in the past decade, suggesting a move towards knowledge-based economies in the region, researchers say.

Australian and Vietnamese researchers studied research output in the ten member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The researchers counted publications in journals listed in the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) index and found that ASEAN countries published 165,000 papers between 1991 and 2010 — only 0.5 per cent of the world's output, even though the region has almost nine per cent of the global population.

But rates increased steadily from 1991, with three times as many papers published between 2001 and 2010 compared with 1991 to 2000. The increases correlate with the World Bank's Knowledge Economy Index for each country, suggesting that publication rate might be a useful indicator of a country's 'knowledgisation', said the researchers.

The region's scientific power, Singapore, had most publications (with 45 per cent of papers); Thailand and Malaysia were next (21 and 16 per cent, respectively); Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, formed a third group (6, 5 and 5 per cent, respectively); and Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar together produced less than 2 per cent of papers. The number of times that papers were cited by others — the citation index — showed a similar pattern.

Thailand and Malaysia showed the greatest increase in publication rate, with Indonesia and the Philippines the lowest.

Vietnam was strong in mathematics and physics publications, Singapore in material sciences and nanotechnology, Thailand in food science and technology, Malaysia in engineering, and the Philippines in agricultural science. 

Tuan Nguyen, co-author of the study, based at the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Vietnam National University, said the findings reveal that there is a relationship between scientific output and knowledge economies within the region.

But ASEAN countries "can do better", he said. "In a knowledge-driven economy, we need more scientific research to serve as a basis for economic development."

The authors say their study, published in Scientometrics this month (1 July), may have missed publications in local-language, non-peer-reviewed journals. But Nguyen said this "is not a preferable way to share knowledge and information. If ASEAN countries want to be significant players in the scientific world, they should improve their visibility in the international scientific area through publication."

Similar findings came from a study by the United Nations University's International Institute for Software Technology published last month (24 June).

Link to abstract in Scientometrics

Link to United Nations University report [8MB]

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